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? 

13 comments:

  1. For me it's characters. I seldom know what their story is until I start writing. There are exceptions when I have the story idea first, but I'd say probably 80/20 to character. Favourite series at the moment is The Blacklist.
    Interesting and thought provoking post, Carol :-) xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Teresa.

      I am envious of writers who can discover the story as they write. I admit I do discover bits of the story as I go along, but that's in the gaps where I don't know. :-)

      Delete
  2. Thanks, Teresa.

    The Blacklist does sound interesting, and another with lots of characters running through it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I might start with a vague plot idea, but it's not until I have the charcters that I can start writing it. Not everyone reacts in the same way to any given situation, so we can't decide what our characters will do until we know what they're like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you're right, Patsy, characters can react completely the opposite to what you imagine sometimes. :-)

      Delete
  4. Interesting, Carol! I usually always start with characters and they're normally the most important part of any story I read. However, I occasionally like reading a fast paced mystery/thriller/crime when it's maybe more about the plot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's interesting, Rosemary. I do think there are some stories/genres where the plot takes priority, with the characters perhaps along for the ride. :-)

      Delete
  5. I start with the seed of an idea and a vague idea of who might be my main character then start writing and see what happens.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do wish I could be like that sometimes, Wendy. I'm sure it must make writing easier. :-)

      Delete
  6. For me you have to have the initial idea, but I'm a bit of a pantser and I usually find that plot comes from what the characters decide to do, not me. Of course that often involves quite a bit of unpicking, but I think plot should derive from character. You can have a poor plot but still enjoy it because you love the characters, but if I can't connect with the character then I just lose interest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You make some good points there, WAW -excuse the abbreviation :).

      I do find that my characters can change what I thought would happen, and as long as it fits I will go with it.

      As a reader, if I don't enjoy the character, even the baddies, then it's harder to finish reading.

      Delete
  7. I almost always have a plot first, or at least an idea of a plot/story. I then have to populate that story with characters. I'm with your OH... Even when I watch TV, it's the plot that grabs me then the characters.
    This makes me feel I've got it all the wrong way round!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Proves we are all different, My Old School Books. If it works for you that way, then that's the best way. :)

      Delete

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and if you want to add a comment, please do...