How do you begin?

Do you start a story with the characters or the plot?

Sometimes one, sometimes the other?

Recently I sat down to create a monologue for a task set by my local writing group. A character from my work in progress seemed to look at me and ask what I was waiting for.

When I say a character, I mean ‘the villain’, though I hope she didn’t hear me say that.

I started by having her furious about something, and of course she was trying to hide her sense of outrage under the pretence of concern for her ‘friend’. (I use the term ‘friend’ loosely.)

At first it was fun, getting inside her head and poking around a bit. Then I started to understand what made her so nasty, and why she couldn’t escape from this part of her personality. I stopped feeling nervous around her, and I began to sense her need to change. She’s trapped in rudeness, no-one likes her, and she’s not happy. I feel as if I can’t change her unless she wants to change. (Yes, she’s very powerful and not putty in anyone’s hands!)

Some villains in books never change, do they? This particular lady is looking at me now, and I think she is asking for help.

It’s great being a writer.

We take what we know and what we understand, and we put these into stories.

Frog: (Hanging out in the garden)                                     

Ever get the feeling you don’t even understand yourself?


4 thoughts on “How do you begin?

  1. I always start with my characters. They live in my head and we discuss the story they want me to write. Sometimes, half way through writing, we all get together and I ask if they are happy with what’s happened so far. They are not backward in coming forward. The second draft always results in a tightening of their stance – a more refined arc. For me, the plot evolves out of the situations they find themselves in.

    • This is fascinating. I love the idea of consulting the characters to ask if they’e happy with what’s happened so far. I guess you are a ‘panster’ rather than a plotter. Am I right? Your red-pen editing book looks interesting. Is it available as a printed copy?

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