Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From Notion to Story

There are stories that come to mind almost fully delineated: the characters, what happened, and how it ended. But most writers say this is the exception.

I've had stories materialize two ways: a character that started taking to me, or a plot that only needed its main actors revealed. Speaking for myself only, most of my stories began with a plot. Most of the writers I know personally have told me theirs began with a character.
Examples from my writing life of a plot-first story: I pass a house and sense that something ominous happened there, and then know what it was. I can barely breathe thinking about the powerful events. Now I need to find out who was there to tell about it.
Example of a character-first story: I can see and almost hear this girl, Holly. Nothing ever goes right for Holly, yet she always comes out on top with her slightly dented dignity intact. I've only met Holly in my imagination, but I let her tell me of her many adventures, and, boy, can she tell a story.

I’ll let the master storyteller of them all say it, as he said it best: 

I keep six honest serving men. (They taught me all I know);
Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.
                                                                            Rudyard Kipling


  1. Stories are strange beasts. Sometimes I have characters in search of a plot and other times just the opposite. Very rarely does it all fall together at once and perfectly.

  2. Wish my stories came together so easily! I think mine are mostly plot first. I like Kipling's quote.

  3. When I came up with the idea for Touch of Death it was because I heard a voice in my head that said, "I'm Jodi Marshall." From there, I interviewed her to find out her story. But she came to me fully named and with an interesting background.

  4. That Kipling quote has always bothered me. The rhyme scheme starts out like it ought to be a-b-a-b so I end up pronouncing "who" as if it were "hoe".

  5. Exactly what Anne said!

    I've had it both ways, too: Plot first, or characters in search of a plot.

  6. Yep. Ditto to all of the above. It's funny how a thought can just take over and unfold into a complete universe or person, at least in your own mind. :)

  7. But then there are times when you have both those things roughly sketched in your head - the characters and the plot.
    That happened to me on the novel I'm writing right now anyway. Is that a bad sign of some sort? xD