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April 8, 2015 / Heather

Character & Plot

On the 28th, the blog Myth Creates posted an entry titled Plot or Character asking what came first in writing, plot or character. The poster (ClaireStephenWalker) mentions that in (I’m assuming based on username) her writing, character comes first. I’m the same way.

Why? For me, characters are friends. And awesome friends at that. At least one friend of mine seems to start out with plot rather than character and that’s fine. It’s his/her choice as to what begins that process. For me, characters always come first.

My current and former characters are good friends. New characters are introduced through the old ones. No, not in the sense that all my stories are connected (Mara from Meeting Mr. Right has no connection with Melvin from Because I Stayed; Because I Left), but in the sense that one character brings another up to me like one friend you have who makes a new friend and introduces them to you. “This is so-and-so” and from there it takes off into the new person talking about who he/she is and where he/she comes from. It’s incredibly fun for me and one of the things that keeps me writing as much as I do.

Sometimes it seems like the stories come before the characters, but in this case the character hasn’t revealed a name to me. The story I’m going to write in November has some plot points, and I know the direction it’s going to go, but the characters have no real names yet because they haven’t shared them. To me that’s the magic. In a lot of wizard and fantasy novels (*coughHarryDresdencough*) there is magic in a name. It’s an old world magic that gives Person A (who learns the full name of Person B) power over Person B because there is power in a name. Some characters don’t want to give you a full name up front because you’re still forming that writer-character relationship. Other times a character will bring you his/her name and if you don’t like it and try to change it because you think you have that sort of control the character will bark at you (I’ve had this happen). Or if you want to write a story with no supernatural beings and the one character insists he’s a vampire and will bite you and pester you until you give in so you cave to make him cooperative… (again, had this happen).

This still keeps writing fun for me. Characters are not little puppets I command. They are friends who tell me their stories and I share those stories with others. This is extremely different from my poetry which is probably one reason I’m finding it so hard to switch back and forth between the two now. It used to be easy, but since I found my voice in writing prose the poetry stumbled. I’m still working on my balance.

What comes first for you? Character, plot, or a mix of both?



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