Which is more important?

» Posted on Feb 10, 2005 in Blog | 5 comments

When I first started writing, I thought plot was the most important element of a story. I have changed my mind (hey, women are allowed to change their minds). I think characterization is the most important element because if a reader doesn’t care about your characters it won’t make much difference what they are doing. That doesn’t mean plot isn’t important. It is. I have put books down because there is no story but first as a writer we must create characters that people want to read about. What do you think is more important in a story that you read–characters or plot or something else?


  1. Hi Margaret!
    Yes, character definitely! But I use a very fast-moving plot to reveal characterization. And all those wrong moves and mistakes help them grow. I love Clive Cussler books because of the fast moving action, but Dirk Pitt never changes or grows, which drive me nuts! For me, a great story has strong elements of both.

  2. Cynthia, I love Clive Cussler, too, but I have to agree with you on Dirk’s character not growing. I think characters need to grow within a book and that can be accomplished through the plot.

  3. Hi Margaret!

    I came to the realization long ago that my very favorite books to read, and movies to watch, are ones where the heroine overcomes. Put her in any dire circumstance, the more dangerous the better, and you’ll have my attention. I also like tamer stories with a strong heroine, where she reveals her inner strength just about the time when we think all is lost.

    So, in answer to your question, make me care about the character, throw in some obstacles in her path, and I’ll be happy as a lark.

    Best Regards,
    Catherine Terry

  4. I’m a character girl. My family would say, “Naw, you’re just a character.”

    A good plot is essential, but flat characters leave me cold. Cold characters make me mad. I want to rave at certain heroes, shake my fist in the air and say, “What are you thinking, handsome hero? She’s as cold as ice! Run for your life! Stick with your memories of your sweet, deceased wife. Definitely a better tack!”

    Okay, I’m not big on cool women, but I can handle cool men. Why is that?

    I love characters with foibles because they thicken the plot naturally, like a good Irish stew. And who doesn’t like a nice pot of stew?

  5. Hi Margaret! This is cool, I just discovered your blog.

    I am torn on this issue, because I recently read a story by an author I respect. The plot was very blah, but the characterization was incredible–consistent, vibrant, original.

    I ended up not finishing the book because the blah plot didn’t interest me enough. Up until this point, I would have thought that great characters would carry the story for me, but after this experience, I’m not so sure anymore.

    So I guess that doesn’t answer your question, hm? Sorry. 🙂

    I’m still inclined to think that in most cases, a great character will keep me reading if the plot is at least somewhat decent. However, I also wonder about books where the characterization is good but the characters aren’t terribly likeable, like Jane Austen’s “Emma.”

    Camy, flipping back and forth, back and forth . . .

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