Friday, February 15, 2013
How She Does It with Patricia Fischer
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’m a pantzer, so one element will guide me one day, another for some other day. When I put it all together, it just melts and congeals into the right form.
I’ve even started writing a book just because of a title that popped in my head, but I think the biggest challenge in writing any kind of fiction is does this work in the world you’ve created? You’ve got to stay consistent in your own world with your characters. If you don’t, readers get really upset.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
It always starts with an idea. What if this type of person and that type of person got together? Or who would be the opposite match for this character? My mind is really good at racing all around and coming up with ideas or scenarios so it’s not a specific process per se, but I do have to flush things out and layer the characters as I go. I have friends who outline characters down to their favorite ice cream and kindergarten teacher, but that’s not me. I’m more of a fly by the seat of my pants type of writer and I love how the characters will surprise me along the way. Sometimes, it’s annoying, but many times they will tell me their story and it’s great to have it all there.
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? For me, it truly depends on the story. I’ve got stories I have a general idea of where I want things to go and others that come to me all at once and I outline the entire thing. That happened right after RWA Nationals last July. I had an idea for a series where either the hero or heroine was a former foster child and they were linked back to a specific foster home in Texas. Being a foster parent myself, I wanted to put a good story out there about those of us who truly want to do right by kids so I created this foster home where these former foster kids return as adults. I started writing as soon as I could put my tray table down and didn’t stop outlining for two hours, but I got the entire thing done.
Then there are times my characters surprise me. In my book Weighting for Mr. Right, there’s a scene where the hero’s sister has a total meltdown and chews him out after he screws up. That scene wasn’t in there until the final edits. That character just sat up and said, “Hey! I’ve got to do this!” so I just let my fingers fly across the keyboard and let it happen. It actually helped me better bridge a question of why he screwed up in the first place. The sister gave us as the readers a more clear idea of the hero really was. I sat back after writing that scene and said, “Wow. I can’t believe I actually wrote that” and “thanks for speaking up.”
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one? As a romance writer, I know I want the happily ever after, but I don’t want it to be typical. I want the journey to be unique, fun, and most certainly some hardships thrown in there—but not in a Nicholas Sparks sort of way. Sorry, if you’re looking for one of the main characters to die of cancer, heart failure, in a car accident, or killed by natural disaster or have end stage dementia, you’re not going to find it in my stories.
It’s mostly general, but I do have stories that have to end a certain way by a certain time. One I’m finishing is based on Greek Mythology so I have to guide the characters down a certain path if I want to have the same elements of the original story, but add in my own flair if you will.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around? I have a real estate magazine of high end homes so I can get the right idea of what some of my characters have in their homes, but honestly, I go by what I know. My father was in construction for years and I can read blueprints and know what stage of building a house or commercial property is in. It’s fun to drive my son by job sites and sit a bit from it and point out all the heavy machinery. That made me really smart in his eyes, but it was simply something I grew up with. Plus, we live in Texas so there’s every kind of building here, every shape, size, texture, floor plan, etc. The variety is endless and I have a large database to pull from.
Now if I wanted to write about something in England or Europe, my personal experience is limited, but I do have lots of friends I can call and ask about things.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I interview people all the time. I have one book that’s set at the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas and a friend of mine went there. He sat down, showed me all the photos, explained the airport, customs, cost of a drink (cha-ching, cha-ching). Talking to people about their adventures helps me quite a bit, but I think I like writing contemporary fiction because I set it in places that I know. Where I feel comfortable and where I’ve been and what I’ve experienced. There’s something about the sensory of it all—the food, the noises, the places. It can come out so much richer in your writing if you’ve actually experienced it or something like it.
I have done quite a bit of research for other historical projects, but those take a lot longer to gel. I would love to get those at least outlined this year, but we’ll see how it goes.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I’m glad you asked that. For years, I kept trying to revise as I went and it almost made me nuts. I’d go over and over this one page or paragraph and would completely use up all the baby’s naptime. If I’d just allowed myself to write crap, at least I could have more to go back and edit. Now, I’ll correct misspelled words at the end of writing something, but usually, I just try and get it on the screen or on the page so I can revise it.
I think this is one of the major roadblocks for a lot of writers. They keep going over and over the same stuff and never get their manuscript done because they won’t let go of a page or scene. Sometimes you’ve got to allow yourself to move forward so you can go back and fix what you’ve already created. Give yourself to write garbage so you can go back and fix it. If you’re so determined to write perfectly on the first or even second draft, you’ll never get done because you aren’t allowing yourself to be creative. You’re boxing in your story and not allowing it to go where it needs to, even if you have to back it up and go down a different road, I think it helps flush out the tale better.