I'm working on my fifth book (if you exclude two that are definitely DRAWER NOVELS) (whoa, I've already written four legit books? Sometimes I still can't believe I actually write entire novels, beginning to end...even when it's my job and I've done it six times if you do count drawer novels, it sounds very daunting) and I see this is going to be a plot driven novel.
I've noticed now that my novels tend to fall into one category or the other.
--Take longer to write, and are more difficult, because the characters come with strong personalities and I have to figure out what they would actually DO that could be an interesting story. I have to work with them, because they won't change just to be exciting. Dialogue scenes are particularly hard, because the characters in my mind are very natural. Too natural. Like, hey guys, I've got a story to tell here, I don't have all day.
--Haunt me all day and night. I have dreams about the characters, and I think about them in little out-of-story vignettes.
--Are harder to write, but more fun to have written. I like to reread them, and imagine the what-happens-after.
--Are cozier. They tend to have more humor and sweet moments to balance the tension, because I would be happy just writing about these characters buying their groceries, and in fact, have to resist the urge to do so.
--Compel me to get out my sketchbook a lot more often, to capture those little moments that don't fit in the book.
--Tend to be romance and relationship driven.
--Are written more quickly, because although I have an outline, the plot is so exciting that it compels me to keep writing to see exactly how it will unfold.
--Are very fun to research and world-build, at least so far, because so far my plot novels have had a very intriguing historically based setting as well as an exciting plot.
--Are fast to write, but yuckier to revise, because I don't love the characters as much to spend tons of time with them.
--Aren't as interesting to me in the long run.
--Rely on constant tension and mystery to propel the reader forward.
--The setting is vivid, but the character's lives don't run beyond the bounds of the story. If you walked into the book on the "off-time", you'd see everything dismantled and the characters sitting around drinking coffee or something instead of being their real selves.
You can probably tell which I prefer. Character novels. And yet, I think I need to write a little of both. I think I push boundaries more with my plot novels and write them in a blur of excitement, and then I cozy up a bit with the character novels. So far I only have one novel out, Magic Under Glass, and it's a plot novel. Between the Sea and Sky is a character novel. Magic Under Stone is the only novel I've written to be equal parts both, I think because I knew the characters much better than when I wrote Magic Under Glass. So I have yet to see which my readers seem to prefer.
Extreme examples of character vs. plot novels would be the Betsy-Tacy books vs. The Hunger Games series. I throughly enjoyed both. The Betsy-Tacy books are comparatively easy to put down (in fact, I rather like to stretch out the experience of a character-driven novel), but dear to my heart. I reread them. Hunger Games has compelling characters, but if it was just a little story about Katniss, Gale and Peeta in their town, the readership would be much less. I read every Hunger Games book in one day the moment I got my hands on it, but I'll probably never read them again. (Some people do, obviously this is a matter of preference.)
As a reader, character novels are always the ones I save in my collection and read again and again. But plot novels are the ones I devour in a day. Both experiences are enjoyable, but if I could pick one kind to read, it would be the former! And some novels straddle the line--I think Harry Potter is a good example. And some novels will be one thing to some readers and another to other readers. It's all about what is compelling you to read on.
Which do you prefer to read or write?