Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Story Creation Process

You cannot create a plot without a general idea of the characters who will perform the actions that move it. And you cannot create a character without a general idea of what will happen to him. So, you start with a premise that establishes the rudiments of both.

Where to go from there? When we view the question from the writer's standpoint, we see that the actions must fit the character and vice versa. This means only that there must be congruence. It doesn't mean that logic dictates we must start with character or with plot. Logically, we can start with either. But, practically speaking, we do need to spend more time developing character than plot at first. This is simply because we can create nothing from nothing. Characters are more complex than plots. And we create characters from memory. The brain is a database packed with memories of people we have met. These memories are the clay we mold fictional characters from. So, experience limits the kind of characters we can imagine. Also, we build a fictional plot from scratch, point by point, but we don't build a fictional character from scratch, one trait at a time. We build a character in chunks. Sometimes big ones.

That is why, after constructing a premise and a synoptic story map, writers sketch the characters involved. They add as much detail to their character bios as they can at this time. This gives them enough knowledge about their characters to start detailing the plot. While doing so, they turn back to their character bios as often as necessary to modify them or add detail. While doing so, they turn back to the plot as often as necessary to modify it or add detail. They may even have to modify the premise. There's no rote method to follow. Just make sure that in the end premise, characters, and plot have organic unity.

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