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  • katdelorraine

What comes first: Plot or Character?


Rainy window with books on ledge

When you are ready to write a novel, which comes first- character or plot? Most writers would say either one or both. For me it is character. My argument is that it is hard (not impossible) to tell a story without characters. A strong protagonist must appear first. Sometimes they are based on real people and sometimes they are strangers to me. Once I have this essential character in mind, I simply put them on the page and see where they want to go. If the person is worthy of being the protagonist, they will create the plot. Other characters will come along as needed.


Warning! Beware of the nonessential characters or wannabes who show up. Think of them as hitchhikers-just looking for a ride without contributing anything.


As I have said in other articles, I am what is known as a pantser writer, who does not write from an outline. I let my imagination do the job. With a strong protagonist on board, I may or may not have a setting in mind, but I do not know how the story will go (no plotting). In creating Miss Lila’s Place, I did know the setting, and it helped create the plot. Still, a similar story could have happened elsewhere. Where the sequel in progress is concerned (still untitled), I have many of the same characters and parts of the location already established. On the other hand, with another of my novels entitled Who Rules? (not yet published), I did not know the location. I was surprised when the protagonist appeared and demanded I create an imaginary planet. Now that took some effort including research.


Let me leave you with a thought as a vote for character first. Let’s say there is an empty, abandoned town somewhere. Without people (not counting ghosts) living in it, there can be no stories happening unless you choose to write about the past.

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