HOW DOES SHE DO IT? Susanne Marie Knight
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 must confess that most of the time, I write in the reverse. For me, it’s the plot that comes first in that I have an idea for a story and then decide the who, what when, where, why, and how, after that. In my UNCOVERING CAMELOT (Prologue and First Chapter will be featured on Janet’s blog THE ECLECTIC WRITER, tomorrow) I wanted to write a story based on the folklore of King Arthur, but giving it a modern twist. So first I had this idea, then I figured out, using the above elements, how to write the story.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
As I mentioned, I begin with an idea and start my stories with the “what if” game. Here are a few examples:
What if a woman woke up next to a man who was not her husband?--LORD DARVER’S MATCH.
What if a Shakespeare-quoting ghost found a way to avenge his death?--GRAVE FUTURE.
What if "having a nice spot of tea" took on a sinister meaning?--TAINTED TEA FOR TWO.
What if a young woman learned about a cure for her sick brother... but had to travel to the center of the galaxy to obtain it? --JANUS IS A TWO-HEADED GOD.
What if a golden coin had the power to change one's fortunes?--THE MAGIC TOKEN.
What if a lonely woman's dream man turned out to be her arrogant, new boss?--LOVE AT THE TOP.
After I have my “What if”, I focus on creating characters who will best accomplish the story objectives. Very often, the characters carry “baggage” unknown to me, and so the story takes twists and turns that I hadn’t originally planned!
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?
After I have my “What if” scenario, I choose my characters and let them decide what will happen next. This is not the most efficient method to use, but I enjoy writing novels this way. I rarely know how my characters are going to solve their problems!
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
The story will have a happy ending! Other than that, I’m totally in the dark. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of writer, which means I don’t have the action or an outline plotted out for my book. Most of the time I rely on my characters, with all their quirks and talents, to figure out what should happen next. Sometimes I give them a helping hand--throwing a few external conflicts their way. And sometimes the characters surprise me at how they handle these situations!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
I use both: settings that I know and am familiar with and also settings and house plans I’ve researched on the Internet. One novel, GRAVE FUTURE, featured a fireplace that seemed to be a gateway to Hell! One of the houses I lived in inspired (!) me to write: “Even the pitted black stones of the fireplace contributed to doom and gloom. A floor-to-ceiling ebony slab of hardened lava rock? She’d never seen anything so ugly or so full of misery. She fingered the gritty exterior of the stones. Nothing tranquil about these rocks. Propelled from the bowels of the earth, they seemed to harbor age-old secrets, age-old resentments.”
For my upcoming paranormal, A KARMIC CONNECTION, I needed a tiny cottage for the heroine. I based her new home on a floorplan I found on the Internet. Perfect!
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Both! It takes lots and lots of research to write a novel, so why not use whatever methods you can to gather all your facts? For example: historical details for Regencies have to be 100 percent accurate or you, as the author, get a ton of *fan* mail telling you just what is wrong with your Regency! I have a huge library of reference books on this historical era, so when I need to learn, for example, if Christmas trees were used during Regency times, I can quickly find the answer. (For those who want to know: the Christmas tree came into vogue during Queen Victoria’s reign.)
For my science fiction novel, JANUS IS A TWO-HEADED GOD, I had to get a firm grasp (!) on black holes, so I bought two of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s works. Not easy reading! PAST INDISCRETIONS deals with Atlantis, so I researched what I could on that topic. THE COMING involved learning about the Bermuda Triangle and World War II B-17 Army Air Force pilots. Sometimes pages of research boil down to only one line in your story, but it’s an important line... and accurate as well!
And thank goodness for the Internet! If I get stuck on a particular item, such as whether juniper shrubs grew in Regency England (they did!), I just look this question up on a search engine. More often than not, you can find out your answer in only a few minutes.
Thank you so much, Janet, for this wonderful chance to connect with your readers!