Stories are a means of escape—escape from ruthless reality. But how do these stories help us connect? How do these stories find a way into our heart and never cease to leave? How do these stories give pleasure to both the writer who creates it and the reader who enjoy it? Let’s find out.
When a reader connects more with a character in a story and their conflicts, the reader relates to the story through the character; how the character went from being miserable to being a hero, or say, strong, is what a character-driven story portrays. Sometimes, it can also be vice-versa. Character-driven stories are mostly related to the romance, mystery, and classical literature genres, where the story is built around a character or group of characters.
A plot-driven story focuses on the world that the story is set in, with more focus on the external factors, the conflicts caused by the external forces, the choices made by a character, and the resulting consequences. The drama genre is driven by plot-driven stories.
Writers who pen plot-driven stories enjoy leaving bits and pieces here and there, while writers who choose to weave stories around a character completely get into the psyche of the character(s).
Let’s get into some examples of character-driven stories:
1) Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
Elizabeth, who is one of the most renowned female characters in English Literature, and Mr. Darcy, who happens to win so many young women’s hearts even in today’s date, both stand out as sparkling characters. In the story, they both come out fighting their inner conflicts and harsh judgements about each other. Pride and Prejudice is clearly driven by its lead characters.
2) And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
Hosseini’s story revolves around two siblings, Abdollah and Pari, and how they evolved from childhood to getting separated and taking different paths in life. It is through their individual perspectives that the story evolves and we get to know what’s written for them and how they reconcile. Again, stellar character-development is what helps us relate to the narrative.
3) The Fault in our Stars – John Green
Hazel Grace, suffering from thyroid cancer that spreads to her lungs, distances herself from everyone. She reads the same book repeatedly, does not have friends, likes to think about death more often than others, and, according to her mother, is depressed. Hazel thinks if she socializes, her death will bring pain to all her close ones. But after meeting Augustus, she eventually falls in love and, towards the end of the story, adopts a different perspective of life. There’s only one way you can traverse The Fault in Our Stars—through Hazel’s eyes.
It’s amazing how characters leave a deep mark on us, and sometimes even live with us forever.
When it comes to plot-driven stories, I can only think of one example, and that is the Harry Potter series.
How Hogwarts and Potterverse became our solitary escape that we always wish to go back to, through either reading the books or watching the movies, we all know. There are many such fantasy novels that are set in a different world altogether—the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Chronicles of Narnia, A Song of Ice and Fire—but being a Potterhead myself, I cannot think of a better example than the universe JK Rowling gifted humanity.
It’s sometimes Harry, sometimes Hermione or Ron, or even Voldemort for that matter, who takes the story forward. The magical world and the descriptions and events—everything just makes us believe in the fantasy world, and if such a world really did exist, we all would be dying to get our letter from Hogwarts. So, what are you more likely to read—a plot driven story, or a story that has characters with whom you can relate?