Today for the August #WhatsOnYourBookshelfChallenge and #LetsDiscuss2022 I’m asking two questions: (1) What is Plot-Driven or Character-Driven Fiction? (2) Do you have more Plot-Driven or Character-Driven fiction on your bookshelf?
Plot-Driven or Character-Driven?
What’s the difference?
Is this an important distinction?
Which do you prefer?
Why does it matter?
***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
It’s helpful when we love or dislike a story that we analyze why. I’m proposing that one of the reasons you enjoy or dislike a story is because you prefer character-driven or plot-driven stories. Once you know which you prefer, you can make reading choices that lead to a more satisfactory reading life.
The following lists are a few examples of each from my reading and represent my opinions. In your reading experience, you may categorize these differently. Please add your own recommendations in the comments!
If you prefer primarily character-driven, you enjoy stories that focus on character development, reflection, and motivation. The story may have a bit of a plot but that is not the main purpose of the story. The action is mostly internal. If you enjoy character-driven stories, you might prefer Literary Fiction where main characters often reflect on the meaning and purpose of life.
- Gilead (and the entire 4 book series) by Marilynne Robinson
- The Stranger in the Lifeboat by Mitch Albom
- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
- Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
- The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
- Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson (epistolary)
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (character-driven with an engaging plot)
- The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles (including this because many loved it, but it was a dnf for me)
- Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
- And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman
- The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman
- Clock Dance by Anne Tyler (an author who prefers to write character-driven stories)
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
- Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
- Oh, William by Elizabeth Strout (another author who prefers to write character-driven stories)
- Brood by Jackie Polzin (this is an example of character-driven that bored me!!)
- A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (this is a difficult one because the family dynamics are page-turning; however, the last section (IYKYK) with Rafiq and his son finally tipped the balance.)
If you prefer primarily plot-driven, you enjoy the action that drives the story. These stories can have wonderfully complex characters but the stories are page-turning as you want to find out what happens next. Thrillers and mysteries are most often plot-driven.
- Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge
- The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
- The Dry and Force of Nature by Jane Harper
- Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (I was tempted to put this under balanced, but the plot really does drive the story)
- Refugee by Alan Gratz
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- Mrs. England by Stacey Halls
Is There a Balance?
YES! For myself, I prefer a BALANCE! My perfect stories are page-turning with wonderful character development!
- The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
- The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
- The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
- Beartown by Fredrik Backman
- Inspector Armand Gamache (Three Pines) Series by Louise Penny
- Kit McBride Gets a Wife by Amy Barry
- Radar Girls by Sara Ackerman
- The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
- The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer
- A Hundred Crickets Singing by Cathy Gohlke
- I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys
- The River by Peter Heller
- The Thread Collectors by
Do You Prefer Character-Driven or Plot-Driven?
Reading Tastes & A Satisfying Reading Life
After reading for decades and and reflecting on my reading choices, I know that I prefer a BALANCE of character and plot.
If I see that a book is totally character-driven, I read many reviews to see if it will have enough of a plot to engage me. I’ve learned that a heavily character-driven book with minimal plot will likely end in a DNF for me (with a few exceptions).
You’ll notice that I have listed very few plot-driven books. The main reason is that I don’t read a great deal of mysteries or thrillers. I do love a page-turning plot but not at the expense of character development.
Consequently, a BALANCE between Character-driven and plot-driven is my sweet spot! These are the books that will likely be awarded five stars and earn a spot on my lifetime favorites list.
A Picky Reader
Some will accuse me of being a picky reader. Well….yes I am! I KNOW my reading tastes and I want to use my reading time wisely. My (virtual) bookshelf is definitely filled with books that provide a balance of character-driven and plot-driven.
Do you have more plot-driven or character-driven fiction on your bookshelf?
Can you recommend a favorite title for one of the categories??
Do you agree or disagree with certain placements? (that’s really ok because no two people read the same book!)
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.” ~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.” ~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.” ~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
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