Friday, March 22, 2013
Friday's How She Does It with Meg Benjamin
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
My normal process for creating characters is just to let them develop as
I work out the plot, although Ive got some really useful spreadsheets I
picked up a few years ago from Delilah Devlin that help in sketching out
the general details. With Bolted, though, I was in a new situation since
its part of the four-book Promise Harbor Wedding series with three other
writers (Kelly Jamieson, Sydney Somers, and Erin Nicholas). The books
arent really sequentialthey all begin with the same, disastrous wedding
ceremony and then take off from there. And some of the same characters
show up in all four books. So although I could let my hero and heroine
develop over the course of the story, I also had to keep my fellow
writers up to date with how they were developing so that theyd seem the
same in the other books. And some of my secondary characters,
particularly the heroines mom, had to be changed slightly so that theyd
fit everybodys concept of what they were like. It was a different way of
working and sort of fun.
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?
Theyre sort of developed simultaneously. I think character grows out of
plot, but I also think the characters Ive come up with affect the story I
tell. Most of my books are semi-comic, so my characters arent heavily
into angst. Again, this was interesting in the Promise Harbor series. We
all brainstormed the general plot, but then our characters took off from
there. As I say, everybody started with the same situation, seen through
different characters points of view. In Kelly Jamiesons Jilted, her POV
characters were the groom whos deserted at the altar and his former
girlfriend. Both of them have reason to be heartbroken over what happens,
and Kellys versions are very emotional. My POV character is the matron of
honor. Shes less involved in the situation and a little more cynical
herself. So my version tends to be more snarky than angsty. The same
things happen in all the versions of the wedding that show up in the four
books (in fact, we all had to work together to make sure the incidents in
our scenes were the same), but the characters involved make all the
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way
or a specific one?
I couldnt really work with a story that was open-endedId be afraid of
getting blocked midway through. So yes, I know how the story ends. The way
the characters get there may change as I work through the story, though.
My heroines ex-husband pops up in Bolted, for example, but the idea of
him I had before I started writing changed slightly as I began working
with him. He developed into a much more interesting character as I wrote
him into the story.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and
plans of houses sitting around?
Im more comfortable with settings I know. My Texas books (the Konigsburg
series for Samhain and the Medium trilogy for Berkley InterMix) all take
place in settings Im very familiar with so that I can describe them
without too much strainI lived in San Antonio (where the Medium trilogy
takes place) for over twenty years and I spent a lot of time in the Hill
Country, the location for Konigsburg. Bolted was different, though, again
because we all decided on the setting together. Promise Harbor is in
Massachusetts, somewhere vaguely close to Marthas Vineyard. I did, in
fact, live in Massachusetts for a short time many, many years ago, but
its been a while since Ive been back. In this case, I had to refresh my
memory about how things looked via Flickr and movies like Jumping the
Broom that actually take place in the right area. The four of us decided
on some common settings, like Barneys Clam Shack in Promise Harbor. But
we also introduced some places that were purely our own. In my case, it
was a dilapidated hotel in a little town a few miles up the road that my
hero calls Casa Dubrovnik (the owners are Alice and Nadia Dubrovnik).
Its sort of based on places Ive stayed, but also some half-remembered
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
These days on line, almost exclusively. Its so much easier to find what
youre looking for immediately. Of course, you have to be judicious about
what you use since theres a lot of nonsense posted there and about how
you search. But overall, Im a real Internet fan. Im working on another
Konigsburg book that has a barbecue theme, though, and I admit Im using
some Texas cookbooks as my sources.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
Im definitely a draft writer. I think that stems from having been a
writing teacher many, many years ago. Most of the research Ive seen on
writers block says that it stems from trying to make something perfect
the first time around. The mantra we were always taught was, Just keep
going. You have to have something written before you can revise it. I do
review what I wrote the day before when I start writing, just to make sure
Im still going in the same direction, and I may change a word or two. But
I dont do any drastic revisions until I have a finished draft. Ive even
been known to make major changes in a character halfway through a draft,
knowing I can go back later and set the character up in the first part of
the draft when I do my revisions. With the Promise Harbor series, we also
had the advantage of having three other authors to go over the book and
give us reactions. That definitely helped with revisions.