Dramaquill's All Things Writing

August 14, 2011

What comes first – the plot or the characters?

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I wonder if most people’s first reaction when reading the title of this post was, “Duh, the plot of course!”  And hey, maybe they’re right.  But for me, I seem to have much greater success developing new projects if I have a set of characters in mind first.

When writing plays for Slightly off Broadway’s drama department, just knowing whether the actors will be playing hillbillies or wizards sparks all sort of creative flow.  I can’t imagine trying to come up with the story first when the list of possible characters is somewhat endless. 

My inspiration for writing my first suspense novel was actually loosely based on something I had witnessed in the life of someone I knew.  My villain took on the characteristics of a handful of individuals I’d seen in action in disfunctional relationships throughout the years, be it my own or those of my friends and/or family.  My heroine became the culmination of three strong women, all of whom faced horrible circumstances and found a way to survive.  I think the hero is actually someone I wish existed.  I can’t imagine figuring out the plot of my story if I didn’t first get to know these characters.

Currently, I’m working on another suspense novel, and again, the characters prompted me to not only develop the plot but also helped me with the location.  The story morphed relatively easily out of just a few details about the lives of each of the characters.

Now it might sound like I’m saying that it isn’t the plot, but in fact it’s the characters that come first.  In my case, that does seem to be true – at least so far.  But I think this question, much like the “what came first – the chicken or the egg” question has lots of room for debate.

I’d love to have other writers weigh in on their experiences in regard to plot and characters.  Feel free to post to get the discussion going.

November 23, 2008

Nano’s not working out the way I thought

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As writers around the globe continue to scribble out page after page of their novels for the Nanowrimo challenge, I sit here, looking at the verbiage I’ve accumulated and wonder how any of it will ever become a book.

I have to question whether or not my decision to abandon my first idea and jump into a different one was wise after all.  I could feel the adrenaline rush as I planned out my suspense novel ideas, but I’ve spent the first three weeks of Nanowrimo doing character sketches, plots and sub-plots and starting the first chapter over several times.  I had already done this pre-nano work on my chicklit nove.

I’m definitely not going to end up with a huge word count.  In fact, I’ll be nowhere near the 50,000 word goal set out by the contest.  But I’m okay with that…I think.

I have spent a lot of time working out this new book.  I think I’ve come up with some neat twists in my plot and I also think my protagonist will appeal to today’s readers.

So I’m not going to look at my Nanowrimo participation this year as a complete failure.  Yes, I would have liked to accomplish the 50,000 word goal. Yes, I would like to have the better half of a first draft of a novel under my belt. 

But I have to be realistic.  It’s just not going to happen.

So, with the last week of Nanowrimo reving up, I’m just going to continue immersing myself in what I have so far and see if I can build my momentum until I end up with at least a good chunk of work. 

I’m not posting my word count until the final day.  I haven’t even checked it, to tell you the honest truth.  I want to be surprised.

I hope everyone’s Nano experience is leaving them with something positive. 

Any writing is better than no writing at all…right?

October 15, 2008

Muse Online Writer’s conference

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This week I’ve been online a lot, but not getting much writing or work done LOL

But it’s all good because I’m attending a free online writing conference and the wealth of information, discussion and chats is phenomenal.  This is my second year attending the event and I urge all of you to check it out and make sure you get signed up in plenty of time for next year’s conference.  You won’t regret it.

There are workshops and chats for everything:  kidlit, magic, worldbuilding, dialogue, character development, submission packages, querying, writing sex scenes, self promotion, creating a website, managing your “business” as a writer and more than I can remember or mention.

Here’s the link to this year’s event:


Check out everything they have to offer. 

I fully intend on donating at the end of the conference, as I did last year. 

So keep writing, keep reading and keep blogging.  As for me, you know what I’ll be doing for the rest of this week.

March 16, 2008

Getting inside your characters

We’ve all read articles aimed at helping us create more believable, three-dimensional characters.  We’re told to give them mannerisms or expressions that make them unique.  Most likely we’ve gone to coffee shops or food courts to people watch, scribbling character descriptions into our notebooks.

And that’s all good.  Listening and watching are two very effective ways to add depth and believability to the characters we create.  We want our readers to identify with them as people and care about what happens to them.  That keeps our readers reading.

I’ve tried something new for a couple of recent projects, one an MG book and the other a YA chicklit type novel and it has really helped me shape my main characters into “real” people.

I’ve created a journal for each of them – not the online kind but an actual, handwritten journal in a journal book.  Even picking out the book to use helped me define more of each character’s personality. 

My MG character half prints and half writes in her journal.  Sometimes she uses short forms, like the text message kind except they are her own creations.  My YA heroine likes to dot her i’s with little circles instead of dots and her writing is very feminine and flowing. 

I don’t write in the journals everyday, but whenever I’m working on an aspect of the story where my character might have something to say that won’t make it into the actual pages of the book, that’s when I let them journal.

Who knows – maybe some of the journal entries might end up in the manuscript, but I doubt it. 

But sadly, there’s one downside.  I rarely write or reflect in MY journal anymore.  Oh well.  Until I use myself as a character in a book, I guess it’s really not necessary…haha!

Try it and see if it works for you.

I’d love to hear from any of my readers who try this form of character development or those who have other ways to really get inside the heads of their characters.

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