Plot vs Character

I seem to be very good at creating interesting characters, characters that my beta readers seem to love, but I have trouble with plot. Plot is my weak point. My characters hook people but they don’t seem to want to do anything. Anyone else have trouble with plot?


A book named “Save the Cat Writes a Novel” has helped me tremendously.


I did have that problem.

I forced my awesome character into a story. I drew up this forced plot outline. And I wrote the story. But it wasn’t great. But what it did was help me build the true story.

My character’s story no longer even resembles that first one.

I always have a problem with making a story, I can create vivid characters and awesome worlds. But no story. I just had to force it. I think writing any story even if it’s not their story will help you find the character, and the story they want to tell.

Find a writing prompt that looks fun, twist it to your needs plot out the fine points. Not the details. X happens, that leads to Y and then we need A, B and C to happen and finally Z.

You should learn something, rinse and repeat.


I just bought that and am excited to read it.

I hope you love it. It’s helped me set a framework for my writing that was clear and concise.

1 Like

I like The Secrets of Story more than StC in general, mostly because it goes way beyond a formula.

Forcing characters into a formula shows. If you’re writing a fast paced thriller based on archetypes, there isn’t a problem. Those characters are flat and unchallenging and so putting them through a plot works if you hook at the end of every chapter and pace correctly.

The things is…we don’t all write like that and many of us wouldn’t be happy writing like that.

The good news is that there’s a pretty good rule of thumb if you want to write a character-driven story. Are you ready?

Don’t let your characters off the hook! Give them complications and don’t make it easy for them. That IS a story. It may be simpler, but that doesn’t matter if your characters are complex.


This is actually very similar to what I do. I have a goal or event at the end, and my characters at the beginning. Then I throw everything that could possibly go wrong between my characters and the end goal and see what happens.
It’s especially great for first drafts, as I can then go back and sort out what works and makes sense, and what doesn’t.


Awesome. It requires pace smoothing and a second draft, but it results in much more authentic characters, IMHO.

1 Like

@Chet_Sandberg and @Tori That’s also my typical way. I do plot along the way only so I have a road map but it’s not a hard and steady rule. Like this and this and this need to happen. How we get there you guys figure it out lol.


How many ‘goalposts’ do you usually have?

I typically have between five and six—though for shorter work, I sometimes have a much more detailed set of goals.

1 Like

I will check that out. I am a new writer and StC helps me with a direction. Once I get the hang of how to write a novel I am sure I will go on my own. I liked your advice.

1 Like

You don’t ever get the hang of how to write a novel. Sometimes, by the end of the one you’re writing, you learn how to write that novel. The next one?



It depends. usually several. three or four for the main plot, and the same for the sub romance plots and the character development.


Like @AJ_Hunter I generally have a few main event goalposts staggered through the book and 2-3 sub-plot or minor event ones, depending on what’s actually happening in that event.


I am definitely a story guy, who at the end has unnamed and unexplored supporting characters.

I am fascinated by the idea to write stories without characters:
There is this awesome short by Ray Bradbury where only THINGS are vivid: alarm clock, toaster, coffee machine, some lights and music … and then there is fire rummaging, “killing” these last signs of human life after some (nuclear?) disaster. - One of my favorite stories EVER!

Hence, at least in my short stories, I am experimenting a lot with alternatives:

  • One is from the perspective of a sun who(!) turns into a black hole jealous of the lush blue and green world in front of it (yes, us!); also loved the idea of the immense cosmic time scale.
  • I wrote one about a war amongst snow flakes … I only put a by-the-fireside-narrator to it.
  • When @Jacob suggested to “write a short biography of a deciduous leaf” for a writing prompt, I happily jumped into this challenge. … Also: #BringWritingPromptsBack :smiley:

My first NaNoNovel started with two characters. I was astonished how it grew and grew, but most other characters were without names for a long time.

Last year was better … though 999 imps were named with a random generator after specific rules … a couple of them became central characters, but I try to “mention” as many names in that story as possible … also created names for :frog: frog recipes, mostly because it was fun :slight_smile: .


I’ve just started but when i have shared my notes, people have enjoyed my plot and characters. i play R .P.G( roll playing games) so what i do i become the character. Then i write what i believe i would see. Then i go from their. My next person how would they react to the environment.
Plus i get an idea i write down the concept of the world and what do i want to be happening. So far this has worked. Since im brand new at this, don’t know if this helps.


I also struggled with the plot for a long time. I read a lot of writing craft books on structure and plotting, but nothing clicked for me. Until I read Story Genius by Lisa Cron. A lightbulb went on. It’s such a straightforward, logical approach to plotting, which is what I need. Now I can easily plot out my stories and write them quickly so they’re coherent and don’t wander. So far, my readers are liking it!