Post Delayed on Account of Toddler

Hey, all you serial killers (and batch: don’t want to discriminate). Wee Dave decided two hours before his usual wake-up time was an excellent time to rouse himself from slumber (much like Dread Cthulhu, ftagn) and make a hash of my writing time. The Creature is sated (for now: souls digest quickly, though not easily) but the rest of the morning requirements bay sharply at the doors of the mind. I’ve got a chunk of post, but certain thoughts are proving … recalcitrant. I’d use whiskey to beat them into submission, but I understand that’s frowned upon by certain company. Converse amongst yourselves, for the nonce. When you hear the phrase “character driven” applied to writing, what does that mean to you? What should it mean? I shall return, anon…

21 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

21 responses to “Post Delayed on Account of Toddler

  1. Draven

    ‘character driver’-

    either really well written, or completely overwritten. often full of navel gazing. Don’t expect anything to happen, or anything to get resolved.

  2. Assuming you’re not referring to a vehicle appearing in a story, I take “character driven” to mean a development and/or story that is focused more on the character(s) than on subtle plot details. Not uncommonly, such stories can be somewhat angsty.

  3. Character-driven vs. plot-driven? If talking all writing, I expect that’s the romance, horror, historical & literary genres vs. action/adventure, mystery and thriller. Science fiction and Fantasy, being primarily defined by the setting, can be either character driven, or plot driven.

    Plot-driven is when the story moves forward primarily according to events outside the character: the thriller’s hidden ticking bomb, the mystery’s body on the floor that must be solved, the action’s next explosion, the adventure’s timetable to get to Manchuria, or across the pacific on a balsa-wood raft. (If you haven’t read Kon-Tiki, I highly, highly recommend it. Give yourself a treat!)

    Character-driven is primarily driven by the choices the character makes, and follows an emotional plot arc as the character himself changes. The primary archetype of this in fantasy is the quest plot, wherein the Hero must go find the macguffin, but in doing so, must grow from farm boy to hero mentally as well.

    All of romance is this: the plot of romance is two people, through their choices and actions, falling in love and becoming the people worthy of being in a happily ever after.

    Horror, slightly more trickily, is designed to induce fear, horror, and tension in the reader, then provide an emotional catharsis. To do this, you generally have to create this emotional arc in a character for them to identify with.

    • If you haven’t read Kon-Tiki, I highly, highly recommend it. Give yourself a treat!)

      I read this book years ago (so long ago that I have no clear recollection; although, I enjoyed it at the time). I should point out that the Kon-Tiki Expedition was real. The book is non-fiction and so the Plot-/Character-Driven distinction does not apply here. (Not that Dorothy is necessarily implying that it does.)

      • I’ve only worn out two copies. Working on my third. Aku-Aku was good, but the Ra stuff didn’t measure up. One of my few sorrows of my European service was never getting to Oslo to the Kon Tiki Museum, where the original raft is housed.

      • Funnily enough, I’d disagree with that. But that comes of being thoroughly immersed in excellent books of nonfiction adventures, and having suffered through angsty navelgazing dreck that were also nonfiction adventures.

        Yes, yes, you can turn an account of climbing Mt. Everest into boring, whiny, grey-goo morality, “Have problems? Score phat weed in Nepal and angst while stoned!” navel-gazing dreck. Sigh. Don’t even get me started on “I’m so anti-capitalism I’m going to go die in the Alaskan woods, because I’m too much of an idiot to do proper prior planning.”

        On the other hand, Kon-Tiki! Excellent! And True!

        • After the book about the frozen-in-the-van dude came out, the other mechanic students and I sat around making up lists of people we could give all expense paid Alaskan driving vacations to. It soothed a lot of frustrations.

        • TRX

          Aku-Aku is also pretty good. The Ra Expeditions was less so; it felt like it was slapped together in a hurry, and spent waaaaay too much time on politics. Nowadays you can look up the political histories of the countries he was talking about; back when he wrote it, it was all pretty much “wut?” (at least to a young American) and try to read around it.

  4. Plot-driven: I do horrible things to the main situation.

    Character-driven: I do horrible things to the main character.

    Well, that was easy!!

  5. Plot driven: “We have vanquished the evil alien invaders!”
    Character driven: “How does that make you feel?”

  6. I expect a character driven plot to hinge greatly on the character’s actions and to see a whole lot of character development. LMB’s _Warrior’s Apprentice_ for example, well, most of her stuff, depends greatly on the MC’s personality and presence in the story.

    Plots can also be driven by technology, as in developing FTL and using it to explore. By time constraints “We have five days to divert the asteroid!”
    By enemy action, as in a Posleen attack. Take away the Posleen, the FTL, give them five years to do something about the Asteroid, and you’ve got a whole different story.

    • Confutus

      LMB has said that one of her generators for plot is “What’s the worst thing can I do to this character”? (That he can survive. Emphasis on THIS character, so that the plot is tailored to the individual.)

  7. Holly

    Character Driven–means the author has at most a hazy idea of what comes next, and it’s up to those obstreperous characters to drive the writing. Say, you’ve got a nice microbiologist, a grumpy retired NCO with his spoiled brat grandson, an adrenaline junky, and a plague. Character driven means you write events unfolding as driven by what they know, are capable of, and believe. Which might get them really stuck if they get into a situation where they don’t know or aren’t capable of something, or get crosswise to their beliefs, might necessitate involving another character, or events caused by things outside their control.
    Plot Driven means you know the events that are going to happen and fit the characters into them. Might mean you need to change your nice microbiologist to a nasty virologist, your adrenaline junky becomes a mechanic, and the bratty grandson has to become a polite granddaughter. There’s no chance that the virologist will fall in unreciprocated love with the NCO unless you already plotted that out.

  8. Now see, that’s what you get from all those fancy writing courses. To me, plot driven is that I write the plot, and the story unwinds according to what I’ve planned. Character-driven, however, is when the characters take over the entire thing, and the author’s only along for the ride.

  9. BobtheRegisterredFool

    Character drawn- characters are in harness, and pull the vehicle.
    character powered- characters go in the firebox, which pressurizes the boiler, the steam from which drives the vehicle forward
    character driven- characters are kept mounted on shafts in coffins. They spin when offended, powered is transferred from the coffins to the wheels, and the vehicle moves.

  10. Laura M

    Where the character’s personality does play a role in the plot.

  11. Reality Observer

    Urk. It’s days like this that make me wonder if I have what it takes to be a pro. Or it just means I’m likely to get hammered by both sides of a “divide.”

    Well-rounded characters, but stuck in an impersonal crisis that all they can do is “feel” about it? Not my cup of tea.

    An action-packed plot with all kinds of twists and turns, but with cardboard cutouts moving it along? Also not my cup of tea.

    Characters that seem like real people, responding in an action-packed plot to what is going on around them (some of which is not in their control, some of which IS)? And how they feel about their successes, their mistakes, and their just plain frustration at times?

    That’s what I’m (trying to be) writing. People (or the fictional facsimile thereof), what happens to them, what they cause to happen, how they feel and change as those happenings happen.

    Sometimes the plot drives the characters; a few pages later, the characters drive the plot. I really don’t try to figure out which is which at what time – I write what seems to be what is needed at the point where it is needed.

    Please pardon the only semi-coherent rambly… close to my bedtime.

    At least I don’t have toddlers any more. When anon comes, I look forward to your post, Dave.