A character driven story is a story in which the character is what drives the plot to move. Anne of Green Gables, Twilight, and Rachel Gibson novels are character driven. In these cases the stories wouldn’t have turned out the way they did without the character. The characters are the stories and how the stories progress.
A plot driven novel is one where the plot defines who a character is and how the story will go. Lord of the rings is an example of plot driven, as is Harry Potter. You could have thrown anyone into these stories and they would have turned out the same – well okay not anyone. The point is though, that the characters, although we care for them, are not what make things occur. Action happens to them, they did not cause the action.
It seems with character driven books you get a deeper understanding of the character and their inner workings. With a plot drive story you usually see the character at a birds eye view rather then know what their individual thoughts are.
I personally like stories that focus more on the characters rather then on the story. Don’t get me wrong. I love Harry Potter, you could still get lost in the story. The difference is that I wanted to know where the story went more then I wanted to see how the characters would progress.
Depending on your story, taking one view over the other can make or break what you are attempting to show. Most romances will be told with the characters as your driving force, where as an epic fantasy will most likely take the plot driven approach.
I write character driven stories. My characters talk to me and somehow the plot molds and shifts with each action. Even when I swear the story was going a different direction somehow my characters write the story the way they want.
What is your story and why? List your genre to help put it all into perspective.