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September 9: Character or Plot Focused Books? (Brooke @ The Reader’s Game)
Prompts: What makes a book more character focused? What makes one more plot focused? Which do you prefer? Do you have any recommendations for plot focused and character focused books?
Welcome back to another week of LTB here at DTRH everyone! I really like today’s topic, as I have actually talked about this a little bit throughout my reviews but never really dove into it as any sort of discussion. Can’t wait to hear what you all have to say about it as well as what people’s preferences generally are!
I think this distinction between character focused or plot focused is something that I think about often because I mainly read a lot of thrillers or murder mysteries. I think Verity would be an example of a more character focused book, where each character’s background is thoroughly explored and explained and the plot, while exciting, is mainly the support for the development of the characters and the suspense is created through the character’s interactions.
On the other hand, a plot focused book often doesn’t dive too deep into the characters, instead the plot is used to bring out the details of the characters, and the focus of the book is really more on the story as a whole, and characters are just brought in as needed. A book like Don’t Look For Me really focused on the situation and the whole drama behind the plot, rather than any character in focus, even though there of course is a protagonist trying to solve the case.
I think a mix of both is really good, but of course most books would tend to lean one way or the other. I think it is the most exciting/thrilling when both the plot and the characters drive each other. I think that provides the most forward momentum, and really makes it difficult to stop reading. Of course, if you really enjoy reading about c certain characters, that on its own is often enough to propel you forward, or similarly if you enjoy good plots.
It’s actually difficult to break down every book to say whether it’s character or plot focused, as there really is generally a mix of both. I think thrillers tend to be more plot driven, as usually the story is in the suspense and the characters are just pulled along for the ride. I’m thinking of books such by authors like Shari Lapena or Ruth Ware will often follow this pattern. The truth of the characters kind of comes out in the plots, and I think for thrillers I generally like this pattern.
That being said, the best thriller I’ve read in a while was probably Verity, which I think was really more character focused. But it certainly had a good enough plot to drive the development forwards. I think the main thing to take away from this whole discussion is that while good plot or good characters can really drive a story forward, it really shouldn’t be the only engine (at least in my opinion). Books that feel like the plot is dragged along by the characters, or vice versa, are really noticeable, and often makes a weaker book. It often gets a description like: while the character development was great, the plot left us a bit wanting, as some things felt out of the blue or just there for the sake of the character development. On the other hand, the plot could be great, but really left us wanting in terms of wanting to know the characters a bit better.
Do you all notice when either plot or character development is just dragging the other along? And which type of focused book do you prefer? Let me know in the comments below!