1. Tangerinne
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    Tangerinne New Member

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    Plot first vs. Character first...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Tangerinne, Apr 6, 2016.

    So, this may be a dumb question but....when you're writing a short story or novel, where do you start? Do you get an idea for a plot and go from there, or do you think of this great character and create a plot from that character? Can it be either or? I'm very curious to know how other writer's thought processes on that work :)
     
  2. Greenwood
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    Greenwood Active Member

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    It depends, really. For my current WIP, I had a very abstract and vague idea of what the main plot was going to be. I also had already thought the world it is set in through. Then came the characters. This WIP however, features several POV's and thus several sub-plots which will wind down together at some point. I hadn't thought about these and just let it go. The first chapters and the introduction of the characters just came from sudden ideas, but in the end, it created some interesting chapters and scenes, and showed me where the characters were to go before they would come together in the main plot. This is just one example of course.
     
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  3. Wayjor Frippery
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    Wayjor Frippery Contributing Member

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    I have to agree with @Greenwood on this. For me, the germ of an idea could be anything. Maybe I'll think of a character and then put them in a scene and then build a plot around them; or maybe I'll think of a plot point (what would happen if the French demanded the return the Statue of Liberty, for example?) and then think of who might be involved in such a demand and birth characters from there; or it could be a place in which I'd like to tell a story; or even an action that I would like dramatize.

    Point is, inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere.
     
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  4. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did almost exactly the same. Historical fiction, knew my Romans were going to China, have trouble getting there, have trouble in court, and have trouble getting back, but after that my characters told me what happened. Ditto with some minor characters introduced. One came in almost as a humorous aside, actually an American Indian in the first century in Europe, wondered if anyone would notice. Never identified him as such, only if you know Cherokee will you recognize his name Galosga (he who fell down), and his pet name for his lover, huldaji (mountain lion). He emerged as a major second tier character with an interesting story to tell, fell in with a warrior woman of the Xiongnu (his huldaji), and wound up getting adopted by her clan. Let your characters roam free!
     
  5. Aaron Smith
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    Aaron Smith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Usually the character has a goal of some sort, and the plot unravels from their journey.
     
  6. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    My characters' goal was to get to China in one piece, with various people trying to kill them
     
  7. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah the initial seed idea can be either plot or character.
    Though I can't imagine a process where I plan a fully formed plot without a character or visa versa.

    After I have a bit of each, the plot and character will both find ways to influence and grow each other.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I usually begin with character, but not with A character. I begin with a couple (or group) of them. They can be characters who already know each other well, or characters who have just met. The dynamics of the group provides the story's direction for me.

    Obviously I have a setting in mind, and a few scenes, and even have a notion of where the story might be heading before I start. But I always allow my characters to determine what the story will actually be.
     
  9. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Anything can spark a story. I'm usually more idea minded. But just recently I saw a picture on the internet sparking a character idea and then I developed a story for him which I've been working on called Falling Child Star. But it's definitely a merge of things. It's never idea then character, or character then plot, they all just work together to make it happen.
     
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  10. Indefatigable Id
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    Indefatigable Id Member

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    Well, Stephen King thinks plot is for bad writers. He just follows through the natural course of events and sees what happens, but it results in some kind of strange stuff happening. The endings are very anti-climactic, because by definition the story has no guarantee of reaching any sort of a climax. It's not on any kind of "rails". I read a story where a female character leaves her testicle crushing husband, pees in the neighbor's bushes, runs away and joins a group of battered women, does some audio book recording and then transforms into some kind of weird demon thing and then has a picnic with her boyfriend at the park. That's what happens without plot. It's sort of like a ball of yarn unraveling and then when it unravels all the way... that's it. There's nothing else to see here. Go home. Plot can make everything very predictable, though. As in, you can see what's going to happen next in a plot-driven story if you study plot enough. There are still surprises left in the inversion and subversion of certain recurring tropes, but for the most part, plot-driven stories are very paint-by-numbers when compared to the "hey let's see how deep this little rabbit hole goes..." method.

    I tend to favor the "hey let's take this creepy little road and see where this ends up..." school of thought, and I can ramble forever, exploring endless possibilities, but I'm trying to adapt myself to the idea of using a plot and so far it is helping me out a lot. I have an idea of where stuff is going, where it's going to end up and so I kind of know whether I should throw in a little exposition, or if it's time to cut to the chase scene. Plot is like a spine, it is very helpful in turning an amorphous blob of random stuff that happens into something that people can grasp and find concise and entertaining.

    Use both!

    I think I can work this way: take a couple of characters and start having them talk and meander. Go through the story in a very sloppy, whatever-feels-right way, giving no consideration for plot and all that good stuff. Then, when I'm done, look at what a ghastly Cronenberg I have brought to life and then kill it, dissect it and try to salvage any good parts, interesting ideas or cool scenes that I can and then try to create a prettier, plot-driven version from the remains. Kind of like how OCP made glistening, glorious, kevlar-laminated-titanium Robocop from a pile of dead guy.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2016
  11. Vanthu
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    Vanthu Member

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    With the exception of my first story, I always do characters first, then I think of some plots, and sometimes change how characters are to fit the plot.
     
  12. flyleaf
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    flyleaf New Member

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    I like to write stories that are character driven. To achieve that goal, I create characters that utilize great dialogue. Dialogue is vital because it characterizes the speaker, builds conflict, and foreshadows events.
     
  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    From my favorite writing book, by Richard Cohen:


    The force of good plotting is motivation.

    Thinking about plot in absence of character is an artificial, mechanical activity. But it can be useful if you become stuck.

    The best way to think about plot is by thinking about character. Not, What should happen next?" but, "What will Louie do next?" Or even better, "What would I do next if I were Louie?"

    Inventing a plot by daydreaming about your characters will give your work a different feel than inventing a plot by thinking.

    Realism: events should arise convincingly from their premises.
     
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  14. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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  15. Tangerinne
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    Tangerinne New Member

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    I like this thought process I think, plus it makes for better writing and might make things come and flow easier :)
     
  16. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    My approach entirely. I never planned the story but I planned (daydreamed) the next few chapters.
     
  17. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My short stories tend to start with plots that I develop characters around, the Urban Fantasy novel that I've started revolves around characters that I'm developing a plot around, and for the novel-length completed story in my signature I went back and forth a lot more times before I finished (having a few character ideas, coming up with a plot, changing my initial vision of the characters, changing my plot, adding new characters...).
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I start with the Story, continue with the the characters and the plot. They kind of go side by side. :)
     
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