Proactive vs. Reactive Characters
Here's a topic I had never even considered...until I received a rejection for it. Oops.
So, tell me, other writing friends out there, what drives YOUR characters? Their own wants and goals or an overwhelmingly strong plot? Apparently, the correct answer is their own wants and goals. I received a rejection once because my characters were less proactive and more reactive.
A reactive character is someone who merely reacts to events happening to them in the story--outside influences drive the plot.
A proactive character makes events happen by pushing the plot forward themselves--THEY drive the plot.
Here's a lame example of reactive: A story starts with a woman receiving a hostage note from the antagonist, saying "I have your daughter. If you want her back, leave me a grand in the trash can on Fifth and Vine." Of course, when she gets there, another note has been left, telling her to go to another place...and thus she's pushed along a certain path, forced to REACT to all these events happening to her. This would be a reactive character.
A proactive character would be (and sorry, here's another lame example): A story about a woman who feels her husband might be cheating on her, so she visits this house where she suspects Miss Mistress lives, and gets herself into a whole tangle of problems by pushing her curiosity forward and breaking & entering the place, therefore having to hide in a closet when someone comes home, only to hear who the alleged marriage wrecker is REALLY spending her time with.
Can you see the difference? You can get a better feel of the proactive character's personality because her actions come from internal drive, whereas...how do we really know what the reactive character is like? The Kidnapper is controlling her, making her act how he wants her to, keeping us from seeing her true personality.
It's possible this is merely a subjective issue, and some editors might not feel so strongly about it, not really caring what drives the plot as long as the story is good and characters are distinctive. But I happened to find one editor that did care (go me!).
It's something to think about when submitting your story anyway; do the characters stand out or does the plot, and does the editor/agent you want to submit to prefer plot-driven or character-driven stories?