Friday, March 16, 2012

How She Does It - Renee Simons

Renee is an old friend and critique partner I've lured back into writing. So far her books are good suspense and great love scenes.

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?

Hmm -- interesting question and oddly, something I'm pondering for the first time. Who - the characters (h&h, villain, secondary characters). What (who's doing What to whom, and do they like it), When -- present, future, past, or all three; Where -- setting(s); Why - motivations and How -- absolutely, the plot -- How do all the elements come together to tell a story that we hope will engage readers and keep them coming back for more. I'm going to embroider your six elements and hang them over my desk.

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

Once I get an idea for a story I begin to imagine how I'm going to tell it or, more accurately, who is going to tell it. I do a lot of "what ifs" and let my mind run around within the possibilities of the story idea. That's when characters start emerging from the general fog and basically stand around twiddling their thumbs until I zero in on what it is I want them to say and do to make the story happen. That's not very specific, I know, but that's how it happens when one is too undiciplined to PLAN.

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?

I think that when the characters precede the plot and then take the story where it must go, things work out better for me. My favorite stories are character-driven and I try to concentrate on that. As a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants writer, I have only a vague idea of the story, which seems to grow like Topsy. (who remembers her?) I wish I could sketch the plot, but when I do, I lose interest in continuing. I have to say, this gets me in a lot of trouble and, no doubt, takes me three times longer to write the story than if I'd been more deliberate in the beginning.

3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin?

From the outset, I always know how the romance will end--happily or at least on the cusp of... In a general way or a specific one? As for the rest of the story, be it the mystery or the element of danger encountered by the h&h, or the problem they must solve, that is more vague. The resolution of those and other plot elements develop as the story progresses.

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

To me, the fun is learning about places I've never seen or been to before and that usually comes from research. Sometimes, though, I'll visit a place after I've chosen it, such as touring Boston while writing Safe Haven, which takes place there. Come to think of it, the Cape Cod setting in that book was based on a place I used to visit on vacation. After Colton's Folly was published by Silhouette, my husband and I went to South Dakota and visited a reservation that was hauntingly like the one I'd created for the book. I was dumbfounded that I'd achieved such realism from research-fed imagination. But that research was extensive and my emotional involvement in the story and characters was consuming. As for house or room plans, if theiy're sitting anywhere, they're in my head; but I will look for examples to make sure I'm being accurate as far as a particular style or cultural element is concerned. Although I have been known to put a house in an unexpected place, such as the Victorian mansion that is the focus of my current work in progress which takes place in a New Mexico ghost town.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

My research is done through both, though books are my major source. I have an extensive non-fiction library filled with books I've collected over the years and can access for info. On occasion, I will add to this collection if I'm researching subject matter that is new to me.


Unknown said...

An interesting post. I was nodding my head in agreement until I reached #4. Even with lots of books and the ability to 'fly' to a chosen destination with Google Earth, I still like to set my books on my own doorstep. Perhaps I'm just lazy when it comes to research. :)

Thanks for sharing!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Renee! Love seeing you on-line!

Sigh. Always amazed and astonished at how everyone does it.

One day, perhaps I will write 700 pages or so on how not to do it.

Maybe if I wasn't so ... tired.

Gail Roughton said...

You know, it's different for me everytime. Sometimes it's nothing but a song lyric, a chance converation (one of those started out as a short satire and turned into a 500 page dark horror), a character who just stood up and started talking. Never the same. Never in any particular order. Everything has to converge though. Into a "if this, then this, then this" and one thing just leads to another. I think I even drive other pantsers nuts at time.

Renee Simons said...

Janet -- thanks for letting me join you in your blog. It was fun to focus for awhile on the process and to read the comments from other writers. Glad to be back among the working wordsmiths. Thanks for that also!

Jennifer Probst said...

Yay, Renee! Absolutely love seeing you here and hearing about your process - always a fascinating thing to learn from other writers! Safe Haven is safely loaded on my Kindle and awaiting a read - my treat after I meet deadline. Wonderful interview!