There are a thousand different kinds of stories, one for every star in the sky. There’s fantasy, horror, science fiction, historical and all sorts of things that I haven’t the time to list and you haven’t the time to read. But no matter the style, language, or theme, all stories fall into two broader categories; plot driven stories and character driven stories. Given a choice between the two, I’ll always go for character over plot.
It can be hard to distinguish between the two at first. Basically, though, a plot driven story is about something massive happening, like a plague or a riot, or an alian invasion. This is a story that can be told from the pov of any number of people. Like a riot, for example. You can see that from the eyes of a riot officer, a pedestrian, an independent journalist who’s recording the action on her phone. Each one will be a different story, but in each case the character is very reactionary. Basically, this riot was going to happen whether your character was there or not. A good example is Divergent. (Spoiler Alert!) Even though the main character impacts the story, the whole mess was going to happen even if she’d never been born, let alone if she’d stayed in her original faction. It just might have had a different ending.
In a character driven stories, though, it’s a different situation. This is a story that just would not have happened without this character. The story is about this character. Think about Dexter, for instance. The story is about a serial killer hunting serial killers. Take away the main character, you take away the whole story.
How to build your very own character driven story
Step one- Make your main character. When I started writing Woven, it sure didn’t start as a series. It was all about one boy who liked to weave. That’s it. Take a person, and decide what makes him or her different from other people. Devon liked to weave. Alright, so he likes to weave. What could possibly go wrong with that? Well, maybe his weaving is magic! That was honestly my first brainstorm for Woven. Everything in the book stemmed from Devon and his sister Lenore, who was also given pov character status. Without Devon and Lenore, there’s no story.
Step Two- Make your characters impactful. Seems like a no brainer, but a character driven story needs characters that are, duh, driven. This is not Shaun of The Dead, where the character just wants to sit back and play video games with his best friend. Your character has to have something about them that goes against the grain, or a drive to make a difference in their world. For better or worse, your character has to make the world ripple around her.
Step Three- Make your character fascinating. I mean this character needs to really grab my attention. I need to want to know more about him. I’m thinking like Jonas from The Giver. I want to know more about Jonas, right from the first. I wanted to understand why he was so concerned with precision of language.
Remember, in a character driven story your character is in the spotlight. He or she has to be the biggest selling point of the book.