HOW SHE DOES IT
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 agree, Janet. There’s also another, which is Why Not? That’s the plot’s conflict. What do the main characters want and why can they not achieve their goal? Writers have to make the hero/heroine battle obstacles that appear impossible to overcome so their victory becomes glorious and heroic.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
Usually, the two main characters appear to me in a scene as if I were watching a movie in my head. (No, I’m not certifiable. Yet. ☺) Then I work out the premise of the story from that scene. I use the plotting method taught by Laura Baker and Robin Perini in their Story Magic workshop. Several of my writer friends use the same method and we have plotting weekends where each of us plots several books. This last time, we plotted three books for me and various numbers for the other three. There are always characters talking to me and vying for their own book, so there’s no problem plotting several books on one weekend.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
For me, the characters are primary and drive the plot. Occasionally, setting can be a character. As an example, a snowstorm or heavy rain with flooding can isolate a couple. Usually, I know more about one character than the other. For instance, in THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP, hero Storm Kincaid spoke to me more than the heroine. In GABE KINCAID, heroine Katie Worthington was foremost in my mind.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Yes, I know how it’s going to end, but variations crop up as I’m writing. A plotted book is like having a road map for a trip that gets you from point A to point B. You can still take detours along the way as inspiration strikes, but you’re always heading toward that specific final destination.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
All of my titles except one novella are set primarily in Texas, and I’ve traveled to all the settings I use. For several historical romances, a small portion of the book takes place in another state before moving to Texas. For those, I have to rely on memory if I’ve been to that state. Otherwise, I rely on the internet for location photos and facts. For instance, in THE MOST UNSUITABLE HUSBAND, the heroine is traveling back to Texas from her mother’s funeral. In Memphis, she saves three orphans. I wanted there to be snow, but I didn’t know about the weather in Memphis. I found weather facts online for the year of the story and relied on that information.
I save photos of houses that I’ve seen as we’ve driven around the state as well as magazines featuring particular homes. For historicals, I’ve also referred to library books detailing the restoration of old homes. Those give detailed information about plumbing (when there was any), ranges and heating, insulation (if any), and fixtures. I also have a reprint of an 1897 Sears Roebuck and Company catalog as well as several other reference books. I love e-books for reading fiction but for extensive reference, I prefer a physical book.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Both. As I said, I love having reference books. Having several books on every subject would be too costly and take up way too much space. For instance, I have just researched vineyards for my work in progress, and also sorghum and peanut crops. Although the vineyard and winery research will be throughout the book, the sorghum and peanuts will be only a few lines. Still, whatever I incorporate has to be correct, doesn’t it? So I used online USDA sources for those facts. The internet is a great timesaver.
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 characters are developed before I begin the story, but new aspects of their makeup crop up as I write. I try to just write the draft, but I can’t resist editing as I go along. Sigh. Our critique group meets alternate weeks, so I revise what I’ve written before I email it to my three critique partners the week we’re meeting in person. After they’ve given their critique, I incorporate their suggestions—those with which I agree. Usually, their advice is spot on, but it’s still my book.