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?
Hi Janet, thanks for having me.
I agree with you. Romance readers in particular already know how a story will end. They are reading to find out how the characters get from No Way This Will Work to Happily Ever After. That ‘how’ is definitely the plot.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I don’t have a template where I log that the hero has green eyes or other attributes (although I should have a rudimentary one. I often find myself searching ‘eyes’ so I can see if I gave him a certain color in early chapters.)
I do write a few paragraphs of back story for each. This typically covers their childhood, the relationships they had in their formative years that impact how they think about love and marriage, plus their current dreams and aspirations going into the opening of the book.
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?
Absolutely characters come before plot. I spent many an unpublished year learning how to plot and have had to unlearn a lot of it to write the character driven romance that works better for Harlequin Presents.
I usually sketch out a 1-2 page synopsis that I submit to my editor, to ensure the concept works for them and reassure myself I have enough story to fill the word count. I don’t stick to this outline very tightly as I write, however. The characters have a lot of room to stretch in other directions.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Obviously in romance I know the story will end well, but I don’t really know how it will end. I’m just realizing this as I answer this question and am trying to tally up which books had a solid end as I wrote, but can’t think of one book that did.
I usually have a sense of where it will end which gives a clue, I suppose. Eg. A hospital, her parent’s house, his palace. The actual details and final conflict become clearer to me as I get closer to it.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
One of the best perks of writing for Harlequin Presents/Mills & Boon Modern is the settings. We’re trying to give the reader an imaginary vacation to the Caribbean or Paris or a fashion salon in Milan. I don’t think I could afford to do that research in person, although I aspire to!
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I do a lot of online research especially as things come up during the first draft, like a piece of jewelry or a villa or the local foods in Venezuela. I occasionally buy magazines like Hello! or Architectural Digest for inspiration. Oscar season is a fabulous time to research gowns. This Spring I bought Time’s 100 Most Influential People. It’s an amazing resource for things like careers, politics and culture.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I revise as I go along. My deadlines are really tight so I have to feel confident when I reach The End that the rest is pretty solid. Also, it helps my process to continually go back and check my through line. Before I published, I wrote books where the ending was basically from a different book than the first half because I had changed so many elements. I’ve learned to stay the course for the sake of my time and sanity.
Thank you so much for having me, Janet.
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