Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday - How she does it -- Stories - Carly Phillips

I'veknown Carly for many years. Won't say how long and have enjoyed watching her develop as a writer.

We all know there are six elements in writing fiction and often fact. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is the plot. What's your take on this?

I am embarrassed to say I didn't realize this and have never given it any real thought until now. But having answered all the below questions first, I think you are correct. My "who" always comes first; I often know the "where" and the characters (the "who") help me navigate the why. I think the why then leads to the how (the plot).

1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

I create my characters before my story. My characters, who they are, what their history is, their past, etc. helps define what kind of story I want to tell. My process is to think first about whose story I want to tell and how I want to keep each story in a series connected. Do I want to write about three siblings? Male or female? How many of each? Happy family history or painful one to drive their present actions? A lot of my character building is a "what if" process that results in the first character in a story. AT that point, I think about the direction I'm going and what kind of hero/heroine would create sparks and conflict for this particular character. That's basically my process. It's pretty amorphous and kind of ugly but it works for me.

2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?

As I said above, 100% my characters come before my plot. I have tried writing all ways - completely by the seat of my pants, completely outlining, or something in between. I've come to the conclusion that the middle process works best for me. I nail my characters and I know where I want them to go by the end. I like when how they get there is a surprise, since that means they are telling their own story - this usually creates fresher writing for me than a linear plan. That said, I need to know what's happening a scene or two ahead of where I am so that I don't sit and twiddle my thumbs, wasting time figuring out why I'm blocked.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?

Every book is different. Sometimes I think I know the exact end and by the time I get there, the characters have taken me somewhere completely different and I'm surprised. I recently wrote a short story - Kismet - coming out in eBook in November - and I wrote the beginning, knew I was missing conflict, rewrote it 3x, finally trashed the whole thing and in the end - I used that first scene as the end of the entire book and it worked so much better.

4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?

I really truly stink at description and setting. It's just not my strong suit. I'll use houses I've been in as a layout and work from there. I used to use floor plans and magazines. Now I just pray .

5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

I used to collect books for research and discover I rarely cracked them open. These days I say thank you GOOGLE!


Kat Attalla said...

Well how ever you do it, you are obviously doing it right.

Heather Thurmeier said...

Another great interview, Janet!

Carly, hearing how a 'pro' does it is great for us newbies! Thanks for sharing your process.

Shoshanna Evers said...

Ditto what Kat said! Great interview :)