Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Characters Make Stories by Karen King

Writers work in lots of different ways. For some writers the story plot comes first - Stephanie Meyer apparently actually dreamt the whole plot of Twilight, wrote it up and we all know what happened next. For other writers the title comes first - a writer friend of mine finds it difficult to write a story if she hasn't got a title - but for me the character comes first.

I have to know all about my character before I can write my story. I like to know what they look like, how they talk, think and act, what their family is like, who their friends – and enemies are. In a nutshell, I want to know what makes them tick. I think that it's the character that makes the story because different people react in different ways to situations, things that are a problem to one character aren't to another. So you can have the same scenario but would get a different story according to the character you're writing about.

If I can't think of a character for a story I look at some pictures and ask myself questions about them. Take a look at these characters, for example. What do you think their personalities are like? Where do they live? Who are their friends or enemies?

Then I try to place my character in a situation that might cause them a problem. Imagine if each of these three characters met a ghost. How would they react? Would they be frightened? I play around with the idea a bit, imagining all sorts of scenarios until I have a story plot that will work.

How about you? How do you get you work? Do you need to know your character first, your title, your story plot  or do you just start writing and go with the flow?

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Susan Price said...

Interesting, Karen. 'Character is plot', certainly. For me, it's push and pull. I usually start with an idea or situation - a time machine, say. Then I think: what kind of character do I need to tell this story?
But then, as I build the characters and start to know them better, they begin to push and pull the plot in directions I hadn't expected - but sometimes, if there's something I really want to happen, I have to rein in, or change characters who would never do that... So it's a constant interplay between character and plot.

Sue Purkiss said...

I think I usually have an idea about a situation first - but then the characters become important, very much as Sue says. It's very difficult to disentangle the two. I'm writing a short story at the moment, and it was triggered by something I read about. But it was the characters that made the situation interesting...

Stroppy Author said...

Idea, concept or situation - but if it's a situation, it often centres around a character IN a situation. I think character comes ahead of plot detail, though.

What an interesting question!

Karen said...

Thanks for all your comments, it's interesting to hear how other writers work and I do agree that there has to be an interplay between the charater and the plot. :)