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?
Thanks for inviting me here today. I love talking about my characters and writing. The Five Ws are like the introduction to a newspaper article. They tell me what I’m supposed to look for as the story progresses, yet give a capsule form of the story itself. I think that holds true in fiction writing too. The first chapter should answer the 5 Ws and unraveling the How definitely leads to and through the plot.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
I don’t know that I actually create characters. Mostly I have these people show up in my head and I have to ask them what they want and why are they there. Sometimes I have a little trouble on their appearance and have to grill them on it. Until then, they may be like an out of focus photograph and I have to hone in.
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?
The characters definitely come before the plot. I can’t think of one instance where they didn’t. There are times I will think of something plot related and say to myself – oh, Luke would love to deal with that. I have to actually stop myself and send a reminder to my brain that he is not a real person. Happens with quite a few of my characters. Once I understand the characters, we’re pretty much partners in the plot. I may sketch something out, but my path may not be the one a particular character decides they’re going to take. It can get very frustrating sometimes. Then again, when the character takes over is when the magic happens and I feel more like a translator than writer.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I always have an ending in place before I start writing. Most of the time, it’s a rather general idea of where I want the story to end. A lot of the specifics are determined by the characters. There were times I have come close to the end of story – the end was in sight! – and some pesky hero or heroine would say, “Nope, that’s not the way it’s going to work.” That’s always interesting. We (the characters and I) seem to agree on the general ideas, but the specifics often separate us.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
I like to use settings I’m at least familiar with. I don’t actually know them so that always involves research, something I find all too much fun and absorbing on its own.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Both. I tend to start out researching online. There is a ton of stuff out there, easily accessible. The Library of Congress is one of my favorite jumping off points. Once I get into more research I tend to get off line. I will look through books, check with reference librarians – which sometimes leads me back online, or correspond with people from local museums of there is info I think they can help me with. Most small, local museums are staffed by volunteers who are not only knowledgeable, but extremely enthusiastic and love to share that knowledge. Even if they aren’t able to answer a specific question for me, they generally are able to spark another tangent for me to research. I really have to be careful with the research. I could use all of my time there and just get totally sucked up in it.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I’ve tried both ways and have to say I am not most comfortable with being a draft writer. I need to get the whole story out. It helps me to better know my character. No matter how much I write about him or her beforehand, and learn all the little quirks, I just never know what they’re actually going to do in a given situation until they’re there. Kind of like life. There are a few instances when I would go over the draft and say, whoa, this isn’t working because the hero would NEVER do that. It’s just not in his character. That kind of thing.