One Writer’s Journey

December 4, 2014

Character Driven Stories

When it comes to novels, it is pretty easy for me to grasp what is a plot driven story and what isCharacter driven picture books a character driven story.  Mass market genre fiction (think romance, mystery, and adventure) is often plot driven.  You flip the pages because you just have to fine out what happens next.  As much as you love the book when you’re reading it, a week later you can’t remember many of the specifics including details about the character because there just weren’t that many and they weren’t pertinent to the story.

Character driven stories take longer to unfold.  You have to get to know the character and what’s important to her.  Then something happens that threatens this and she has to solve the problem or lose . . . her family, her home or her position in society, whatever it is that matters.  These are the books that make you think about the world and your place in it.  They are books that ask the big questions.

Recently, probably because I was participating in Picture Book Idea Month and thus reading a lot about picture books, I was thinking about character driven picture books. I’m not sure that it works quite the same way in a picture book — character + love + threat = character driven story.

In Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny, you have Trixie (character) + Knuffle Bunny (love) + threat (lost bunny) but it doesn’t equal the solution so much because Dad solves everything.

That said, I still think this can work in a picture book format.  A plot can easily rise from a flaw posessed by your main character — a rowdy girl needs to find a way to be quiet, a goody-two-shoes has to be brassy to stick up for someone . . .

Clearly I’m going to have to noodle this one over a bit more.  What character driven picture books do you recommend that I study?



1 Comment »

  1. So, so true, though I hadn’t realized that until I read your blog today. When I read the paragraph about Character-driven stories, I immediately thought of Harper Lee and Kahled Hosseini. Great blog to think about. I can tell I’ll be categorizing all my favorites into one column or another in my head now!

    Comment by calensariel — December 4, 2014 @ 4:07 pm | Reply

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