Character Driven vs Plot Driven?
Question: Your website is amazing and I am forever grateful of your insightful and detailed answers. My question is this simple:
What is the difference between a character-driven story, a plot-driven story, and a theme-driven story? Also, can you please give some examples of each?
Also, in each story, what kind of subplot should I use? I hear that in a character-driven story, your subplot should be plot-oriented and vice-versa...Is that true and how would one go about doing that?
Often the terms character-driven and plot driven used rather loosely.
In such parlance, character-driven describes stories where the emphasis is on characterization, inner conflict, and relationships. Such stories can have a Goal that is more internal, such as changing an attitude or becoming something.
Literary fiction also tends to be character-driven. Often the story will be a depiction of a character's inner process as they struggle to resolve issues from their past or perhaps change their present attitude. In the absence of a page-turning plot, literary fiction often relies on an intriguing style or an authentic and unique voice to hold a reader's interest.
Plot-driven describes stories where the emphasis is more on plot twists, external conflict, and action. Often the story goals are more external such as obtaining, winning, escaping, or changing a situation.
Dramatica tries to formalize this by saying that there are decision-driven stories and action-driven stories.
In a decision-driven story, the major turning points in the plot will all be decisions. Be-er main characters are most at home in this type of story, because they are comfortable with deliberation. An example (because I've been reading a lot of YA recently) would be The Hunger Games
. Romances generally tend to be decision-driven.
In an action-driven story, the major turning points will be actions. Do-er main characters will be more at home in this type of story, because they are comfortable taking action. Star Wars is an example of an action-driven story.
(When in doubt, think of the climax of a story. Is it a decision or an action?)
Of course, a main character can work in a story where they are out of their comfort zone. (For example, the films Kindergarten Cop
and Romancing the Stone
.) But they will be less willing and may require strong incentive.