Thursday, May 14, 2015

Discussion Post: Why I Am a Plot-Driven Reader

Last week I read a post recently from This Girl Reads A Lot where Jazmen mentioned how she is an emotional reader and needs to love the characters to love a book and that got me thinking about what type of reader I am. I read a lot of different kinds of books. Whether you are talking about different genres like fantasy, historical fiction, literary fiction, or contemporary. Or you are talking about age categories like young adult, new adult, and adult. Or even different formats like physical book, e-book, and audiobook. I read it all. And no matter what kind of book it is, the plot development is either going to be plot-driven or character-driven. Plot-driven books mean that things progress from moment to moment and the characters are along for the ride. Where as character-driven books the decisions made by the parties involved decides the way things develop. And now that I've gone through that I'm going to tell you, that's what not what I mean here.

What I mean is what about a book blows you away. When you find yourself loving a book is it because of the plot or the characters? If one part of the book is lacking what would you rather have? Can you forgive the lack of plot development if the characters are fantastic or would you rather have great plot development but lackluster characters? For me it's the latter. I really don't need to love the characters to love a book.

In fact, sometimes I will like a book despite not really liking the characters. One of my favorite fantasy series is The Magicians series by Lev Grossman, a very hit or miss series for people but I'm a big fan. That being said, I kind of hate these characters. Quentin Coldwater is a whiny brat who is never happy even when he gets his heart's desire but I still love this series and want him to succeed. And then there is one of my favorite books, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Heathcliff and Cathy are terrible people but I love this book because the plot is full of mystery and their tortured love story makes for an engaging plot. I've done a whole post on my feelings on unlikable characters and for me liking the characters is not really tantamount to liking the book

When I think about the books that have been 10 star reads for me, and the books that I have been blown away by this year, it is because of the exciting plot, the fact that it built to a thrilling conclusion, or that I loved the larger theme that the book examined. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, despite being very character-driven, worked because it was a story about friendship in a historical setting fraught with danger, the stakes were high here. Same thing with Under A Painted Sky by Stacey Lee. It was a story about friendship but there was a lot of action and suspense in a historical period full of drama. The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury is another one with amazing world-building and while the pacing was slower, it had tons of mystery and the plot built to a thrilling conclusion that incorporated the world-building in a big way.

On the other side of the aisle, the books that I have not loved were those where one of my pluses were the characters but I found the plot to be lacking. Yesterday I reviewed Legend by Marie Lu and that is a perfect example of what I mean. I loved June and Day. I found them complex, likable, and I wanted them to succeed but I was missing the action and the complex world-building. Whereas The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey had a really amazing world and likable characters but the plot was so basic and convenient I wasn't as engaged as I could have been.

The best books of course do both. A Darker Shade of Magic by Victoria Schwab had phenomenal characters, I mean Lila Bard, Kell, Rhy, the Dane Twins! All amazing and all complex, dubious, and in some cases diabolical. But it also had a thrilling plot. I was on the edge of my seat with the high stakes magical adventure and when it all ended in a thrilling conclussion I was left wanting more. Same thing with The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace. I absolutely adored everyone of these characters and they had some truly amazing ships but that plot development and that climax, so fantastic!

A feeling I often get with amazing books!

That's mostly why I don't read a lot of contemporary romances. They are more character-driven novels. I like a good coming of age story as much as the next person but I need a really engaging plot. I need a goal and something to look forward to at the end of the book. Something to strive for and something that hold the book together. I loved Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson because there was the added plot device of completing the list and finding Sloan. It was working to something. Same thing with Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. It was working towards something. The plot revolved around the subtle mystery of figuring out who Blue is and him and Simon meeting. Even though it was subtle, it was there and that's what I liked.

On the whole the thing that engages me in a book is a really sold plot that slowly builds to a thrilling conclusion. I don't really need action and mystery but those are an added bonus but something that keeps me wondering and reading from page 1 to 1,000. The books that I love had me hooked and when they were all said and done that WOW Factor is always because of the plot points. I think that's why I tend to read and enjoy genre fiction like Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Mystery over Literary Fiction and Contemporary.

What about you? Do you prefer a really strong plot or do you need great characters? Are you more of a plot-driven reader or a character-driven one? Also what do you think about my new name for my discussion posts? My Thoughts Figuratively. I mean they're not necessarily non-literal thoughts I just found it funny to call them that. Leave me me a comment with your thoughts (literal or figurative). Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. First, I love the title of your discussion.

    Next, I’m not sure if I’m a plot-driven reader or a character-driven one. I’ve taken A LOT of college lit classes, and they tend to focus on character-driven “literary” fiction. Some of the stuff that I’ve read for classes feels completely plotless. However, my classes have given me a huge appreciation for good character development.

    On the other hand, I think I’m naturally a plot person. I love it when a ton of stuff is happening and nothing is predictable.

    So, I guess I’m both.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Thanks AJ! I'm loving the name too!

      I cannot handle plotless books at all. I'm just waiting and waiting for something to happen and nothing ever happens. It's one of the reasons I do not enjoy travel monologues and road trip stories. Travel is not a plot line to me. I'm more on the "a ton of stuff happens and nothing is predictable" fan. I'm definitely surprised when I enjoy a character-driven story but some really good ones do exist. If you have any recommendations, let me know.

  2. I think I'm more of a plot-driven reader when the book is in the mystery or thriller genre. But, as you know I'm mostly character-driven. Great post!

    1. Thanks Jazmen. I hear you. I think my favorite genres are because I'm a plot-driven reader. I love a good mystery/thriller, fantasy, and historical fiction novel.

  3. Good discussion idea! I have to think about this one pretty hard to really suss out what I think. I have read plenty of books where the characters keep me going, even if plot is lacking,but I think that plot does it for me overall. In general, unless the characters are somehow super amazing that I can forgive a bad plot, I need a good story and a good work up to a great conclusion. I can read a book where I hate all of the characters as long as I hate them because they're well written and not just because they're boring or annoying. It's harder to enjoy a book with good character but with a crap plot. I totally agree on Wuthering Heights. It's one of my favorites and, yeah, the majority of characters in that book are downright awful. But it's a fantastic story.

    I'm the same way with television shows and movies as well. I can watch something with less great characters if I'm drawn in by the plot. So, yeah, overall, I'm a plot girl!

    Vicarious Caytastrophe

    1. I totally agree. Characters have kept me going but only if I very quickly love them. It's rare but sometimes it does happen. Like I immediately loved Emily in Since You've Been Gone and Kel and Lila in A Darker Shade of Magic. And yes, if they are really well-written I will enjoy a book with terrible characters.

      Plot girls unite!

  4. I do agree with you. I am much more plot driven myself. I really do not have to like the characters at all.

    1. Yes! It's better if I do like the characters but I have to have an exciting plot to love the story. We are totally on the same page.

  5. Great post. I am like you. I am very much a plot driven reader. It makes sense because the story itself just has to be engaging. The characters should be realistic and with flaws, just like normal people.
    Recently though I haven't just relied on plot. I've been getting into the writing and the storytelling too. It's interesting because there are just so many things to like about a book!