Monday, September 30, 2013

Weaving Plot and Character Together in Story Beginnings

If you've worried about how to formulate a story, worry no more. It doesn't matter if you start with character or plot first, according to Liesl Shurtliff in her WriteOnCon article on how character and plot work together. Just get those ideas going. Eventually they have to work together and the sooner the better. "If I have a great dynamic character in mind," Shurtliff says, "that character is sort of worthless if nothing interesting happens to them, or they don't make interesting choices. The same goes for plot. I might think up a great scenario, but that scenario will only be as interesting as the characters I develop to carry it out. The very best books take plot and character and work them together in order to build the most resonant stories."

To weave the two together, ask your characters what they want. Shurtliff tells, "The strength of your plot is held in the desires of your characters. Your main character should have an overarching goal and then several mini-goals along the way, which all drive toward the main goal in one way or another." She explains that character desires and motivations; their history, time, and culture; and external forces all affect character and plot. "Plot forces a character to make choices only they would make because of their motivations and personal history, for example. When you develop character and plot together, constantly asking how one affects the other, then you're more likely to develop a story in which readers are willing to completely immerse themselves--both the characters and the plot."

When you think about it, the following great ways to start your story--which I stole from Canda Mortensen--involve both plot and character:

  • Start on the day when everything is different in the world you've created or for the main character.
  • Start when your character must make a life changing decision.
  • Start when your character is avoiding a change.

Now get started without the worry and let those ideas come from your fingertips! You can always revise later--just don't think about that part yet.


J. A. Bennett said...

I like what you said about the character avoiding change. How often do we do that in our lives? I always feel like I have the worst beginnings, one of these days I'll figure it out :)

Renae Weight Mackley said...

Beginnings are hard to figure out. Most of the time we just need to start where our mind is at and rearrange things later. Glad you found something useful here. Thanks for commenting.