I asked that question on my Facebook fan page several mkonths ago. Both are elements required for good fiction; I was just curious which one other writers preferred.
On closer study – this will come as no surprise to people who know me – plot is the more essential of the two.
Characters are definitely important – distinctive, memorable ones. Stock, cardboard ones just lie there, are easily forgotten and usually contribute to a story or novel not even being picked.
Plot is needed even more. It drives a story from point A to point B… without one a story just wanders aimlessly. A story can begin from memorable characters; as soon as they do something (anything) those actions become plot.
As such the two are intertwined.
It’s character first for me… If I can’t relate or sympathise with at least one of the main characters, then plot wouldn’t matter at all. But then, once I’m on board with character then plot and character consistency will carry me on. However, I also enjoy short stories and experimental concoctions where plot plays no part.
Strong characters are important. They need to be memorable. As soon as they do anything however that’s plot. The best characters don’t just stay immobile and mute. Otherwise the story would have 0 words.