Friday, November 30, 2012

Friday's How She Does It With Shirley Hailstock

I've known Shirley for a long time. Met her at a Region One Retreat when she hadn't been published yet. Though our friendship is more on the acquaintance level I've enjoyed talking to her a number of times.

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

I create the plot first. Then I have to decide what characters are needed to fulfill the story.

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 plot usually comes first. If I get a character in my head, he or she usually does not have a book. It might take a while to find a book that suits that character. I have one book where the character came first. It was the hero. He sat on a mountain in Maryland for three years before I came upon a plot/story for him. The book was LEGACY.

As to sketching out characters, yes I do character sketches. Usually they are not photos I've found in magazines, but is a characterization worksheet where I record everything I know about that character, his/her background, family, socio-economic background, like, dislikes, description, conflicts, etc.

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

All my books have been romances, so I know there will be a happily ever after. As to the external plot, I have plotted out the entire books, so I know the villain and the resolution. During the writing process, that might change. In one book I had worked out the villain, but when I got to the point of unmasking that character, I could have chosen several of that cast as the villain. I finally decided on the one from the original plot outline.

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

Yes to all of the above. I'm lucky to have lived or visited a lot of places in the United States and Europe. I've also been to several Caribbean Islands and Hawaii. Some of my romantic suspenses are set in Washington, DC where I lived for many years. I wrote a book set in Newport, RI while I was vacationing there. I also wrote three books set in Montana where I have never been. In the case of Montana, the romance community is extremely helpful. People I met at Romance Writers of America conferences who live in Montana have helped. Google Earth allows me to "see" the landscape. And as a child of television, I watched every movie I could find that was made in Montana. Not set in Montana, but actually filmed there.

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

Again both. I love research. I still spend time in the library, both most research is done online. The ability to search and hone in on the information I need keeps me focused. When reading a book, I can get sidetracked in the search or finding something interesting that has nothing to do with the current work-in-progress. But it's interesting and my focus could be taken by something that I can't used at the moment.

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

I revise as I go, but then I don't. When I was learning to write (not that you ever stop learning), I was told that I should keep going until I get to the end. Then go back and fill in any scenes that need more depth or write scenes that are needed to keep the story moving forward. As I write, things come to me that I didn't know when I began. During the initial writing, I make notes and keep going until I get to the end. Then I go back and work in those details that came to me during the initial process.

The reason for this that works for me, is that I don't just get one new things that creeps into my mind and needs to be in the story. If I went back each time this happened, I might not get to the end for a couple of years.


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