It's the age old question. Which works better, a character driven story or a plot driven one. Few writing rules are written in stone, but more often than not, you will get more mileage out of a character driven storyline than a plot driven one. If the reader is in the middle of a fascinating plot that leaves her biting her nails in anticipation, but she does not care one whit about who any of this is happening to, chances are she will not make it to the end of the book.
In the same vein, your fascinating, multi-faceted characters need to be embroiled in something that keeps the reader turning pages.
One of the most interesting forms of plotting can be done through conversation. I am amazed at how terrible some writers are at dialog. We talk to each other every day – granted some more than others – but most of us use words to convey our thoughts more than any other method.
Why is it then that some writers are so terrible at creating dialog? I believe one of the keys to good writing is learning how to shut up and listen once in a while. How do people speak where your book takes place? What types of mannerisms do people use while speaking? Does your heroine use her hands when she talks? Does your hero's voice go an octave higher when he is angry? Pay attention to what people are saying around you. And how they're saying it. If you learn this aspect of writing, your plot will move along with nothing more than an engaging conversation.
Other than conversation, the main thing to remember about plotting is to keep it moving. Even if you are describing a sunset or how one's footprints are swallowed up by the rising tide, make sure everything moves the story along. Even though they may be integral to the story, do not get bogged down in details.
I read a book recently where a minor character was a curator at an art museum. The writer was obviously fascinated with art and used every scene where that character was present to describe something about the value of the art she was describing. Even though art played no other role in the book, the museum curator went into great detail on how to detect an art forgery. Since art and its forgeries do not interest me, nor did it mean anything in the plot of the story, I skimmed through every section where that character's name appeared.
Many well known writers feel the need to describe every outfit and every hairstyle of each character in every scene. Yawn. After the third or fourth Armani suit and detailed coiffure, I skip down until someone says something. You do not want readers to miss a word of your masterpiece. Make every detail vital to the story so your reader does not lose interest and skim ahead. I realize some description is vital to understand the character better, but if I want to know what jacket makes my petite heroine leggier, I'll watch an episode of TLC's What Not to Wear.
Every word, every sentence, every paragraph, every page, and every chapter needs to move the story along. Each page should have tension. At the end of each page, ask yourself; If I were reading this book, would I care enough to go on? Am I saying to know what happens on the next page? Use your characters – which should be as real to you as your own family – their conversation, the details of their lives, and everything else you can pull out of your bag of tricks to keep the reader moving forward.
Face it, there are too many books published every year vying for the reading public's hard earned dollar. Yours has to stand out.