Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Chickens, Eggs, and the Coop

A question has popped into my mind lately. It's one of those odd things that doesn't have a right answer but depends entirely upon individuals and their circumstances. But the question is this: Which comes first, the title of your manuscript, the story or plot, the characters, the setting, or is it something else entirely?

I've been writing short stories lately, and on a couple of them the title came first. But I found that as I was writing, the title stopped mattering, so now their names are changing. I imagine they'll change again as I edit the stories.

I suppose the question isn't far removed from my most recent post, but I'd love to hear what your experiences are. Do you come up with a title first? Do you see characters and work to find a story for them? Do you have a story idea and see where things go? Do you just write by the seat of your pants and let fly with whatever comes to mind? (I know many people like that. Works for them!)

What works for you?


Anonymous said...

The MC always comes first. S/he starts yammering away in a voice a cannot ignore. A word or two, a first line and then a paragraph.

Once I get the first 500-2,000 words purged, the title seems ready made and the plot follows.

My writing is definitely character driven from start to finish.

Great question!

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Cat! Funny, it's rarely the MC for me.

Sophie Perinot said...

Perhaps this is a function of writing historical fiction but the cast of characters comes first. Somewhere in my research (doubtless for another project) or my reading I happen upon a historical figure who intriques me (or who I feel has been mis or under represented) or a historical relationship that is dynamic and interesting. Once I have that I have to do enough research and thinking to see if there is the basis for a real plot there.

Matt Sinclair said...

That makes a lot of sense, Sophie. I note that you said cast of characters. In my fiction, when I start with a character, I'm sometimes in the midst of the first draft and people just pop into existence. Clearly, the approach is different in historical fiction. Thanks for the comment!