07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Chicken or the Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? For writers, at least for me, it's which comes first, the story or the character? Nine times out of ten, at least for me, it is the character.

My first book, EZ Lovin', actually had a main character named Ezekial Zachariah McAllister. He stood against a wall, ten gallon hat in hand, looking like a young Sam Elliott. He smiled in that slow lazy smile that cowboys have and said, "Evening Ma'am."

I could not get him out of my mind. I sat down with my critique group and we played what if?
Found out he was actually working for the Feds and stationed in Boston. Talk about duck out of water! We discovered his partner and his boss, both of whom threatened to take over the story until I promised them their own book. What started out as one book ended as a trilogy.

There have been times when a character is an inanimate object. My novella, available now THE MAN IN THE MIRROR is loosely based on the musical The Music Man. Only instead of band instruments, I saw mirrors, specifically a wizard imprisoned in a mirror 200 years ago by his evil twin. This was also the very first paranormal I ever wrote. The cover is actually a painting done for me by my friend E.A. Garry.

Will the chicken and egg question ever be answered? I doubt it. For me it's the character first. What about you? Who are some of your favorite characters, and what made them your favorites?


Judith Ashley said...

Hi Elaine, It is a bit of both for me. My heroines come to me with their problems. My job is to show them ways to solve them. I've never had a character just show up nor have I ever had a plot pop into my head and then have to go looking for the characters.
I think I'm more character driven than plot driven because I know more about the people and their problems in my stories than I know about how they are going to fix the them.

Sarah Raplee said...

I've had it both ways - characters first and plot/situation first. As I develop the character or storyline, whichever part is missing grows organically from that original spark.

I think I could fall for your Mr. McAllister! Your books sound intriguing. Great post!

Tam Linsey said...

I'm with Sarah - my stories come to me both ways. A character without a good story is worthless, and a story with mediocre characters is the same.

ElaineCharton said...

Thank you Ladies!
The two times started with the situation was for books that were part of series the publisher I was with at the time was doing.
Sarah- EZ is one of my favorite heroes.

Judith- Usually it's the heroes who come to me with the problem. I figure because they're easier for me to figure out.

Tam- A character without a good story is worthless, and a story with mediocre characters is the same. I couldn't agree more. We just come at it from different angles. The joy of being a writer. Everyone finds their own way of doing things.

Shannon in Tucson said...

Hi Elaine,
I've had it come at me both ways too, but if I had to pick one, I'd say character is the most important.
When you look at series TV, like House, you know Dr. House inside and out, but how often do you remember the actual story of every episode?

Esther Mitchell said...

:) I simply adore EZ - and I love all the books in that series! :)

For me, mostly, it's characters. They whisper in my ears, tell me their histories and backstories, long before I know what their future story is going to be. I have a whole casting pool of characters still looking for their perfect story/mate. :) As for the stories themselves, that presents itself separately, a lot of the time, and then characters in my casting pool step forward to tell me that's THEIR story! lol Although, there's always the exception to the rule. :)

Donna Hatch said...

Usually I start with characters, but sometimes I start with a situation or plot, and then figure out the characters that go with it. Great interview and your books sounds fascinating!