I once participated in a discussion where someone posed the question: why do you read what you read? Do you read for the world, the characters, or the plot?
In the course of discussion, someone suggested that perhaps people who are “world” readers will prefer genres like fantasy and science fiction, people who are “character” readers will prefer more realistic fiction, and people who are “plot” readers will enjoy genres like mysteries, thrillers, and adventure stories.
Obviously this is a flawed look at the nuanced ways people choose their reading material (or other media entertainments). But I think this idea does hold a grain of truth for both what people choose to read, and for what writers choose to write.
In my own entertainment choices, I prefer stories that employ a good blend of world building, character and plot. However, when I examine my favorite books, films and television shows more deeply, I’ve found that I’m willing to forgive shallower or less interesting characters if the world building and plots are really cool. On the other hand, I can also forgive plot-holes, weird time lines, etc. if the characters and world building are really great.
The one thing I have trouble forgiving is shoddy, poorly thought-out world building.
Give me a rich and engaging world, whether it be a fictional small town in America, the supernatural underworld in a big city, or a medieval kingdom filled with monsters and magic and if the characters and plot are at least somewhat engaging, I’m sucked right in.
So that makes me a “world” reader first and foremost. But character is a strong second place—the books, films and shows that I turn back to over and over again inevitably have strong characters to go with their engaging worlds.
So how do these reading preferences influence my writing?
Just as you might guess, I spend a lot of my time as a writer thinking about world building.
I’m curious if this pattern holds true for other writers out there. Do you write like you read? And are you a “world” person, a “character” person, or a “plot” person?