Story or Characters

Whether you write or read every book/ebook contains a story and characters. Which do you need before you are absorbed into the tale? Does fiction require both; a balance of both, or can one outweigh the other and still be a great read?

Every time I accept a request for a review project, it is the story I’m accepting. I never know the characters before I open the tale. Even as I start to read I’m never sure who is the hero; who is the villain. Those answers come with the unfolding of the story.

However, I have fallen in love with characters. It is the characters that call me back to a series.


Is it simply the surroundings of the character that I want to revisit? The fantasy quest where it doesn’t matter which characters survived the previous book. The horror tale of new attacks by the same unchanging, undying monster…wait, that might just be a movie series. A mystery set in one location with each new tale seen through new characters’ eyes.

Can you have a story without characters?

Can you have characters without a story?

Probably, but don’t think I would want to read either.

9 thoughts on “Story or Characters”

  1. Reviewing books can definitely be a mixed bag. I've discovered some wonderful writers since I began reviewing books, but there are also those books that I struggled to get through or will never read again.

    When I accept a book to review, it's based upon what I know of the story, but oftentimes, if I don't get to know the characters throughout the story, then I don't enjoy the read as much–even if the plot is great. I want a great plot and characters who I feel I know in and out once I read the last page.


  2. For me it's mainly chacacters. In Potter I missed Hogwarts but loved Hermonie and Hagrid. In His Dark Materials, I wanted to see more of Pan. In the Twilight series I wanted more of the Cullens while in Darren Shan's adventures I always liked Mr. Crepsly.
    I wanted more Shire in LOTR but I also wanted more Gimli, Legolas and Sam. Watership Down was all about Hazel and Fiver.

    So characters have always kept me in the story.

  3. You know, it's really the characters that draw me into books. My favorite books are character-driven w/ great plots. Stephen King tends to write that way and I think that's why he's so popular. Plot-driven books are a bit more dull.

  4. Give me a character first I can care about. The plot may be chilling, thrilling or gut-spilling, but if I don't care about who it's happening to, I can't get interested.

  5. I need a balance of both. It has to be consistent, intelligent, and without major flaws. The characters have to be ones I can empathize with, even if I don't agree with them. And forget spoiled and too stupid to live. I have to care about what's happening, who to, and why? If I don't get that much, you've failed me. Anything else is window dressing, including genre and setting.


  6. I really like a balance of both. Interesting characters that I get to know lose their interest if they aren't doing something interesting. But a story (or movie) that is focused on the action gets boring as well.

  7. I think that the story has to be there, but the characters can dictate the plot. As you write the characters weave the story. So you might start with one story and end with another. For me when I'm reading a new book the writing is the thing that gets me. Great characters are very important, since they are the ones who move the story along. You can have a great story and so-so characters and the book is not one I'd read. Whoever said a balance of both is probably what I'd say with a little more emphasis on the characters.

    I have a great guest author on my blog who has a great balance of both in her book, Jennifer Banash. Come see the interview at:

    It should be up by Friday.

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