The old chicken-and-egg debate has a writerly version. Should you start from plot, or from character?
My usual answer would be that it doesn't matter as long as you start. Don’t delay. Don’t think, mull, or pray. Do it.
At least that’s what I tell reluctant self when, once again, reluctant self professes that it doesn’t know where to start.
I've read variations of this discussion on writers’ blogs, How-to books, and in interviews with great writers. I was aware that most literary writing is firmly anchored in character, and in some cases barely has a plot. I noted that many bestsellers (“commercial fiction”) are impressively plotted while the characters seem more stock. Not everyone can write like Dickens and excel in both. (And speaking of Dickens, I don't think there was a consistently better writer of first paragraphs, but I digress.)
But when I reflected on my own process, I realized that with a few exceptions, most of my stories began stewing with neither. They began with theme.
I didn't know what* happened, and I didn't know who** was there. What I knew was that I wanted to find a way to think about something***, and that the way was through conjuring a story.
Oh, dear. I just complicated the chicken-and-egg thing. I added the nutritional information bar. Maybe this is a good place to stop mulling about, and start.