Character vs Plot

I watch a lot of television. A LOT of television. Probably too much, judging how far behind I am in my current deadline. Eek! Good thing I work well under pressure, huh?

Anyway, one of the things I’m finding in my television watching is that when I choose my favorite shows, I’m discovering it’s all about characterization. Greys Anatomy, Ugly Betty, Men in Trees are some of my favorite shows this season…and you could take away the plotlines of every show and I’d still be riveted, because I’ve fallen deeply in love with characters. Who they are, what’s going on their lives, their heartbreak, what they’re thinking and how those thoughts make them act and react.

As a writer, I’m all about the characters. The characters drive my plot. Their every thought, every emotion, determines what happens in the book. A strong character can make or break a book, in my opinion, just like strong or weak characterization makes or breaks a television series. If you have dynamic characters, you have a winner. If your characters don’t win over the reader, it doesn’t matter what kind of plot you have. The reader won’t be invested in the story.

Now granted, you need to have SOMETHING happening to these characters, because they’re nothing without a good plotline. But the best plotline in the world won’t help lousy characterization. In my humble opinion.

So what about you? What most drives your reading enjoyment? Great plot or great characters? And you writers out there, what hits your hot buttons the most? The plot or the characters?