Reasons to Write a Character-Driven Story

When you hear “character driven story,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably a piece of classic literature, possibly by someone like Louisa May Alcott or one of the Brontë sisters. Perhaps you are a fan of those stories, and it kindles a convivial flame in your bosom. Or perhaps you are, like me, a person who tends to run in the opposite direction in distaste. It’s not that they aren’t good books; in fact, I quite enjoyed The Secret Garden and Oliver Twist, so they’re obviously not all hateful in my sight. It’s just that I like a complex but quickly paced narrative with adventure, humor, and a few plot twists to spice things up.

My first attempts at writing mirror this desire: action scenes start on the first page and there’s never any lull in the pace. Rereading now, I find it all phenomenally boring—and even when the constance of unrelenting motion isn’t confusing, it’s impossible to really care on anything greater than a superficial level. The constant hustle prevents any actual introductions to the characters, whose only distinguishing features are their eclectic names. I went into those stories with a plot, quickly waning enthusiasm, and…nothing else. Plot-driven stories are fantastic and all that—without plot, it quickly becomes some abstract symbolism-type speculation more reminiscent of a character study than a story. However, when plot is the only thing happening, it’s easy to simply skim passively through the story. It’s difficult to become invested, and so the reader is basically unaffected by the protagonist. This can come out one of two ways:

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I/He/She/They Said: Writing Dialog

We’ve all met that writer–that overly-confident, thinks-they-know-better-but-in-truth-is-amateur-at-best writer–who just doesn’t understand how writing dialog works. And then they ask you to be their editor, but every time you try to fix the consistent problem with their dialog writing, they refuse it and insist they’re doing it right. Maybe you’ve even been that writer at some point in your life–I certainly have–but I think just about everyone can agree, that writer is quite annoying to work with.

I can excuse a missing comma or a double space–that’s an accident. But if you’ve forgotten how the English language works (which is justifiable–English is so confusing even to me, a native English speaker), and for some reason can’t go open literally any book and see how to do it properly, then it’s time for a lesson in dialog writing–more specifically, punctuation.

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