Friday, April 27, 2012
How She Does It - Jaleta Clegg
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?
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
They usually just jump into my head as needed. Sometimes the character changes to fit the plot, but most of the time, they stay as they were when they bloomed into existence. Like Athena, they arise fully formed from my head. I'm a people watcher, though. I love seeing how different people react, watching how they move and talk. All of that is fodder for my fictional characters. If you point to any one of them and ask me who they are based on, I can't tell you. They're a conglomeration of lots of different people.
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?
They both happen about the same time. I start with an idea, a place, an event, a what if, whatever the trigger is. The characters and plot emerge from that. Part of the plot is driven by asking, what would character A do in this situation? Then letting the situation play out. It's very organic and messy, but it works for me. It's also very amusing to take a character, say someone very fussy about their appearance and cleanliness, and sticking them in a situation where they have to be the opposite, a very primitive dirty place with no hygiene facilities. People do strange things when under duress.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I usually have a good idea of where I'm going to end up, but it isn't always what I thought it would be when I get there. My characters aren't the same people they were at the beginning so my concept of the ending can't be the same when I get there. I know people who write books out of order, jotting down whatever scene is hot for them at the time. I can't do that. I have to write linearly because my characters and plot always surprise me, taking twists I didn't expect.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
I write science fiction. I spend my books living in space and on other planets or alien cities. I've got files of space photos, links to space articles about new planets, lists of great nature shows, pictures of cool architecture, and engineering diagrams on my computer. I draw out the pieces I want to highlight. If I want it to seem familiar, I use familiar places and terms. If I want it alien, I highlight the strange and bizarre aspects of it. So in some ways, yes, my settings are based on real places and buildings. In other ways, no, I made it all up.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Everywhere. I get a lot online because it's fast and easy, but it isn't as in depth. I have lots of books, both fiction and non. I love poring over the full color glossy photos in my astronomy books and nature books. I love magazines, too. It's a way to travel to exotic places. I spend a lot of time watching tv, too. Nature documentaries and science shows are great fodder for science fiction and fantasy stories. The dramas and comedies are good for learning pacing, dialogue, setting, etc. I pick them apart, both the good and the bad, as a way of learning how to make my stories better. But mostly, I pull on my store of years of devouring stories and science as the basis for my story. I only research what I absolutely need to.