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Character vs. plot
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Making omelettes...

Armed with this premise, you write up a profile of your main character: who he is, why he's driven to succeed in business, why his wife left him, how he's been too busy to visit his son over the last two years, etc.

Next, you write the setup for your story: The hero in the trading pit, buying and selling pork-belly futures with the competitive lust of a downhill skier or tennis player. When the closing bell rings, he's handed a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Five minutes later, his life has changed--and he's about to learn what it's like to be a single father.

...or chicken salad.

From this point on, you can examine a variety of "what-if" scenarios. What if our hero hires a live-in nanny for the child? Could that provide a love interest and a source of conflict, especially if the nanny is a bright young woman with a mind of her own?

If you decide on the nanny approach, what about the nanny's background? Why is she a nanny? What elements in her past could lay the groundwork for conflict with the hero?

And what if the nanny's brother is a petty criminal who's desperate for money? What if he hatches a kidnapping plot, and the nanny is torn between warning the hero and consigning her brother to prison at a time when their dying mother needs him at her side? Do you like the idea of a crime story, or would you rather develop the novel as a traditional romance? Or would you prefer to write a comedy--maybe even a screenplay instead of a novel?

As you flesh out your characters, you'll find the raw material for a plot--and you'll be able to piece together a sequence of events that fits your characters, the original premise, and the kind of story you'd like to write.

Also see: Character Arc

- Durant Imboden

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