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?
Just as those first five questions shape real lives, they also shape the lives of fictional characters. Very often, these elements combine to influence the character's reaction to the stimuli we as writers provide for them. Where my character lives, what circumstances define her existence, when certain events take place in her life, why she's gotten to the place she is, and most importantly, who she is, her personality, her soul, the essence of her being, will dictate how she reacts to conflict. And in writing, the plot is all about how the character handles the conflict. Everyone is different (and hopefully so are our characters) and that is why the same old plot trope works over and over again. Because each story should be as unique as each individual on the planet. I've often said there are only so many types of stories a writer can write. It's what she allows her characters to do with the same old story that makes the plot unique.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I have a very flexible method of developing characterization. My characters evolve over the course of the story depending on how they react to the action of the plot. I ask, "How would this character respond to this stimuli in this situation considering what she's already gone through?" I write the scene and much of the time my character develops a unique personality as she responds to various situations and in response to how other characters respond to her. I may begin with certain personality characteristics or quirks, but by the time the book is over, hopefully my character has grown and changed, and revealed to the reader more and more of her personality.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
I don't define my characters before I begin to write because I don't like "boxing" them in to a certain "type". Characters are much more interesting and entertaining when they don't respond as expected. The character dictates the plot and the plot influences the character. It's a beautiful circle.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I usually start with a plot premise. I know where I want to begin because the opening scene usually defines my premise. That first scene comes to me before anything else. Then the "what if" questions start popping into my head. I know where the story begins and I then I decide where I want it to end. In between, I allow my characters to dictate the action.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Many of my stories are set in places I have been. Colorado. Tennessee. Washington. Florida. I have set a couple of stories in places I've never been like Virginia Beach and St. Lucia. That's when I buy a travel guide and do some research. I have been known to sketch a house plan just for consistency's sake, but I don't decide these things ahead of time. Setting is dictated by the character's circumstances. Anson and Jennifer in Deceptions Of the Heart would reasonably own a large house in a expensive neighborhood due to his wealth, but I didn't know they would need a big house until I made him the owner of his own pharmaceutical company. Tess from Crisis of Identity lived on the outskirts of Aspen in a trailer park because the only work she could find was at a souvenir shop on the edge of the ski slopes, but I didn't know that until I moved her from Galveston, Texas, to Aspen, Colorado. If I change my character's life situation, I stop and do a bit more research about where, when, and how they might live in the place I've decided to put them.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
If it's location, I like to purchase a paperback travel guide. Seeing pictures helps me visualize the locale. A lot of my local "flavor" comes from my personal collection of travel photographs and my memories of traveling to the locale. If it's the details of the story, such as what medication Jennifer would take after her heart transplant in Deceptions Of the Heart, then I do an internet search on the subject. I've not asked any individual for an expert opinion, but I can see that coming. I'd love to speak with a real police detective some day. And...okay, this might sound weird, but I'd love to go to a firing range and have someone show me the proper way to handle a gun. These little details add flavor and believability to a story. Suspension of disbelief is so important in suspense. You can't expect the reader to concentrate on the action if she's obsessing over inconsistencies in the details.
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 don't end up with what most writer's call a "rough" draft. I tend to revise as I go along. Once I'm done with the original manuscript, I let it percolate for a few weeks, then I go back to it and do some finer, more detailed revisions. Rarely do I do any major revisions after I've written the first draft. I have a very loosely defined plot line in mind when I begin. I decide on an inciting incident and consider a few of the major plot twists and how far into the plot I want them to appear. Then I determine where I want my characters to be and who I want them to be with at the end of the book. I never write a chapter by chapter outline before I begin. Maybe that's why writing a synopsis is always difficult for me. I have to go back to the story and write a synopsis as I skim through the story. I love allowing my characters to decide how the story develops between the beginning and the ending I've chosen for them. Sometimes they dawdle on their way to their final destination, but in the end they always find the happily ever after I've envisioned for them.
Denise Moncrief is a Southern girl, who’s lived in Louisiana all her life. And yes, she has a drawl. She's been writing off and on since she was seventeen. She has a wonderful husband and two incredible children. They not only endure her writing moods, but also encourage her to indulge her passion.
Her first “novel” was seventeen handwritten pages on school-ruled paper and an obvious rip-off of the last romance novel she read. The urge to write wouldn't let go of her. In her twenties, she started another novel, only to abandon it after Chapter Four or Five. She started writing seriously about eight years ago and has already published several stories.
Hi Denise. It's always wonderful to meet new authors. I also go back and edit before I add on to each writing.
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