Character-Driven Fiction

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When someone comes to the FMM desk seeking out recommendations for a good book, we try to get an idea of what that reader is looking for by asking about other books he or she has enjoyed. With a few quick questions, we can get some clues about what sort of Doorway that reader prefers to use and sort of book the patron is in the mood that day to read.

Story is the biggest Doorway, according to Nancy Pearl's theory,  and most prevalent type of fiction. A reader who is looking for that will say they want a book that keeps them reading and turning the pages. Most of the books on the best-seller lists are compelling stories.

Character is my favorite Doorway to fiction. That means I love to read books about characters who I get to know so well that if I ran into them on the street, I would recognize him or her. I don’t always need to like the book’s characters, but I want to learn more about them and what motivates them to act as they do in the book. Books with a character’s name in the title are often character-driven, A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Iriving, Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, both by Elizabeth Strout and are good examples of this. Often, books in series use the Doorway of character as their main highlight in the book and one I’m currently loving are the Three Pines mystery series by Louise Penny. After finishing the seventh book in this series, I think I have a little crush on Armand Gamache, the main character. At the very least, he is someone I could go to for advice on the most serious problems I might be facing.

Other authors I’ve enjoyed who emphasize character development include:

1. J. K. Rowling

2. Charles Dickens

3. Tana French

4. Ann Patchett

5. Tom McNeal

6. T. C. Boyle

7. Jonathan Franzen

8. John Irving

9. JoJo Moyes

10. Chris Bohjalian


Come visit us at the FMM desk anytime you’re looking for ideas about what to read next!

Ellen J. wink



Ellen Jennings works at Cook Library as a Readers’ Advisor and the Teen Services Coordinator. When she’s not working she can be found reading, researching her genealogy,  walking at Independence Grove or taking care of her family. Of the many  jobs she's had, working at Cook Library is definitely her favorite because every day she gets to learn something new.