Character Driven

Question: What's the best way to write character driven plots?


Answer: Dramatica has two main pieces of advice to begin with.

First, Dramatica refers to character-driven stories as decision-driven. What this means is that these stories begin with someone making a decision.

As a result of that decision, certain actions will occur or be taken over the course of act one, and these actions will result in another major decision, which will be the turning point that begins act two.

The process repeats each act until a final decision is reached at the end of act 4.

Next, Dramatica notes that the main character in a decision-driven story is usually a be-er; that is, someone who copes with problems by trying to change themselves to fit in with their situation, rather than trying to change their situation. They try to be different.

Main characters who are do-ers - that is, people who try to solve problems by taking action to change their external environment - will be out of place in a decision story. They can still work, but they will have a tough time of it because they will be forced to change themselves to fit in when they want to take action. It goes against their nature.

Naturally, when your turning points are decisions, your main character will have to deliberate over the best decisions to make. To make these important choices, she will likely have to weigh up her hopes and dreams. Her emotions will play an important role, as will her beliefs, attitudes, and idiosyncratic approach to making decisions. In other words, her unique personality will play a big role in determining the major turning points.

Readers will therefore expect characters to be more developed in a character-driven story, and they will expect to explore more of the character's inner life. Just remember to let the actions, the events in the outer world resulting from the previous decision force the character to deliberate and make new choices so that the deliberations have a real point to them.

Similarly, when your main character is a be-er, relationships between characters matter more, since the main character is trying to make these relationships work by fitting in and that's not always an approach that is satisfying for her. More time will be spent exploring and evaluating relationships than in an action-driven story.

Finally, (and this is not a rule, just an observation) it must be noted that character-driven stories are often more literary in style. I might get myself into trouble if I speculate why this is. However, it is worth noting that readers who love characterization more than plot also tend to love beautiful language. If your style is naturally poetic and devoid of cliches that will be of help to you.

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