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?
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method? First off, my husband and I write together under our pen name, Adriana Kraft. Anything that happens to us can spark the creation of a character. We do scour the internet for photos for inspiration (women and men), and often use those to help flesh out details. But once we have our basic personas for a book, we spend a great deal of time getting to know them, writing down who they are, where they’ve come from, what drives them, what frightens them. Lots of this material never goes on the page, but it keeps our characters coherent, and we go back to it if we hit a stuck spot while we’re writing.
2. Do your characters come before the plot? Either way, actually. Sometimes, as in The Heist, the basic plot idea formed first, from a “backstage” tour of a local art museum, and then we had to go searching for our lead characters, as well as our pair of villains. Secondary characters (Kara’s assistant, Sasha; the Art Council’s CEO, Alice; people like that) just sort of coalesced as they became needed in the plot.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one? We almost always know the generic ending (boy meets girl, they’ll get together) or, since we also write erotica, trio meets, falls in love, and figures out their happy-ever-after. We develop what we think will be the arc of how their relationship will unfold, and it turns out we pretty much stick to that. When we write suspense, we figure out who the villain is and what drives them, but sometimes the specifics of how they commit their crime (and how they get foiled) emerge as we’re writing. Hubs is a criminologist by training, so we have lots to work with!
4. Do you choose settings you know, or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around? Almost always, we’re writing places we know. Many of our books are set in places where we’ve lived, and there are a lot of those—Chicago, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, the Southwest. Others are places we’ve visited, and we also use internet research to flesh out what we might not have caught in a brief stay. Did you know you can watch Paris 24/7 from the Eifel Tower’s web cam? Ditto the beautiful red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. The museum for The Heist is very much based on a superb museum in one of the Midwest towns where we’ve lived, but we placed it in Nebraska instead of Iowa. The book has several scenes in Chicago, which is where hubs and I met and married. Those scenes didn’t require much research.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books? We live, work, and travel full time in our motorhome, so there’s not a lot of room for physical books! Research is nearly always on line, though we also do a lot of interviewing of people we know and people we run into. We’re working on a WIP set in Napa Valley after our trip there earlier this summer. We met a wood carver on the California Redwood Trail who let us watch and showed us around—he has no one to carry on after him, but we’re going to write that story (and throw in a little suspense).
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? We sketch out the general plot arc, then we set the characters loose. They do make twists and turns of their own. It continues to surprise us how often something the characters have added that seemed inconsequential at the time turns out to be pivotal later in the story. We also read each day’s output out loud and discuss it before turning to the next segment. There can still be major revisions even after we’re finished—sometimes something needs to be added, and regretfully, sometimes we have to throw something out.