Today, Character Definitely Comes Before Plot
When I finished the first draft of my WIP and after I did the happy dance, I decided I was going to do some major plotting before I started on Draft 2. I had spent enough time with that exploratory first draft and now I wanted structure. Big time.
So I opened Scrivener and I started tossing in scenes, and I was happily and busily adding cards to my corkboard.
As happens all too frequently, I ran out of scenes–I ran out of ideas for scenes. When I hit this spot, I go back to character. My exploratory draft made me familiar with each of my characters in a sort of gray, blobby, nebulous way, but did not really put me in touch with what they want, why it matters, and–most important–what actions they’ll take to try and get there.
Today, I started working on the father character, someone I love a lot, but, no…don’t really understand. And I was drawing a blank, but taking a stab at who he might be and what his goal could possibly become, and I was only getting so far until…
I realized I was giving him a goal very similar to the goal of my MC’s would-be boyfriend. Oops. I almost gave up then, because you can’t have too characters with the same personalities and same needs, right? Wait…what if they start at the same point, but end up changing in very different ways–one much more successfully than the other? Then what you’ve got is…such a lovely word: CONTRAST! I mean we’re talking about the two men in the book, both of whose goals revolve around loving a woman (different women!), and we’re looking at one generation following the other and needing to do things very differently.
Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding!
From here, things took off–this glimpse of similar goals with different paths led me deeper and deeper into who these men are, who they need to be, and which–if either–is going to succeed. Along with why. And guess what…
Character led to plot.
I’ve set up maybe a half-dozen more scenes this morning and moved at least that many more around on my corkboard, because–as one thing happens, it sets off another. And when that thing happens, it sends something else into a new spot. And so on and so on and so on….
This, to me, is one of the best cures for writer’s block, backing up to the who ARE these people and what the BLEEP do they want? Yes, it involves some fixed-and-dilated starting at the computer. Yes, it means resisting the impulse to pound your head against your keyboard. Eventually, though, the wall cracks, and a brick falls down and then another brick and, finally, the story starts to come.
And, of course, that brings on yet another dance of joy.
Here’s hoping the productivity fairy zings her wand over your writing space today!