Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

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Down the well
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by Down the well » September 17th, 2010, 5:40 pm

From Nathan's link above:

"When an author says they start a story with an interesting character in mind, it's just a different side of the same coin as an author who starts with a basic plot. It's all conflict. To go back to the door metaphor from Thursday's post, the conflict at the heart of an interesting character is what is opening the door and it's why the character is trying to close the door. A character's conflict forms the basis of the plot."


YES! That's exactly right.

I say I start with character, and I do, but the story doesn't get on the page until the conflict is revealed and the plot has momentum. It really is all integrated together. My story is very character-driven, but what they're driving is a plot vehicle that runs on conflict.

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cheekychook
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by cheekychook » September 17th, 2010, 8:57 pm

Down the well wrote: My story is very character-driven, but what they're driving is a plot vehicle that runs on conflict.
Well put, Down the well! I couldn't have said it better myself. Literally. I've tried.
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Scott_Foley
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by Scott_Foley » September 20th, 2010, 7:37 am

For me it tends to be plot first, the big picture, but as I slot the characters into this scenario they tend to make their own decisions, screw the plot and come up with their own way to save the world. Characters, if well drawn, modify the plot, I see it through their eyes and make revisions accordingly. Would they really do X, or wait as long as that to realise Y just because that's what my plot says? Nah. Real world considerations and general randomness can puncture plot structures, I blogged about a week ago on mind mapping and how this can help putting character and plot together: http://warlordsofthedreaminggod.com/201 ... n-what-if/

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maggie
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by maggie » September 20th, 2010, 12:40 pm

I feel like it depends on the type of novel it is. Like for something high-concept, the plot idea comes first and characters that fit the plot fill in around it. For a more literary story, sometimes the characters jump out fully formed and what happens to them is what makes the plot what it is. Though of course there is always a bit of both--even if you have a very specific high-concept plot in mind, different characters will move through that world in different ways, so I feel like you do have to know the characters pretty well to continue crafting the plot. Or you might have such an awesome character that you can come up with a great hook that both drives the plot and integrates that character.

But that's just me. :)

Like for my current WIP, the concept came to me first, but to find out what actually happened in the plot, step by step, I had to get to know the characters to find out what they would do in this situation.

wonderactivist
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by wonderactivist » September 20th, 2010, 1:05 pm

Mine sort of nudge each other forward. My current WIP is a sequel, so the characters preceeded the plot. In the first book, I'd say that it was more of an idea that set it all in motion--an action scene that I rolled around in my head for a while. I'm weird like that. I tend to think in scenes, and I wondered what the two characters in this scene would be like and what would happen next.

So I'd have to say it's an interaction. Even in the sequel, new characters are appearing as a result of plot. Existing characters grow and change when they live the plot, and the plot has to evolve in response to character decisions.

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DMM87
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Re: Plot or Character - Which Comes First?

Post by DMM87 » September 21st, 2010, 1:48 pm

I think that the answer to this question is very personal. For me, a character develops in my head and he or she tells me what sort of situations he or she has been through and would like to go through. I base my plot off of what the character tells me. This is probably because I prefer to write in first person.

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