Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#4

Strot Wrote: I'm genuinely curious: how do you make a story interesting without exploring the personalities of the people in them? My experiences writing character-driven stories are most of my experiences writing stories. I don't always plan too much of the plot, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about my characters and how I'm going to develop them.

There's a few stories that I think work very well but don't have particularly fleshed out characters, or the characters aren't necessarily the thing that sells them. It happens more often in movies such as Speed or Godzilla (2014) or Star Wars Rogue One (though even that has a very, very good villain) as the visual element can cover up the lack of focus on characters, but you see in prose too occassionally. It's mostly in classic science fiction that focuses a lot more on the high concept elements and not much on the people involved. Starship Troopers the book is a very clear example of that (though I wouldn't call that book "good" tbh). A lot of classic video game stories basically ignore the characters as well. Most games don't have good stories, but even some that do, e.g. Earthbound, are a lot more focused on the audiovisual aspects.


For me at least, I almost exclusively write character-driven stories. If the plot doesn't have a good protagonist it usually won't interest me to write.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#7

Thedude3445 Wrote: There's a few stories that I think work very well but don't have particularly fleshed out characters, or the characters aren't necessarily the thing that sells them. It happens more often in movies such as Speed or Godzilla (2014) or Star Wars Rogue One (though even that has a very, very good villain) as the visual element can cover up the lack of focus on characters, but you see in prose too occassionally. It's mostly in classic science fiction that focuses a lot more on the high concept elements and not much on the people involved. Starship Troopers the book is a very clear example of that (though I wouldn't call that book "good" tbh). A lot of classic video game stories basically ignore the characters as well. Most games don't have good stories, but even some that do, e.g. Earthbound, are a lot more focused on the audiovisual aspects.


For me at least, I almost exclusively write character-driven stories. If the plot doesn't have a good protagonist it usually won't interest me to write.



I haven't experienced any of those titles, but I think I understand at least partially. Something like Godzilla made for an incredible experience at the time, but I doubt it could work as a full-length novel. Most video games have fairly poor stories by conventional metrics, but that's ok because games shouldn't try to tell stories in the same way that a book does. Dark Souls tells an excellent story, but I wouldn't want to read it.

As far as written stories go, having limited character development just doesn't feel like it would make for an engaging story unless it were short. I'd love to be proven wrong though.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#8

Strot Wrote:
Thedude3445 Wrote: There's a few stories that I think work very well but don't have particularly fleshed out characters, or the characters aren't necessarily the thing that sells them. It happens more often in movies such as Speed or Godzilla (2014) or Star Wars Rogue One (though even that has a very, very good villain) as the visual element can cover up the lack of focus on characters, but you see in prose too occassionally. It's mostly in classic science fiction that focuses a lot more on the high concept elements and not much on the people involved. Starship Troopers the book is a very clear example of that (though I wouldn't call that book "good" tbh). A lot of classic video game stories basically ignore the characters as well. Most games don't have good stories, but even some that do, e.g. Earthbound, are a lot more focused on the audiovisual aspects.


For me at least, I almost exclusively write character-driven stories. If the plot doesn't have a good protagonist it usually won't interest me to write.



I haven't experienced any of those titles, but I think I understand at least partially. Something like Godzilla made for an incredible experience at the time, but I doubt it could work as a full-length novel. Most video games have fairly poor stories by conventional metrics, but that's ok because games shouldn't try to tell stories in the same way that a book does. Dark Souls tells an excellent story, but I wouldn't want to read it.

As far as written stories go, having limited character development just doesn't feel like it would make for an engaging story unless it were short. I'd love to be proven wrong though.



Yeah, it's extremely rare in prose for limited characters to still result in a great story. You can argue that Lord of the Rings counts; IMO Sam is the only character in the books who really has a dynamic personality and an arc. But many of the characters are still very memorable regardless.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#9
just woke up:

Maybe i wasn't super clear--i was talking about stories where character development is the main plot.

Oskatat Wrote: My story doesn't really have an overarching plot (yet) like defeating a demon king or other evil, the focus really is on the characters, how they interact and what that means for the development of the MC. Does that make it character-driven?



yeah, that's the kind of thing i'm getting at.

ztaylor Wrote: Hey! I'd say my story is incredibly character driven, and I'd love to do a swap. It's in my signature if you're interested.


i'll take a look!

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#10

Strot Wrote: As far as written stories go, having limited character development just doesn't feel like it would make for an engaging story unless it were short. I'd love to be proven wrong though.


I haven't read The Martian yet (only watched the movie), buit from what I've gathered, it's about 100,000 words long, features close to no character development, and has been very well received.

It seems like the trick to make such stories work is very, very tight plotting. Basically, every scene must further the plot and raise the tension. This is rather hard to pull-off, as constant non-stop suspense can tire the audience out and make the story feel repetitive. If you have, for example, a fight scene in every chapter, they'll get boring no matter how well-written they are. I guess The Martian makes it work through switching viewpoints and the sheer variety of problems the protagonist faces.

I also recall having read a few detective stories without character-development (do the early Dresden Files books count?). To be fair though, this is also a reason why I didn't enjoy many of them.

Generally though, the variety issue is why many plot-driven stories give their characters arcs, even if they're incredibly simple and/or not focused on.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#11
To be fair, you can have stories with complex characters and even really character-driven stories where the protagonist doesn't really undergo a character arc. At least not the usual sort. Just wanted to throw that out there.
I'm currently working on (well, letting it rest until I edit it) a novel where the main character's goals and motivation never really change, where she starts the story with a strong conviction that's basically the same she has at the end. It's more about how she holds on to that in her circumstances and shows other characters what it means. I'd still call that a very character-focused novel, even if on the surface there's little character development. But those kinds of stories really depend on their themes, and it's easy to get preachy with them.

The story I'm currently writing, here on RR, is also pretty character-driven. A lot of the stories I've seen here are, also I haven't read that many, to be fair.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#12

Tejoka Wrote: To be fair, you can have stories with complex characters and even really character-driven stories where the protagonist doesn't really undergo a character arc. At least not the usual sort. Just wanted to throw that out there.
I'm currently working on (well, letting it rest until I edit it) a novel where the main character's goals and motivation never really change, where she starts the story with a strong conviction that's basically the same she has at the end. It's more about how she holds on to that in her circumstances and shows other characters what it means. I'd still call that a very character-focused novel, even if on the surface there's little character development. But those kinds of stories really depend on their themes, and it's easy to get preachy with them.

The story I'm currently writing, here on RR, is also pretty character-driven. A lot of the stories I've seen here are, also I haven't read that many, to be fair.



True. I get the sense that I have no idea what i'm talking about :P

I guess I just need to spend more time here. I'm still new and it's way too early to draw conclusions about anything.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#13

Tejoka Wrote: To be fair, you can have stories with complex characters and even really character-driven stories where the protagonist doesn't really undergo a character arc. At least not the usual sort. Just wanted to throw that out there.
I'm currently working on (well, letting it rest until I edit it) a novel where the main character's goals and motivation never really change, where she starts the story with a strong conviction that's basically the same she has at the end. It's more about how she holds on to that in her circumstances and shows other characters what it means. I'd still call that a very character-focused novel, even if on the surface there's little character development. But those kinds of stories really depend on their themes, and it's easy to get preachy with them.

The story I'm currently writing, here on RR, is also pretty character-driven. A lot of the stories I've seen here are, also I haven't read that many, to be fair.

That seems pretty hard to write though.

The way I see it, most writers can only have two of these three elements: Complex characters, character-driven story, no character development.
There are complex characters that never change (e.g. Sherlock Holmes), which is largely due to the fact that their problems are rather impersonal/plot-driven.
Then there is stories like Harry Potter or Twilight which are character driven and have static protagonists. However, that only works because Bella and Harry are so bland (though "works" should be put in quotation marks when talking about Twilight...). One would think that a character with a complex personality would be changed by experiences such as first love or discovering a secret magic world.

Plus, your story does sound like it has character development in it, just not much main character development. I presume that the supporting characters change their beliefs when exposed to your MCs' convictions.

This sort of strategy is basically why the Harry Potter books work so well. Sure, Harry is bland, but he's just the audience self-insert. The dynamic supporting cast is why we're here.

A character-driven story where no-one ever changes just feels pointless and it's a main reason why Twilight is so terrible.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#14


PASharp Wrote: That seems pretty hard to write though.

The way I see it, most writers can only have two of these three elements: Complex characters, character-driven story, no character development.
There are complex characters that never change (e.g. Sherlock Holmes), which is largely due to the fact that their problems are rather impersonal/plot-driven.
Then there is stories like Harry Potter or Twilight which are character driven and have static protagonists. However, that only works because Bella and Harry are so bland (though "works" should be put in quotation marks when talking about Twilight...). One would think that a character with a complex personality would be changed by experiences such as first love or discovering a secret magic world.

Plus, your story does sound like it has character development in it, just not much main character development. I presume that the supporting characters change their beliefs when exposed to your MCs' convictions.

This sort of strategy is basically why the Harry Potter books work so well. Sure, Harry is bland, but he's just the audience self-insert. The dynamic supporting cast is why we're here.

A character-driven story where no-one ever changes just feels pointless and it's a main reason why Twilight is so terrible.

You have a point. Speaking of my own story, it's not that the MC doesn't change. She definitely grows and changes, just not necessarily in ways that are relevant to the overarching thematic conflict. There is at least one subplot where she goes through a pretty normal character arc. And she does have to deal with doubts and questions about whether or how to stick up to her beliefs, so I guess you could see character development there. And yeah, the supporting characters all have their own arcs.

I totally agree about Harry Potter and Twilight, though. I wouldn't say that Harry has no character development, but he's definitely a bit bland when compared to other characters.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#15

PASharp Wrote: I haven't read The Martian yet (only watched the movie), buit from what I've gathered, it's about 100,000 words long, features close to no character development, and has been very well received.

It seems like the trick to make such stories work is very, very tight plotting. Basically, every scene must further the plot and raise the tension. This is rather hard to pull-off, as constant non-stop suspense can tire the audience out and make the story feel repetitive. If you have, for example, a fight scene in every chapter, they'll get boring no matter how well-written they are. I guess The Martian makes it work through switching viewpoints and the sheer variety of problems the protagonist faces.

I also recall having read a few detective stories without character-development (do the early Dresden Files books count?). To be fair though, this is also a reason why I didn't enjoy many of them.

Generally though, the variety issue is why many plot-driven stories give their characters arcs, even if they're incredibly simple and/or not focused on.



It depends on what you consider character development. I would argue that even plot-driven stories tend to have likeable characters we follow and learn about, and that constitutes character development.

Your comment about detective stories reminds me of my favourite detective author, Dashiell Hammett. His stories were heavily driven by events, but still featured iconic characters who never changed throughout; Sam Spade is always Sam Spade. In his Continental Op series, you never find out the protagonist's name, but you'll certainly learn about what he likes, how he lives, how he works, what he believes in.

I'd say character arcs are overrated, or at the very least, not required for character development.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#16
Dramatica (a story/novel theory) explores the idea of characters arcs where characters don't change: the essential idea is that they are challenged throughout the story and stick to their convictions regardless of the pain, persuasion or struggles they face, and in the end it turns out to be the right choice. (In general Dramatica is an interesting, if exceeding heavy, theory for stories).

I would say that plot-driven stories have character development (and often character arcs) but the ratio of external-conflict driven plot to internal-conflict driven plot is what decides if something is defined as plot- or character- driven. 

Unfortunately I'm not working on anything character-driven at the moment.

Re: anyone else writing character-driven stories?

#17
As I recall, Character driven stories  juxtapose event driven stories, Its not about character development, All characters should be "developed". Its about stories who's point is a life change, not winning a war, or surviving a contest, etc.  Also its a matter of balance for the plot - which thing it focuses more on, personal change or surmounting  the situation. Which part is the prop for which aspect of the story. Most modern novels are character driven nowadays, Although event driven tales are still very much alive in SF, and to some extent fantasy.  Id point out that there is a left, center, and right to this scale,  In SF, you might look to O.S. Card who's work tends to tip toward character centered storytelling. This however does not show up on the silver screen, you would have to be familiar with his books.