Friday, May 11, 2012

How She Does It - Shirley Martin

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?

Janet, this may sound odd, but I just plot the story, and I think everything else falls into place.

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

In my historical romances, I created my characters from a certain time in American history. The emphasis is definitely on the characters, but it's always centered with around a specific happening or subject. For example, in my historical romance, "Destined to Love" in my reading of Pennsylvania history, I came across so many instances of white people being captured by the Indians. That led me to the question, What must it have been like to be a white person raised among the Indians. And another question, What would it be like to return to the white man's world.

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 use Debra Dixon's tried and true method. I center my characters around Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, external and internal. If your characters don't have all of those elements, you don't have a story.

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

When I start my story, I have a general idea of how it will end. But as you may know, the characters have a mind of their own. When I wrote my time travel romance, "Dream Weaver" I changed the ending from what I had originally planned. (Dream Weaver will be free at on May 13.)

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

I had a lot of reference material that shows the settings. For example, both "Destined to Love" and "Dream Weaver" take place in colonial Pennsylvania. I have a book of Pennsylvania throughout the seasons. I have books on costumes of different time periods. Much of "Dream Weaver" takes place at Fort Pitt (present day Pittsburgh.) I have a diagram of the fort and I went by that.

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

At the time I wrote my books, there was no online to study from. I bought many of the books I used for research and also frequented the library. I visited western Pennsylvania, including Bushy Run (a battle fought in "Dream Weaver) and the area.

6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?

I revise as I go along. When the manuscript is completed, I read it, again and again, checking for discrepancies and mistakes.

1 comment:

Malcolm R. Campbell said...

I'm often amazed at the interaction between a story in progress and the author's research materials. An author needs to look something up, opens a book and sees a fact. Sometimes, en route to that fact, s/he sees something else that strikes a chord and it ends up sending the story down new pathways. I can imagine this happening as you wrote, surrounding by your PA reference books.