Friday, October 5, 2012

How She Does It - Marilyn Morris

Marilyn and I share a publisher - Vanilla Heart

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?

Oh,I agree. The word “how” logically precedes the plot. How do these people solve the problem, or get off the desert isle, etc.

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

In my historical novel, set in the WWII and post war eras, The Women of Camp Sobingo, all the women are composites of women I have known, or even wish I had known. The character of Nell is largely how I saw my mother in that military compound so far away from home. Except, of course, as my mother sniffed, “Of course, I did NOT have an affair with a priest!”

For my other novels, some seem to come from “out in left field.” An example: I had been working on my Forces of Nature “disaster”novel and had been thinking of naming the pilot of the C135 tanker. A female pilot would be a good element to my plot. So I was brushing my teeth one morning, and the name Rory Calhoun.popped into my mind, Why was this 1950s movie hero, mostly westerns, surfacing from nowhere. And then, of course! My pilot would have a masculine name but she’s petite when measured against her male counterparts. I couldn’t wait to get to my computer! One thing all my female characters have in common: They are all strong women; survivors.

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 can do both. It depends on the fragment of an idea I want to explore. Dangerous situations require a strong woman. In The Women of Camp Sobingo, toward the end of the story, Trudy Cavanaugh is appointed by her father-in-law as Chairman of the Board of his vast publishing empire instead of his son, who has descended into substance abuse.

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

I use a kind of road map. I’m going to a specific place in a specific timeline. For instance,in my historical novel, The Unexplored Heart, I know the characters find something astonishing on their property, as well as finding their own hearts in the process. Then I kind of work in the details. Like Indiana Jones, I make it up as I go along. Sometimes my “minor” character begins to take on a life of her own. This was the case of Esther Wooster, the wife and researcher for the archaelogist, Charles Wooster. The moment I typed “The End,” Esther Wooster marched into my office and settled her corpulent body in my guest chair. “I must have a book of my own,” she began, fiddling with her portfolio full of research papers. And I was hooked into a sequel where she takes center stage. She pops in now and then, to see how I’m progressing with After Camelot: Esther’s Quest.

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

Great question. It depends on which novel I’m writing. For The Women of Camp Sobingo, I relied heavily on old photographs of the military compound, with added comments by my mother and my own memories of that time and that place.

When I wrote Forces of Nature, I drew upon a short-lived temporary job as an Admin. Assistant to a mall Manager. For The Unexplored Heart, I hunted in my own library and found a coffee table book, Great Houses of Britain, where I could see color photographs and detailed descriptions of the interior and its history.

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

Again, I found old photographs for a couple of novels to capture the styles women wore in my era. For my Victorian historical romance, I went to the Internet to learn what a well-dressed Victorian woman would wear. And, I learned an important lesson: Don’t let your love of the research process dominate your novel. I was crushed when I saw the edited manuscript. But then I realized it slowed the action. But, simply retaining much of the research kind of “bled through” into the story.

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

Defiinitely a draft writer. I work on many drafts before I decide it’s okay. I take each chapter and add/subtract events. I don’t even number the chapters in my first draft, or the second or third. But I use a plot theme for each chapter, like, Bombay and Noah’s Ark; The First Ascent; and Rimar At Last. I try not to do more than three drafts, the final one being where I put all the chapter headings in place.


Malcolm R. Campbell said...

What an enjoyable interview for my Friday morning break away from working. Great questions, great answers.


Marianne Stephens said...

I admire authors who write historical need to do research and keep facts/visions of that time period in mind as you write.
Sounds like you have a good system and it worked for your book!
Good luck with your writing!

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