Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday's How She Does It featuring Andrea Parnell

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?

Any one of these elements could be the first spark of a story for me. It is like catching a crystal ball then looking to see what is in my hands and beginning there. Afterwards, I get more methodical and pretty much follow the six elements as you have laid them out.
1.      How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
 Characters are the most fun about writing. I do extensive character development using a chart I adapted decades ago and which is posted on my blog at Once I complete the chart, I know much more about the character than is ever likely to appear in the book, but who knows, there might be a sequel one day.

Coming up with the physicality is much more magical. Once I saw a lovely woman dash out of a salon. She had stunning blonde hair and crystal blue eyes. I've no idea who she was, but she became the image in my mind as I created the heroine in a romantic suspense. As for heroes, I've always got a few, usually dark-haired and blue-eyed, waiting in my imagination.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?

There is a synchronicity in the beginning of a story coming to fruition. After that first spark, I get an idea for a plot and the characters appear simultaneously to flesh it out. That is what I mean about characters being the most fun. They show up ready to live out their story and, maybe, the day before we had no idea we would all meet.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
For the first few books I wrote, the last page was written first. That is how the process started for me. It was all quite organic and spontaneous. That said, I'm something of a planner now, and for later books, I know how they will end but not specifically what will be on the last page.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around.
If at all possible
, I visit the locale in which I am setting the books. I've been to Great Britain, Dominica in the West Indies, parts of Arizona and California, and all over my native state of Georgia.  When visiting the locale is not possible, I use travel books, books from the period, and other media that gives me good images of the locations. For houses or villages or other structures, I do sketches and keep a notebook with photos and other useful materials. In one of my other incarnations, I am a Home Economist. I like designing houses and rooms, and incorporating the fashion, food and social history of the day into my stories.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?

Most of my books are historicals and for those I like to use references from the time period of the setting. A university library has been invaluable for this. For quick references, the internet is pure bliss. An image, term, pattern of speech, or historically correct costume is right at my fingertips. I'm using it more and more for research.
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?My first draft is fairly complete. Afterwards I do numerous polishing drafts and finally make edits my publisher calls for. While I'm not nearly as fast or prolific as I would like to be, I believe writers should find the method, pace, and tempo that works best for them and not get caught up in comparing their output to that of other writers. Easier said than done but good for peace of mind.

Andrea Parnell
Author of Romance and Intrigue
FB Andrea Parnell Author


Dan McGirt said...

Janet - Excellent questions!

Hi, Mom! Great interview -- Much of the process you describe is similar to how I get ideas, develop plots, and do research. Coincidence? Probably not!

Diane Burton said...

Great interview. Best statement: writers should find what works best for them. Don't listen to the "you must do this" to be a writer. Or that there's only one way. Whatever works.

Melissa Keir said...

I love to find out about how other authors create stories and characters. I'll have to check out the story map.