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Tips for Character-Driven Plotters

Updated: May 11

There's no right or wrong way to write. We all work differently, value different aspects of story, and are aiming for different outcomes. This is why I've identified four writer types and will be teaching you how to play to your strengths, whichever you are.


First, take the quiz to find out if you're character- or plot-driven, and if you're a plotter or pantser!


If you're still here, you're probably a character-driven pantser, but you can find blog posts for the other three types here:


What's a Character-Driven Plotter?

Plotters are organised and like to have a clear outline of their story before they start drafting. This makes for strong plots and characters, but means they may struggle with adapting to critique and necessary change. As a character-driven plotter, you're more interested in following your characters’ internal stories and development than the external story/plot. Your characters likely make realistic decisions and have great development. You may have some trouble, however, with keeping the plot exciting and engaging, as well as building tension.


So, here are three tips for you to write better as a Character-Driven Plotter!


 

1. Be open to change

As a plotter myself, I struggle with letting myself change my story when I know something isn't working. But for us character-driven writers, it doesn't matter how intricately we outline; sometimes our characters take the wheel and steer us in a direction we never expected!


This is when it's important to step back, let go, and really consider what's best for the story. If your characters are screaming, "hey, we want to go this way, not that way!" that's a sign you should think about reworking your story.


I both love and hate when this happens. I put a lot of effort into my outlines, and I don't want to have to go back and change everything. But this happens so you can make your story better, and you must be willing to adapt. If your story doesn't feel right to you, readers won't be convinced either.


This might also occur during edits or beta reads, when people are telling you they would prefer the story to go in a different direction. Use your writer's gut-instinct to decide whether the feedback is right for your story or not.


2. Keep the external plot exciting and engaging

Being a character-driven writer is all about making the characters feel realistic in their actions and decisions, rather than forcing them into a plot that doesn't make sense to them. However, you must be careful to still keep hold of the external plot.


It needs to be engaging, with conflict and tension. Most readers don't want to follow your main character through their day-to-day life for no reason. They want drama. And although a lot of tension can come from your character's internal arc, this should be (and often HAS to be) pushed by the external.


Most importantly, the plot has to make sense and have a clear beginning and end, so the reader can feel satisfied by the ending. Just like you shouldn't mould your character to your plot unrealistically, you shouldn't mould your plot to your character, only throwing things at them that push them in the right direction. Hurt your characters, give them problems to solve, and see how these things push them to develop!


3. Remember to create a strong narrative voice

It can be easy to get carried away with writing quickly and overly-factually when you have everything plotted in a perfectly-organised, step-by-step list. But, readers should never feel as if they're being told a story; they should feel as if they're experiencing it.


Whether you're using first, second or third person, don't forget to write in a strong, unique voice that carries the reader away and fits your main character/narrator. Find a balance between using the five senses to create an atmosphere (and show emotions effectively), and not over-describing.


Many writers - and I agree with this! - prefer to write their first draft quickly and, frankly, 'badly'. It's all about getting the story down. Then, in your edits, you can go back and add in the perfect narrative voice for the story you're telling.


A related tip is to keep some mystery. When everything is meticulously planned, it can be easy to tell-not-show and give the reader too much information at once. Drop pieces of information as you go, woven into the writing, rather than info-dumping.


 

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