The Character-Driven Story

Sep 07, 2021 6:44 am

Last month I asked, "Which is more important to you: story, character, or world building?"

I came down on the side of the story. Let's look a little deeper.

Many stories purport to be "character-driven." What does that mean?

But First

Before I answer that, let me tell you that I'm sending the letter our early this month (as opposed to late like it was last month) because I don't want you to miss an opportunity. Please take advantage of the opportunity and share it with all your friends, relatives, neighbors, roommates' cousins' neighbors, people in the street, sidewalk, mountains, church, bowling alleys, pizza parlors, libraries, and anywhere else you find people who like to read.

So the opportunity is the birthday special. Each and every one of my books will be available for only 99 cents each. This is the only time for at least a year that this will happen. Mark you calendars for September 9th and 10th. For two days only each of my books available in ebook format will be 99 cents on Amazon. Here's the link to my author page.

My Amazon Author Page

Now, back to "character-driven." A glance about the internet reveals the common understanding that character-driven stories focus on the thoughts and inner transformation of the character, whereas plot-driven stories focus on events. I, of course, say ignore those definitions. I'm inclined to believe that a character-driven story is one in which a large part of the events, actions, and story evolve as a result of the decisions made by the characters as influenced by their motivations and desires. We should learn a lot about the character through what they say and what they do. They will likely have a character arc, but I don't believe a character has to undergo some deep change to provide a character-driven story. I love interesting characters. Being privy to their thoughts, especially if they have something to hide, or face some internal conflict does help us understand them better. They can make or break a story, but too much introspection, too much angst, too much whining, too much focus on private pain, or why they been driven to make evil or stupid choices will character-drive me right out of a story. In fact, I can think of a book that focused on four different protagonists. They each had their sad backstory and secret pain and they went on journeys with companions who drew out that secret pain--and I left them all there wallowing in their pain and self-loathing. I didn't care. I withdrew from the adventure.

I do have more to say about this, because it looks like I might be splitting hairs--which is more acceptable than splitting hares--or that I might be arguing for a distinction without a difference. Perhaps I'm merely arguing for a slightly more expansive definition of "character-driven" while complaining about certain aspects of stories that are too focused on, or too much given to certain aspects of the characters. I will cogitate upon the matter and I might even present a better argument. Or I may find that I'm so shallow and self-absorbed that I simply don't relate to some kinds of stories.


Speaking of self-absorbed--a subject about which I'm sure I could easily qualify for a Phd: I had a delightful experience this week. Another attorney with whom I had been working together on a case made a comment about how she wished I was still on the case with her (we had the same goals and were not opposing counsel). She said the replacement counsel was good and all, but "he's no Stanley Wheeler." (I'm substituting my author name there in place of my working name). It was a small thing, but it felt pretty good.

What has made you feel good this week?

Let me know -- and don't miss the great selection of books at the amazingly low... You get the idea.