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?
I think, for me, the Why always comes first. I need to know the reason I MUST write whatever it is I’m writing. Without purpose, everything else doesn’t make sense. After that, the other five elements blend together so that I’m not sure which came second…or sixth.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I don’t have a method. I think about their circumstances and ask myself, “Who does this person need to be to survive all this awfulness? Why is he/she the only one capable of doing this?” Then, I take the favorite foibles of one of my favorite people and infuse my characters with them. I try to let my characters tell me who they want to be.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Oh, that’s a hard question! I just finished saying that plot informs my characters, but I’m now thinking, “Wait. Is it my characters who inform my plot?” I’m pretty sure the plot comes first and the characters evolve to survive it, but…
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I always know how the story will end. That idea is rarely general. In fact, I usually write the climax of my novels first, then go back to the beginning. That helps me remember who I want my characters to become, and it lets me write someone who needs to learn whatever lesson I’m trying to channel.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
I choose settings I know. I’m a very visual person, so my characters always live in places I’ve lived. My writing is set almost exclusively in El Paso, Texas—my hometown. As for a character’s house…well, I pick out a house in the neighborhood I want them to live in, so I have an idea what his/her house looks like, but the floor plan is an invention of my own brain. (I’m pretty sure strangers wouldn’t appreciate me traipsing through their homes…as much as I’m dying to do it.)
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
A lot of my research comes from books I read in college or for fun afterward. (I’m a history/theology nerd.) But I also do extensive online research on accredited sites. When I’m on to something, I’ll devour anything I can find on the subject.
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 revise as I go along for two reasons—I’m a compulsive editor (I’ve already edited this sentence twice before it’ll be done) and because I have a terrible memory. I like to be reminded of where I’ve just been so I can make sure I’m going where I meant to go. I’m so ADD that, if I tried to write it straight in one go, my novels would wander around like a herd of cats.
I do sketch out my plots. Sometimes I map out the whole novel, and sometimes I plan a few chapters ahead. Again, my ADD would be the death of my writing if I didn’t. (I’m the worst about