What comes first?

April kicks off two separate short story writing competitions for me. So, I started going through my folder of ideas and characters and it struck me the varied ways stories come.

It made me wonder. Which comes first for you, as an author?

The story idea?

Or the Characters?

For me, it has come both ways. For my short story, “Maggie,” the characters came first, then the story idea followed.

For “Obsessed,” the story idea came first and the characters followed.

Is there any right or wrong way? Absolutely NOT! It is exactly the same concept with songwriting. Sometimes the melody comes first and the lyrics follow. Other times, the lyrics come and the melody follows. But, on rare occasions, both the melody and lyrics come together hand-in-hand.

That’s when there is magic!

And when the magic happens, the readers feel it. Or, in the case of music, the listeners.

In the first Creative Writing class I ever took, the professor asked the question, “What does every human have in common?”

Of course, the answers were that we breathe air, we drink water, we have to eat and require sleep. He agreed with all those answers, but he said the one characteristic that every human being possesses is the innate desire to feel something. The answers to “feel what?” are as varied as there are individuals. But, the desire to feel is present in everyone in some form or fashion.

As writers, it is our job to make sure that happens with our stories.

But, I’m curious. Which comes first for you? The story idea? Or the characters? Or, like with me, does it vary?