Character Driven vs Plot Driven Stories – An INTJ’s Take

INeverForgetPromises asked: if you were reading a literary work, what would hook you more, a plot-driven story or a character-driven story? Do you prefer complex plots with subplots in them or a simple plot with something deep underneath (take hills like white elephants for example)?

Im sorry if I’m asking too many questions, its just that I want to pick at your brain a little bit. Plus, you kinda remind me of my INTJ best friend :)

I personally prefer character driven stories. However, any well-done character driven story is subsequently going to have an excellent plot. It may not follow a typical arc, but as long as the characters behave realistically, the plot is also going to move forward in a realistically.

If you look at any piece of Shakespeare’s work, you’ll realise that every last bit of it is character driven. His plots are fantastic, but they are always driven by the motivations of his characters.

The Ender’s Game Series is another good example of a character driven storyline in which there is no absence of complex plots and subplots. I could think of a million other examples, but I’ll leave it at that.

Any story that has an interesting and well developed character who is facing a very real conflict will necessarily end up having both an amazing plot.

Now, I enjoy a story with an intricate plot, but if the characters are boring the story becomes empty. I get bored reading Dan Brown because his writing features incredibly complicated plots with hardly any character development.

9 thoughts on “Character Driven vs Plot Driven Stories – An INTJ’s Take

  1. A few (trivial) questions for you, Prof. Arvid (sorry, can’t help using that…name? :) )
    First off, I’m not sure which category should these questions be in, so feel free to correct me if this isn’t the right place for said questions.

    1) Do you identify yourself more as a plotter, a penster or a pantser?

    2) This might be considered a red-button question, but what do you think of “child prodigies” in the writing field?

    3) Besides Scrivener, are there any other methods you use in organising your writing?


    • 1. Define penster and pantser
      2. I think they are occasionally, and by occasionally, I mean I an think of one whom I actually admired when I was trying to become one as a kid.
      3. I use Scrivener for practically everything including taking notes in school and writing research papers. The only other thing I can think of is that out of paranoia, I keep several backup copies of all my writing.


      • Define penster and pantser

        The only sources of information which I have access to define these terms are newspaper reports and the internet, so do feel free to correct me.
        1) Penster= people who write by making a rough draft of everything (as opposite to plotters who plot the whole thing out in detail).
        2) Pantser= people who write by sketching a vague draft (in my understanding, it’s way vague than pensters) and improvise it on the fly as they progress through the story.


        • I’m not really sure to be honest. I’m a very experimental writer, but I also like to have a plan. I typically start with a character and just free write scenes about that character so that I can get to know him/her/them. I tend to use the character as the basis for how I write their story. If the character is very spontaneous and more of a pantser type themself, I will write the story using that method. If the character is more methodical however, I will plot the story out in detail beforehand.


  2. That’s pretty much how I look at it too–good (as in realistic) characters necessarily lead to a good plot. Even if it’s not what you would normally call an “exciting” plot, it will be realistic. Good plots, on the other hand, are not necessarily accompanied by good, realistic characters . . . and when they are not, it’s annoying.

    My favorite novel ever, “Shadows on the Rock” by Willa Cather, is definitely character-driven rather than plot-driven; but because the characters are extremely lifelike, the plot is lifelike as well. So it’s a win on all counts.


  3. I agree so much with this post. I love it when stories stay realistic, and the characters change from the conflict. It’s such a waste if they stay exactly the same from the beginning to the end. I want to see some character growth! Why else would there be a story if there wasn’t any?

    I’m also a writer, myself, and I like to keep my books very realistic. I rarely give out “happy” endings, and I show both sides of life. I expect the same out of the books I read. Don’t show me the story where the girl falls in love with the guy. Show me the story where he breaks her heart, but she finds a way to stay strong for herself.

    And… I lost my train of thought, so I’ll post this comment before it gets too long. Haha.


    • I was at a writer’s conference this weekend and one of the panelists commented that she only writes action scenes (like fight scenes) after building up to them over a long period of time. In her own words, she only write fight scenes after she’s finished with all her character development.

      Being the realist that I am, I thought that was a rather odd piece of advice. I had always thought of action sequences as vehicles for enhancing character development, rather than events that only happen as a result of character development.

      I personally think that the characters and plot should not be wholly separated. A good story doesn’t have character development and then plot, or plot and then character development. A good story has plot and character development happening simultaneously, each causing and being caused by the other.

      Excuse my rant. Some humans give stupid advice (and when I say humans, I am by no means excluding myself).

      Liked by 1 person

      • It isn’t a rant. I personally share the same thoughts.

        And as for happy endings, as a writer, I believe a happy ending is one where the character via character development learns to fix his/her problems on her own. That is how I generally end my stories.


        • Happy endings…I have a rant or two about those. (I like your definition, btw).

          There seem to be two general schools of thought on this nowadays, one being that happy endings are always necessary, and the other being that sad endings are more surprising and therefore should be applied to fiction.

          What I think: How you end your story should really depend on the overall message you are trying to convey by writing that story. There should be no obligation toward either a sad or a happy ending.

          Liked by 1 person


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