Authors Answer 14 – Genesis of a Story

Welcome to February! We have a bit of a change of pace this month.  During this month and March, our questions come from our contributors.  This week’s question comes from Jean Davis.

How does an story begin?  We all start from some idea. Everyone starts from something different.  So let’s find out what our authors do when they begin a story.

character_plotQuestion 14: When coming up with a new story, what comes first, the character or the plot?

H. Anthe Davis

Since I’m working on a (hopefully) long-running series, the characters come first, and the plots are often created by complications from what they’ve done before.  Even in the beginning of this series though, it was rather firmly wrapped around a few well-defined characters, whom I’d been playing for a while either in online roleplaying chat or in MMORPGs.  I always found playing the characters to be insanely useful, especially since other players will interact with your character in ways you might not have been able to imagine yourself.

For short stories though, I often get plot ideas well before I define a character.  But I’m not terribly good at short stories, so those might never see the light of day.

S. R. Carrillo

It varies. Sometimes characters, sometimes plot, sometimes setting, sometimes backstory, sometimes just a single scene or thought or gesture…

Tracey Lynn Tobin

That’s an interesting question, and to be honest, I’ve never really thought about it. The process by which I come up with a new idea goes roughly like this: “Hey, that would be an awesome scene. I should come up with a story so I can write that.”

So you see, I don’t really come up with the character or the plot first. But if you really want to be technical about it, I usually get an idea of the type of character I want first, then I come up with the basic plot, and then I figure out the details of both as I’m writing (a planner, I ain’t).

Paul B. Spence

I think first of the setting, the environment, and then I think of someone existing within that place. Once I have that, plot guides itself, since all I have to do is watch what happens.

Jean Davis

New stories most often come to me as a character and then a situation which leads to the plot. Often it’s just a name and maybe something distinctive or interesting about the character. That detail then leads me to what could go on around them to play up that particular thing and then we’re off into the plot. Or staring at a blank screen.  But generally the words start spilling out from there.

Amy Morris-Jones

For me, it’s all about the characters. I usually get an image in my head of a specific scene and then work to flesh out the character from there. Once I have a sense of the character, I start thinking about where the character is headed and what challenges I want to set before him/her. I tend to “pants” the first 12-15K words, and then I sit down and outline the plot a bit more specifically. The more I try to impose my thoughts on plot on my characters, the harder time I have, so I’ve learned to let the characters lead the way as much as possible.

D. T. Nova

The characters. I haven’t tried plot-first in a long time, and when I did, I failed to actually have any characters that stood out.

Caren Rich

The plot, or at least the idea comes first.  Usually, with that I know a little about the protagonist or antagonist.  By the time I sketch out a flow chart of major events, I have a good idea of the major characters and the basic plot. I’m a total plotter.  People and events may change as I write, but I have the basics before I write the first word.

Linda G. Hill

Tough question. Being one who focuses greatly on human behaviour, which absolutely fascinates me, I want to say my characters come first, but that’s not exactly true. I need a situation to put them in first. So for instance, I come up with a dilemma and then stick someone in it who might have a hard time solving it. Using this method I’m able to come up with countless scenarios for stories – the less the character fits into the situation, the longer the story is bound to be. Complicated, for me, equals novel.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Sitting out this week, as she’s been rather busy recently.

Jay Dee Archer

It really depends for me.  My most recent idea was a character, a singer.  I haven’t even thought of the plot yet, as it’s just an idea for a book far in the future.  My entire premise for Ariadne started out as a setting, actually.  Then I created a group of characters to form a plot around.  I became quite fluid after that, constantly changing as I refined the idea.  My current fantasy idea started out with the world and a basic plot.  So you see, it happens both ways, and other ways, too.

How about you?

When you start a story, do you think of the plot or character first?  Or maybe something else?  What does your story grow from?  Leave your answers in the comments below.

14 thoughts on “Authors Answer 14 – Genesis of a Story”

  1. I am far less orderly than my twin when it comes to the creation of a work of fiction; for me, it all blurs together, and whether character or plot or setting comes first depends on the story.

    1. That tends to be a lot like me. It really depends. I just take some element and work something around it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

  2. I no longer write really long stuff. It’s all short takes and ideas come in a million ways. I’ll be thinking about something — or someone will say something — and then I think “I should write about that.” If I’m smart, that’s what I do. Right then and there. Because if I don’t, ideas slip away.

    1. I get ideas all the time. Usually, I spend a few minutes trying to develop the idea in my head. If I have no time, I’ll just make a note on my phone to check later. I really need to organise my thoughts somewhere, though.

  3. Reblogged this on No Page Left Blank and commented:
    I’ve been a bit busy this week, easing in to my new job (which involves WAY more walking than I’m used to), so I haven’t been able to blog. As way of apology, check out this week’s “Authors Answer” in which the authors and I discuss the “genesis” of our stories. Fun fact: there was little to no consensus on this question. Apparently everyone’s writing style really is unique!

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