Take the Test!

Stories either can be character-driven or action-driven. The best stories are a combination of the two. As the title implies, character-driven stories revolve around the character, are usually slower-paced and internally driven, and the action takes a back seat to the development of the character. Action-driven stories are fast-paced and externally-driven, and the character takes a back seat to the dramatic action.

Character emotional development plot and dramatic action plot are two complementary forces in the universe; the yin and yang of stories.

The goal in writing a compelling story that brings pleasure to the reader or audience is to have a balance between character and action.

Take the Test to determine whether you are stronger at developing Character Emotional Development plotlines or Dramatic Action plotlines.

Fill in the Character Profile below for your protagonist (the character who is most changed by the dramatic action), any other major viewpoint characters and, if there is one, the character who represents the major antagonist for the protagonist.

1. What is this character's goal?

2. What stands in the way of the character achieving his/her goal?

3. What does the character stand to lose if he/she does not achieve his/her goal?

4. What is the character's flaw or greatest fault?

5. What is the character's greatest strength?

6. What does the character hate?

7. What does the character love?

8. What is the character's greatest fear?

9. What is the character's dream?

10. What is the character's secret?


If you filled out questions 1 through 3 with ease, you prefer writing Dramatic Action.

If you filled out questions 4 through 10 with ease, you prefer writing Character Emotional Development.

If you filled everything out with ease, both plotlines come easy.


Without a firm understanding of questions 1 through 3, you have no front story. The Dramatic Action plotline is what gets the reader turning the pages. Without it, there is no excitement on the page.

Without a firm understanding of questions 4 through 10, you are more likely to line up the action pieces of your story, arrange them in a logical order and then draw conclusions. Yet, no matter how exciting the action, this presentation lacks the human element. Such an omission increases your chances of losing your audience's interest; readers read 70% for character.

What To Do Next

It helps to know if you're good at plotting but weak at conveying character emotion. Perhaps your strength is in creating quirky and likeable characters, but you have trouble giving a sense of coherence to your story. Knowing these things prepares you to better meet the challenges ahead with a spirit of discover.

Compensate for your weaknesses / embrace your strengths. Writing forces you to come face-to-face with your weaknesses. Rather than allowing your weaknesses to slowly erode your passion for your story, as challenges reveal themselves, face them head-on.

Help Is Available

Now that you know where your strength lies, check out the pages for each type of plotline to learn more about each one. You also will find specific plot tips for strengthing a plotline that may be weak in your current project.

  • Plot from Beginning to End Workshops and Plot Workshops to develop your Concept, Logline & Pitch as well as revision workshops and more offered by Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and Martha Alderson the Plot Whisperer at A Path to Publishing.
  • Deepen your plot and rejuvinate your writer's spirit, join Jordan Rosenfeld, author of Make a Scene, and Martha Alderson the Plot Whisperer at an upcoming Writer Path Writing Retreat. Be the first to apply NEW material from their forthcoming book from Writer's Digest, Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story, Scene-by-Scene Through Action, Emotion & Theme.

  • Plot Tools help you create a dynamic plot, compelling characters, and a meaningful story. Books and ebooks available. In the Consultations section, learn more about one-on-one help with Martha Alderson, also known as the Plot Whisperer and author of Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple and The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can MasterThe Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling StoriesThe Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

    For additional plot tips:

  • Check out Blockbuster Plots for Writers blog awarded top honors by Writers Digest 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013: Plot Whisperer
  • Visit the vlog Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, or Screenplay? on YouTube.
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