Friday, July 27, 2012
Friday's How She Does It - Jude Pittman
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. As you know I write mysteries, and answering those five questions is mandatory. If your plot doesn’t include the 5 W’s it’s not going to satisfy your reader. Every mystery must answer these questions: Who did it happen to (victim)? What happened to them (were they robbed, murdered, attacked – what was the crime)? When did it happen (was it in the morning, afternoon, night, weekday, weekend-when was the crime committed)? Where did it happen (in the victim’s home, on the street, in a park, where was the crime committed)? Why did it happen (motive – who had a reason for committing this crime, who wanted the victim dead, who wanted their property, who inherits?) and How was it done (method of the crime – shot, stabbed, poisoned – how did the killer commit their crime).
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
My characters just seem to show up – I think of them as composites of people I’ve seen, known, observed, For instance, in Deadly Secrets I was living in Fort Worth, Texas and one day I was at a flea market where I saw an old woman, partially blind selling pencils and matches. At the time adoption laws were being adjusted to make some concessions for people searching for their birth mothers, and there were a lot of stories in the newspapers about the subject. There were also several stories about a wealthy Texas family and their estranged daughter – heiress. From there my mind went to the idea of what about a daughter discovering she was adopted and hiring a detective to find her birth mother and having the detective find the heiress’ real mother selling pencils and matches in a flea market, but before the daughter can find out what happened to her mother and why she was in this situation the mother was murdered. Of course, Kelly McWinter, my main character and a kind of Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, everybody’s hero type was already in my head. The rest of the story just kind of grew from those characters.
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 kind of develop together. As you can see from the answer to the first question, there’s an idea for one character, and then a set of circumstances gives rise to the other characters, who then give rise to still others, so really it’s a blending of the two – sketching the plot, adding the characters who need to be there, and then fleshing them out until the story is there.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
No, but I usually have a pretty good idea of the type of ending I’m going to have. I may not know exactly how it will end – in fact, in Deadly Secrets I did not have any idea how the ending that I felt the book needed was actually going to develop until I was pretty well through three-fourths of the book. The ending came out of the characters and the way the story was going, and when it came together it was just definitely the right ending for that story.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Usually the settings are places that I have either been to or I have a knowledge of. There’s a real tendency on my part to write a kind of fact/fiction – in other words, the setting and minor characters and events are very likely to be true, they are developed from places I know and things I have seen or situations I have encountered. Since I write fiction, of course all of these things are adapted to my story, but the bones, the building blocks of the stories, come out of those experiences and observations.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I do almost everything online. Since I’m a publisher as well as an author, it seems like I spend a very large portion of my life online, and I’m the curious type. If there’s a question I can’t answer, I will always head for my computer.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I write a basic freehand of every chapter, letting it flow as it does, and then I go back and revise, refine and work in details I’ve missed, get it into a kind of structural order, and then I go on and work a few more chapters, and then go back and prune and whittle some more, until finally I have what I feel is a pretty complete first draft. Then, of course, the fun begins and I have to do it all over again.
Thanks for having me Janet. I love talking about Kelly and the gang at Indian Creek, and I hope my answers have been informative and at least a little bit fun to read.