Are You a Character Driven or Plot Driven Reader? | Discussion

Posted April 6, 2018 by Jana in Discussion / 39 Comments

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday has brought up an interesting discussion that I wanted to expound upon. Let me set the stage: I have a Top Ten Tuesday topic suggestion form, where participants can submit their suggestions for future TTTs. The topic “Characters I Liked from Non-Favorite/Disliked Books” came through and I was kind of intimidated by it, but figured I’d put it on the schedule because I want topics to apply to a variety of readers and not just be ones that are easy for me.

As I started building my list a couple weeks in advance I realized how unbelievably hard it was for me to come up with 10 characters I liked from books I didn’t like. I am a very character driven reader. If I don’t like a book it’s usually because I did not like the characters. I’ve never disliked a story but liked the characters enough to continue reading it. If I can’t connect with or fall in love with the characters, then it’s a pretty automatic DNF for me. There’s just no reason for me to stick around. I started looking at all my one and two star reviews to try and find books I rated low, but found redeeming qualities in the characters. Most of the time I was actually complaining about the characters! I ended up picking a lot of characters that I used to love, who took a bad turn in sequels and series books because I couldn’t come up with much else.

Once this TTT went live and the Linky was open for people to link up their posts, I quickly noticed how slowly the links were submitted. Usually the Linky explodes with submissions within minutes of the post going live. I started visiting the blogs who participated, and made it through the first 20 or so posts before sleep took over. I noticed that many people were in my same boat and struggled with coming up with their lists. Some of them reversed the topic and wrote about characters they hated from books they loved, which would have been so much easier for me. Someone even changed the topic to characters they loved. Period. Participation was also down. By the next day only 85 people had linked up their posts, as opposed to the 300-350 I usually see.

Clearly, I’m not alone! I saw several posts where people said they loved the topic, and easily came up with 10 picks. For a lot of us, though, I know how tricky it was and I feel bad that so many people struggled with it. I’ll do my best to not make such a hard topic anymore.

So, let’s discuss!
– Are you a character driven reader like me, or plot driven reader?
– Or does something else drive your love of books? The writing? The world? The author? Your own stubbornness? All of the above?
– Do you DNF over characters you can’t connect with, or can you keep going with a book even if you don’t like them?
– Which books come to your mind when you think of this discussion topic? 

There’s so much to talk about!

Share this post:
Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tumblr Reddit Stumbleupon Email

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

39 responses to “Are You a Character Driven or Plot Driven Reader? | Discussion

    • Jana

      I love the idea of having a special shelf on Goodreads for characters you loved! I think I need to steal that idea!

  1. Kay

    I do think that I’m a character driven reader. I’ve said to people often that if a book isn’t working for me, I DNF. And move on. Now I’ve started thinking about why a book isn’t working for me – and the answer is usually that I can’t engage with the characters or can’t find even one to like. I really need to have at least one character to ‘bond’ with. I may be rolling my eyes at the plot or being frustrated at how events turn, but it’s the choices and the thought processes of the characters that really grips me. And I did not participate this week. All the topics that include ‘a book you didn’t like’ are tough for me. If I don’t like it, I don’t finish it. Ha!
    Kay recently posted…The Blackhouse – Peter May

    • Jana

      I definitely agree with you. As long as there’s a character or two that I bond with, I can usually hang in there through a story I’m not loving because I want to see how things end for them.

      Put a spin on a topic if you know you can’t do it! If it’s a book you don’t like kind of topic, then showcase books you didn’t finish instead. I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t participate each week! :)

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who struggled with the TTT post. I changed the topic to “Reasons I Hate Characters.” I’m a character-driven reader. If the characters are boring or annoying, I’ll probably hate the book. I can get past a boring plot if I love the characters.
    Aj @ Read All The Things! recently posted…March Wrap-Up

    • Jana

      lol. SO many of us struggled with it. I love what you changed your topic to! I wish I had thought of that one.

  3. I’m probably more plot-driven. I like a character-driven story once in awhile, but to me they can be very slow. But if it’s more about plot and action, it keeps the story moving along for me.

  4. Hi! I’ve just found your blog and hopefully, I can join in the TTT next time.

    Let’s see, I’m definitely a plot-driven person. If plot isn’t there or not good, no matter how kind or funny the characters are, I wouldn’t be able to keep my eyes open to read.
    Besides, the plot, the writing is also important to me. The conversations in the book has to flow well and I’m not a fan of writings that takes 4 sentences just to describe a blue pen (if you catch my drift).

    I’ve never DNF a book before of characters and it’s very rarely that I DNF a book. Even if I do, it’s surely because of the writing style or the plot. I’ve read books that I love but hated the characters because they were horrible people but that’s just mean that the author did a brilliant job at making me feel like that about the characters.

    • Jana

      Hi Marina! Welcome to my blog! I’m so glad you found me, and I hope you enjoy TTT!

      I do agree that I need a plot to go along with my characters, so I’m probably a good mixture of the two. But I always give up on bad characters before I give up on a bad plot. lol. I think part of it probably has to do with my mood, too. The writing is also really important to me. Come to think of it, it might be the most important. If there are grammar issues, overuse of one word too many times, telling rather than showing, or just choppy dialogue I’m out pretty quick. I’ve definitely DNFed for that reason a lot.

      Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. I totally agree with you! I am an oh-so-very character-driven reader. I need a little bit of plot to keep me going, but not much. This is also probably why I like Indie movies more than your typical Hollywood blockbuster. If I don’t care about the characters or what happens to them, what’s the point of reading the book?
    Kate @ The Magic Violinist recently posted…March Wrap-Up

    • Jana

      Yes, I need a little plot but not much! It’s all about the characters for me, and if I don’t care about them it’s pointless for me to keep reading.

      Interesting point regarding indie movies. Do you have any favorites you’d recommend?

  6. I completely agree! I’m such a character driven reader. If the characters are great, NOTHING else matters. I have, however been know to finish books just because I need to know what happens to then random side character that I love… even if I hate everybody else, and therefore hate the book.

  7. Aryn

    Absolutely character-driven. There are far too many books on my shelf to put up with something I don’t like. I try to give every book 50 pages before I toss it, but sometimes I can’t even get that far. So this topic would be impossible for me.

    • Jana

      Like you, I try to give a book 50 pages but I’m starting to get bad at that. lol. I’ve been DFing after just a few pages recently because I already knew I’d hate all the characters. lol

  8. I am more of a character-driven reader, however I’m not likely to enjoy something if the plot is TOO minimal. I do enjoy “one room” sorts of pieces like Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the passages in Jane Eyre that are more of a character study than plot-driven, but The Bell Jar was a bit too far the other way for me and was just boring.

    • Jana

      Oh yes, I agree. I can’t do a super minimal plot or character studies. I can’t read a whole book that’s just a person thinking or a few people talking with nothing else happening. That’s too much like real life, and I read to escape. lol

  9. I am definitely character driven! This week’s post was so hard for me to come up with characters… I went back to some really old reads! I loved the people who reversed the topic though, I wish I had thought of it when I was putting my post together! I can forgive a slow moving plot, or even cliched tropes, if the characters are well written and I can relate to them. But if the characters are one dimensional or just really awful in general, then there’s no hope for me liking the story.
    Michelle @ Life Among the Pages recently posted…Talking About Memes #14

    • Jana

      I couldn’t have said it better myself! I definitely wish I had reversed the topic. lol. Like you, slow moving stories or cliches don’t bug me as much as a crummy set of characters!

  10. It really depends on the book for me! I might latch onto a particular character, or characters, or might become invested in the plot. Or both! It really depends :)

    • Jana

      I can’t imagine this not happening to everyone sometimes. I know my mood influences how I feel about a book. Sometimes I don’t need characters because the plot is really amazing. This happens to me a lot with mysteries or romantic suspense, where there’s just action all over the place. Sometimes I need a new friend and want great characters over anything else. :)

  11. I am definitely also a character driven reader. I can forgive a weak plot, if I can somehow connect to the characters or be intrigued by them.

  12. RS

    I think I am a plot driven reader most of the time. I didn’t answer this topic because I can barely even remember characters in books I liked! I think maybe it’s because I can’t picture faces when I read, unless I deliberately cast an actor I like or it has been turned into a movie/TV show, because with TV it’s exactly the opposite. But in books, the character has to be absolutely amazing to last longer than a few months in my head without direct reminders, whereas if there is an exciting plot, I can put up with the literary equivalent of cardboard stand-ins where the people are concerned.

    • Jana

      Very interesting points! I can totally see why it’s easier to bond with characters on screen than in books. I hadn’t even thought about that. I tend to remember how I felt about the characters more than the plot. lol

  13. I completely skipped this one because I definitely found it too hard to come up with anything for the list! Although I enjoy both kinds of stories: plot driven and character driven, I think I slightly prefer character driven novels. Anything that is purely plot driven and leaves two-dimensional characters makes me feel dissatisfied. And I have definitely find it difficult to continue with a book where I hate the characters (especially the main character). This is different to characters who are supposed to be unlikable because they serve their function, I mean characters who I actually dislike.

  14. I am absolutely a character driven reader. I can read slice-of-life books and totally love them, no plot needed. I do like to see positive growth for the character though, because even if there’s no huge plot, there must be some journey the character is taking.
    Sam@WLABB recently posted…Black Sheep Reviews – Volume 1

  15. I didn’t have a lot of time last week, so when I saw this topic I knew I couldn’t think that hard. :) I’ll take characters over plot any day. I want the writing to be strong, but I can deal with weaker writing if I love the characters. It’s doubtful I’ll enjoy the book if I don’t like the characters.

  16. While I do enjoy character driven books, I cannot fully enjoy a book if the environment – especially in fantasy books – is not rich. Because I love history, I cannot love a fantasy book if there’s no attention paid to the culture and traditions.

  17. I think character and plot are both important to me, but I am probably more likely to finish a book with a good plot and lousy characters than I would be to finish a book with a boring plot and good characters, so I suppose I am slightly more plot driven. The writing style also plays a big part for me-I can tolerate a slow plot more if the writing is lyrical and beautiful. A great setting might also keep me reading, especially for dystopian or fantasy novels.