Friday, June 8, 2012

How She Does It - Teri Thackston

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 agree completely. The first five elements are usually the fun part for me when it comes to writing a new story, with “How” being where the real work begins. All six elements are essential to a well-written and fully fleshed-out story.

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

Either my hero or heroine usually comes to me almost spontaneously – a gift from God. This character will have a specific personality and primary goal; not absolutely complete, but close enough to inspire his or her story needs. Then comes the hard part: creating the love interest character along with his or her personality and primary goal. That can take days of considering characters one after another until I find a fit – kind of like setting up blind dates for my characters!
Fortunately, for my newest paranormal romance, Moonrise, both the hero and heroine sprang to my mind together. They were waltzing together in the moonlit ballroom of a Welsh castle, and the hero disappeared every time they passed from the moonlight into shadow. It was an eerie but romantic scene that sparked the entire book very quickly.

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 initial plot of a book usually comes from the first character, and I plot the major scenes from that character’s goals. Of course, not every character cooperates with the plots I lay down, so I do a lot of tweaking of the plot throughout my writing process. By the end of the second or third draft of the manuscript, I usually have a pretty detailed written plot – down to the time of day and the weather for each scene. I have to write down those details or I’ll forget them!
For Moonrise, the plot of a Welsh Earl cursed to live unseen and unheard, trapped within his own castle for more than two hundred years, came to me fairly quickly. But it still took a while to pick his perfect heroine – a contemporary American – and to figure out how she could free him from the curse.

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

I know the general ending – happily ever after! But the specifics are often a mystery until the second or third draft are complete.

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

Both, actually. I wrote a western romance once that took place on the Texas farm my family owned for nearly one hundred years. So I had the lay of the land in my head for that one. But I’ve never been to Wales, so for Moonrise, I had to design a castle. I studied different castles for months before I came up with my own version of a thirteenth-century keep that was modified over hundreds of years to become the manor house I called Beaumarith. Then I had to find out what kinds of plants grew in southern Wales, what a small Welsh train station looked like, what the weather is like in June (colder than Texas!). There were a lot of details to discover, and I found the research to be a lot of fun.

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

The Internet has made research so much easier, but books are still a key research source for me. I even have a set of 55-year old Collier’s Encyclopedia’s that I refer to occasionally. But visiting a location can also be helpful. As I said, I’ve never been to Wales, so the Internet was invaluable with all the photographs and descriptive blogs that are available there.

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

Big time draft writer. I do some revisions as I go along, but usually only a couple of scenes back before going forward again. I don’t like to get bogged down in a scene by reviewing it over and over again in a short period of time…it loses its freshness. So I like to go through the book, focusing on specific aspects for each draft, i.e., one draft might focus on dialogue while another might focus on background elements. Then I usually put the book aside for a week or longer before I go at it again.

Thanks so much for inviting me to guest on your Eclectic Writer blog. I really appreciate the opportunity to ‘meet’ potential new readers. They can find me at or on Facebook and Twitter! And Wait Until Moonrise is available at


Paul McDermott said...

Interesting chat! Some of my fondest childhood memories involve the 12th C. castle at Beaumauris on the island Anglesey [Ynys Môn] just off the coast of North Wales ...

I was relieved to note that your characters are a lot better behaved than mine, Teri! Mine have a tendency to hijack the plot and ride off in a totally unplanned direction, and I generally keep a bullwhip next to my PC to keep 'em under control!

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Wonderful interview. Teri's books always come together beautifully.