Thursday, April 5, 2012


Normally when I write something*, I have the Main Character already fleshed out in my head. I can hear their voice and have a pretty decent idea of how they are going to react to a situation. I'm not yet in love with him or her, but I'm in serious like with them. I draw their name in little hearts on the inside of my Trapper Keeper and imagine all the fun interactions they are going to have with other pretend people yet to be created. 

"Of course I like Amy. Not just like, but like like!!" 

The problem is, I used to be a pantser, and while the character was pretty well developed, the plot wasn't. I can't count the number of times I wrote a scene and then stared at the computer going, "Well, poop." There are literally dozens of sections in my WIPs where the words "SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN HERE" or "HOW THE HECK DOES THE MC FIND ANSWERS?!" appear.

And yes, they are in caps.

But hey, at least the MC is singing bright and clear with a unique voice, right?

Fast forward to a current WIP and the exact opposite is the case. Instead of pantsing this one, I actually sat down, drew a map, and gave the story clear, defined milestones. It was a first and, to be honest, has made the process of putting-words-to-digital-paper waaaaaaaaaaaay easier. But while the plot is clipping along, the MC feels a bit...bland. Like cold oatmeal eaten in a room with beige wall paper on a gray, Saturday afternoon.***

That said, I'm not too worried because that's the miracle of edits and revisions. Sure, at the moment my MC might be more Barney Fife:

Fear the mighty deputy. FEAR HIM! 
and less Snake:

So how'd he get his nickna...ooooohhhh.....

...but that's okay. This go-around, my primary goal is to focus on the plot in order to build the foundation of the house. Once that's complete, then I'll go back and paint the walls, add some nice accent pieces, and generally tweak all the parts needed to make the story a lovely little home. I figure I can always "Snake-Up"****** the MC once he and I feel better about the world he's operating in.

How about you all? Do you find that you start with a Main Character and then write the story around them or do you have the world/plot fleshed out and build the MC into it?

*and by this I mean a story, not a tweet, blog post, diary entry, prophecy, treaty, concerto, blood oath, etc.

**image courtesy of this site

***I know, I know. I've used this before. My Rolodex of similies is limited. 

****image courtesy of here

*****image courtesy of this place



  1. I tend to start with the MC in a particular situation and then write the story from there.

    For KAT AND MOUSE, though, I started with the Main Characters. I wanted to write stories in the vein of "XENA goes Cyberpunk" so I created Kat and Mouse. Then thought "what kind of trouble can I throw their way?" And wrote the stories from that.

    And at the same time, figured out the world they inhabit.

  2. I almost always start with the MC and build a world/story around him/her.