What comes first, plot or characters?

I’ve worked on two series. I don’t know entirely how each started but I’m pretty sure plot concept preceded any character ideas. I believe the main character, in each, emerged from the concept. In my first series, which is fantasy, I accepted a challenge to write a short story for a newsletter contest. I believe my invitation to myself in regard to writing is always: “What do I want to think about?” I was mired, at the time, in trying to complete a Ph.D. program. Here’s what I wanted to think about, in a nutshell: a woman professor goes to a party, drinks too much, and, stumbling home, encounters a bard from medieval time who takes her with him to visit his world. In the morning, she’s in her bed but finds proof that she did go to the past, a thousand years ago. Now she needs to find how to get back there.

Carl Jung wrote that every creative act contains something of our inner desires, our soul longings. That makes sense to me. And I think it’s a worthy thought. If we accept that premise, we take our ideas seriously, we don’t doubt and overthink, second guess ourselves. We accept the gift from our inner self, feel that connection with the unseen unconscious part of us, bring it forth in some form.

The idea for my current sci fi novel, Elf Stone of the Neyna, came to me longer ago and I’m having a harder time piecing together the early process. For Braided Dimensions, I clearly wanted to be that woman experiencing that adventure. Yanda, on the other hand, is a surgeon in the far future, partly because that opened the possibility for her seeing through layers for noninvasive, nondestructive healing. The Elven Stone that needs her abilities is tied with that. But not in an obvious way. The other pieces of the story sprouted from those initial kernels. Those two elements are only now suturing themselves together in a kind of collaboration between me now and my former self. Some “new” ideas I find buried in my original notes. Others are forged out of who I’ve become.

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