Sunday Tea: Plot or Character? Which Matters More?

Sunday Tea is a new bi-weekly series I have started up, where I ramble/discuss some tea filled topics. Please note, the tea I serve is to just open up a window of conversation and not to point blame or whatever, my blog is and will forever be a NO JUDGEMENT zone. You can take that negativity somewhere else. I reserve the right to delete any comments that goes against the above. Again–Sunday tea is to be sipped and talked about, not chugged and thrown.

Everyone knows that the purpose of a plot is for it to push the story forward. Throughout the years this has been a tried and true fact. Many would claim that a story is horrible if the plot of said story has no substance; many would also claim that plot is what makes the characters who they are and what makes the story that much more authentic and real.
But what if…what if that wasn’t the case?
What if a story could thrive without a great plot?
Throughout the years there has been an age-old debate between English professors and the like about whether or not the use of a plot really matters–if it is really that significant to make a story good–or can characters serve the same purpose?
Untitled design

The Difference Between The Two

Character-driven writing style is a style that really focuses on the building the characters within the story, honing in on their inner conflicts, their relationships with other characters, etc. According to Dorrance publishing, those who choose to delve into this particular style can expect that their readers “…will spend time thinking about the characters and their attitudes, personal evolution and decisions, and how those, in turn, change the shape of the plot and the story as a whole.”
However, Plot-driven writing style places a bigger emphasis on the actual plot itself. Things like plot twists, action and conflict of the external kind are all what make up a plot driven story. In more stories than not, the goal of a plot driven story are more external than they are internal–honing in on the development of a situation rather the growth of the character. Typically, though, characters in this type of writing style are forced to make quick decisions and because of this development of the characters go onto the back burner.

The Big Question

So we have these two great different writing styles with one commonality between them–they both want to give you a great, out of this world story. But which does it better? From the beginning of storytelling (back to the oral times) characters were what people used to reel people in–they were things us mere humans could relate to and learn from. Characters of fictional worlds and legends brought us stories of great badass-ery and gave each of us experiences that not only shown us that we aren’t alone in this big world but gave us a chance to take a glimpse from another persons shoes.
However, as the years progressed and literature became a more pronounced and professional field, authors began to deem plot to be the thing to focus on–the sole thing that could bring the emotions out of us and make us relate to the world more so than any character could. For most of the 1900s it was always plot over character. Yet, something switched when we entered the modern era of literature–no longer did we automatically choose the plot over characters, because now we have re-realized the importance of a character and fully developing them.

You can have the best plot, you can have the best idea, high-concept, awesome idea story, but if your characters are two dimensional or unbelievable, then the plot means absolutely nothing, because the reader does not connect with any of the characters.– Unknown

The Tea

I believe that characters are like host bodies that for a short period of time we get to inhabit and live a different life–and because of this, I lean towards character driven stories because just like how I have experiences that have shifted and molded me to who I am today, I want those hosts I inhabit–those lives I take on–to also have experiences and moments of development and molding so that when I come out of the story I’m left molded as well.
I may relate to the external forces that are moving against the characters, yes–but I’m not bonding with those forces. I’m inside those characters heads; I am seeing what they see, feeling what they feel.

Image result for squidward alone
Squidward in Nowhere

Does plot matter? In a way I think it does, because it sets up the reason behind the story being told. If we didn’t have plots we’d just have these amazing characters walking around a white blank room like that episode of Spongebob where Squidward is alone. No plot means nothing to show of the amazingness of these characters. Is it more important than a character? To a certain degree I don’t think so because of all the things I listed above.
A plot gives the character a chance to shine–but I think it’s the character that makes the story and the character that ultimately matters.

What do you think? Do you think Plot trumps characters? Or do you think it’s the other way around? Let’s discuss!



  1. Rosie Amber

    January 20, 2019 at 10:48 am

    I agree, the plot is important, but it is the characters that make it shine.

  2. Kayla @ Books and Blends

    January 20, 2019 at 11:01 am

    I will have to go with the characters. I more than likely will love a character-driven book than a plot one.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Same! I find myself more forgiving of books with little to no plot if the characters are a 10/10, however I struggle the other way around!

  3. Camilla @ Reader in the Attic

    January 20, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I think (also answering with my writert mind on) that it depends a lot on the story you want to tell. Sometimes, the characters make the plot and other time is the way around.
    I always strike for frinding a perfect mix. For me plot is very important because I feel like that if the characters are well written, they move and work along the plot. And sometimes it’s not even about character development. For example, sometimes character have to take decision according to who they already are. They don’t neceserally have to change to show me who they are and how much I can relate to them.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:07 am

      I agree to a certain degree, I do feel like great books are the ones that find that balance between plot and characters and that well worked characters move along side of the plot. I also agree that a character has to make a decision according to who they are at that moment in time –it would be weird if they didn’t. But I do think that decision they made will change/alter them in some way through the course of the novel; whether that be big or small, it depends–but at the end of the novel to a certain degree that character (if well fleshed out) would have gained something, and because of that experience I would have gained something too.
      Now I am not saying that in every book a character needs to change inorder for me to relate to them or for them to be a great character, not in the slightest! But I do think that a well fleshed out character (even if like you say doesn’t change) still is the driving force/ make it or break it piece in a novel that keeps me vibing a book. If that makes sense!

  4. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    January 20, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    I think it depends on a lot of factors, including the setting (I’ve seen authors get away with minimal character development and light plot because they had phenomenal worldbuilding), quality of the author’s writing (if I can’t get through the surface-level of what’s on the page, I’m definitely not sticking around to see if I bond with the characters or care about the plot; however, if the writing is great, they have more leeway in developing the different aspects of the story), and the story itself (some are based on character development, others rely primarily on external forces and character development is an aside/reaction).
    as for my personal preference, I’ve been a fanfiction writer for years so the characters matter most to me – I want to be able to put them in a different situation and know exactly what they might do or say. but at the same time, if I’m just looking to be entertained, a strong plot can be sufficient. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:09 am

      oooo I agree that a lot of factors play into a novel being epic, especially world building! However I find myself more forgiving of other factors if the character are more fleshed out and authentic for lack of a better word.

      1. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

        January 24, 2019 at 1:48 pm

        that makes sense! if the characters are well-written, it’s easier to get attached and thus invested in the story

  5. Jaymi at OrangeCountyReaders

    January 20, 2019 at 12:20 pm

    Great topic! I think I’m with you – it’s all about the characters! But when I think back, all my favorites have had strong, well thought out characters.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:10 am

      <3 <3 <3 characters are the best!

  6. Quitterstrip

    January 20, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    THIS! This is a GREAT topic. And a perfect set up for introverts wanting this kind of conversation! Great read- thank you!

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:10 am

      Thank you for stopping by and reading!

  7. Sophia (Bookwyrming Thoughts)

    January 20, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    So can I chug tea and talk about it? I think either will work, depending on the reader. I’m more a character person so character matters more to me. But I also love a good plot, so a good balance is ideal if one wants me to love the book. However, I don’t mind if one overpowers the other, though it brings less enjoyment to the story. The Le Fay series by Realm Lovejoy I really like, but I’ll admit the plot trumps the characters and brings less enjoyment to the story beause I wanted the characters to be more fleshed out.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:12 am

      Yeah, a good balance is key to writing a novel I think, but I feel like I am (personally) more forgiving if the plot is crap but the character are bae. If it’s the other way around I always feel annoyed and it looses a star rating for me….

  8. Aimee (Aimee, Always)

    January 20, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    I agree with everything you said, lovely! I’m more inclined to love character-driven novels. I can sit through the most predictable plot ever, as long as the main characters have strong personalities. I, however, can’t finish reading a book with the most amazing plot, if the voice I’m reading from isn’t easy to connect with. And there it is–connection. I think we tend to focus on characters since they’re our lifelines to the books we read. ♥
    – Aimee @ Aimee, Always

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:14 am

      EXACTLY! I love what you said about connection! Plot is what keeps the story flowing, but it’s the connection that the characters give us readers that makes us want to turn the page every time. Totally agree with you Aimee!

  9. Maddie A.

    January 20, 2019 at 11:53 pm

    This is a great discussion!
    Personally, I prefer character driven stories where I can see how they’ve grown throughout their journey. But, on the off chance that I can’t relate or don’t really like the character, I’d want the plot to be strong enough for me to continue reading. So I guess it would be great to have balance between the two 😊

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  11. jamsu

    January 21, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    Plot is important but it’s hard to like plot if you dislike the characters. I mean the plot can be absolutely amazing but what makes you want to continue the book if you can’t connect with the characters? Characters on other hand can make you deal with the plot even if you don’t like it since you want to know what happens with her/him/them.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:17 am

      I agree! Kind of like the Lux series, everybody knew how the story would play out but we stick around for the characters like Daemon and Katy–because on some level and degree we connected with them, their lives, and the stories they told. We stick around for them not so much for the plot.

  12. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

    January 22, 2019 at 9:31 pm

    What a fun post, Sam! I actually need both because I’m a fickle bitch. I need to relate to the characters but prefer deep worldbuilding with a good plot to keep everything going. I am more forgiving of messy worldbuilding or plot if I love the characters, though.

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:21 am

      MOOOOODDDD. If I can get both great characters and an amazing plot then hot damn I won the jack pot. But more often than not there aren’t that many books that strike that balance of epicness–so I find that, like you, I am more forgiving of messiness if the characters are a 10/10 would recommend. Kind of like with Buffy, I’m not sticking around for the plot (cause let’s be honest it isn’t the greatest plot in the world) but I am sticking around for the characters and their development.

      1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

        January 24, 2019 at 11:45 am


        1. sammers65

          January 24, 2019 at 12:16 pm

          O_O I’ve upset the powers that be. But you gotta admit (for my only watching the first season) the plot so far is… need. lol

          1. Kaleena @ Reader Voracious

            January 24, 2019 at 12:40 pm

            Okay yes, first season is amusing. I forgive you. WATCH IT MORE

  13. Charvi

    January 23, 2019 at 8:19 am

    This is such a great topic! I think both plot and characters are very important but in the end it comes to personal preferences. My mother only likes plot driven books and I on the other hand can be satisfied if the characters are exemplary. In the whole mortal instruments series I don’t like the plot very much or even the main characters Clary and Jace but I love the side characters and ships and that made it all worth it 😊

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Thank you! I do agree that it is personal preference. The Mortal instruments’ saving grace is solely the supporting cast. Literally the only reason I got through the first three books to be honest!

  14. Clo @ Book Dragons

    January 24, 2019 at 6:21 am

    As a writer I’ve been able to perfect character driven stories…mostly thanks to writing fanfiction as it let me explore characters and not having to do any world building. But I also need to sort out learning how to build a world and a nice plot *sniffs*
    The tea is that we all have our own preferences, but to me as a reader and writer, characters are key to anyone relating to your story. You could have the best plot in the world, with so much going on but it’ll fall flat if the characters aren’t fleshed out.
    I’ve read books with flat characters but the plot and world building was the reason I kept reading…I didn’t love the book as much as I could’ve because the characters were just meh. I’ve also read books where the plot isn’t the best or the world building but the characters have made me swoon and captured me….
    I guess at the end of the day, both ways offer something different, the best mix would be to balance them as well as you could. Make sure the plot is decent, make sure the characters aren’t flat and about as interesting as a wall.
    Love this post Sam! <3

    1. sammers65

      January 24, 2019 at 9:28 am

      ooooo I do agree that it all boils down to preference and that amazing balance is key; But I find myself more forgiving of books that have crap of everything else but amazing characters, so because of that I feel like characters are more important.

      1. Clo @ Book Dragons

        January 24, 2019 at 10:01 am

        honestly I do the same thing haha so yeah I’d also agree with characters being more important too

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