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Which came first: the characters or the story?

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Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#1 by taykay08
» 24 Aug 2013, 21:19

My friend is a writer, and the other day she explained to me something that I found very interesting. She keeps a collection of characters that she has created, some fully fleshed out, and then thinks up stories that those characters can fit into.

This just seemed like a very interesting - but unusual - method. I always assumed that any writer of fiction thinks up a story and then fleshes its characters later. So, to any writers out there: Do you use a similar method? Or, have you ever heard of anyone else using this process?
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#2 by Richard Falken
» 25 Aug 2013, 04:18

It is usually a matter of inspiration to me. For one reason or another, I imagine some kind of epic scene or situation, which involves some specific characters that didn't exist before. Then, I start thinking which kind of story would have lead to that situation, and how it can develop from there. Soon after, I have an idea for a book. In fact, at least some of my characters were completely designed before the story itself was completely designed.

I don't have stock characters, although I definitively can see such an approach working in some cases (eg: writing for licensed books).
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#3 by Derek Moore
» 25 Aug 2013, 13:27

Typically the inspiration that drives me forward as I am creating a story is neither plot or characters, but usually is some fundamental idea that I want to get across to the reader. Sometimes as this idea grows, the story fleshes itself out first, and other times it is the character which I formulate while stumbling with the actual story.

That said I have at times created characters and have later used them when forming a new story. I've done the same with settings and snippets of conversations. Sometimes, it can be useful in the early stages of the formation of a story and can help you get through any writer's block you might face. If it is true that creating a book or a short story is like putting a puzzle together, than it makes sense that it might be useful at times to have some of the pieces created as you start.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#4 by Zain
» 26 Aug 2013, 16:13

Haven't heard of this method yet but whatever keeps one writing is most appreciated. There's no one true way to get a page filled. Personally, I am more of a setting type, the first time I think of a story looks more like "I want to tell a story taking place while there's a war raging, fire burning, and a lot of raw emotion present." The rest then falls into place.
Story and character are interwoven, in my opinion. It's like asking after the hen and the egg. There exists neither without the other. They complete each other - a character is nothing without a story which determines the main character's past, present, and future identity. A story is nothing without a doer, an agent.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#5 by Derek Moore
» 26 Aug 2013, 16:38

I like your idea that "story and character are interwoven". It is true in many ways. A story has often seem to me as a type of organic tapestry and as such it should be difficult to isolate the various parts that make up a story.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#6 by J R Lankford
» 26 Aug 2013, 20:03

I'm new to the forum, but I've been writing many years. I'm like Derek in that what drives me to create a story is a fundamental Idea or inspiration. Often I do research to put flesh on its bones. Usually a main character arises from this, as well as his or her goal and chief obstacle. I pick a setting -- usually a real place. Then I sit down and write the opening. Next I write the closing scene. If I can do that, I know I've got a story. Naturally I give myself permission to revise the open and close as the story develops, but usually they don't change in their essentials. The fun comes in seeing how the character gets from start to end, who else travels with him and what happens to them all along the way.

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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#7 by LadyBookWorm
» 27 Aug 2013, 18:22

If I'm writing a short story, the story comes first. But for writing a novel, the characters have to come first for me. The story itself does not matter unless I care about the characters. It's not so much what happens but how the characters react, learn, grow, fail, suffer, etc. because of what happens. A compelling character or compelling characters make the story happen, not the other way around. That is how it is for me, anyway.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#8 by wcttech
» 28 Aug 2013, 02:21

Vanessa wants just one thing for her twenty-ninth birthday: an engagement ring from her longtime boyfriend, Eric. But when the ring turns out to be a mix CD and Eric turns out to be a guy who doesn't want to get married or have children, Vanessa considers a new path to having a family.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#9 by scuba_steves
» 02 Sep 2013, 22:10

Oy, that age-old question, eh? :) You know, I'm not really sure which comes first. Usually, the idea comes with both for me. I think... I'm not sure. It's so hard to pull the two apart. They're inseparable.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#10 by srivolco
» 03 Sep 2013, 06:46

It's the first time i ever heard of this kind of approach. As of day i have always come up with a story and then build characters accordingly. Though i do base my characters on real people so they posses a distinctness and hence there usually a inter dependency in terms of whether my characters drive the plot or the plot drives my characters. I guess i am more of the balanced kind of a writer.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#11 by J R Lankford
» 03 Sep 2013, 09:34

Hi, srivolco. If you're doing this, you may already know to disguise, disguise, disguise. I researched this and found a rule of thumb is: 1) if a third person who knows both you and the real person who inspired your character can recognize that real person and 2) if the story publicizes private things, even if true, or false ones that causes the person embarrassment or harm -- then we writers can be sued for invasion of privacy. A true example: a writer wrote about a character who smoked. His boss, who didn't know he smoked, recognized the real person and fired him. The real person sued the author. In today's world I'm sure the Internet would factor in, i.e., did the person also reveal this publicly on Facebook, for example. But to quote from the ACLU guide on this subject: "One who gives publicity to a matter concerning the private life of another is subject to liability.."
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#12 by Enigma
» 03 Sep 2013, 10:21

I always start my books off with a conflict. And it takes two to make a conflict. So my characters come first. The MC has been living in my head for a while before I pick up a pen. :D
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#13 by shewalksinbeauty
» 03 Sep 2013, 19:24

For me, it is always, always the story. I envy her for being able to do it in what I feel like is complete reverse!
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#14 by Zain
» 04 Sep 2013, 07:58

I don't think you need to envy her, shewalksinbeauty. Everything has advantages and disadvantages. If it's about the story for you, then that's probably what you work best with. If everybody approached writing in the same way, it wouldn't come down to talent or artistic expression. There'd be no creativity and variety in it.
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Re: Which came first: the characters or the story?

Post Number:#15 by shewalksinbeauty
» 04 Sep 2013, 08:39

I don't mean envy in a jealous or aggressive way. I just think it is probably a pretty fun experience to be able to craft a persona without having to tie them to a plot in any way. :)
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