Thursday, December 15, 2011

BTT: Plot or Character?

Question:  What’s more important to you? Real, three-dimensional, fleshed-out fascinating characters? Or an amazing, page-turning plot? (Yes, I know, they are both important. But if you had to pick one as being more important than the other?

You know, I had a tough time with this question.  My first inclination was to go with plot, but upon further thought, and flipping through some of my reviews, I actually think I need interesting, well-developed characters in order to really have a book stand out for me.  Whenever I think of a book that has had a huge impact on me, my life, or my thoughts, it is usually the character and his or her actions that stand out, not the plot, and it is the character that I remember clearly.  Because great plots are often driven by fascinating, intriguing and well-developed characters, I also believe they go hand in hand. 

All that being said, though, there are some genres that just don't work if the plot is weak, no matter how strong the characterization.  Mysteries, crime, thrillers, and suspense novels just don't have that same impact with a weak plotline, and I will stop reading a book if I find it boring or unrealistic.  Other novels I forced myself to read to the end just to say I did (Twilight comes to mind - sorry all you fans out there but I didn't find it all that interesting .)  I do like to connect with my characters and I do find there is something lacking without that connection, but if the plot is strong enough I will keep reading.  It's not typically characterization that makes me decided whether to continue reading or not.

What do you think?  Are you for strong characterization or amazing plot??


  1. First knee-jerk reaction for me was to say plot--the more complicated, the better. But then I rethought it and came to the same conclusion. You can have the most carefully constructed, interesting, edge-of-your-chair plot, but if I don't care about the characters, then the whole plot falls flat. And also, my all-time favorite book is Catcher in the Rye, which is way more character-focused than plot-based.


  2. This is a tough question. I think you got it exactly right by pointing out that there have to be exceptions for certain types of books no matter which side you come down on. For me, I guess I would agree that the characters win out, but there is a big caveat to that -- my reading enjoyment of a book can be very dependent on the mood I'm in. Sometimes I just want a very plot-driven read...

  3. If I had to write, and this is because I write thrillers, I'd have to go with the plot.