Question: Are you a plot driven writer, or a character driven writer?
Are you more interested in the espionage, or the character’s personal journey to deal with it?
Yes, you need to have both a plot and characters. They need to blend together to create story. But you approach them slightly differently.
For instance, I’m a plot person. I want to know about situations: what if the power plant blew up and exposed a genuine alien space craft in the middle of England? What if a gnome was found making cookies in a tree, and he poisoned everyone with butterscotch cookies to keep them quiet?
Then, I take the situation and wonder who would be involved in that kind of predicament. What kind of person would I want to follow through that journey?
But I know a lot of writers who are character driven. They think up interesting people first, and then decide on what situation would test those sorts of folks.
Either way, at some point you have to decide whose point of view you’re going to ask the reader to spend time with. Who’s story is it really? Who’s thoughts and emotions really matter when it comes down to it?
Often, we’re in the head of more than one character. But even so, it’s still usually more one character’s journey than the others. Tip: the more heads you’re in, the less we get a deep sense of each character, because you’re bouncing around so much it’s like a tennis match. Yes, some authors can pull off lots of points of view, but it takes a deft hand to do it well.
Point of view means we know what that character knows. We know what they feel, how they react, why they’re doing whatever they’re doing. Choose carefully. Ask yourself why that character. And if you decide to jump into someone else’s head, ask yourself how important it is to do so at that moment, or if you can get more mileage out of waiting to change PoV until a bit later. Staying with one for a while can force you to really get into their psyche, which will in turn draw the reader in.
Writing Challenge: what PoV are you using? How often do you switch?