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Character-driven, certainly.

I like plot, and of course it's best to have both (and, of course, most good books do). But if it's a question of priorities, I'm more interested in solid, well developed characters whose conflicts drive the book.
 

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Without a doubt, character-driven stories.

A book with the best plot but flat interchangeable characters will turn me off. But give me strong, well-defined, compelling characters, and I will follow them anywhere, even if it is fairly ordinary. Strong characters make the ordinary interesting. Flat characters make the extraordinary look dull and often ridiculous.
 

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My favorite is to read and write character driven stories. I tend to find that if the story is character driven the plot will be strong.
 

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I prefer books with good plots and GREAT characters. Superb characters are more memorable than plots. Case in point: Thomas Harris's Silence of the Lambs. The book fetaured your typical serial killer plot, but Hannibal Lecter is permanently etched in my mind. On the other hand, strong characters couldn't carry the weaker plot of Hannibal. So maybe I can't answer this one either. ;D
 

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I want story. Plot is the skeleton. Character is the muscles that connect to the skeleton. You need both for a story to really come to life. I don't like stories where the characters are interchangable, where any of the characters in the book could be substituted in any given scene. But that's a rather straw-man description of plot. I've seen too many stories where people ooh and ahh over "character development", but all I see it "who is sleeping with whom". If it's soap opera, I'll pass, I like a some meat to the characters.

Character doesn't necessarily have to involve growth or change. What it does have to do is to reveal to the audience who the characters really are. What are their likes and dislikes? What are their motivations? What are their limits, how far will they go - is there a point where they will say "no"? What are their priorities? When forced to choose between conflicting priorities, what choice will they make? The character's actions must be true to who they are. If not, there had better be a pretty good reason. A character acting out of character can be a blemish on a story, or can be an opportunity to reveal more of the character, or an opportunity to show growth or change.

Too much focus on character, and I get impatient, and want the story to move forward. Too little character, and all you have is dry bones.
 

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mooshie78 said:
I think a more fair way to look at the OP's question is to assume equally interesting characters and then compare whether you prefer:

Book A--good characters, but it's a plot driven book and there's not much character development/growth.

Book B--Good characters, not much plot as the book is focused on character development/growth/relationships between characters.

No one's going to want to read either type of book if the characters are unappealing in general! :D
I wouldn't be satisfied with either.

I don't think that a book has to sacrifice character development/grown/relationships between characters in order to have plot and action.
 

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Marie August said:
I wouldn't be satisfied with either.

I don't think that a book has to sacrifice character development/grown/relationships between characters in order to have plot and action.
Agreed in that case.

But you have no interest in books that are really just about characters and the relationships between them and don't really have any overarching plot?

As an example, one of my favorite books is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (great movie version with John Cusak as well!).

There's really no grad plot or anything. It's just the the main character trying to figure out why all his relationships have fallen apart, and coming to terms with his issues about fear of commitment and fear of settling down etc. So it's really just about his personal growth, and his relationship with his current girlfriend.

Edit: Here's another one I just finished--The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman. Each chapter focuses on one character, each chapter is a new character, and no character has more than one point of view chapter (though they appear in each other's chapters. There's some mild, overarching plot of the creation and fall of a newspaper--but that's mostly told in 1-3 page snippets inbetween chapters. So it's really all about the characters and how association with a newspaper and each other affects them, and not much overarching plot. I loved it! Though I have a background in journalism (very brief) before changing fields. :D
 

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Character driven is the main point for me.  A weak plot can be saved by good characters but a terrific plot won't matter if I can't identify with the characters.
 

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mooshie78 said:
Agreed in that case.

But you have no interest in books that are really just about characters and the relationships between them and don't really have any overarching plot?

As an example, one of my favorite books is High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (great movie version with John Cusak as well!).

There's really no grad plot or anything. It's just the the main character trying to figure out why all his relationships have fallen apart, and coming to terms with his issues about fear of commitment and fear of settling down etc. So it's really just about his personal growth, and his relationship with his current girlfriend.

Edit: Here's another one I just finished--The Imperfectionistsby Tom Rachman. Each chapter focuses on one character, each chapter is a new character, and no character has more than one point of view chapter (though they appear in each other's chapters. There's some mild, overarching plot of the creation and fall of a newspaper--but that's mostly told in 1-3 page snippets inbetween chapters. So it's really all about the characters and how association with a newspaper and each other affects them, and not much overarching plot. I loved it! Though I have a background in journalism (very brief) before changing fields. :D
It's possible that I would enjoy it, especially if the characters are amazing, but it would not be my ideal story. I would rather read a book with good character development and no action than one with tons of action, but no character development. I suppose in movies it's rare that you can have both since there's very little time to fit in everything. But with books, I usually don't have to choose. :)
 

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Depends on the type of book. Lots of genre fiction (e.g. murder mystery) works fine with a clever plot and pleasant but not necessarily intriguing characters. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, for example. I've read comments about this book that rhapsodise over the "voice" and character of the narrator, but to me, it's basically a murder mystery -- a very well written one, but genre nonetheless.

Too many so-called character-driven books are so "angsty" that I find them nearly unbearable. Yet one of the greatest books I've ever read, Lolita, is completely a character study.
 

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Like most, I'd prefer both in a story. However, I'd choose character-driven if I had to pick. I'm more likely to remember entertaining characters, compared with the likelihood of remembering things that happened. A good story has to have good character development/exposition, for me. I mean what's the point of having things happen if we aren't going to learn about the characters (and hopefully the characters will change because of said events)?

I've noticed with TV shows and movies, that shows and movies without interesting characters don't grab me nearly as much as those that have interesting characters.

That said, it can't all be just characters talking about themselves either, that gets pretty boring too.
 

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I have to go with character driven. Soaps come to mind (I know we're talking books here but just an analogy) those things go on forever with the plots changing from excellent to ridiculous to downright BAD. Yet the fans stick with it because of the characters or in that case actors. I think this works the same with books. For me anyway. I've been known to stop reading a good plot simply because the character didn't succeed in keeping in. Either they were too irritating, dull or two-dimensional. Since I read mostly romance, no matter what the plot, I love to fall in love with my hero's.  :D         
 

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There are always exceptions, but I often find it very hard to love a novel if the characters don't resonate with me. But the best books are those where the character develops/grows from the ordeals the plot throws at him/her.
 

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I like both, but if I had to chose I would say plot if I'm reading in the morning, to get my brain going and in the evening, characters, because I like to love the characters, feel a connection. That is why I read Shiver before bed. Works better that way, since the plot is not so much. But the characters and their love story is nice to read about before bedtime, for me.
 

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I'm kind of a shallow reader, to be honest. What will get me to finish the book? Plot. What will stick with me? Character and their growth. If I'm in the mood for an adventure, and I pick up a slow, character-driven book, I won't finish the book, and I may never pick it up again, even if it's critically acclaimed and tons of good reviews.

There are plot-driven books I've read in a couple sittings and a week later I can't tell you anything about the story because the characters weren't memorable (like Cassandra Clare's books). Then again, there are a few books I've read that were very character-driven and I read through them very quickly and I was left thinking, "Holy crap, nothing happened!" (The Lovely Bones, Water for Elephants)

In the end, I prefer plot-driven books with engaging characters. I have to be in the mood for a book where character is the main focus. I like to see how characters grow and change because of big events with high stakes.
 

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I need both a solid plot and well-developed characters to enjoy a book, but if I had to choose, I would probably pick character. I can read something that does not have too many twists & turns if it introduces interesting people I want to get to know better.
 

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Great discussion!  I do think the best authors combine these so well that you're not even sure which dominates--plot or character.

Having said that, I have to care about the characters to even get interested in the plot.  :)

Julia
 
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