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?To me, the who is the most important question. Once I have at least one of the characters clear in my mind, I can begin to write that person's life story. I love to delve deeply into inter-personal relations, and how we form attachments to one another. I've been told my stories make people laugh, and that when I'm writing a sad scene, it makes them cry. If that happens to the reader, I probably cried when I wrote the scene also.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
Many times I dream up the characters--I've dreamed up whole plots as well. Or they're "bit players" in another book, then they take over my imagination and insist I tell their stories as well. The series I'm working on now began with me being sad about having to leave Grand Marais, Minnesota, where we've been camping in the summer for a couple of weeks for the past few years. I hated to leave so much that I began to think how great it would be to fall in love with a local person, so you could fall in love with the area as well and never have to leave either. That book was For The Love Of His Life, which has been getting great reviews. The two subsequent books grew from characters in that first book who want to star in their own love stories.Characters can spring into my mind from anywhere. A picture of someone, a voice I overheard somewhere, etc. I think about it, dream about it, then the character begins to speak to me in my mind, telling me about his/her life.
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?
I usually think up the characters first. Then I begin to "play" with their lives in my mind, figuring out what their issues are, what happens to them, what their histories involve, etc. So my books are definitely character-driven. Once I have a good idea of who they are, they begin to tell me what direction to take their plots. Sometimes I make an outline of sorts, but not usually. I do research names for my characters based on their ethnicity. I like to be accurate, and usually I'll know when I find the right name because it will "feel" right.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I know there will be a happy ending...that's a given. But it's how the characters get there that makes the book worth reading. I know who will end up paired with whom. But sometimes I'm surprised at how it happens, when I'm writing a scene and it takes a direction I wasn't aware I was heading in. Those are the moments I love the best, because I'm writing the book, but also reading it, and enjoying being surprised at the same time!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
The houses aren't ever that important to me. One of my earlier series had a heroine who designs houses, and she's hired by a man she used to be involved with, to redesign his new home. That's the only time I ever gave that much thought to the actual building itself. Otherwise the characters are what fascinate me, not the background setting behind them.
With that being said, however, when I choose to write about an area the characters live in, it's usually someplace I've actually been to. Otherwise I have to do some research on-line to find out what the area looks like, feels like, smells like, etc. We went to see one of my husband's favorite authors speak once, and he talked about his publisher sending him for a month to France, to do research for his latest book. Sigh. Maybe someday I'll be famous and successful like him. Until then, I just dream about it.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
See above. I do my research on-line. The internet is a wonderful resource! I remember the old days of having to use card-catalogs and micro-fiche. I much prefer sitting in my own home, sipping coffee, while I find out about any darned thing I want to learn about!
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why?
I write the story straight through in a chronological manner. I work multiple p/t jobs, still have a husband and 4 young-adult kids to deal with, and have friends who keep me sane. I'd love to ONLY write, but with 2 kids still in college, that's not possible yet. So if it's been a while since I was working on a book, I'll reread the previous chapter before I begin to add to the novel. Once the story is completely done, that's when I begin to revise, revise, revise. By the time I send it in as a submission, I've been polishing it for a long time, and it's as close to being done as I can do alone.
Note: I'm a certified English teacher, which means I got an English degree. Long ago I used to hate revising, preferring to think that every word I wrote was perfect the first time...boy, did I have a lot to learn! Now I'm aware that revision is my best friend!
For The Love Of His Life, by Fiona McGier
When a famous action star needs to clean-up for a major role that even he doubts he can deliver, the director sends him up to a resort owned by his grandmother in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of upper Minnesota, to learn to commune with nature. His guide is Veronica, the director's cousin, a tall, athletic woman who has the relaxed, sensible nature of someone who knows herself well. Raul's initial clumsy attempt to seduce her makes her laugh...so he calls her fat. Is there any hope that their relationship will progress beyond its rocky start? And can Raul overcome his partying nature to discover what is really important in life?
Excerpt--PG--Their first kiss: Raul has fallen in love for the first time in his life, but Veronica thinks he's always lying because he's an actor. They're on a picnic in the woods.
Raul tried to pay attention to her, but kept getting distracted watching the sun shine off of her long curls, as he imagined being able to bury his nose in her hair and breathe in her smell. His eyes must have looked unfocused, or Veronica noticed his lack of response to her words.
"Hey! Are you bored? I get the feeling you're not listening to me at all."
"I'm listening. I hear words...but I'm not paying attention to what you are saying."
"Because all I can think of is how much I want to kiss you again. Your lips were so soft and warm. I want to taste them."
Veronica leaned back away from him slightly, "Why?"
"Because you're all I think about. You are the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about when I'm going to sleep. I dream about you all night...but in my dreams I call you Nee-ca."
"Everyone else calls me Ronnie..."
"I don't want to use a name that everyone else uses. I want to have a name for you that's just mine. To show you how special I think you are."
Veronica shook her head, smiling sadly, "That's just because I'm the only woman you've been seeing lately. You're going through withdrawals since you don't have your usual legion of female groupies throwing themselves at you. You'll get over it when the rest of the crew gets here and people start treating you like the important movie star that you are."
"I don't want to get over it. I've never felt anything real for any other woman except my Mom. But what I feel for you is growing stronger every day that I see you, and spent time with you, and learn from you how to be a better man. I don't want that to stop."
Veronica stared at him, "Really?"
Raul felt his pulse racing at the thought that she was sitting still next to him, so it was only a matter of him leaning forward just a little bit and their lips would touch. So he did.
Veronica leaned into the kiss and closed her eyes. Raul closed his also, enjoying the soft, warm caress of her lips. He lingered over that first kiss, and she opened her mouth slightly to sigh. He covered her lips with his again, and boldly licked at her mouth. She opened it even more to allow him to explore her mouth, and her tongue met his and caressed him back.
Raul groaned. He balanced himself with one hand on the ground, and raised the other one to caress the side of Veronica's face, his fingers moving back into her hair to feel the silky strands that really were as soft as they looked. Their kiss grew in intensity, the passion of the moment possessing them both.
One kiss became many, as Raul unleashed a tiny portion of his passion for this woman, afraid to let loose lest he scare her from responding. She met him at every increase, her breathing speeding up as much as his was, her face beginning to have a slight flush. She reached up both of her hands to hold his shoulders, one hand moving into his hair on the back of his neck, in a sensuous, familiar gesture, as if she knew it would ramp up his excitement...and it did.
Raul began to push gently, and Veronica obliged by lowering herself onto her back, still holding onto him, their lips beginning to crush each others', their tongues beginning a duel of passion. The hand that had been in her hair now moved slowly down her neck to her shoulder, as if it had a mind of its own and knew where it wanted to be. Veronica made no move to stop him, so he began to massage her skin, heading towards the breasts that had been tantalizing him for so long.
"Mommy, what are those people doing?" The almost-lisping quality of the high-pitched voice let them know there was a very young child watching them.
Raul and Veronica both opened their eyes wide, to stare in alarm into each others' faces.
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