Character & Plot in Fiction

Writing question of the day: Regarding character and plot in your story, which one do you start writing first?

In my own writing, I have done both. I don’t think one is better than the other, but the important thing to realize is that both work in different ways.

I study children’s books, and I study adult books, and I find that either plot, or character, or in really great works, both, carry the work. I think of the children’s books I have loved, and there are ones on my Top 10 list that I remember more for plot (Bridge to Terabithia) or more for character (Charlotte’s Web, Ramona stories, Baby Sitters Club stories). Then there are the rare few that knock it out of the park in both (To Kill a Mockingbird).

It seems books based on plot are more likely one-and-done type books, where those based on character have the potential for creating future works (a la Harry Potter). But I don’t think that is necessarily always the case or most certainly should not be a deciding factor in how to proceed on your own work.

I have two current works in progress, and each has started differently. The picture book I am working on is based on true happenings from my childhood. It features me, a family friend, and his chickens. Those are the characters. It has a starting plot, but as I have been writing I find that I need to expand on it to fit the model of threes for picture books. The YA novel in verse has a character I have been developing in several different forms, and this one seems to fit him best. Now I have to develop the plot around him but with different settings than I have done previously.

What works for you?


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