- We all know there are six elements of fiction. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. I believe the first five lead to the sixth which for me is plot. What's your take on this>
I agree that you have to have all these elements for the plot, but I think you can start either with asking these basic questions, then answering them or start with creating the plot and building on from there.
In a short story I wrote for a Christmas anthology, Christmas After All, the very first line that popped out was about a girl who didn’t want to be alone on Christmas. I knew the premise of the story was [Who]–a girl who didn’t want to be alone over [When]– the holidays. [Why]–because her parents are out of town. [Where]–is she spending the holidays? [What]–happens to change things? [How]–is her dilemma solved? But I didn’t consciously ask these questions. I just started typing and the questions formed and answered themselves.
- How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I don’t have a specific method for creating characters. I dream most of my books, and the characters come to life on their own. Other times, as I create a new story on my computer, characters pop into my head and become more developed as I write and edit.
There is a story I wrote called Pulitzer (currently being edited) where I took what I thought were some of the worse behaviors or personality traits in people, including myself, and highly exaggerated each trait in my characters. The main female character is all about plastic surgery because it’s the only way she can be beautiful, and the male character is what I think I would have been if I were a wealthy, handsome, and well-built man who knew it (he’s vain and uses women). One of the sub-characters is extremely shy and another character is a writer who just can’t seem to get his work off the ground. (Hmmm…)
In Eve’s Amulet, Book 1 (published by Black Opal Books,) I used facets of other people’s personalities to determine the character and their behavior once I knew who the character was and their place in the story. I knew that Carmena would be insecure and lazy–me when I was younger–and wanted her to develop her courage and feelings of responsibility–what I am striving to be as I grow older. Carlos wanted her but instead of being her caretaker, he needs to be taken care of–a man from a former relationship. Captain Sanders is old fashioned and doesn’t mind taking care of a woman. (I haven’t met this guy yet.) Angela is bossy and has strong political viewpoints–this facet of her personality is a close relative, but Angela’s caring and “soft” side is yet another woman I know. Her husband, Javier, speaks his mind but is more of a follower–someone from my past. Jesse is the old sweetheart, who pleases people and has strong work ethics, speaking up when things don’t feel right–that would be one of my uncles.
I wrote a short story that won an award called Welcome Home in which I wanted to write from a teenage boy’s perspective. That was an interesting experience and I think I pulled it off.
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?
Like I said, most all of my stories come in my dreams so they arrive as a complete package. With Eve’s Amulet, Book 1, I was having two books edited by two different people and needed something to write. I sat at my computer and literally prayed that I’d receive the words for a new story. It flew out, and the characters developed over each chapter, becoming stronger in their personalities, and then some as I edited.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
If I dream my story, I know exactly how it will end. But sometimes, as with Window Romance, which will be submitted for publishing soon, I only got part of the story each night. “Chapters” were added in my dreams for 7 days in a row. With Eve’s Amulet, I had absolutely no idea how it would turn out. I didn’t even know it was going to be a time travel book, a series, or that the first book would be based in the Old West until I got to a particular chapter.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
In my dreams, I “see” the settings, as in Eve’s Amulet. I knew the story took place in a Spanish mission style home. In Window Romance, I knew by the fall leaves that I was back east and that the area was very historical. In the dream I saw the colonial exterior and interior hardwood floors, hand tooled banisters in the narrow stairwell, and carriage house in the backyard. In Pulitzer, I knew right away the story took place in New York but each character has a different living environment—some in houses and others in apartments, but setting is not as critical for the supporting characters in that particular story. So no, I normally do not choose settings that I’ve lived in or visited.
Localities, now that’s a bit different. I travelled through Virginia where the family in Window Romance lives, and I passed through New York where some of my characters live in Pulitzer.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
95% online. It’s so much more convenient, however, once in a while I may find a book at the local bookstore about a certain geographical location or time period that interests me, and I will purchase it if it will support my book. The biggest problem for me in doing online research is that not all sites are reliable. I had a few errors in Eve’s Amulet (corrected in the second printing) because I didn’t triple-research my data. (I’m definitely not blaming all the errors on poorly researched sites—after a while, I just couldn’t see my own errors!)
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
A bit of both, actually. I may type a paragraph, and if it doesn’t “feel” right, but I can’t seem to fix it, I may wait until I get a bit of inspiration while working on yet another part of the book–then, I’ll go back to the part that needed additional editing. I wrote Eve’s Amulet as a straight draft, no changes until I started editing.
Some paragraphs need no change at all while others challenge me to be more creative. I may dream my books, but that doesn’t mean I get them word for word. Sometimes I’ll see a scene like a movie with no sound and have to describe it. Each time I go through a completed draft, I’m constantly editing and revising. Knowing when to walk away and call a work complete is still a lesson I’m learning, and I know there’s so much more to learn.
Thank you, Janet, for allowing me this opportunity to share about my writing process.