1. BeeBrian
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    BeeBrian New Member

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    When writing a novel... should I create characters FIRST?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by BeeBrian, Sep 19, 2011.

    I would like to tell everyone that I have no experience in writing fiction novels but I am curious about the techniques and processes behind it.

    When writing, should I start off by making up characters AND THEN coming up with the setting? Or is it the other way around?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Each person will have a different answer. Some people find it more natural to write character-based stories, in which the plot stems from the characters. For me, it's the opposite - I think of a plot, then come up with characters who can make it happen. I know it sounds cliche, but just do what feels right for you.
     
  3. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    I typically write plot-driven stories and allow the plot to create the characters, and then come up with characters. To me, I find making characters first before coming up with a plot is a bit hard for me because a character has nothing to respond in a plot. In addition, when I create characters first, I tend to remove some of the characters who are not essential to the plot by the time the plot is made. Thus, I feel that I wasted my time writing a long page of character biography.

    I know my characters before I create their biography, though, I do not often create biographies for characters. Mallory may be right that many people choose to write differently. They may start by writing a character biography first and then write their plotline, or start with the plotline first and then character.
     
  4. BeeBrian
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    BeeBrian New Member

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    Umm, so is there like, some kind of process with plot-writing? I've read the stickies but it just didn't feel detailed enough for me...
     
  5. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    You might choose to write characters first in order to come up with a plot, since, you don't feel right or have a hard time thinking of an event. If I want to start with plot first, I have to come up with a logline to see the whole picture of my storyline. My plotline may be, "Americans have the ability to fly, causing transportation companies to go out of business." Then, I fill in the blanks by creating characters to resolve this issue.

    On the other hand, this works for me best. The process with plot-writing is no different than character-writing, though.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can choose which way you prefer, whatever works for you. There is no right or wrong in this case. I usually come up with the characters first and a situation, rather than a plot, but then I develop it from there.
     
  7. CULLEN DORN
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    CULLEN DORN Member

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    It's almost like asking which foot do I start off with on my morning walks?
    When you begin to write it may start off as a jig-saw type of visualization
    that begs writing. No matter what it is write it down. Eventually that whole
    process will begin to take shape, and then you can see in its developing stage
    what needs to be flesh out. Characters or events to take it from there.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    there's no 'should' about what comes first and no 'process' that works for all writers... start with whatever comes to you, whether it's a germ of a plot idea, or a character, or a setting, etc.

    don't be swayed by what others do... don't even ask... just do whatever seems to work best for you...
     
  9. Aifendragon
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    Aifendragon New Member

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    Personally, I come up with the characters as I write. I find that they tend to do what they want anyway, so any attempt to confine them is a waste of time...
     
  10. MarmaladeQueen
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    MarmaladeQueen Senior Member

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    I need to start with the setting. Once I can picture the setting, then the characters seem to arrive in it, and then with a good bit of conflict between the characters a plot emerges. As others have said, you've got to find what works for you.
     
  11. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    Get a vague idea of both the characters and the setting. Find out what you want to say along the way.
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    It all depends. Sometimes I think of a character that grabs my attention, so I have to find a 'happening' for him. Other times, I think of the situation and then have to figure out what kind of character could deal with it best. For example, the story I'm currently developing started out with the situation - lo and behold, I ended up with a female MC, which I never do! (Don't ask me why - female leads rarely interest me from a writing perspective). But I know this story won't work any other way.

    So basically, if you have an interesting character, find a plot for them. If you have a plot, figure out the characters needed. Flexibility is a necessity with writing.
     
  13. Hawwyboo
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    Hawwyboo Member

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    It depends a lot on what kind of story you're writing. Fantasy or science fiction might benefit more from a setting being created first, as a major aspect of those genres is presenting a setting that appeals to the reader's sense of wonder. Some stories on the other hand are pretty much built around the characters, so if you know from the offset that you're going for that sort of story then you'll obviously want to have a good idea of who the characters are, their relationships with one another and what changes they go through during the story (what lessons they learn, etc).
     
  14. JackElliott
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    JackElliott Senior Member

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    I tend to start with an idea, and then move on to a setting, and then characters. But during the revision I make sure to put special emphasis on the characters, to make sure they are well-drawn and interesting. I'm mostly interested in character-driven stories -- I just for some reason never begin a story with them, though.
     
  15. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends what I'm writing. For short stories, characters may come to me first. I guess most of my pieces are character sketches
    or some kind.

    For longer stories, normally some scenario or observation that begs to be explored/answered.
     
  16. Fullmetal Xeno
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    Fullmetal Xeno Protector of Literature Contributor

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    It really just depends on the writer. Some start on the setting, others will start with the characters. Many people start with plot concepts though.
     
  17. Chivalrous Tart
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    Chivalrous Tart Member

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    Like a lot of people have said here, there is no right or wrong, but stylistically, it will influence the feel of your novel drastically. If you come up with a plot first and then the characters to fit it, your characters may come off as one dimensional because you are designing them to fit a pre-designed mold. Cookie cutter characters, in a sense.

    If you come up with the characters first and then the situation, I find that you have to have very strong characters to move the story. The characters have to create a conflict by themselves, if you don't have a skeleton or conflict for them. These people are going to be pretty extreme to create conflict without a pre-determined story line e.g. a Gay Jewish Black guy on the Jerry Springer with a nazi skin head (Weird al Yanovic lyrics), will create instant conflict.

    You should complement the two and develop a short situation (setting, basic step off point for a conflict) with pre-designed characters with specific, individualized characters. This allows the conflict to grow with the characters, thus preventing cookie cutting characters and cliche plots. According to this theory of writing, you shouldn't know the ending to your story, thus making it a ride for both the reader and author. This is from Stephen King's On Writing. A great book for any new or experienced writer.
     
  18. Toxic Black
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    Toxic Black Member

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    Personally I think you should have a vague idea of at least one of your characters before you start your plot. That way when you get round to starting the plot it should start to converge around this character youve created. And then your character will start to flesh its self out a bit with the more you write. You'll find that the plot and characters will all come to light in good time, like slotting pieces of a puzzle in place. You dont even have to start at the beginning of the story.
     
  19. ShortBus
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    ShortBus Member

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    I only read about half of these posts, sorry if I missed you. You can always make a few short stories and find out for yourself. You can make bio's of a bunch of characters and then write a story about them. Some people rehash the same hand full of characters in everything they write. Depending on what your doing this is the best way. If you are writing a tv series for instance you have the same characters and you need a new story every episode.

    I think it's more common to have the story first. The character development usually come right behind the idea of your story. Some stories aren't character driven at all. You can basically "input face here", because sometimes it doesn't really matter who does something but how that something happened.

    Just play around with it. Eventually everything will click.
     
  20. Dr Death
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    Dr Death New Member

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    I was intrigued by the title of this thread, so I clicked on it and began reading all the posts. I find it fascinating that there are so many varying points of view. For me... and the key here is; for me... I get an idea for a story... If it's something that sticks w/ me then I sit down w/ pen and paper and begin making notes. Outlining the story, the characters, plot twists, foreshadowing... {this is something I love in books and movies, especially when it's subtle} and usually I will have somewhere in the area of 10-20 pages of hand-written notes before I even type a single word out. I also have the title before writing. It may sound weird, but the title is something that is obviously very relevant to what the story is about, and for me, having that is something that I just find helpful and/or essential.

    One suggestion I would make in "character development" is to not try too hard to reveal everything about your character{s} in one chapter. I often see people feel they have to tell a character's life story in 10 pages. That gets boring and can derail the story before you even begin. Picture your character like a banana or an onion... and peel back a layer at a time. Another thing I do a lot is edit. And I mean a LOT! I'll write 10-15 pages and then come back the next day and read through those pages two or three times... and I often find ways to tighten things up. If you can say something in one paragraph as opposed to two pages... then do it. There are times when you need to write about an event or a person and have it lengthy, but it should always have a flow to it.

    As others have said, there is no "right" or "wrong" if what you're doing works for you. If you have someone you know you can trust... and by that I mean this; you can trust them to not steal your idea... very important, that! And you can trust them to be honest w/ you, then ask that person to read what you have. Give them one or two chapters. If they come back hungry for more... well, you know you've succeeded. But also listen to them if they say... "I didn't really think this was necessary" or "I got confused here."

    There can be a million different examples of that, but they are the one reading it... sometimes listening to people can do wonders if we put our ego's aside.

    Best of luck to you and remember... find your voice. Tell your story.
     
  21. Batgoat
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    Batgoat Senior Member

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    I need a story and a world for the characters to be born into before I create characters. Having said that, though, the characters and the plot generally come together in the first few moments of developing a story. In this initial stage, the characters are mere descriptors: what they HAVE to be in order to slot into the plot. It's no good, from my perspective, to create a character, flesh them out all 3D and fancy, only to find that they do not fit into the scheme of the story that I have been kicking around in my head.
     
  22. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    They kind of form at the same time for me, but I usually write out the characters first so when I detail the plot, their actions and reactions are truer to each individual and bring them to life for me. Then again, I do that because I know I struggle with character development.

    ---------- Post added at 07:35 AM ---------- Previous post was at 07:22 AM ----------

    I have to be very structured when I make a plot. I start out with the outline, highlighting major events in a 14-point tier, and then I write a very detailed plot, describing each of the 14 points and how they connect, character relationships, vital descriptions, and anything else that I would like to incorporate into the story. Most of the time my written plots are between twenty and forty pages long, and then I feel I can actually start writing the story. :-D Ironically, I'm really not a very organized person at all! lol
     
  23. Shayla
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    Shayla Member

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    Besides starting with characters and settings, another good thing to start with is themes!
    What is the aim of your story? What do you want to show? Love? Heartbreak? Loss? Adventure? Change? Survival? Development?
    Is there something in your life that you learnt that you want to show through a story? Your story can stem from something that changed your life to something that someone has said that has stayed with you forever. There are many inspiring life quotes out there!
     

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