Typing is a little difficult tonight, as my lap is entirely taken up by my poor sick cat. Normally I’d shoo her off, since it’s bloody hard to type over a cat without disturbing it, but tonight I haven’t the heart.
So with that said, let’s dive into this week’s very interesting question: When coming up with a new story, what comes first, the character or the plot?
Interesting as it is, the answer isn’t difficult. At least not for my debut trilogy, where I have most definitely had the characters well before I had the plot. The Ritual was very simple – I’d just started a fresh D&D campaign with a bunch of friends, and had managed to convince the DM to let me play two characters – a rogue with her sorceress twin. They were Chiarin and Shaniel right from the word go, and the story I originally started to write was simply an adventure with them in starring roles. I don’t even think it was meant to be their backstory, I just wanted to write about them.
With them as a starting point, I mainly introduced Zashter as a love interest for Rin. Making him another rogue was simply a convenient way for them to meet each other, and then just for the hell of it I added Miorev so Shani wouldn’t be a third wheel.
The subsequent story just grew. I just started writing and let the story go where it took me. I am such a pantser it’s unbelievable. I may have had some vague overarching ideas, but details? Nah.
And that would have been it, if I hadn’t suddenly got the idea of a son for Rin and Zash during a long car trip. That literally was the first thought – what if they had a child? And thus, Kailev was born. Since I write romance, Kai needed a love interest, so pretty quickly after that I came up with Veysita. I don’t know how I came up with the rest of it – Sita being a courtier versus Kai’s burglar background. All I knew is that at that point I’d already come up with Theft and Sorcery for the series, so with Rin being a thief, it made sense to make Kai be both a thief and a sorcerer. At that point I also knew it would have to be a trilogy to finish the theme – a third book where the protagonist was ‘just’ a sorcerer.
At that point I wasn’t even sure what gender the third protagonist would be. I mainly made him male to put people on the wrong foot and for variety. And once I’d come up with Mikolev, the plot really came very, very slowly. Several people have said that my third book is my best, but it certainly wasn’t the easiest. I’d say my second one was probably the easiest to write, and it is also my personal favourite. Mainly because I have an impossibly soft spot for Kai.
Anyway, I think the only story where I had the ‘plot’ before the characters was the very fanfic that I’ve posted here on my blog: A Shire Romance. The initial concept was something I’d dreamed up with a then friend, shortly after the first Lord of the Rings film came out, and it centred purely on what might have happened to Radagast after the end of The Lord of the Rings. He was the only one remaining of the five istari, what with Saruman dead, Gandalf off to the Undying Lands and Alatar and Pallando long lost in the east. Nothing either of us could find said what happened to Radagast, so we supposed he’d stayed on as a guardian of Middle Earth. From there we got to some sort of portal between Middle Earth and our earth, and only years later (long after the friendship had soured) did I decide to sit down and do something with it. Only then were Tamsyn and Perry born.
So yes, for me it’s almost always been characters first. I’m decent with characters, I think, and hopeless at plot.
Original post can be found here.