I have a treat for you all today! Melodie Campbell, aka "Funny Girl" gives us her slant on which comes first - character or plot. Her answer may surprise you but it will definitely delight you!
Plot or Character – Which Comes First? The Literary Slut Comes Clean…
I’m not a slut, I swear. (Okay, maybe a Literary Slut, in that I write in many genres, but that is ALL.) So it rather shocked me when my character Rowena started acting in a manner that I personally would not have dared consider for myself. It was, however, quite natural for her, and essential for my plot.
Which brings me to a favorite discussion topic shared by fiction writers in all locales… if plot is the chicken, and character the egg (or eggs), which comes first?
As an author and teacher of writing, I always recommend starting with plot.
Here’s what I do: I devise the plot in my head, and then figure out what sort of characters I need to make the plot work. I hear other authors state that they start with character, but I don’t. To me, plot is king. ‘Tell me a story.’ That’s the mantra I chant and live by.
It could be that genre has an influence here. I cut my publishing teeth in two arenas: the mystery short story and the newspaper humor column. In both cases, I didn’t start writing until I knew the ending or the punch line at the end. A good mystery takes clever planning and marches with confidence toward (hopefully) a sizzling conclusion. Believe it or not, comedy writing is similar, in that it is remarkably disciplined. You picture a funny situation. Then you work at finding the words to make your scene (your plot) come to life. The end has to be sharp, has to ‘leave ‘um laughing’. That takes careful planning.
In writing A Purse to Die For, the mystery plot was foremost. The plot itself is not funny – it is a classic Agatha Christie style whodunit. But the characters – well, that’s where I put my comic relief. Sly wit was the goal here. Put a bunch of greedy characters at the funeral of a rich relative, and watch the delicious sarcasm fly!
But even when I am writing romantic comedy and fantasy, my training has made it so that plot gets top billing. The conflict that makes up my plot will usually signal who I need to people the tale. In Rowena Through the Wall, I wanted someone who had the guts to walk through the wall in the first place. The plot needed a character who was spunky, who was smart, and who would be the cause of a lot of hot passion among the guys on the other side of the wall. Magic was going to be a player in the plot, which allowed me to give my gal a little power. So…a smart, spunky girl becomes a veterinarian with a certain power over animals…an ‘animal whisperer’ on steroids, so to speak. Thank you, Plot, for showing me my protagonist!
What about the other characters? Now – who would attract a woman like Rowena? (Remember: smart, sexy, spunky.) Obviously, someone worthy; I would need strong male characters with vivid personalities, very different from each other. Perhaps some with special gifts and maybe one with evil powers. Thanks again, Plot - there’s my antagonist!
The funny thing about starting with plot is that some reviewers have said that characterization is a strength of mine. I attribute this to the fact that when you create strong plots with lots of conflict, your characters become vivid to support the action. They become who they need to be. They almost tell you themselves how to write them.
And this is why we sometimes hear, ‘my characters wrote themselves.’ Well, maybe not exactly. But right now I’m having a pretty good argument with Rowena about whom she is going to end up with. Darn, that girl can be stubborn.
A Purse to Die For
What’s more treacherous than navigating a pack of society matrons at a designer sale?
Stalking a killer…
“A delectable concoction of savory and unsavory characters, sex, delicious humour and suspense” Garry Ryan, Award-winning author of Malabarista
Available in ebook at Amazon.com
Paperback to follow
Rowena Through the Wall
“Is that a broadsword on your belt, or are you just glad to see me?”
“Hot and Hilarious!” Midwest Book Review
“Jack Sparrow meets Stephanie Plum” Former editor, Distant Suns Fantasy Magazine
Available at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and European Amazon sites.
Melodie Campbell has been a bank manager, marketing director, comedy writer, college instructor and possibly the worst runway model ever. Melodie got her start writing comedy, so it’s no surprise that editors have called her fiction “wacky” and “laugh out loud funny”. She has over 200 publications and has won six awards for fiction. She was a finalist for both the 2012 Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards and is the General Manager of Crime Writers of Canada.
Follow Melodie’s comic blog at