Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Way We Are: The First

Every single novel had a teeny little beginning. The initial spark of an idea. That thing that came very first that made your brain go crazy with the possibilities of where to take it.

Thinking of your WIP, what element came first for you? 
Plot, Character(s), or Setting?

If you had asked me this question and I had to spurt out an answer without giving it any thought first, I would have shouted, "Plot!" (Because you tend to shout when someone tells you to spurt an answer.) As I actually thought about it, though, it's so not plot for me. It's setting! In fact, when I look at every book I've written, it's been setting every single time. I'm not 100% sure why it is that way for me. Maybe because I like to travel, but don't get to often. Maybe it's because I love when a book takes me somewhere unique. And for the setting to truly effect every aspect of the story, it has to be in my mind from the very beginning.

So now it's your turn! And since a) we haven't done this for a while, b) I'm home writing today, and c) I love pictorial representations of random questions, I say we do this as a picture graph!


Several times during the day (and tomorrow, too), I'll update the graph based on your comments.

Ready, set, go!



P.S. Thanks so much to Colin D Smith for the Versatile Blogger Award, and to Kelley at Between the Bookends for the Two Thumbs Up From a Skunk Award! I feel honored, guys. Thanks!

58 comments:

Cristina said...

Characters!!!!!!!

Clarissa Draper said...

I write code based mysteries so for me, I write the code first then think up the characters who would write such a code then wrap a story around that. SO I guess for me, it's PLOT because the code is vital to the plot.

Tracey J said...

What an interesting post, Peggy. I always imagine the characters first then the plot and setting.

Deana said...

Mine started from a scene in my head, but what stuck out in that scene more than anything was the setting for sure...so that's what I'm going with:) How fun! CAn't wait to see where this goes!

Leigh Ann said...

Hmmm...It's funny, I'm just like Deana. I had a whole scene in my head - boy and girl walking together alongside Nebraska cornfields at sunset, then holding each other tight and flying off over them - so that pretty seamlessly incorporates all the elements.

But I guess I'd had the *idea* of the story in my head a split second longer than that, so I'll say PLOT. :)

Kelley said...

Oh geez. This has varied between my MS.

The first: Setting
Second: Plot
Third: Plot
Fourth: Characters

But since the fourth MS has the best shot of 'making' it, lets just go with Characters. I think perhaps that is the way I should write since this forth MS can so easy to me.

And your welcome for the award!

Delia said...

Oh jeepers. Umm...I'd have to say, character, plot, plot, character. Though, the writing goes much better when character comes first, so I suppose I'd go with that. I can say with complete confidence that it has never been setting. I stink at descriptions and often have to go back and add setting.

Cherie Reich said...

I'd have to say the characters came first. Now, to pick second and third, it would be much harder because sometimes I get a plot and sometimes I get a setting and sometimes they are so intertwined that it's the whole "chicken and egg" thing. :)

Misha Gericke said...

Characters. Usually one character that gets me curious about the others. :-)

Tonja said...

It depends on the story.

Amanda Olivieri said...

For the current WIP it was definitely the setting :)

Joshua said...

Two out of the three I'm currently working on: Setting.

The third that I just started: Plot.

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I usually start with plot, but the manuscript I've been working on began with the characters. I don't ask, I just go with it.

S.P. Bowers said...

I usually start with characters. I guess that's why I'm not a plotter. I never know the plot.

Steph Sessa said...

For me, I knew I wanted to write about Fae; faeries and elves. So I'm not sure if that's characters or setting, but more a genre. I guess when you get down to it, it's setting, because I knew I wanted a world switch from reality (or I guess urban fantasy) to the fantasy world.

Ruth Josse said...

Setting. Which is weird because I suck at world building. But I always start with a picture of a place in my head. Or sometimes the feeling of a place.

Nina Pelletier Powers said...

Plot first, definitely. I have a helluva time with setting and characters, but I usually have the situation worked out.
Excellent post!

J. A. Bennett said...

Plot! The other two came naturally once I had the plot down.

Patti said...

My first two books were all about plot, but my second was about character.

Melanie Fowler said...

I guess mine was first the characters, then the place and then I set the plot.

Laura Barnes said...

Plot! The other two are easy for me, but I can't write if I don't have an idea of where I'm going.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Cristina-- I've got you down!

Clarissa-- Ooo! Interesting! I've got you down for plot.

Tracey-- Thanks! Okay, I've got you down for characters.

Deana-- Okay, I've got you down for setting, then. I can't wait to see where it goes, either!

Leigh Ann-- Do your story ideas seriously come fully formed? If so, color me jealous. :) I've got you down for plot.

Kelley-- Interesting! I love that you've experienced all three, but found one that works better for you than others. I have you down for characters.

Delia-- Even though mine is setting, I used to always go slim on the descriptions. But there's this one person in my writing group that LOVES description more than anything, and he said almost every meeting, "There wasn't enough description." I started putting it in there *just* so I didn't have to hear that sentence at our meeting. :) Eventually, it became much more natural. I wanted to cry the first time he said, "The description was really good!" I have you down for character.

Cherie-- I have you down for characters. And I almost went the whole chicken-and-the-egg theme on this post! You're right. A lot of times it's hard to tell which one actually came first.

Misha-- Fascinating! I have you down for characters.

Tonja-- I totally get that. I started one story, but had to put it on the back burner. It started with plot, because that's what it needed. (But setting was 1/2 a second behind that! Apparently, I really like setting.)

Amanda-- :) I have you down for setting.

Joshua-- Wow! You are CURRENTLY working on three? That's impressive! I've got you down for both plot and setting.

Cynthia-- I've come to where I don't ask, I just go with it, too. It all works out better that way. ;) I've got you down for both plot and characters.

S.P.-- Your comment made me laugh! I'd be willing to bet that a lot of pantsers start with characters. It seems like the most natural way. I've got you down for characters.

Steph-- I love it! I have you down for setting.

Ruth-- I hear you! I have you down for setting.

Nina-- I think that people generally have one that they excel at, and others that hey really have to work at. I have you down for plot.

J.A.-- Ooo! I like that! It's good when two come naturally after you get the first. I've got you down for plot.

Patti-- I didn't know what to put you down for, so I did both plot and character. :)

Emma Pass said...

Characters! Even if I have a vague idea for a plot, it won't come alive until the characters turn up.

brandycolbert said...

love this! and i agree with emma - definitely characters for me.

Emily R. King said...

Characters, then plot, then setting. For everything I've ever written, it starts in this order.

Laura Josephsen said...

That is an awesome graph. :D

I am totally a character author. Characters typically determine how I write the plot--or what the plot is. Plot and setting are absolutely necessary, but if there aren't characters that captivate my attention, I could read a brilliant plot with the best setting and not want to read much more of it. It's all a balancing act--making sure your story has everything it needs, because different people will be drawn to different things.

But definitely, characters for me. :D

JeffO said...

The MS that I'm revising in preparation for query (is it still called a WiP at this point?) started with a character. I had no idea what was going to happen, but I knew I had to write about this character.

The newer WiP started with a plot. Or more correctly, a situation. So I guess that's a plot. I've actually had a couple of ideas that are plot-centered, but never had anything that started with a setting.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Melanie-- Nice! I've got you down for characters.

Laura-- I'm the same way! It doesn't always mean that plot comes first, though. It just means it has to come before I start writing. :) I've got you down for plot.

Emma-- Good point! I've got you down for characters.

Brandy-- Thanks! I've got you down for characters.

Emily-- Ooo! I love that it's in the same order for you every time! Very interesting. I've got you down for characters.

Laura-- Thanks! I totally agree that if the characters don't captivate you, you don't care much about everything else. They just aren't my first thought. ;) And yes! It's definitely a balancing act. I have you down for characters.

Jeff-- Yes. If you're still working on it, you can totally call it a WIP. I love that you had a character you just had to write about! Since you have two WIPs, I've put you down for both character and plot.

Krista M said...

Hmm... I think it was my main character, Edom, that came to me first. Then the plot followed closely after that, but he's a very unique character and I really like him. :)

Angela Cothran said...

The twist in my story came to me first, so I guess I would say PLOT :)

Stacy Henrie said...

Can I say all three? :) Probably setting first, then plot and characters.

Lance said...

Character... My characters rules the universe, where they go (setting) is based on what they are doing or effecting (plot) but with out the character to guide it all the others are just pretty landscape, and people i don't care to know doing things i don't care about.

David P. King said...

Mine tend to begin with a general concept. For example, a magic helmet. Then I create the setting, characters, plot, etc around that concept. It's good to have something (or someone) to have your story revolve around. :)

Jo said...

I think I would go with "characters"... I've been quietly playing around with a story for the past long while where I'd written a quick 3-paragraph response to something, and the girl in the scene kept whispering to me, "Please don't leave me here." (lol I think "other writers" is the only group of people who will not think that sounds weird and in need of therapy.) But, she wouldn't leave me alone...

Rebecca Belliston said...

Setting for me thus far. It's interesting to stop and think about it, because you're right in that I would have never guessed that. Glad to know we have something in common. :)

Jessie Humphries said...

How do you have 35 comments already at 10:00 in the morning? Wow, girl. What was the question again? Oh yeah, I think I started with plot on this one.

Carrie Butler said...

Characters. Always the characters. The rest unfolds around them. :)

Shallee said...

Interesting question! For me, it's actually concept...which can sort of include all three elements. It's usually plot-related, though.

Found it interesting with my most recent story, though, that I had a plot concept for one story, a setting for another, and a character for a third...and none of them worked until I combined them into one story!

Maggie said...

Setting and characters for sure. Plot is not my thing.

Charlie Holmberg said...

The magic system, ha.

Iain said...

You’re making me get to the point where I have to start questioning everything. I was certain that it was plot. But on reflection, it’s not. The location is key to the whole plot. Without the location, the story wouldn’t have the (for want of a better word) twist. (It’s not really a twist, more of an odd solution to the puzzle.) A throw away comment on a tv programme about a geographic oddity set the whole story in motion.

Imogen said...

I have to give two answers. Characters and setting come first for me. Sometimes characters, sometimes setting, but never plot. I hate plot. Why does a book need plot anyway? Haha

Peggy Eddleman said...

Krista-- Ahh. I love MCs that are unique and easy to fall in love with! I have you down for characters.

Angela-- Ooo! A twist! I love it! I have you down for plot.

Stacy-- No, you can't! And it's not because I'm jealous that you get all three come to you at once. ;) It's because you guessed maybe setting, and I heart setting. :)

Lance-- Ah, yes. Characters that rule the universe definitely... rule the universe. They're what make you care about everything! I have you down for characters.

David-- That's fascinating! I love it! But it doesn't fit into my neat little lines of my graph. I guess in a way, it could be considered all three. :)

Jo-- Oh! And how can you turn your back on Please don't leave me here! I can see why you didn't. I have you down for a solid "characters."

Rebecca-- Aaa! We're right in the same place! So very awesome! My first-spark buddy, you. I've got you down for setting.

Jessie-- You know, it's not 10:00 in the morning EVERYWHERE. ;) I've got you down for plot, because your plot rocks!

Carrie-- Awww. It unfolds around them. So poetic! I've got you down for characters.

Shallee-- I love that you combined three stories to make one! It sounds so perfect! Brandon Sanderson said that was pretty much how Mistborn came to be. He took a world from one book, a magic system from another, and the MC... I think she may have been new. So fascinating when that works out! I have you down for plot.

Maggie-- Haha! PLot is definitely hard! I've got you down for both setting and characters.

Charlie-- I love an interesting magic system! I don't know how to categorize that, though. Is it setting? Because the magic wouldn't work in another world? Or is it plot, because it affects it so much? I guess it could even be character if it was something unique to that character...

Iain-- Yes! Someone else who immediately assumed plot, then decided it was setting! Mine is similar. It's kind of a twist, but not really. Definitely a huge factor, though. I love that a single comment can inspire an entire book! I have you down for setting.

Imogen-- Hahaha! I know, right? It's just a pesky thing. ;) I have you down for both characters and setting.

Caroline Carlson said...

My stories almost always start with setting. I thought this was really weird, though, so I'm relieved to see I'm not alone!

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Current WIP - plot, character, setting.

Project on deck - setting, plot, characters.

Project idea I just had - characters, plot, setting.

Hmmm...and that's why I don't do math - my ideas never fit in graphs :)

J.L. Campbell said...

That's pretty cool that you get the setting first. I'd love to yell character, but now that I think about it, it may be that a situation occurs to me first and then the character who's gonna play the starring role comes after.

ladonna watkins said...

Plot! Hands down.

Jillian said...

It's plot for me, though 'concept' might be a better term since unfortunately I usually don't know the ending.

Colin Smith said...

Mmmm... not sure how to answer this. You see, my WIP started with a "what-if": what if a teenage alien landed in Victorian London? So it was really a concept. I didn't have a plot. I had a setting, but it wasn't so much the setting that inspired me. In fact, my very first thought was a teenage alien in medieval London. But I thought Victorian London would be a more interesting play on the concept--so the setting was subservient to the idea. And the character, the actual alien, came last.

So, there's my answer. Sorry it's not more neat and clear-cut. :)

Adam Heine said...

Setting. I am very much a world-builder first. (And to Charlie who said magic system, I would personally put that firmly in setting as well :-).

Connie B. Dowell said...

Characters. Weirdly enough, it wasn't the protagonist who came to me first. It was a major character but not the main character. I came up with him later and then he started taking the story over, causing me to rewrite the beginning.

Kristine said...

If I was a writer right now - it would be plot. Mostly because character development isn't something I'm strong in. With more education and learning, that's where I'd *like* to start!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Caroline-- I was relieved to see so many others started with setting, too!

Tasha-- I had no idea where to put you, so I just put you in all three. ;)

J.L.-- I love that! The character who's going to play the starring role. Since you said the situation comes first, I put you down for plot.

Ladonna-- Awesome! I've got you down for plot.

Jillian-- That's totally fine! I'm sure everyone who put down character didn't totally know the character from the beginning, and as a setting-sparker, I know very well how much of the setting WASN'T included in that initial spark. It was the teeniest spark, really. A miniscule fraction of what it was to become. I've got you down for plot!

Colin-- That is so interesting! And so very not clear-cut. ;) Okay... I'm going to put you down for character, since your first spark of an idea was of a teenage alien, but the initial spark of a setting was changed. Sound okay?

Adam-- Ahh. I heart world building. Makes me all wistful just thinking about it. And thanks for helping me out on the magic system! I have Charlie down for setting now, and you down for setting as well.

Connie-- Ooo! Very interesting! I love it. I've got you down for characters.

Kristine-- You seem like someone who would be strong in the plot category. I've got you down!

Kim said...

Wow! You have a very active community here, Peggy. :-)

If I were a fiction writer, I would say that, like you, I think about the Setting first, then Plot with only a few major characters, then the rest of the Characters last.

But I'm a teacher who is currently writing a non-fiction book. So when I think about what I'm writing I try to organize it in the same way as I would teach a lesson: Start with the key concepts, organize them in a logical fashion, flesh them out a bit, and then add great story-telling (true stories) to drive the concepts home.

Lan said...

Aww I'm going to have to be generic and say that the characters always jump out at me first :) I mold everything else around to fit them!

Peggy Eddleman said...

Kim-- And everyone's awesome to boot! I'm quite lucky. And yay! Setting first! Your non-fiction methods sound pretty incredible themselves.

Lan-- What? That's not generic! I often wish I got characters first. I've got you down.

Lynn(e) Schmidt said...

Usually, it's the character's voice that comes to me first. She or he will talk to me for about a month, a week..however long it takes before she or he completely eats my brain, chews, until my fingers vomit on the page...in their voice.

Writing bugs, aren't they grand? :)

Melony said...

Plot! For my WIP....for several of my others it's been Characters.