I’m sure you’ve seen the question before: Do you enjoy books driven by the plot or the characters?
Character-driven stories deal with the inner transformation of the characters and their relationships with each other. This is compared to plot-driven stories, which focus on a character’s motivations and how they get from point A to point B. Figuring out where your story fits in can make or break your novel.
An example of a plot v.s character-driven story would be the Dread Nation series by Justina Ireland. While the first book is plot-driven and focuses on the MC, Jane, trying to survive the oppressive society in which she lives, amidst a zombie outbreak, the sequel, Deathless Divide is different. It was character-driven.
I use this series as an example because the sequel didn't go over well with some readers who loved the first book. Deathless Divide focused on Jane and other characters dealing with the mental and emotional atrocities of life. The zombies were a secondary issue. To enjoy the sequel, you had to be someone who appreciates character-driven stories. Even when the plot lacked, the characters, who fans rooted for, made it worth sticking with until the very end.
So this begs the question: what is your story truly about? This is especially important if you are writing a series. Your readers need a clear motivation to pick up the next book. If you are writing a mafia romance, is your end-goal a woman being reunited with her lover and taking down a final boss (plot-driven)? Or is your story about the journey she takes as she discovers herself and realizes that she wants more out of life (character-driven)? Both can be essential components of a great story, but as the author, you must know which road you are going to take and focus on. Additionally, you must be consistent and understand what your readers like and want.
If your book is plot-driven, keep readers entertained. Take them a journey that leaves them breathless! If your book is character-driven, keep your readers intrigued by dragging your characters through the emotional ringer. Remember, if your readers aren’t emotionally invested in your characters, then a character-driven story won’t work. They'll be dissatisfied, possibly DNF (Did Not Finish) your book and leave a low rating.
I believe writers should explore both of these devices and consider which applies to their work in progress. Depending on the genre, one may not work, but the other will. Ultimately, be informed and go with your gut. As long as the end product is great, everyone will be happy!