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!

The Between Space

Hello, hello!  I hope those of you who had a long weekend for President’s day got to do something fun.  My weekend was quiet.  Anyway, you know that space between being awake and being asleep, where you’re never sure if you’re dreaming or if something is really happening?  That’s what I want to talk about today.  It’s the place many of my story ideas come from.  It’s not an entirely pleasant place, but it’s useful.  Sometimes.  Often, it just likes to scare me silly.  I’m really curious about other people’s relationship with this space as well, so think about sharing your own experience with me.

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Either I’m not innocent or my stuffed animals are slacking.

First, I should probably mention that I’m not a visual thinker like a lot of people seem to be, I almost exclusively think in words.  People will ask me to picture something in my mind and I can’t.  The only time I can think in pictures is when I’m super tired and drifting in and out of sleep.  When that happens, I usually start out thinking in words and they gradually morph into a kind of dream/mental movie.  I guess that’s part of my attraction to this place.  It lets me work through things differently than I normally do.

I suppose the reason that I credit this space with a lot of my story ideas is because it’s a lot easier to remember details from these half awake dreams than it is when I wake up with an idea from a normal dream.  Those ideas tend to be vague scenarios that may or may not be interesting.  They’re good story seeds, but the ideas that bloom in that weird little realm between worlds are the ones most readily written.

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And that place certainly is dark enough.

Granted, my time spent in that realm more often than not leads to nothing other than a few scares (those stupid jolt awake moments) followed by my mind running through all the horrific scenarios of what could have possibly woken me.  It’s usually noises.  There’re the bumps and thumps of zombies trying to get inside.  Werewolves are not an uncommon expectation.  The train horn usually conjures thoughts of serial killers and creepy clowns jumping off the train and murdering their way through town.  Most people (at least according to TV and movies) wake up assuming the wind or something equally as mundane unless they hear something after the initial jolt.  Not me.  My mind automatically goes to death and destruction and knows the only reason I’m not hearing anything else is because the culprit is luring me into a false sense of security.  I might’ve watched and read too much weird stuff as a kid.

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These types of thoughts usually follow the paranoia.

So, whether I’m just hanging out in the middle of random thoughts waiting to be jolted awake or having a story bloom in my head, I have an odd love for that space between waking and sleeping.  I like seeing my thoughts unfold rather than just telling myself things.  What about you?  Do you enjoy hanging out in that little realm?  Does it let you see everything differently?  As always, feel free to comment here or on my social media pages!