Thursday, December 21, 2006

Which comes first, the story or the character?

IN THE NEWS: On May 1st, China will begin restrictions on Americans who can adopt babies from their country. So apparently you won't be able to be an unmarried American anymore. Oh, and you won't be able to be fat or ugly either. (True story)

So as a writer, what comes first for you, your story idea or your characters?

I attended a writer's workshop a year ago where an author talked about having characters in her head that had to have their story told. Then when she sat down, her characters would just tell what would happen to them and the story would enfold from there.

Neat, huh?

Well, that's not me. Not usually, anyway. I really have to think and work HARD to create a character.

When I wrote A Role of a Lifetime, I started with just a scene in my head. I was at the playground with my daughter. There were kids going down this big tube slide and one of the mothers was having trouble showing her 2 year old how to go down and not to be frightened. So she stuck her legs in (trying to demonstrate), then turned to me and said, "Watch me get stuck."

Well, I laughed, and then I thought it'd be even funnier if a father got stuck in the slide. Even funnier if he was single father, trying to "show off" to a woman. Even funnier if he wasn't a father but a single man, with a large ego, trying to "show off" and got stuck in a slide. Even funnier if--well, you get the idea.

That simple encounter stuck with me. So I begin to work with it. I got out my handy GMC (Goal, Moitvation, Conflict) book and began to play "what if" and came up with Ben Capshaw, my hero.

That's what works for me. If I have an idea, the characters usually fall into place by the situation they're in.

What comes first for you?

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