How to write a character-driven plot

The Character-driven Plot Wheel: Emotions drive actions, which trigger consequences, which compel change, which influences emotion, which drives action, and so on.

1. Emotions drive actions.

Make your hero act on their deepfelt emotions. This not only adds meaning to their actions, but also helps communicate your hero’s core emotional struggle.

2. Actions trigger consequences.

When your hero acts, give their actions consequences that affect the plot, themselves, and/or the surrounding characters. For example, driven by curiosity, maybe your hero opens Pandora’s box to disastrous effect; maybe they lie and lose a friend’s trust; or maybe they stand up for what they believe in, but at great personal cost. Consequences raise the stakes and empower your hero with agency.

3. Consequences compel change.

Use the consequences of your hero’s actions to create a crucible of growth — challenges and situations that force them to take the next step on their character journey. That step may be forward, or backward, and it may be large or small; but something inside them changes.

4. Change influences emotions.

When a character goes through a change, even a small one, allow it to affect them emotionally. Maybe they feel increasingly frustrated or guilty. Maybe they’re afraid, having just taken another step closer to abandoning their old way of seeing the world. Or maybe they finally feel peace.

Regardless of the form it takes, remember to reflect your hero’s change in their emotions. Then let their emotions drive actions, to trigger consequences, which compel further change.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

And there you have it! That’s how you write a character-driven plot.

So what do you say?

Give the wheel a spin.

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