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Character Study or Grand Plot?:

I find that in writing people tend toward liking one or the other (not mutually exclusive) aspects of stories.

One is the character study. You focus on the character, the personal, their feelings, their actions, their thoughts and their development. This aspect tends to ignore big things like "Galactic Empire is facing social collapse represented by it's increasing taxation and lack of innovation" and goes more to the person saying "My life is hard and there is yet another tax that I cannot pay. What will I tell my wife?"

The other is the grand plot. The general looking at her logistical problems and wondering, "If the Almar Empire strikes from the north then our caravans of food will not arrive. How will I survive the winter in our campaign?" It wants to look at big things, what's happening overall in the big picture.

How do you guys like to write your stories with respect to these two concepts?

Forum Villain
Reading your post, I realized I would like to make a hybrid of the two. There are always individuals with enormous roles within grand schemes, so why not have a character study of someone doing big things?

I do like both character studies and grand plots, and would like to do both, even if I just swapped between the modes every other project. I love character-driven/character study films like Moon and 2001: A Space Odyssey while also liking epics like Star Wars and Mass effect just as much. They both appeal to different sides of me.

edited 23rd Mar '11 12:49:06 PM by Pyroninja42

"Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person that doesn't get it."
 3 Mr AHR, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 12:51:27 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I am a plot person. I craft the plot, and then mold the characters to fit the plot, and then let them grow on their own as well, especially when I am in a jam with my plot.
listen
For me, characters come first to my mind above everything else. If I ever get brilliant flashes of inspiration, they will concern a character or a new concept for a character. Always. I never actually come up with a plot until much later. Right now, I have a concept for the plot, but I have no idea how to fill in the gaps, and that's why I haven't written anything substantial.
 5 Major Tom, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 1:37:21 PM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Interestingly, I have kind of a hybrid. There is an ongoing plot but at the same time it frequently offers views into what makes the character tick.
"Allah may guide their bullets, but Jesus helps those who aim down the sights."
 6 annebeeche, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 2:02:38 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
My stories tend to range from character study to something of a hybrid, but always lean on character study.
Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion. I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
[up] Same.

I kind of prefer character studies to works that are plot driven when I'm reading and writing. I always felt that plots were secondary, so when I'm writing I jot down the vague idea or concept first, come up with the characters (personality, roles, appearance, etc.), and then structure the plot and setting around the characters, adjusting everything to make it fit together.

 9 Mr AHR, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 2:31:14 PM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
I don't want to be insulting, but this is something I noticed. Those who seem to be character focused tend to have more people who are never able to make a story, because they come up with characters but nothing to do with them.

I could be biased, though.
 10 Crystal Glacia, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 2:47:58 PM from Cedarpointland
listen
[up] In my case, that is very true. I'm not insulted by that.
 11 annebeeche, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 2:50:58 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
I know what to do with my characters and I have a strong sense of the plot that I want to follow, I just don't end up writing stories because I'm lazy as all hell.
Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion. I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
 12 Chubert, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 3:58:53 PM from California
highly secure
I do premise first, characters second, plot third. I spend by far the most amount of time thinking about my characters, as the plot is developed according to the actions of my characters when put in a certain situation. This kinda makes it hard for me not to have some sort of character study in the writing.
Whatcha gonna do, little buckaroo? | i be pimpin' madoka fics
My teacher's a panda
I am more of a plot-driven type of writer. Characters are very important to me, but I hardly ever create characters outside of context such as story or setting. The characters develop from the story I want to tell or the world I want to create. But once I create the characters, I like to think that I start the character study from there. I'm more interested in how the plot affects the characters much more than I am on resolving the plot itself. So I guess it is a sort of hybrid, but the plot, or at least the setting, comes first.

Actually, now that I think about it, I'm more of a world builder than any of the choices mentioned before. I create the worlds, cast it with characters, and then develop plot. Or world, then plot, than characters. Either way, I usually like to begin with the setting. Then I try to figure out what sort of people come out of this setting, and what sort of conflicts they would have.

 14 nrjxll, Wed, 23rd Mar '11 9:05:37 PM Relationship Status: Not war
Like the poster above me, I am principally a world-builder. This generally means I concentrate more on plot than character studies simply because I get to use much more of my world-building with a grand epic, where it likely plays a key role, than a Slice of Life focusing on an individual character or two, where most of the work I've done is unlikely to show up outside of Cryptic Background References.

[up][up][up]Same here.

@annebeeche

I am sadly the same way, I have a premise that works so well in head but putting it down on paper is not possible for me. I need more words and I cannot describe situtations for bean but do go for what is right in my head. When I do write, I sually just wing it although not to extent of certain writers. I mostly do character driven, epsiodic plots that have no relation to each other.

edited 23rd Mar '11 9:45:48 PM by G.G.

 
Yeah, for me, I'm a heavy world builder. After that, I like creating grand plots. Then after that, I create characters, personalities and "heroes" in the story. I tend toward making nothing black/white and I also like throwing in a bouts of hard science every so often in my story but I don't let that trump Rule of Cool. I feel more confident when I weave around (or with FTL, break) the laws of physics since I studied them back in university.

 17 Away Laughing, Thu, 24th Mar '11 10:11:56 AM from Soviet Canukistan Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Likes trees.
It's funny, I read mostly grand plotcentric pieces, but I write mostly lit. fic style character studies. I'm no novelist though, I write short stories and novellas. The only novels I write are for Na No, and even then they always read like a bunch of interconnected short stories. So yes, character studies.
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! Put out please.
I tend to focus on the characters, and sometimes don't even show the whole plot, since my characters aren't involved in it's every aspect, but I always start with plot first, design characters second. The characters are created in order to fit the plot, and their personality changes on a whim if I decide it helps a plot point, so I guess that makes me a Plot person.

 19 Dec, Thu, 24th Mar '11 12:38:33 PM from The Dance Floor
Stayin' Alive
My favorite sorts of stories — both to read and to write — are big, overarching situations punctuated with the smaller struggles of the people involved. Characters are in the foreground, and the plot is the support and backdrop.

Why, exactly? I think its because they're challenging both emotionally and intellectually that way, and if they're staged right both the plot and the characters will play off each other enough that I'm left desperately wondering what's going to happen. You need the personal to make me care, and the distance to make me curious. If there's too much of one or the other, I'll get distracted from both reading and writing them, and am bored or disappointed by the experience.

This makes writing a bit challenging, though — its very hard to start writing if I don't have both, and hard for me to find both if I'm not writing. That eventually leads to ether really fragmentary writing, or not finishing anything. Or both.

edited 24th Mar '11 12:54:45 PM by Dec

Nemo enim fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit
Deviantart.
Cogito ergo cogito
I like symbolic/allegoric stories. The character growth is reflected with the events going on around them.

Not just that, but the characters themselves are usually kind of symbolic, if anything.
'It's gonna rain!'
 21 KSPAM, Thu, 24th Mar '11 7:13:06 PM from Uruk Relationship Status: Too sexy for my shirt
Gilgamesh is awesome to perfection.
I always end up starting with the plot and end up focusing on the characters. Go figure.
Team? You mean cannon fodder? — neobowman

Goodfae: a mafia web serial
Mate Griffon To Mare
I'm working on three stories right now. Two are a balance of plot and character, one definitely leans toward Character Study.
"All pain is a punishment, and every punishment is inflicted for love as much as for justice." — Joseph De Maistre.
Leichenfledderer
Definitely character study. That's the best way to express what I'm trying to say with my writing. No worldbuilding, ambiguous plot.

 24 JHM, Fri, 25th Mar '11 6:37:51 PM from Neither Here Nor There Relationship Status: I know
Thunder, Perfect Mind
I rest heavily upon characterisation, though I world-build too.
An accurate depiction
I'm primarily a character-builder, and although there are things occurring and influencing them that are beyond their scope, the story zooms in on a few people's reactions.
This is this.
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