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. We have to touch on all of the basic elements to draw our readers into the story. But once we have them there, we have to give them a road to travel and that's where the plot comes in.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I think about their heritage. Then unless a name calls to me, I start researching names in The Character Naming Sourcebook. That is my name Bible. Then I refer to the Chinese Zodiac to determine their charcteristics. If the characteristics I have in mind don't fit the profile I'm seeing in my mind, then I change their birthdate or order. I usually know their profession going in and it's quite interesting to see how everything seems to align as I begin writing.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
I usually have at least one of the characters in mind, such as my upcoming Nano 2014 project. I knew he needed to be a firefighter and that the story would take place in coastal Maine - Boothbay Harbor area. From there the plot has begun to materialize.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
In a way. I always know there is a Happy Ever After. But I look forward to how they actually get there that makes me smile.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Locations come to me as easily as my characters. From there I start researching houses, local history, etc. For Somewhere Down the Line I knew the area. Although I'd never been until a couple of months ago, I knew the area because some of the singers/ songwriters/ musicians I promote are from the Austin area.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Mostly on-line, though I try to do as much on-sight research as I can. I need to absorb the essence of the locale if I can. I think that helps me make the setting more real for my readers. If I love the place, they will too. When I start playing with my historical series, I have a ton of books I've been collecting for the purpose.
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 write a rough draft. I want the story down on paper. I wrote the rough of Somewhere Down the Line in 18 days. I love when the story pours out of me. I just wish they all did. Though if I hit a stuck spot I've found going back through what I've previously written to be helpful, and I'll fix little things that catch my eye.
Most of the time I start with an outline and a time-line. There are key points that HAVE to happen to keep the story on track. But I always leave room for the characters to explore the path. Since most of my stories revolved around a holiday or at least a season, the time-line is important for keeping details straigh.