Come play inside a writer's brain, scary!

If you’ve been here before, you’ll know that on first Monday of each month, I answer your questions on writing.  February already. Wasn’t it Christmas just days ago? Only last weekend I was in the beautiful city of Bathurst, helping the community celebrate as their Australia Day Ambassador. I count this a real  honour and always have a great time meeting new people, especially helping to welcome some brand new Australian citizens.

Meeting local writers is always special. Giving a talk at the Bathurst Library, I met (or remet) several from past writing conferences, as well as the present owners of Abercrombie House, one of the finest colonial houses in Australia. Lots of story material in that weekend.


Which leads me to a question to kick off First Monday Mentoring for February. Where do I start my stories – with plot or characters, and which is best.

Whatever works for the writer is the best way. I like to start with an interesting person, perhaps an unusual occupation that sparks a “what if?” question. Can be either hero or heroine, but usually I imagine my heroine first. What does her job involve? What’s her family like? How did she get started, and where does she work? Self employed or for a business? Then the big question – what problem is she facing when we meet her? If the book is a romance, what role does the prospective hero play in her problem? Ideally, he’ll be the cause of it or have a key role.

In my SF romantic suspense, Birthright, the first character we meet is Adam Desai, who was also the first character I imagined when I started the book. Having been found in a shipwreck, he knew nothing about his past.  His perfect match therefore had to be someone very secure in her heritage. Enter Shana Akers.

Interviewing a character is a good way to get to know them. At first it feels strange asking questions and writing down the answers, but if you stick with it, they soon start expressing their own opinions faster than you can write. It’s not spooky, only you accessing the parts of yourself the character represents.

Do you start with character or plot? What tips and tricks have you used that you can share here? If you have other questions to do with writing, feel free to ask them here as well.



on Twitter @ValerieParv and Facebook

Read some reviews of Birthright at

Comments on: "First Monday Mentoring for February – what comes first?" (4)

  1. I seem to start with a character and go from there. In my current WIP my hero came from an irritation I was feeling with a whole series of really slutty heroes in books I was reading at the time. As a challenge to myself I thought I would try to write a slutty hero. Then I paired him up with a rather prudish girl with religious scruples and an unrealistic romanticism about relationships. Then I just chucked them together to see what would happen. ;-]

    • Choosing characters who are direct opposites of your first character gives you built-in conflict, too, as they are forced to work out their differences.

  2. I often have characters in a scene come to life in my imagination and the story grows from there. These original scene can sometimes be in the middle of the story or even be relegated to backstory. It might not even end up in the ms, but provides insight into the characters.
    That puddy tat looks likes he/she is suffering from a severe case of Monday-itis – and haven’t we all been there! 🙂

    • Thanks for visiting, Sandra. I’ve also had characters “show me” scenes that didn’t end up in the book. Sometimes I’ll amuse myself imagining what the characters are doing between the scenes I choose to include as well.

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