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What came first: the character or the plot?

It’s one of those kinds of questions, which everyone has a different answer to, and one to which I can’t give you any proof for either side. What I can do is give you some examples, and see if they make any sense at all.

The great thing about characters, and also the worst thing, is that sometimes they write themselves. I am of the belief that you never truly create any character. I believe they come to you, willing to tell you their story, to put their life in your hands. You may not know everything about them at first. You may not even know where they came from or what their true intentions are. But, little by little, they give you more and more information, until you finally and fully understand who they are.

The character, then, being a living entity which you cannot control, often does that really annoying trick of pulling the tablecloth from under you. You might think you have a particular part of the plot sussed, or you think you know where it’s going, and all of a sudden your character will do something rash and unpredictable and you have to move around them. Or, no matter what you do, you can’t make your character do what you want, because it isn’t in their nature.

 

Example One: Delphi and the Air Stone

Without ruining any of the plot for those who haven’t read it yet, there is a particular scene in ‘Against the Elements’ in which I struggled enormously with her great sense of pacifism. After all the heroics, the battles, Delphi reaches the kingdom of Air. And sits and does nothing for almost half a chapter.

At the time, I was furious with her. There’s a world to save! People are relying on you! What are you doing sitting down and waiting?

Waiting? Yes. Waiting. Which is precisely what she did. She waited until the right solution came to her, and followed it through. I didn’t understand at first. When I got beyond that section, I realised that what she did was the smart thing, and that no amount of me forcing her onwards would have changed that.

 

Example Two: The Mystery of Onyx

I’ve written a very long series set in space, focusing on the adventures of a crew battling against mysterious forces. One of the main characters, Onyx, was a silent, still, solitary individual who would give me nothing to work with. I knew his characteristics and the way he behaved, but I never understood why.

The way the series works is in this fashion: each book follows a different crew member’s perspective, and so every book offers new light on every character. It wasn’t until I reached Onyx’s novel that he showed me everything. The floodgates opened, and all at once I saw, and I knew him. Everything made such sense.

 

Plot, on the other hand, is no such demon. Plot either comes to you, or it doesn’t. Sometimes I sit for months waiting for the solution to a complex plot problem. Other times, I can write forever.

Remember my two WIPs? ‘Son of Songs’, the graphic novel, and ‘Circle’, the unslayable beast of a novel. ‘SoS’ I could sit and write until the world implodes. ‘Circle’, on the other hand, is lumbering on and on and on. I know both sets of characters equally well – neither WIP has a character as unwilling as Onyx to share their secrets with me – but somehow, ‘Circle’ is a massive struggle of plot proportions.

I am not one of those people who plans plot timelines, or has cards to help me along. Plot hits me with sudden bursts – or it evades me for weeks at a time.

Of course, these are just my observations. What do you think?

There hasn’t been an update here for a long time, because I’m still in Thailand and I’ve been working very, very hard. Volunteering is a lot of work – fun, but difficult – and I don’t have a lot of down time to update. So sorry to all who have given up on the blog! Don’t lose faith! I am planning some writing tips, a character sketch or two, and a few insights into the world of publishing just as soon as I can get hand-to-keyboard to get it all down.

News. As you’re all aware, ‘Against the Elements’ has been out for over a month now (oh, thank you to everyone who’s bought and is supporting the Kindle cause!) and I promised you paperbacks within the first few weeks. Now, I spoke to IFWG Publishing and they told me that Amazon should have put up the paperbacks a long time ago. We’re currently trying to get hold of them to find out what’s wrong. Rest assured, there should be paperbacks at some point in the near future. Don’t fret!

In sad news, the IFWGP offices have been hit by a tornado. Many buildings have been destroyed; many people have lost a lot of things, including their livelihoods and their homes. My thoughts go out to all affected, and I hope in time rebuilding can take place.

Okay, now something a little more exciting. I’ve been approached by the Northern and Midlands Society of Young Publishers and Authors to speak at one of their events in the future! They are not only interested in ‘Against the Elements’, but they are also interested in IFWGP and the way it was set up. I’m very excited and honoured to be asked to speak, and I will have further details in the future.

If you have a review of  ‘Against the Elements’, please contact me. I would leave to hear your views and feedback, and it might just end up on this ol’ website.

If you want to interview me, or would be interested in being interviewed for the blog, the same applies!

‘Against the Elements’ has its own Facebook page. Make sure to ‘like’ it and share it with your friends.

I think that’s everything. Stay tuned!