The Battle between Plot and Character

I need a question answered: Why is it that writers classify themselves as either character-driven or plot-driven?

Over the years, I’ve asked myself whether my writing falls into either of these two categories, but I have never actually come to a resolution.

You see I have a habit of looking at my fictional characters in a realistic way. As human beings, we are constantly growing and evolving, so shouldn’t our characters do the same thing? In order to grow, we have to face challenges, be it personal or professional. Since joining the military, I’ve deployed and subsequently, had to deal with the recovery process from said deployment (Post-Traumatic Stress is a real thing and it’s awful and extremely inconvenient). Having dealt with these challenges has given me a unique look into character development and how people (and characters) respond to the challenges that define them.

When I begin developing my stories, I start with two versions of the main character – a beginning version and the version I want them to be at the end of the book.

Using the 2011 Thor movie as an example, Thor starts off as an arrogant, headstrong warrior who is quick to violence over diplomacy. Throughout the film, he evolves into a selfless, noble man who learns to fight for the right reasons.

Now, I love Thor as much as the next girl, but he was never going to evolve into the Marvel character we know and love without some major plot points. So after I’ve decided who the MC is and will be, I look at the world they live in, what my antagonist wants are, and begin plotting.

Taking another look at Thor, the [very simplified] plot is Odin needs a viable successor for his throne. Now, what Marvel could have done was just have Thor and Loki battle it out in Asgard, but we would have never gotten that beautiful character development.

Lucky for us, Marvel decided to send Thor to earth and give him a love interest to bring out his humanity, which in return made him evolve into a proper successor for Odin.

Basically what I’m saying is, your characters’ growth should synchronize with your story’s plot points. Every page, every scene, every chapter should support both plot and character. Don’t sacrifice your character development for plot because characters are the reason people keep reading. Instead, maneuver your plot to support where you want to go with your character.

Happy writing, everyone!

– Bree

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