Writing Fiction: Start With People To Avoid Plot Disasters

In our latest writers’ group meeting, we talked about writing fiction and character creation and development.

We’re back to our regular meetings, thank heavens. Sadly, our group’s been decimated, but we’ll build it up again.

Start with plot or characters? That’s a topic which never gets old because of the two groups of fiction authors.

Those who believe you should:

  1. Start with the plot; and the second group who believe you should…
  2. Start with the characters.

The topic always leads to lots of interesting discussions.

TBH, I’m solidly in the start with the characters camp. It works for me because if I focus too much on plot, the novel turns into a mess.

Everyone’s mileage varies. You can change from novel to novel, too.

Writing fiction: start with your characters to avoid plotting disasters

My inclination is to start with the characters.

From Plotting Fiction: 3 Plotting Tips To Make It Easy:

I’ve tried just about every plotting system going. All of them got me hopelessly tangled. I’d spend too much time plotting, and never started the novel because I was bored with it. Or I moved characters around like pieces on a checkerboard so they never came alive, and gave up on the novel somewhere in the “dead middle”.

Character and plot work together

I’ll go into detail on characters and plot interaction soon, but in the meantime, some quick tips from the meeting:

  • Pay attention to your family, friends, TV, videos etc. What arouses an emotional reaction in you? Which people do you instantly love or hate? Why? (We had a 20-minute discussion on what someone’s actions mean: someone who’s perpetually late, etc.)
  • Emotion is everything.
  • People are what they do every day. Consider a character’s name (you can change it later), age, job, plus the character’s biggest WANT. (Your character may be unaware of what he wants. He says he wants something, but his actions reveal his real desires.)
  • Use one word to describe a new character you’ve created: greedy, self-centered, happy, oblivious, determined… Make a list of how you’d reveal the attribute you chose. (Avoid labelling characters: that is, show, rather than tell.)

Writing fiction: people or plot?

Do you focus on creating and developing characters or are you more interested in plotting?

Or in developing story worlds? Or perhaps puzzles (if you write mysteries)?

Please share your thoughts in the comments. 🙂


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