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?
While characters, conflict, era, setting, motivations and turning points drive plot, I find other elements also define a story. These include how the author uses point of view, theme, style and tone can greatly influence the reader’s experience far beyond the structure of plot. The kind of language and word usage an author selects will create a distinctive read. Many authors refer to the lens through which they view the story. By focusing in or pulling back, the author can influence the reader’s emotional hit.
In case you haven’t noticed, I find this aspect of writing fascinating. In my opinion, we have one job as authors and that is to evoke emotion in the reader.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I don’t like to do long detailed info sheets. I find it distracts me in the process. I like to get to know my characters the way I get to know my friends, which is organically. (Usually conversations…while I am driving!)
Things I do need to know include the character’s longing or need, deep wound, beliefs about the world (because of that wound) and the character’s hidden fear. I also pinpoint the character’s Identity (who they think they are) and their essence (who they are at their core). The conflict between the two forms the foundation of character driven stories. This character map comes from Michael Hauge’s The Hero’s Inner Journey (http://www.storymastery.com/)
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
It depends on how the story came to me. Sometimes the core idea comes from a name, a word, a plot twist or a character trait. Sometimes stories emerge from a long, convoluted process. Sometimes stories spring from commercials on TV, conversations with friends, or from other stories I’ve written. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and just KNOW. Everything.
In the Wired Series, Jack had already appeared in two other books before he got his own. The challenge with him was taking a character who was fairly unlikable in Adam’s Obsession and Tristan’s Temptation, and making him loveable. How did I do that? I gave him a secret self. One he hides from the world.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I know in a general way. I don’t like being too locked in to a plot because it stifles the creative process. But I do need a roadmap. I just allow myself to take the long way on occasion!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Usually I have a specific place in mind when I write. It could be a house I’ve lived in or a city I visited. But it helps so much with choreography if I have been there and know the place. The Wired Series is based in the Los Angeles area, because I lived there when I wrote it. So much easier than checking a map every time a character makes a turn on the freeway!
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I love books with a passion. Nothing gives me more pleasure than perusing a dictionary or encyclopedia. Books with historical fashion are a particular passion of mine. But time is a factor, so nowadays I tend to hop online and look things up. It’s much quicker.
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
I am a plotter so before I begin composition of a story, I sketch out the major plot points on a grid. When I begin writing, I know the major beats and the ending. That said, more than once a story has gone in a completely different direction. In Making Over Maris, Jack bribes Sara with a trip to Paris as an incentive to help make him more attractive to women. I had no intention of taking Sara to Paris for her birthday. The book was supposed to end long before then…but she really wanted to go and Jack really wanted her to see Paris, so it became a much bigger theme in the story. The scene on the Bridge of Sighs became a pivotal point in the book. Because that’s the way they wanted it!