Recently I did some brief research on the concept of character driven as opposed to plot (also know as action) driven fiction. One article I came across claimed that plot or action driven fiction describes fantasy and historical and that character driven refers to romance.
Really? Are those the only three genres that exist? Where do mystery and horror fit in? Literary fiction? Westerns? I believe plays/drama are a kind of fiction as well. So, all in all, the above definition is simplistic at least. Another idea suggested for distinguishing the difference was to ask if the hero was making choices or was the action forcing him to go/be somewhere or do something.
I find this to be another ridiculous idea. I am a believer in the phrase, "It doesn't matter what happens to you in life; what matters is how you handle it." Are there any situations where a person, fictional or otherwise has only one option? I can't think of any, except for maybe unavoidable death.
I heard or read somewhere once that there are only 7 plots in the world (I plan to investigate that concept in a future blog post). If that is true, then it is compelling characters that make each story different from any other.
The most ordinary circumstance can become intriguing if an unusual main character does something unexpected. Alternately, the most facinating setting or plot can become utterly boring if the original concept is paired with characters who only do mundane things and allow circumstances to push them around in completely predictable ways.
My personal feeling is that whatever the plot, all fiction can be described as character driven. The situation or action gives the hero more interesting choices in what to do or say, but what he or she chooses ultimately affects what happens in the story.