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Fiction writers: Which comes first — characters or plot?


A question for all you fiction writers out there: Which comes first in your writing process, characters or plot?

I’ve got remnants of five novels buried under the dust somewhere in this messy old hard drive of mine, and I’ve not yet finished one. I was inspired by an episode of the “Today Show” today and determined to pull these little gems out of storage in hopes of finding a jewel among them that will rocket me to fame and fortune as the newest John Grisham.

(Okay, really, I’ll happily settle for the fortune, heck with the fame.)

I’ve asked the question above in months past and never gotten much response. I know what happens for me, but I’d be very interested in YOUR answer(s) to this “chicken or egg” writing question — characters or plot? How does the process work for you when you want to write a short-story or novel? Or is the process different for you if the project is a short story or a novel?

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts and work process if you would, please.

2 Responses to “Fiction writers: Which comes first — characters or plot?”

  1. Dark Icon says:

    If I were limited to just those two options, I’d say characters. But in reality, it’s neither.

    Concept comes first. What is this story about… what is the theme or IDEA of the story? What is the ‘hook’? That idea could encompass elements of plot, setting, or characters, in any combination. Once I know that, then I typically flesh out the characters and, more often than that, THEY determine the sequence of events that becomes the plot.

  2. Gary says:

    Very well stated, Dark Icon. All good information about the fundamental groundwork.

    You got it right, though, with your comment about being limited to those two options. Even as I wrote that, I realized it’s difficult if not impossible to capture how stories are created in any “1-2-3” formula. Thanks for your insights.