If you watch a lot of romantic comedies and/or human dramas, and read romance novels with a passion, chances are that you are moved by aesthetics and feelings. You are probably deeply interested in reading about people, and how their lives and emotions are affected by relationships and events. Hence, when you choose to write a story of your own, you would mostly focus on the characters.
However, if you like action, sci-fi, and over-the-top tales involving end-of-the-world scenarios, chances are that you enjoy thrilling, plot-driven stories. Naturally, you would be motivated to think more about plot-structure when authoring a novel.
Rarely are our motivations that black and white though, and many writers tend to focus on both elements when creating stories. A balance is required to make a story work. Leaning one way or the other will also often determine the genre of the book. It might become a romance novel, as opposed to an action-thriller. On occasion, upon reading a book, it may be difficult to determine whether the story was based on plot or on the characters. Take Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, for example. Does the story rely on plot or character? I would choose to say both, rather than one or the other.
The story is fascinating in itself, beginning with a murder in a museum, but that alone would be a fairly ordinary start to a typical crime novel. It’s the way the characters are portrayed, and the secrets that are revealed about their lives, one hint at a time, that propels the story. Without those intriguing characters, the book would be better written as a documentary, and in fact it was originally based on various non-fiction reference material. Many great stories are crafted and developed this way.
Other books are easier to define as character-based or plot-driven. Wuthering Heights is an obvious example of a character-driven story. Take Heathcliff and Catherine out of the book and there is virtually no story left to tell. Romeo and Juliet would be another good example. Even Superman, although a comic, is character-driven, despite the fantastic storyline. Stories such as Rocky, Pride and Prejudice, Les Mise`rables, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Memoirs of a Geisha, Carrie, The Great Gatsby, Life of Pi, the Harry Potter series and so on are fine examples of character-driven books.