Over at webcomic underdogs a fellow comicer posed the question of how to come up with characters to match the plot. It’s a good topic (give it a read) and it made me think, especially considering that my usual writing style is “find character, throw her or him at the world”.
This is my answer to that question:
Characters are the lifeblood of a story – a story wouldn’t happen if they didn’t interact with the world.
So, I think the question you need to answer is “What kind of person would choose to act like this plot requires?”
For example, your plot requires a young teenage girl to shoot her father to protect her brother, so you need to etablish that your character capable of enough love to stand up for someone else in the most scary way possible, that she loves her brother enough to do so. You need to etablish that she’s CAPABLE of that kind of violence (even if she doesn’t know it yet) and that she’s the type of person that, when pushed, ACTS as opposed to freeze or hope the problem goes away. She needs to be someone who’d chose to kill instead of watch their loved one die, which means, no matter how kind or generally harmless she is, she needs to be someone with a certain ammount steel in her spine.
If your characters aren’t chosing to act or can’t make choices and thus are just pushed about by external forces, you have major problems with your plot. People don’t like reading about passive people being pushed about. Agency is important.
Find the choices your characters make. Then find out what kind of person would make that choice.
Hm. Now I kinda want to write a story where I start with the plot as opposed the characters. Might learn a lot.