Which Comes First? The Story or The Character?


A recent session at Faber, Kidnapping A Character, brought up a very interesting question.

Most writers have their own way of working. They either start with a story idea, then make up characters to fit it. Or they start with a character and then make up a story that fits.

Personally, I’ve done it both ways, and I can’t really say which one I prefer.

But I’ve never tried the method where you come up with 2 totally unrelated characters and write a scene where they meet. It was amazing to hear the interesting stories that had started to develop from 2 complete strangers having a chance meeting (during a 20 minute writing session). It’s definitely a technique I will be trying out again in the future.

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courtesy of jscreations/freedigitalphotos

Like most things in writing there is no right or wrong way to do things, but out of curiosity which do you start with?

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33 thoughts on “Which Comes First? The Story or The Character?

  1. Thanks for linking my article on writing the character most like yourself.

    I almost always start with a character who just seems to start telling their story to me — but the character’s story often is sparking ideas that had been dormant in the back of my thinking for years, even.

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  2. I never thought about this. I guess I start with the character. For Blood in the Paint, I started with my main character Lyla (a female serial killer who lures and murders married men to avenge her mother’s suicide due to her father’s infidelity.) I also have the main character for my next series, though I have not a single thread of plot. Haha.

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  3. So far I’ve always started with my character but I can imagine a setting and a story which would bring the characters with them. Interesting post and sounds like a wonderful course!

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  4. I have heard of the method in which two strange characters have a chance meeting. It sounds like you had a good experience with it. What kind of characters did you create?

    Most of the time a character comes to mind and a story is attached to him or her. That is what happened with my book and some of the short stories I’ve written.

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    • My guy was a gay man who had a crush on the guy who worked in the shop at the museum, and I was partnered with a class mate who had a lonely old man who spent his time at the museum sketching. The weird thing was we both write pieces where they met by falling over each other lol

      All characters have a story attached to them the moment you start digging don’t thy Becca ;)

      Thanks honey xx

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  5. How did I miss this interesting post?! Oh, that’s right, I’m doing NaNo so I’m a bit behind on everything these days!
    Anyway, as fixated as I seem to be on characters, I’ve actually done both. I either ask the character to tell me his story, or ask the story, what kind of characters would do a thing like this?
    And thanks for the reminder that there is no right or wrong way to do things in writing. Exactly what my Inner Editor needs to hear right now. :)

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    • Oh don’t! *rolls eyes* Nano has really been a bit of a pain for me this year! Lol.

      I’ve done it both ways too, but I’m still not sure which way I prefer, even after reading everyone’s opinions ;)

      Anytime honey….every writer has their own way I doing it I guess, what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for another, but it’s good to know you’re not alone isn’t it :)

      Xx

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