Many storytellers debate on which is more important, characters or plot. Although both are interconnected, the answer is that characters are more important.
If you focus solely on plot, your character risk being nothing more than cardboard, flat images that just parade around to advance the plot. Think of any bad James Bond movie that focuses on action and you have the recipe for a boring movie.
If you focus solely on character, you m might have the most interesting characters in the world but if they fail to do anything, interesting characters doing relatively little won’t make an interesting story.
The real key of a great movie are interesting characters combined with an interesting plot. However, interesting characters can overcome a flawed plot but a great plot will sink without equally interesting characters.
Think of any Hollywood movie that copies a great movie with little success. When “Silence of the Lambs” hit it big, Hollywood rushed out multiple copycat movies that had similar plots but characters that weren’t as interesting.
When “Alien” hit it big, Hollywood rushed out copycat movies with similar plots but dull characters. Even the most recent “Alien” movies are deadly dull compared to the original because they lack compelling characters.
When you come up with a story idea, come up with a character. Then try replacing your hero with a completely different hero from another movie. If you can replace your hero with anyone else, you don’t have an interesting hero.
In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Indiana Jones is a whip-cracking archeologist. Replace him with John McClane from “Die Hard” and the story wouldn’t work because John McClane would solve problems differently than Indiana Jones. Likewise, Indiana Jones would solve problems differently in “Die hard” than John McClane along with different reasons.
The bottom line is that if your hero is interchangeable, you have a generic hero so create a unique hero who is the only person who could possibly fit into your plot.
When your plot and character are so interconnected that you can’t replace one without affecting the other, that’s when you’ll know you have the foundation for telling a great story.