Jessica is a fellow member of New Jersey Romance Writers.
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 with your philosophy, Janet. Plot is definitely the "How" of a story. Though, I tend to write a bit backwards. What I mean is that, for me, plot usually comes first. Everything else, the who (characters), what (conflict), when/where (setting), why (characters' goals) come into my mind as a result of plot. It's the way I work, and the way I most enjoy crafting and telling stories.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
Characters are usually the first thing I create, and as I mentioned, they'll generate naturally from my storyline. I build stories like a tower, and I keep adding on to what's already there, later polishing the story until I have a finished product. Once I have a storyline I want to ise, I determine what I want the hero and heroine to be like, their quirks and values, what makes them exciting as a couple, and most importantly what drives their passion. From there, I begin to picture my hero and heroine, their hair and eye color and other physical attributes. I then go back to brainstorming about my plot, and I figure out what other characters I'll need (and want) to have in the story. The plot also drives the choices I make regarding secondary characters, and their attributes.
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?
I think it's safe to say I am a plotter all the way. Writing out the plot in long hand is what helps me to begin a new story. It's a lot less intimidating facing a blank screen, when there is a whole sketch pad of notes to guide me. I start with a premise. From that premise come my two main characters, the hero and heroine, then later, my secondary characters.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I do have an idea of how the story will end, but I'd say it is more of a general idea than specific. When I write the outline for a story, the last couple of sections, and the last one in particular, tend to have the smallest amount of notes. I'm not exactly sure whether this is because I'm trying to give myself leeway, or because my notes are not as hard and fast as I'd like to initially believe they are. What I do know is that I have to actually draft most of, if not the entire story, before I can draft the ending. In this sense, I am a also bit of a "panster", which I define as an author who let's the characters and other story elements drive the story.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
A little bit of both, actually! A good portion of my first series, the Pinnacles of Power, is set the town of North Conway, New Hampshire. Like the heroine in Dangerous Proposal, Lena Benson, I've been vacationing there for most of my life, and know the town almost as well as the one I live in. Choosing a setting I'm familiar with minimizes the amount of research I have to do, and allows me to get back to my favorite part--writing!
But that's not to say that I only write about places I've been to, because I'd be selling myself very short if I did. In many instances, I'll let the characters tell me where they want to set a particular story, unless that story is part of a series. In that case, I work to set the book around the existing setting(s).
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I do the majority of my research online, because that's easiest for me. And in a day and age where I can type pretty much anything into a search engine and turn up a result, research has never been easier. But I do take the occasional trip to the library when researching something, a time period perhaps, that I'm particularly interested in, or if I am looking for additional information.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I began as a draft writer, but I've evolved into a writer who revises as I go along. The reason for this is I felt as if I was doing double and even triple the work, writing a scene, and then essentially rewriting it. Sometimes I'd cut something out of a scene that I really liked, because the muse hit me differently the second time around. This didn't work for me. With revising as I go along, I simply cut out what I don't want, and embellish what I do. I keep all of my thoughts in one place, which makes the most sense for me.
Dangerous Proposal - now available!