Not with your Twitter bio. That’s fine.
With your story and the weird people inside it.
My friend and fellow writer Renee Miller (aka The Killer Whisperer) wrote a post recently about the source of her inspiration. And a thing she said reminded me of the main problem I’m facing with my own story — I started creating it ass-backwards.
I’m a character person. I believe in character driven stories. I love digging into people’s heads and unearthing their darkest secrets and most terrifying fears (fictional people, yes, don’t worry, I’m not that creepy). Everything’s about characters in my world.
But when I came up with the story I’m toiling at since spring last year, I came up with the conflict first. The problem, the situation, the twisted hair-raising clinch. After that I came up with the world and setting, and only then—as I was already drafting—with the actual profile of the characters. Oh I had the story plotted and “mapped out” before I began writing, but the characters were mere sketches. They started taking on a real personality, background and motivation when the story was already rolling. Heck, some of the best motivation and deepest psychological flavors came to me only after the first draft was done.
Imagine my pain!
Remember I’m a perfectionist.
NOW imagine my pain.
It’s SO hard to rewrite the thing and stay true to the conflicts and plot (which were pretty okay from the start), while making the sketchy characters evolve and grow into it, and giving them their individual edge without breaking the story. It’s fucking insane to weave in the true depth of their motivation AFTER you’ve already written down their choices and key actions.
I swear I won’t ever do this again!
One learns new shit with every challenge, ey?
I couldn’t give up on that conflict and change it to suit the characters. And I couldn’t force the characters to fit into a mold either. So the only thing to do was to explore what these characters—which evolved as the story grew—would actually do if they were faced with this insurmountable conflict. And the result was sohohooo much better than my initial vision! Only the writing work remained to be done, which is what I’m doing right now.
But man, what a pain in the backside!
Characters… conflict… it’s really somewhat of a chicken-and-egg thing. They must be developed together, at least in my brain, preferably before writing the draft. Because I don’t want to go through months of doubt and irritation like that again. That’s what good outlines are for.
How about you?
Where did you start out with your WIP? Has that changed from previous books you’ve written?
And seriously, where did you come up with your main characters? Did they evolve out of the story, or the other way around? Are they based on real people, or are they a mix of features you observed throughout your life?