Writers, do you start with character or plot?

When you start brainstorming a new novel, do you start with a character or plot?

I love this question! It’s a question that Mel asked me from The Writing Room 101 as an interview question and I just had to share it with you guys.

My answer… neither. I actually start with a setting. I usually have an idea of the genre and the setting and then I’ll create a female character and her love interest from there. The plot generally comes last because I always start with a setting. I’m not really too sure why, I suppose because a setting can define the type of people you place there. For example, if it’s a modern day country town or a post-apocalyptic society. You’d create very different characters for each.

What about you guys? Do your ideas come from characters or do they come from the plot?

About Jodie @ Words Read & Written

Book blogger & aspiring author.
This entry was posted in Writing Discussion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Writers, do you start with character or plot?

  1. krystal jane says:

    Just about always characters. Even if I get a plot first, which is rare, I don’t commit to writing it until I have a great cast behind it. I rely on my characters to help me write. If something is amiss with them, the story won’t get finished, no matter how much I love it.


  2. davemstrom says:

    I started writing my novel years ago (a satire of The DaVinci Code), before I knew much about the mechanics of creative writing. After years of writing, learning, and deciding my novel needed its own plot instead of another book’s plot, my superhero(ine) world is set and the main characters run around in my head. So now I can get a funny gag for a short story (more gags for a novel), toss my characters in, and build a plot around them. So in my case:
    * I started with a very mushy plot (novel evolving over years),
    * then the characters came to life (my superheroine punching her way to the top of my novel, and her Batman-type partner/mentor/critic/boyfriend FINALLY getting a real profession: movie critic, cuz symbologist is what-the-heck-is-that-DUMB),
    * and then little plots (short stories) around my more established characters. (I’ll get back to the novel, its outline needs one more revision.)
    Characters first for me. I find plots easier to create when the characters in my head are ready to dive into them. Which is better than the characters leaving little superpowered footprints all over my brain.


  3. leannaatc says:

    I usually start with a premise, so I have an idea of what the story is about, but not necessarily how it’s going to end. Then follows character, setting, and then plot, because I can’t write the last without the other two already established.


  4. 80smetalman says:

    My first book was definitely starting with the plot. So much so I think the characters suffered. Actually I thought making them stereotypical metalheads would be enough, it wasn’t. My second book was more about the character as I already had in mind what he was going to do.


  5. It completely varies for me. The first book that I began working on started with the setting and then instantly went into characters. However, my second that I’m working on began with two lead characters and then led to the development of the story, before modification of some character traits. It all just depends on what thoughts come to my head first.


  6. athling2001 says:

    I always start with characters because it is the characters who tell me their story. Great question.


  7. Brit Basye says:

    I don’t really have a mandatory starting point. It just depends on how I get the idea. Most of the time I just write whatever randomness is willing to flow out of me, and then edit it.

    My attempt at brainstorming for my novels is to think about the idea and just wing it. After I write the first draft I will sit down and outline the plot and what not. Doing so first kills my motivation.


  8. Sam says:

    I start with plot. I get an idea that will have conflict and then decide what kinds of characters can feed that conflict.


  9. Jon Chaisson says:

    I tend to start with a character and a general idea of the plot. I don’t create full character bios or anything, more like I just have a pretty good idea of who they are already. As for the plot, I know what I want to do with it and where I want it to go, I just let it grow organically and outline only when necessary.


  10. Dustin says:

    Wonderful question! For me, think it’s a combination of the two: the very basic story idea and tidbits of character details.


  11. I generally start with characters actually, but they tend to change and/or shift around as I come up with my plot lines 🙂


  12. Since I’m on the nonfiction side, I don’t think I could answer this. If I did create fiction, I assume having a balance between both would work. Then again, each story may call for more emphasis on one over the other in the beginning.


  13. Nicola says:

    Similarly to you, I start with the premise, which is very closely linked with setting. From there, I develop the characters that inhabit the setting and how their lives and motivations fit in with the premise, and that’s how I get my overall plot.


  14. kneeadd says:

    I’ll write my own post about this subject soon, so I can discuss more in detail.


  15. I vary all over the place. Sometimes a plot, sometimes an ending that I’d really like to get to, sometimes a character. Often though it’s a what if situation. What ifs are probably good for me as I write near future Scifi or fantasy.


  16. I tend to start with the action first . Now would that be defined as character or scene? Or Both ? Because that is where I start…I like to plop the character into the plot right away…. I like to know the character right away through the plot starting along with him all at once.(I am NOT a get out of bed type of storyteller)..I like to build on both aspects equally. Its how my brain is wired. Probably from reading too many comics all the time where they throw Spiderman into the scene/action and you are reading his interior monologue and him saying dialogue the whole time the action is taking place. I guess it rubbed off on me and it carried over to story telling…:)


  17. Laura says:

    Every story starts with something different, but all my stories are character-focused. My current novel started with a nightmare. I had one story that started with an image of a very sleepy grad student in a lab, staring at a white mouse named Talcum (No idea why I knew the mouse’s name but not the grad student’s). Another one started with the thought, “What if there are mermaids in the Gulf of Mexico, and they are really mad about that big oil spill?” And then there was the one that started as a high-concept mental music video for the song “Rebirthing” by Skillet.
    Ideas are weird.


  18. Adan Ramie says:

    Hi, Jodie, and thanks for checking out my blog!

    I find that I like to start stories with what I call a “spark”, be it an idea for a particular scene, a line of dialogue, a dynamic between characters, or an interesting personality trait. For example, the short story I just finished was inspired by a cemetery I passed while driving. There were several graves decorated with flowers, but the one in the center was lonely and unkempt. From there, I got the idea of the (slightly insane) main character, and just started writing.

    I am what is known, in some circles, as a 99% pantser.


  19. I usually build up a character first and then start constructing the setting. I got a block a couple of times so I’m gonna try ur method the next time. Thnx fr sharing 🙂


  20. I usually start with a plot when I’m writing. I like to think of my main idea, and my ending for a story.


  21. M T McGuire says:

    I usually start off with a scene of tension. Two people arguing, I’ve no idea who they are and I gradually come to understand that they are a couple of folks in the book. Then I start asking why they’re angry, sad, in love, happy or whatever they’re being and then the plot begins to develop. I also get scenery, stuff like the flying cars in my novel appeared in my head while I was listening to a song. So I suppose the answer is, it’s random.




  22. fireflyin says:

    I almost always start with plot. For me–not saying this is for anyone else–if I come up with a character first, I’m like, great. Now what do I do with this cool character? 🙂


  23. NovaSaber says:

    I’ve tried starting with plot first, and the result wasn’t good.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s