Achieve character-driven plots in literary fiction.

To be admired and be successful, literary writers need the skill of developing character-driven plots, important because the purpose of literary fiction is to provide new awareness or reawakening in the reader about something significant–-i.e. meaning–usually what it means to be human. To nurture significance in a story that is character-driven, the character should be created through action and description so the literary-story plot makes its interesting turns from the character’s strengths and weaknesses, desires and motivations.

In the great literary story, the character always changes. Something happens that will never allow character to be as they were before (an enlightenment). This is not easy, and writers must be careful not to always depend on real, fatalistic happenings (autobiographical material which is often presented in narration as fiction). Writers must find what drives the character and then present the inspiration to the reader in action scenes and objective, active prose (Tears ran down her cheeks), rather than subjective abstract, often static, prose (She felt so sad! She cried.) Characters built with imagination-stimulating action scenes rich with conflict and resolution illuminate the character and engage the reader. And these characters integrate into the story so the plot results from their actions, rather than their acting as a ventriloquist’s dummy. In fiction prose, character-based plotting is a gift of storytelling for writers and readers. So, as writers learn to know their characters (and respect or even love them), they can restructure the story so the character-based plot results from character-action scenes.

Choice of point of view (POV) is important; the right choices contribute to story success. Single, multiple, 1st or 3rd, each has advantages and disadvantages. Using different POVs (and the voices that are associated with story information delivered through these POVs), can provide enhanced story-impact. In addition, narrator and character purpose (and function) in the story needs to be identified. Why this story? Why this character?

When recreating a story in revision in a series of action-conflict scenes and carefully constructed narrative transitions, a story with a vibrant character evolves that affects the plot action that is the skeleton for the story. Character-based. Note, this is not slotting the character into the plot maze, it’s allowing the character’s human strengths and weaknesses to move plot. The writer discovers how character desires and traits result in plot progression.

All this is not easy, but to achieve character-based story-plotting places a writer on the path of writing with significance . . . plus pleasing the writer’s targeted group of readers.

Thanks for reading.

EXAMPLES OF SHORT STORIES with character-driven plots (FREE online):
Facing Grace with Gloria
The Gift
The Activist
Inside the Matryoshka

2 thoughts on “Achieve character-driven plots in literary fiction.”

  1. Great advice and lesson on how to approach character-driven story lines. I am personally big on that. I can read a plot driven story but nothing beats an engaging, thoughtful provoking character that you really share an adventure with because you actually become to care about their outcome and not just the stories outcome


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