1. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    What Comes First?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Killer300, Aug 7, 2011.

    When you come up with a story, what comes into your head first, the characters or the setting? I bring this up because I find that if the former appears, it'll work out far better than if the latter appears first. So far, everytime I've tried to build the world first lead to a story with no characters. On the other hand, when I start with the characters, the story works out much better, although can have long term issues.
    What I'm wondering is this just a person by person thing, or is it more complicated than that? Curious about this.
     
  2. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    It's never really been setting for me.

    Most often, I envision characters first and then search out a story for them. On some occasions, I come up with a story idea and develop characters but it, but that's more rare for me.
     
  3. Mr Mr
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    Mr Mr Active Member

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    Characters then the setting sort of builds itself. Although sometimes I find the setting I've used for one story can be used as the basis for another.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not only does it vary person by person, but also story by story. Often I'll have a setting in mind, dictated by the requirements of the story. Other times, it's the character that the story dictates, and then I must decide on a setting.

    Most of what I write is science fiction, so the setting is somewhat more likely to suggest itself befor the characters, but not always.
     
  5. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Ah, thanks guys. Okay, this explains a lot with how certain stories formed.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I always come up with the characters and their situation first, then the setting. it's not a choice I make, it's just the natural process for me.
     
  7. frostedfields
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    frostedfields Member

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    I always think of a plot first, which revolves around a character. Setting is never as important as the characters when I'm developing the story. I then create the setting to fit the characters and their unique histories.
     
  8. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of the time for me it's 'a situation'. This then leads on to characters, and lastly location.
     
  9. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    I quite often think of a rough plot line, then the characters and then the setting that best fits afterwards. Sometimes if I have an interesting character idea the plot builds around them but the setting always seems to be the last and most difficult thing to determine.
     
  10. J.P.Clyde
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    J.P.Clyde Prince of Melancholy Contributor

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    This is going to sound awful. But I am never sure which comes first the character or the setting. I ended up having a phrase stuck in my head. Like, The water was thick and black. And then I write from there. Phrases just get stuck in my head all the time.
     
  11. JSLCampbell
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    JSLCampbell Member

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    I usually come up with the setting first, and then come up with the characters that fill it. Of course it's not always like this, but it usually is.

    I feel that in this way, you can shape the characters to the setting around them. People are usually influenced by their environment (even if that influence is actually opposition to the environment), so it follows that the setting comes first. In this way I find it easier to shape characters once I've got the setting down. Kind of like filling in the background, then the foreground of a painting. Others will probably do it differently, but that's the pattern I prefer to follow. Big picture, down to little detail.


    Of course, if you envisage your main character as being extremely powerful, perhaps in politics in a kind of dictator role, it might be clever to fill out the character first, because you could then fill out the setting based around the character's traits.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Character and setting usually come to me at the same time. I find it hard to imagine a character WITHOUT his setting. I don't think of a face on an otherwise blank canvas; for me, there's always a background for the face.

    Also, usually when I think of a character, he isn't just standing there, he's doing something - starting a fire, digging a grave, sailing a boat, or whatever. Doing something pretty much implies that there's a setting.

    Character, situation, and setting start things off. Plot comes later.
     
  13. Mikeyface
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    Mikeyface Member

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    Characters always come first for me. Usually, I find imagining the characters creates the conflict to draw from. I rarely bother with settings until I'm far enough in the outline that I find clever settings that can amplify whatever themes/conflicts are in motion.

    Though, none of my stuff takes place in space.
     
  14. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I usually start with a "what if" idea. For example, what if a man who doesn't believe in God or some form of God meets him in the flesh? Then, I expand it from there, usually developing a setting and plot to be able to support the "what if" question (as well as additional add-on questions) in a realistic and believable manner, and a character who can fill the role of the man. In such cases, the character and setting are equally important and generally developed at the same time because one may affect the other. Anyway, that's the short of my usual method. I do stray from this and create settings before the characters and vice versa. A lot of it depends on what type of writing I'm doing, too.
     
  15. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I don't know what I am doing, but some kind of inspirational theme came first for me.

    My decision to write the novel came after reading an article about the death of the last American Jaguar "Macho B." I decided I was going to write a story that had to do with an American jaguar.


    The jaguar became a were-jaguar. In my first attempt, the character dictated the setting. In the second attempt the setting (jaguar country) dictated the character and many of the conflicts.

    However, the character in the second attempt was still very similar to the first attempt's character, and she pops up in other works. Though she is different in each work, her physical features and general attitude are similar.
     
  16. Nicholas C.
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    Nicholas C. Active Member

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    I've almost always started stories based on situations (like Raki said), i.e. what if this event happened at this place to this person. If you think of it in those terms, you won't be as likely to neglect one of those elements.
     
  17. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    More often the characters for me.
     
  18. Pythonforger
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    Pythonforger Carrier of Insanity

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    It depends. Usually, I get characters and make a world for them(or use plain old Earth when appropriate). Sometimes, but only sometimes, I get struck by inspiration and make a different world which I build my characters in. An example is an old mutant/utopia/steampunk story in which humans live on the upper levels of the world and mutants on the lower levels. Then there's Battleworld, created as a sort of joke and eventually integrated into a stickman comic series, Killer.
     
  19. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    Im somebody who starts at one or the other. It could either be the Characters first, or the setting. You never know with me.
     
  20. The_NeverPen
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    The_NeverPen Member

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    I usually start with an emotion. I'll feel something sticking in my mind or my gut or something. I'll feel it for a while, trying to find a shape. When I get something, I put it on paper or music, but I'm usually disappointed by the primitiveness of my representation. It could be a character or a setting or a split second of someone's life.
     
  21. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    I reuse characters all the time, so for me it's usually a setting or vague concept that gets stuff going, then I pick some characters that will fit the story. I have like 50 characters that are used over and over again.
     
  22. Leah
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    Leah Member

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    Very interesting ~ we all get ideas from such varied places!

    My current work actually came to me in a dream - and it was the title of the book that inspired me and went from there. From the title came the ending and now I am at the beginning trying to put it all together.

    In other situations, I have been inspired by a name (this seems to happen a lot), a situation I will see or read about or by a book I have read. I have other ideas floating around in my noggin, but they aren't ready to come out yet. ;)
     
  23. Liza
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    Liza Active Member

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    I always develop plot first, I find. Then the characters just create themselves.
     

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