Sunday, July 1, 2012

Which Comes First Plot or Character?

               What sparks the creative urge in novelists is as individual as our books.  I’ve heard and read writers who said they couldn’t get a character out of their heads and began writing about them and plot followed.  Others will tell you they have a great idea for a book, which usually means “plot.”  In my own case it’s often a combination of a character I’m interested in who is caught in a situation that leads to suspenseful plot.

                In my first novel, Hawks, which was pre-9/11, I had an idea about why someone would cause a commercial jetliner to crash.  The story rose up around that central idea and became a novel about the airline industry and top executives in crisis at an airline.  A new digital version of that book will launch by the end of the year.
                In my legal thriller, A Question of Proof, the protagonist, a lawyer , was so much like me – same background, profession, concerns, values – that character was in many ways a given, so constructing an engrossing plot was uppermost in my thinking.  The plot about his lover charged with murdering her husband had to twist and turn and the stakes had to be the psychic equivalent of life and death before I could even think the character could become the basis of a novel.
                But what I find most intriguing is when an opening  line pops into my head and that starts me thinking in directions, both of character and of plot, I might never have considered before.  Who said it?  What was happening?  What could result?  That obsessive creativity is why we write.  For that and, of course, for money.

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