1. theamorset
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    theamorset Contributing Member

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    Plot as a reult of understanding characters?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by theamorset, Aug 11, 2016.

    How do you go about deciding what will happen in your story? Do you create characters, and then plot, or do you create characters based on a plot you want to follow?
     
  2. big soft moose
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    big soft moose Active Member

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    Personally i'm a pantser (as in seat of the pants) times ive tried to plan in detail its killed the story for me .. so these days i either create a character or two and then start writing and see where it goes, or I just start writing a scenario and see what happens

    I generally expect that the characters and quite possibly the whole story will change from what i originally imiagined as i go along
     
  3. karldots92
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    karldots92 Active Member

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    I'd be the same as @big soft moose - I create characters and then just write about what happens to them. I have a basic concept of what the story is about but I can't plan a plot so I just see what happens. For my fantasy novel I have a lot of very detailed characters developed with entire back stories so I know how they would react to various situations based on their experiences etc. so I just write and see what happens. You can always tidy it up later and flesh out bits you need to flesh out. I do this as I go sometimes also. I write a chapter then as I write the next one there is something that doesn't make sense so I go back and change it.

    With my Sci-fi, again I have a basic concept but I have one character that I have developed and I just write about what happens to him and adjust as the story goes. For me this makes the process of writing more interesting and engaging as I want to see how it turns out as much as the reader would. I think it could get tedious if you have a plan that you stick to rigidly. But that's just me - everyone is different.
     
  4. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    Little of column A, little of column B. Sometimes I have a plot idea I want to explore so I populate it with characters, sometimes I have characters I really like so I come up with a plot for them.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always start with an idea that interests me, find a plot that somehow hinges on that idea, then develop characters who shall willingly play out the plot.

    In other words, according to a lot of schools of writing, I do everything ass-backwards. In a couple of years, when I've either been published or shunned, I'll let you know whether or not this approach actually works when writing for a paying audience. :)
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kind of a rolling thing. Start with a vague setting, vague plot, vague characters, and they all get tightened up as a I go. Developing a certain character trait affects how that character will influence the plot, the events of the plot have an impact on the characterization, etc. A series of loops, not a straight line.
     
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  7. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    I begin with a theme (not a moral). For example, in my WIP, the theme deals in the paradoxical potential of hedonism to act as a catalyst in creating permanent consequences for temporary impulses. The characters, although they are allowed to develop traits beyond and outside of that theme's reach, typically have traits or follows paths that complement the theme. The MC is vulnerable to hedonism, the cotagonist and his lifestyle expouse it rather convincingly, and the main antagonist is a horrific cautionary tale. And beyond that, I investigate where these characters are in their lives, what their goals are and why, what feasible obstacle might prevent them from achieving those goals (sometimes its other characters) and what they could be driven to do in order to surmount those goals.

    The plot follows easily from there.
     
  8. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    I start with the plot, and develop the characters to play their parts in a convincing way. It has happened, though, that the characters had other ideas, and it became part of the game to develop the plot further around the characters, based on what they could bring to the table.
     
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  9. sahlmi
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    sahlmi Active Member

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    Plot first, populate next. It's difficult for me to create characters wo situations for them.
     
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  10. taariya
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    taariya Member

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    How do you do this without it feeling unnatural/the appearance of contrivance becoming a problem? One thing that I notice in my own works when I try to start with situations and insert characters, and the work of other authors who apparently did the same, is that I often think something like "Why would they do that? Oh, because the plot says they have to", and the characters don't really have agency or personality and are just being chauffeured around by the plot. I'm not saying this always happens with these type of works, I just don't know how an author could prevent it if you don't know your characters before you know what they're doing and where they end up.
     
  11. sahlmi
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    sahlmi Active Member

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    Of course there's at least an idea of the characters, but no, they're not fully fleshed and I don't add them until they are. The above doesn't apply to me at all. A story would become too boring to write if it were that contrived...at least for me. Everyone has a method that works for them.
     
  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    For each stage of the plot when a character needs to do a certain thing to make the plot work, I come up with a list of his options, those various things he could do in response to a given stimulus. To motivate him into doing the one I need him to do, I look at what, in his past, might cause him to come to that conclusion. And I show his thought process as he weighs the options and he always picks the option I want because his past dictates it (and 'his past' can be anywhere from five seconds ago to his first memories of childhood). His past dictates it because it was invented after the plot and therefore drives him into the arms of the plot.

    Because I do actually know my characters before I write. It's just that plot comes first, character development second, and then I begin writing. And if the plot needs to be adjusted as I layer in character stuff, that's fine. It becomes like a juggling act until everything's in place.

    Even once I start writing, most things are still in flux. The main plot points need to stay the same because they answer to theme, but other than that, I'll keep changing small things as they come up as long as I know they won't derail the overall story (but sometimes they do anyway and I have to go back and rework).

    I think the misunderstanding some people labour under is that they think putting plot creation first means substituting plot creation for character development. That's not the case, not by a long shot.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2016
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  13. theamorset
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    theamorset Contributing Member

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    I think about the characters for a long, long time, before I start writing any plot.

    The character has - a problem. A need. A hope. Something that is quite important to him or her. He or she may not even be completely aware of it, but something is afoot.

    I get to know them, how they would react in different situations. Then the story basically writes itself, usually very quickly with no or very few changes. I'm basically just 'recording' what I know has to happen.

    Example, in the next project I will be working on, when the character was a child, he was moved all over the world by his deranged mother. Something happened during that time, but as with many things that happen early in childhood he doesn't remember it. He's alright until he's about 30, then he becomes restless, angry, lost. He has to figure it out. What happened, how it affected him and and what to do about it. I already know what it was, how it affected him, what he has to do. He is only gradually sorting that all out.

    A lot of the great authors I've studied, spend ten or more years working on a project, making changes and refining what it's about, before they start serious work. So I think that it's not wrong to spend the time up front, to work it out in one's mind.
     
  14. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    This. Exactly this, word for word.

    If I have any 'plan' it's the most basic of ideas, but even then these ideas never make it to paper. I start by deciding on the setting/theme, then think of a scenario and start writing.
     

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