Is your story Plot-driven or Character-driven?
Most writers struggle with these two terms. As I sat in the audience of Left Coast Crime’s Conference held in Portland, Oregon this weekend, this topic came up in panel discussion. Does the concept of your story begin with the plot or the character? The majority of authors on the panel fumbled for the answer.
I think it is because there is no real answer.
Plot-driven fiction moves the story forward through action.
Character-driven fiction derives story arc though character’s reactions and decisions.
However, here is how I really define it. When the book is finished, do you remember the action or the characters?
At the mystery conference, the general answer, which I agreed with, was that the two are too intertwined to separate, which is how plot is the external arc and character is the internal arc. Both are needed for a satisfying experience for the reader..
Protagonist - Woo hoo. We have a hero. In some stories we have both a hero and a heroine, which means both must have their own arcs. Generally, the protagonist is the good guy. He is the person we hope will save the world, rescue the girl, solve the mystery and bring back the Arc or the Grail. The protagonist can also be female such as Dorothy or Maleficent or Annie.
Antagonist - The villain or the nemesis, but it can just as easily be the mother or a big orange eye in the sky. This is the character that stands between the Protagonist and his/her goal. Nature is not an antagonist. Nature is a plot device. If your story lacks an antagonist, it may not have sufficient conflict.
Cast of Thousands – Side kicks, best friends, allies, mentors, spear-carriers and other too numerous to mention. While you can have a cast of thousands, you must have a protagonist and an antagonist.
The best description I heard this weekend was that an antagonist is a protagonist who violently disagrees with your protagonist.
That conjures up a real picture, doesn’t it?