Which Comes First…

Forums Fiction General Writing Discussions Which Comes First…

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    …your story, or your characters?

    Do you mentally create a vivid character, down to his hair color and what he ate for dinner last night, and then set out to write a story about him?


    Do you come up with a great idea for a story, plug in some characters, and then just “get to know them” as the story rolls along?

    Or do you go about your storytelling in some other way entirely? I’m curious.



    I think I’m more of the 1st.  I like to know EVERYTHING about my characters and really make them seem real.  I have tons of character ideas, but when I want to write about them, I have to come up with a quick story, which I don’t like to do either.  I like to know the details of both, but like I said, I usually come up with characters first (it comes more naturally).

    What about you?

    Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.



    I get a story plot/idea in my head. Then as I write it down, the characters form. (: Then they eventually take over the outline and lead. (:

    And to copy Ella, ‘What about you?’


    Passion = A Willingness To Suffer

    Josiah DeGraaf

    For me it tends to be a mix of both, but I tend to develop the story first and then develop the characters that would be a part of it. I tend to have both fairly developed by the time I begin writing my actual story, though.

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com


    @kimlikesart, you did a good job of describing what happens with me. Except I never completely let them take over. A little wrench-throwing is all that’s allowed.

    Taylor Clogston

    @zee Great question!

    I usually start with a mood, build that into a setpiece (usually the climax or very beginning of a story) with arbitrary placeholder characters, and then try to reverse engineer a plot in both directions. As I write the characters into scenes, they take on a life of their own.

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita


    Nice to know I’m not the only one who starts my stories at the end…or at least at the climax. I often have that “big scene” in my head, and then, to create the story, work back from it to what seems like a good beginning point.

    However, now that I’m a couple of books into my series, the main characters are much more fleshed-out and I have a much better idea of how these particular characters would move themselves toward the scene the story’s really all about. So it’s a lot easier.



    I do both. Sometimes, I take forever developing characters and stuff like that, and sometimes I have this huge, awesome plot thing going on in my head.

    Like you said, “big scene” is also something that I do.


    Life is short, smile while you still have teeth!

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