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?
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
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.
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!