What’s More Important: Character or Plot?

This article is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours Ink group. To read articles on this subject from other members of the group, see the list of participants and their blog addresses below.

And now for my article on Character vs Plot

There was a time when it was normal and acceptable to write novels with strong plots and flat characters. Back then it was really all about plot, and that was especially true for the mystery genre. I personally think writing has evolved into something deeper that now requires great characterization. Plot is important in the typical novel, but readers want to love the characters too. Mysteries and thrillers require good characterization because the reader needs to identify with the characters, to feel the fear, and anxiety, and solve the mystery.

There are whole books and classes dedicated to plot, and the same is true for characterization. Some writers create a believable plot and then people it with believable characters. Some writers create great characters and write a story in which they fit. Both kinds of writing works. There are genres that lend themselves to more characterization and less plot, like literary and romance. And there are genres like the mystery and thriller, where the plot has to be strong no matter who the characters are.  But in the end if a novel doesn’t have a strong plot with great characters, it’s probably going to sit on the shelves for a long time.

If you’re a writer, you have to work hard to make the reader happy. That can’t be done with mediocre characters or plots. Learn what you have to learn so  you can create a masterpiece that includes both plot and character. If you don’t write, but you’re a reader, let authors know what you like. Go to the websites of authors whose books you’ve read and tell us exactly what you enjoyed about out novels, and what we could improve upon. It doesn’t matter if the author is Jame Patterson, Karen Robards, Jennifer Blake, or me. We need to know how to please the readers so let’s hear from you.

Below is a list of blogs where you can find more articles on the subject of Plot vs Character.



4 comments on “What’s More Important: Character or Plot?

  1. Some interesting research published on this recently. I’m going to be using this on my blog in a couple weeks, but here’s the early preview: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110810093735.htm

  2. Ryder,

    You are correct in stating that readers today expect more from our novels. We have to create characters that have a real lives. Back in the 30s, many of the protagonists were male, detectives; single, wisecracking, womanizers. Although I love those old Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout stories, today we have to give more to our readers.


  3. Good post, Ryder. We’re all in agreement about the necessity for both strong plots and characters.


  4. Mediocre plots or poor characterization are death to an author’s career! As writers we need to keep striving for that elusive brass ring. Enjoyed the post!

    Maggie Toussaint

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