Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Plot or Character - which comes first?

It's like the age old question. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Or, as I said to my kids the other day, "Which came first, the chicken or the horse?" (Yeah, I don't know where that came from either, it was just one of those days). Anyway, when you are starting a story do you start with the plot or the characters?

It almost doesn't matter. In the end you need both.

A great plot without characters to carry it will go nowhere.

Great characters without a plot to propel them forward will not make an interesting story.

I've started stories both ways.

In one work in progress of mine the plot completely came first. I knew I wanted a story about a person who could see evil, as in evil actually manifests itself as something she could see. (And frankly, that's a premise, not a plot). But I didn't know who that character would be. Eventually she became clear in my mind and I was able to write the story.

In another story of mine the character came first. I knew I wanted to write a story about a Princess named Fritzi whose days as a princess might be numbered. I knew she was red headed and feisty and then I had to develop the story to go along with her.

In ALWAYS ALI, which will be coming out this summer,since it is the fourth in the Ali series, I knew who the character was, but I had to find a story to go with her for this book. In this case it has to do with a new girl in school who claims to be her sister.

Whether the plot or the character come first, the two elements need to work together to make a compelling story.

What about you? When you write a story which do you find you come up with first, the character or the plot?

1 comment:

  1. Most of the time my characters come first. Little voices whisper in my ear, and I listen. My latest MG started with a voice telling me: "I live in a Doghouse." OK. A story was there somewhere.
    My historical started with a plot though. When we visited Vicksburg, MS, and heard how the people lived in caves during the siege of the Civil War, I had to find characters that would tell their story.
    You're right that you can't have one without the other and they have to work together. Great post.