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biggiraffe
August 5th, 2006, 03:45 AM
Hi

I'm writing a story that, if I am honest, is based more on an idea I am attempting to prove, than a character. The initial premise for my story was to prove that it's better for the world as a whole if we are all less fearful and more open minded. Then I developed some characters to fit this premise.
My question is, have I gone about this the right way? If I'm writing a strong character based story, should I create everything from the character up?

I remember reading somewhere that if one finds themselves writing a story based on trying to prove a political idea, belief, etc. then they best thing he can do is ditch that story. Why? Because he won't be writing from the viewpoint of the character(s).

Thanks for your help

P

Michael B
August 5th, 2006, 04:03 AM
Hi

I'm writing a story that, if I am honest, is based more on an idea I am attempting to prove, than a character. The initial premise for my story was to prove that it's better for the world as a whole if we are all less fearful and more open minded. Then I developed some characters to fit this premise.
My question is, have I gone about this the right way? If I'm writing a strong character based story, should I create everything from the character up


In my view you have started in the right way. Characters can come and go, but the basics of the plot still remains. Recently I rewrote most of a story from the position of a different character because I wasn't happy with the original work.

That is not to say that you can not do it from the other direction, but I can't think of a case where I have done that. Recycle characters yes, but write a story for one? I am not sure I can do that.

JamesL
August 5th, 2006, 05:47 AM
My characters and plots/storylines/backgrounds both seem to happen roughly at the same time.

But you can start with either. Develop a plotline and work characters into it, or alternatively start with a character. Ask yourself questions about the character to find out more about a potential story.

For example, if you imagine a character who is on the run and living as an outcast, you can ask: who is he on the run from? Why? What happens if he gets caught? Why did he choose the place that he did to hide?

From this series of questions you can build up a picture of the character and a possible plot.

Dawnstorm
August 5th, 2006, 07:22 AM
I'm writing a story that, if I am honest, is based more on an idea I am attempting to prove, than a character. The initial premise for my story was to prove that it's better for the world as a whole if we are all less fearful and more open minded. Then I developed some characters to fit this premise.
My question is, have I gone about this the right way? If I'm writing a strong character based story, should I create everything from the character up?

I don't know you, so I can't answer that. It depends entirely on how your mind works. And then it depends on your set of priorities for the story.

So, the first question to answer: What's more important to you: vivid characters or the premise?

Second question to answer: How does your mind work? Do you latch onto a goal and forget anything not directly related? (If so, choose either character or premise, depending on answer to question one. Make vivid characters and editing goal. And if that doesn't work you can always re-inforce the premise even more, making it clear that the characters are *not* the point of this one.) Do you get distracted easily by the roses along your way? (If so, it doesn't matter much which way you start as the story will probably develop in ways you didn't expect anyway.)

Always remember that all you have after finishing the story is a first draft, which can be edited to your heart's desire/mind's plan.


I remember reading somewhere that if one finds themselves writing a story based on trying to prove a political idea, belief, etc. then they best thing he can do is ditch that story. Why? Because he won't be writing from the viewpoint of the character(s).

I remember reading lots of things about writing. They're not rules. Take what's helpful and discard the rest.

***

Personally, I create premises, plot elements, characters, themes, stylistic ideas... all start out separately. Sometimes they meet and spark a story. Some of those sparks sizzle out, and some become stories.

Sometimes character takes precedence (like in my current WIP), and sometimes it's the premise. Even from personal experience I couldn't really answer your question.

I do distrust pre-made solutions, anyway. All that matters is what *you* want to do (or someone else wants you to do, if you're writing for a specific purpose), and how *you* can achieve that.

If you start with the premise than that's probably the right way to go about it. Start worrying when you get stuck. Or if it doesn't work out the way you want it to.

biggiraffe
August 5th, 2006, 08:40 AM
Thanks for the advice

I suppose another way of saying what I don't want to do is create characters so I can use them to lecture my readers on real life issues that concern me. I have, like anyone else, issues that fire my passion, so I feel an urge, through fictional characters, to write about them. I just wasn't sure if this was the correct approach to make. If I have something to say, maybe I should write non-fiction, or get a soapbox.

To Dawnstorm; thanks for your common sense advice. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I'm still not sure yet; I am one of those undisciplined writers who is bad at planning/staying on course, but whose mind is like a road that constantly comes to junctions of myriad ideas going off in all different directions - a wayward imagination I'm sometimes told.

Thanks again

P

MrBF1V3
August 6th, 2006, 01:10 AM
My question is, have I gone about this the right way?

P

The question being; is there a right way to write a story?

The answer is, maybe, but no one knows what it is. Do what works.

Usually I start with character and situation, theme seems to creep in there somewhere, and I will go out of my way on subsequent rewrites to make sure there is something like a theme in there. But that's me, and I'm not always consistant. Do what works.

B5

KatG
August 6th, 2006, 04:34 PM
Excuse me a minute......Aaarggghhh! Okay, me beter now. First off, for the duration of your thread, you are not allowed to use the words "right," "correct" and possibly not even "should." We'll have to see.

Now back to the issue on hand -- the info you may have read about character-based and plot-based stories is, IMHO, mostly bunk. It's borne out of that deep need to classify things into neat categories that people seem to have. (You have to be in Column A or you have to be in Column B. This is the same logic that assumes that comedy can't be dramatic, but that's another topic.)

Character and plot are locked into a complicated interactive dance in a story, but what can vary is the focus. Some stories are very tightly focused on internal character struggles (nominally character.) Others are more focused on the impact of events (nominally plot.) Many, many stories focus on both.

So if you want vivid characters, and you have an interesting theme which you want to use the characters to explore, what's the problem? Especially when that theme has to do with emotions -- fear -- which is something that will have to be conveyed through characters in any case. Who cares if the chicken or the egg came first.

If we threw out all the stories that started from premise ideas, we'd have to pretty much throw out most of science fiction and healthy chunks of fantasy. There are some authors who always start with characters, and some who always start out with a plot premise, or a setting. But most writers vary from project to project.

For instance, I had an idea for an unusual character. I wanted to do a short story around that character and it would have to be a mystery story. So I had to come up with a plot -- a short plot, so I could play with the character. On another project, though, I wanted to explore a theme concerning clashing cultures, and had a very unformed idea about a possible culture for it. I had to come up with all the characters who would serve to explore that theme. This frequently happens for authors who are doing a tight internal character focus -- they have a theme, they create the character to express the theme. I personally feel lucky whenever I have a definite character or plot premise idea, rather than some nebulous, I don't know where this is going urge. I break out the champagne.

It is entirely likely that you can lecture to the audience either through the characters, via both dialogue or internal thoughts, or through the plot events. But sometimes the audience likes being lectured to -- or at least some of them do. And even if that material doesn't seem to be working too well, it may be more how you are presenting it, rather than that it shouldn't be there at all. But however you do it, all authors have agendas and both plot and character serve those agendas, so if you have some sort of plot and some sort of characters, you "should" be fine.

The big question is: how are those characters doing with their fears?

JBI
August 6th, 2006, 05:54 PM
Depends on the kind of story you are writing. A story where the setting is the most important thing like The Lord of The Rings, a character story like Roger Zelazny's Amber series, an idea story like a mystery, or an adventure? If it is a character story, you must start with the characters, if it is a setting story, you must clearly outline your setting first. Mystery and adventure are a coin toss. It really depends on your style and your story.

James Barclay
August 6th, 2006, 06:20 PM
Premise, plot idea, story, whatever you call it. That comes first IMO. Your characters can be the most interesting ever, but if they are engaged in a dull story with no legs to it, they will fail.

Characters illuminate stories, they bring them to life. They make your premise flesh for your readers. But alone, they are of little use.

However, that does not preclude you from creating a magnificent character and having them find a great story to tell... but even in that event, the premise is greater than the character because the character still needs a vehicle in which to thrive.

NOM