Is Plot Killing Character

I keep being told that in the fast paced world of today that I need to start my stories off with a bang in order to keep the attention of my readers and make them want to read the next chapter.  “Nobody wants to read fifty pages of backstory.”  Is it true that we’re all about action today?  Is a slow build no longer of interest?  This implies that readers today are more interested in plot than character.  Can a well written character caught in a mire of in-action no longer draw us in, do we need to start throwing rocks at our characters from page one?  Looking back over some of my favourite books (here) I must be a freak because some of my favourite stories, many of which are considered literary classics are all character driven.  They are snapshots of individuals lives where the plot is basic but the characters drive my attention and desires.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck takes us on a journey through two generations with the same basic plotline throughout, one of the oldest stories of the nature of man, that of Cain and Abel.  The bible glosses over it in a couple of pages but Steinbeck manages to create a literary masterpiece than tells the same story over (pauses to google number of pages in East of Eden) a period of two generations and 640 pages.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami tells the tale of a young man pretty much just faffing about, wandering the streets of Tokyo and I love it for it’s voice and honesty.

I can’t agree that you have to ram the plot down peoples throats for them to want to read on.  What do you think?  What are your favourite books that that are character driven? and can you think of any recent releases that lead in slowly to the story but have still been successful?


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