Bookish Musings: Do Books Need to Have a Strong Plot?

 
 

I have to preface this by saying I’m not criticizing other reviewers. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinion and to dislike a book for any reason! But it’s things I’ve seen in reviews that got me thinking about this topic.

This year, I’ve noticed a few of the books I loved got some negative reviews that complained about the plot being slow, or the plot being simple and not having much to it, or a certain element of the plot being pointless, or the whole story being pointless. And I didn’t even necessarily disagree. I’m sure I’ve said some of these things myself before too. But I’ve changed my mind on this and don’t automatically see them as a bad thing anymore, and that’s what I want to talk about.

I will be mostly referring to books, but I suppose this could apply to any form of storytelling or media, so feel free to include those in your thoughts or comments!


We’re taught a lot of things about storytelling, whether in school or social media or communities we’re a part of or even the stories we consume. We’re taught that a book is supposed to have XYZ. And it’s generally good advice. It’s a good starting point. It’s also completely fair for someone to only like books that fit certain expectations.

But strict rules are limiting. Sometimes an author wants to do something differently, or the strict rules just don’t really work with the kind of story they want to tell. And I’m trying to be more open-minded about that.

When it comes to plot specifically, I don’t know if I would enjoy a book with no plot at all (though I might be willing to give it a try if it sounded interesting enough). However, I don’t mind if the plot isn’t super significant. I enjoy a good plot, but I usually read books for the characters. For me, a great plot with meh characters is probably going to be enjoyable but forgettable at best, whereas great characters with a meh plot can still be memorable and amazing.

That being said, in order to get into a book with a slow or simple backdrop kinda plot, I do have to like or care about or be interested in the characters.

But as long as I do love the characters or their relationships and feel invested in them, I’m finding more and more that I don’t care if the plot doesn’t have a whole lot going on, or if it doesn’t really have the beginning-middle-end story format I’ve been taught is correct, or if a winding little side plot doesn’t actually affect anything in the main storyline, or if the plot is really just something for characters to do while building up a romance, or if there is no real point or end goal, etc. Growth, relationships, happiness—those can all be goals. I think I would even enjoy more slice-of-life books that just show characters hanging out, living their lives. Because the things that happen to a character still affect them as a person, and it gives them something to do while they grow or form relationships, and it gives me, the reader, a chance to spend time with them and get to know them.

Does that mean I have no expectations or that I never get annoyed about anything regarding plots? Of course not. But it’s situational, not something I automatically dislike. I’m ok with books and plots and every thing that happens in a story not always having a point. Characters can just do things. The plot can just be there in the background. And if a book is well-written with characters I feel invested in or is just plain entertaining or interesting, I will still enjoy it!

 
 
 
 

Talk to me!

Do you think everything in the plot has to have a point?
Do you mind if the plot is more of a backdrop or vessel for the characters, or do you prefer a strong plot?

 
 
[shared_counts]
 
 
 

Your Thoughts

 

22 thoughts on “Bookish Musings: Do Books Need to Have a Strong Plot?

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!

 

Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 
  1. Lorna

    I’m a thriller or mystery the plot is probably the most important of everything. I have say after reading a good mystery recently that I hated the main character so I dropped my rating to 3 stars. A romance? I’m to the point that they have have “something else” to sell them to me. A good plot. But there are thousands out there without much of a plot. I guess what I’m saying is I need the good characters and the plot. I’m too old (70)to put up with a plot I don’t like, same with characters. A 3 star rating for me could be someone else’s 2 stars. Rarely use 2 and maybe only one was 1 star over the course of 11 years of reviewing.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      That’s a good point, plot is more important in some genres, like mystery. I think I agree about romance and wanting something more than just, like, a basic good romance. But for me that “something else” isn’t necessarily plot. But I get it if it is for you or anyone else! There are too many books out there to force yourself to read things you don’t want to if you know what you like and dislike. I’ve been DNFing more books this year for this reason.

  2. Greg

    I just read the Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers and there wasn’t much of a plot- just some aliens get stranded at a waystation and share about their lives. Very chill, and one of the best books I’ve read this year. Her books are like that anyway though- all about the character growth and getting to know them.

  3. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    I guess it depends on the genre, but plot isn’t massively important to me. If I’m invested in the characters and their relationships, then I don’t really care about the plot. I’ll happily read about my favorite characters doing anything. If the characters aren’t strong, then the book needs a good plot to keep me interested.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      You’re right, there are some genres where plot is important. I wasn’t really thinking about that when I wrote this lol. I was thinking more just about those books you described where I’m happy to read about the character doing anything because the characters are great! But yeah, it needs to at least have good one or the other, characters or plot.

  4. Angela

    I think it depends on the type of book it is, sort of? Like, books that don’t rely on a ton of character development, like a thriller, need to have a strong plot. I kind of think you need characters or plot (or both!), but if both are weak, then the story is weak.

  5. Jessica

    With the book I am reading, it has a confusing plot and it’s driving me crazy. I had two theories, then I think I am wrong, and now I think I am right again. I am going to try to finish reading the book by next week.
    I am like you, I have to like the characters and the plot needs to make sense for me to like the book. The previous book I read, I didn’t like some of the characters, and the plot wasn’t great.

  6. Laurie C

    Interesting musings! I definitely read for character development, not plot, and have loved tons of books where nothing much happens in the way of action or plot. That said, I don’t want a lot of extraneous details or characters doing a lot of insignificant or pointless activities that don’t help me understand something more about the character’s emotions, thoughts, or anything at all, really! Just not meaningless detail.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      Thanks! That’s a good point. Like, I sometimes zone out during fight scenes and sex scenes if they feel like they’re just sorta standard fare and the same thing I’ve read a million times, not feeling like they’re really unique to the characters, and not important to the plot except for how the fight ends or whatever.

  7. ShootingStarsMag

    Definitely a good question. I’m a big character person, so if I love the characters, I don’t always need a super important plot. I just want to follow along for the ride. LOL

  8. Sam@WLABB

    I lean towards character driven stories, so for me, plot is secondary. I do like to see growth, some sort of personal journey, but it doesn’t need to have that much plot

  9. Pingback: Sundays with Sam – The Sunday Post – We Live and Breathe Books

  10. Pingback: Monthly Minutes at Midnight: November 2022 ⋆ It Starts at Midnight