Some argue that genre is the lens that focuses the writer’s attention on one or the other. A whodunit, they suggest, is more plot-driven than say European art film that concentrates more on character.
But need this be absolutely the case? Would concentrating on both not serve to enrich any story, regardless of its genre? Especially because both are so deeply interwoven, that you can’t invoke one without invoking the other.
The following analogy is helpful: Character is to plot as a prism is to a beam of light passing through it. The plot is refracted by character.
“Plot or character? That’s the wrong question. Both serve the narrative. Both are tools writers ought to use in equal measure to tell a story.”
Slap a Nazi officer on the cheek and you’re likely to get shot. Slap one of the twelve disciples instead, and he may well offer you the other cheek. Both reactions, which might be pivotal turns in the story, are influenced by the personality, beliefs, and ideology of the characters involved.
In the film Gladiator, for example, can you imagine Maximus failing to fight back against the Emperor who has poisoned him, then stabbed him with his sword in one-to-one combat in the arena?
Much more fitting is that Maximus use the Emperor’s sword, dripping with his own blood, and use it to stab the Emperor to death with it.
This action is only possible because of who Maximus is, a man of immense will and strength who is determined to revenge the death of his family and save Rome from being ruled by a madman. His action is in keeping with his character.
And so it should be with any character whatever the magnitude of his actions, since, in terms of narrative construction, actions are nothing more than responses to challenges and opportunities presented to the characters of a story.
The plot of a story shines through the prism of character.