Sunday, 22 May 2016

Character or Plot- Which Arrives First?

Do you have a favourite series that you hate to miss?

Well Saturday night in the my house is NCIS night. Now to be honest across the week NCIS: seasons 10, 11 and 12 are being shown on assorted digital channels (along with the New Orleans and Los Angeles versions), which can be confusing as one night a relative of one character can be dead, and the next week on a different channel the dead character is still alive...

This is where box-sets come in useful.

Anyway, my OH just watches the story and whoever is in that episode- he calls it moving wallpaper; I told him that the characters and what's happening to them is as important as the story. He wasn't convinced...

That is what got me thinking about plot versus character, and which comes first?

Which arrives first?
If you define plot as "a sequence of events" that occur through the story, then I'd have to say no that doesn't come first- at least for me.

In fact whenever I've had a story idea and some of the plot before finding the characters for it, they have never made any progress no matter how much time I've put in. The last time I tried that it was three wasted months.

For me, it runs: initial idea (that is usually the result of two random incidents/thoughts/information) - a vague scene of one or two characters, but enough to start developing them - more ideas - research - basic bios of my characters- chapter outlines - write the first draft and discover more about the characters and plot as I work.

Looking at the process that way it's 50/50.

Every writer has their own way of doing things, so someone else may have the plot and then looks for their characters to fill the story.

Others discover as they go along.

So are you plot first? Characters first? Or somewhere in-between? 

Thursday, 19 May 2016

My Problem Character...

Sometimes I find getting into the mind of my characters easy, at other times it can be problematic.

In my second draft I have some gaps to fill, and Hannah is one of the problematic gaps.

She arrived in the last chapter of draft one as if she had always been around; she and my heroine know each other quite well, but looking back, nowhere in the first draft had there been any hint this young woman existed...

That was when I realised that she would actually fill a necessary role that was one of the gaps I had.

She has the confidante role. But she'll also be a means of passing information on where appropriate.

Seeing the light?
At the moment I'm still learning about her, and her way of speaking is starting to emerge more clearly than in her first few lines.

I know she's a year or two older than my heroine, and has had a little more experience of the world, so that will prove insightful later- there's a completely new scene in my mind (for much further on in the draft) where Hannah will be doing a little manipulation- for the best of reasons of course. :D

Unlike my other characters I don't yet have a bio for her. That's usually when I find out all those useful snippets of information lurking in the recesses of my mind.

Perhaps that will get through her protective shell.

Onward with the never-ending mystery of the supporting cast...

Sunday, 15 May 2016


Yes, I'm guilty of procrastination. I don't intend to, but somehow time passes and then it's too late to get started because everyone is home again and I need quiet to write.

I'm recovering from three busy months, and there's been lots of personal life stuff that has been taking up the remaining time too. So the second draft rewrite really has been the last thing on my mind.

But I'm determined to make the most of the free time available- yes, I know I've said that before!

Having to shift all my office around while the computer was being replaced didn't help. It's not quite back to how I need it, so I'm going to concentrate on finishing that. There's still a few things I want but can't access easily, so times wasted searching...

I'm fortunate that I have the end of the old dining room to house my office, but it still has to double as a temporary storage area for other things until we've shifted other room contents around- that's slow progress.

Hopefully by the time I'm finished there will be enough fodder for me to write a short article on procrastination for one of the annual trophies at the writers' club- it's for non-fiction, and this year's subject just happens to be procrastination.

So I am sort of working... :D

Right, I need to get started, it's the recycling collection day tomorrow.

Do you have any anti-procrastination tips that you can recommend?

image courtesy of Stuart Miles &

Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Workshop Exercises - Success...

For many years I've been a member of the Talkback forum over on the writers-online website, and the monthly one word writing challenge is not only fun, but also good for honing structure and effective word choice. You only have 200 words for the story.

It was while I was putting together my previous blog post, about the workshop, that I realised that the senses scene would work well for the April challenge, as the word was jeopardy. 

My new character, Elizabeth, was most certainly in jeopardy. So I rewrote the piece, paying particular attention to her surroundings and added another 100 words to finally come in at 198.

It was posted with a day to spare before the month end. But the wait for the competition to close, and the prose judge's decision and comments were worth it.

Here's what the April judge said- I know they won't mind me sharing their comments on my entry:

The Darkness Beckons
A great build-up of atmosphere and tension in this story. I was imagining a Dickens era setting, but I think it works equally as well in a modern day setting. I am curious to know why Elizabeth could no longer rely on “the niceties of society”, what had brought her to the warehouse, what choices she had previously been denied…. I think you should write on!

What awaits at the
other end?

And even better, I was co-runner up 'for the great sense of atmosphere'. 

(Imagine grimy windows, neglect, abandonment, vermin and a very dark corridor.)

Needless to say, Elizabeth has gone into the development corner of my brain, marked up as #6. She may move up the order, but it really does depend on how long the story will be; it could be short, or longer, which is partly why I'm not revealing that scene... 

At the moment she seems content to have made her presence known and isn't going to pester- unlike a few of my waiting characters. It will be serious when she gets a file box for her story.

Meanwhile I'm getting the hang of the second draft process with Hugh and Sarah's story, so it's all positive at the moment.

image courtesy of Tuomas Lehitinen &