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Endless
May 2nd, 2007, 02:33 PM
Hey folks. I know I'm surrounded by a lot of dedicated writers here, some of whom will have several novels under their belts already, and i'm just curious as to HOW you start building that initial idea.

Do you create a character then build a story around that?
Do you create a world and build a story into it?
Do you create a story then build the world and characters in to it?
Or a combination, or other methods?


I've used a combination of the above on different projects. My latest novel was created by first building the world, then the stories came naturally out of that (I think helping with its originality).

Just me being nosey ;)

JamesL
May 2nd, 2007, 03:50 PM
Hi Endless and welcome to sffworld!

It's a good question. I think the simple response is that you can use all three methods and see which works best for you. They are all equally viable.

From a personal point of view, I think I use a mishmash of all three approaches. I think generally I start with a plot idea and work on it from there, but it all comes to me in bits and pieces. I might think of a geographical place, or a character, or a plot device and store them for later use. Once I've created a mosaic of these bits and pieces of ideas, I can then start assembling them. It's a bit like playing with wet clay.

How about everyone else?

BrianC
May 2nd, 2007, 04:55 PM
The answer is yes :D

And actually one of my current projects began simply as a personal challenge to write a fantasy novel without using any human characters and no AD&D-type 'races'.

Ideas come in all sorts of ways, and how or whether I develop any particular idea in to something more is idiosyncratic at best.

Expendable
May 2nd, 2007, 05:30 PM
Sometimes I have a flash of inspiration (or ask myself what sort of person would whatever) and a character litterally pops out and introduces themself to me with an idea of a first draft or two stretching out behind them.

Sometimes I ask myself, what would happen if 'x' did 'y'.... and there's the begining of the story and my first handful of characters. Did this one today.

And sometimes I ask myself, what if this sort of world existed... and it does, ready for me to tweak it to bring forth villians, heroes, gods, demons and a lot of ordinary people.

It's really how you look at it. Character, world or story, one will beget the others at some point.

JamesL
May 2nd, 2007, 05:50 PM
Sometimes I ask myself, what would happen if 'x' did 'y'.... and there's the begining of the story and my first handful of characters. Did this one today.



I agree that is a good way to get started.

A while ago an idea for a character germinated in my mind while I was commuting home from work on the train. The character came to me so clearly. Immediately I automatically started to ask questions, which start to build a background. By the time I got off the train, I had a decent idea of who he was, where he was going and why. This provided a starting plot for my main plot.

Asking a character who they are, what they're doing and why they're doing it can yield interesting results.

MrBF1V3
May 3rd, 2007, 12:26 AM
I tend to start with a situation--there has to be something going on. Usually this takes the form of a sentence or two. Then I put characters in the situation. Then I work on what they will do now that they are in this situation. Then I turn over the magic 8 ball and roll a set of word dice ... oh wait, that's something else.:rolleyes:

I believe there are definite rules to good writing. It's just your rules are different from my rules, and my rules change every 27 1/2 minutes.

B5

Tony Williams
May 3rd, 2007, 04:14 AM
My two novels (so far) started in completely different ways.

The first (The Foresight War) is about an alternative Second World War. It came out of much reading and thinking about that conflict, and considering the "what ifs" and their consequences. Eventually I decided to write my thoughts down, and the format of an alt history novel came to mind. In order to make this work, I had present-day British and German historians inexplicably waking up in 1934, with enough evidence to convince their respective governments that they were genuine. The plot then followed through fairly logically; my main concern being to prevent the course of events from drifting too far from history. The novel is really about the ideas, the characters are there to carry the plot.

My second novel (Scales) started out with a dream which shifted into a waking daydream: that I was growing scales all over my skin. My daydream took off from there and I considered what might happen if someone suffered an accident which did cause scales to grow, and in addition acquired certain non-human abilities. I started to write about this, and got half-way through the novel before I become stuck and shelved it for a year, until another semi-daydream provided the inspiration for me to finish (including providing an explanation for why it happened in the first place!).

I have no idea, as yet, what my third novel might be like: I'm trying to avoid thinking about it until I finish my present contracts for non-fiction military technology books!

Stephen Palmer
May 3rd, 2007, 04:33 AM
Do you create a character then build a story around that?

I've never begun anything with a character, though the characters always come in early. When I was preparing and researching for Muezzinland, I had the idea of having my two main characters as the daughters of a terrible queen. The idea was based on Princess Diana, who at the time of writing the novel was in conflict with the royal family. This then got translated into a futuristic Africa.

Do you create a world and build a story into it?

My novels usually begin with a theme - say, environmental damage - and a visual image or impression. My debut Memory Seed began with just two mental images: a number of moss-covered rooves sloping down to a port town, and a heavily carpeted bordello that was a cover for some other organisation. From this, and from the idea of wanting to write a plant-based dystopia, came the novel.

Do you create a story then build the world and characters in to it?

I've never done this. I find plot comes from the characters and their interaction with the world.

Dawnstorm
May 3rd, 2007, 06:43 AM
Sometimes I have a flash of inspiration (or ask myself what sort of person would whatever) and a character litterally pops out and introduces themself to me with an idea of a first draft or two stretching out behind them.

Sometimes I ask myself, what would happen if 'x' did 'y'.... and there's the begining of the story and my first handful of characters. Did this one today.

And sometimes I ask myself, what if this sort of world existed... and it does, ready for me to tweak it to bring forth villians, heroes, gods, demons and a lot of ordinary people.

It's really how you look at it. Character, world or story, one will beget the others at some point.

It's like that for me, too. I couldn't say it better, so I won't try.

Oscuro
May 3rd, 2007, 08:27 AM
For me it's a combination of all. For me, the 'idea' is just a tiny springboard, as once you get into the story and have to fill in all the blanks, that initial idea can change and morph in ways you never anticipated. This is why I don't outline, I think it's too restrictive to the creative process.

For my first novel, the idea started with a doodle I sketched while on the phone--:D --so as I said, could be ANYTHING!