Which Came First: The Story Or The Character?

Hello, hello!  One of the questions that authors often get asked is whether the story or the character came first.  It’s basically the writer’s version of the chicken or the egg causality dilemma, but there’s no satisfying scientific explanation for it.  There are actually a lot of different answers depending on who you ask, and in my experience, the answer is usually a little different for each story as well as each writer.  It’s part of what makes writing unpredictable and fun.  Even if I fall into a writing rhythm (which I like because it makes the words come easier), the path getting there is always a tad different.

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I thought a writerly version was more appropriate than the other cartoons I found.

For me, I usually get a nagging voice in my head that turns into someone who wants to tell me their story.  The story is full of plotholes and vague connections and is nothing worthy of paper, but I can’t tell them that.  They also have a tendency to talk about other people like I should know who these people are (pretty sure we all know someone who talks like that).  Gradually, a cohesive story forms in my head and new voices pop up to fill in the holes.  If I haven’t started writing by this point, it goes into a list of ideas to work on after my current project is done.  That almost always quiets the voices enough that I can get my other work done.

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To everyone who assumes I know everyone you do.

I guess that means that my answer is that characters and stories have a tendency to come simultaneously to me.  Those are also usually the stories that are easiest for me to write down.  But I will say that I don’t need a fleshed out story to start as long as the voice in my head is strong enough.  I can’t work on a story when the characters aren’t there, so even though they might not technically come first, characters are the most important element to me.

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I do occasionally have a voice that pops into my head without a story to tell (they’re my favorites, but don’t tell the others).  These are the ones I talk to at night when I can’t sleep, so I learn so much more about them.  I tend to keep them around until I find a story to slip them into.  I also have a few plots and worlds that have built themselves with no solid characters to take the reins (but these are rare).  So, like I said, each story gets born a little differently for me.

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Just in case you were wondering about my sanity.

That’s how it usually works for me.  The story and character more often than not happen simultaneously, but not always.  What about you?  Do the voices in your head tell you their stories?  Maybe they just prefer to have random chats until you find homes for them.  Or perhaps the plot comes to you and demands you create people to act it out with.  Whatever your experience, feel free to share your thoughts or stories here or on my social media pages!

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