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?
As a former newspaper reporter and columnist, I agree. How is the plot, specifically the obstacles the h/h must overcome. The greater the obstacles, the more intriguing the plot. But not everyone likes complicated plots. Many readers want just enough to keep the h/h moving toward the happily-ever-after. Other readers like seemingly insurmountable obstacles and constant action that make the h/h virtually super human. As writers, we have to know our readership’s expectations and write to fulfill those.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
I have two methods. The first is when the characters appear to me fully formed as if in a movie and they act out a scene from the story, usually the first scene or first obstacle. This is my favorite and what happened in GABE KINCAID and most of my other books.
The second is when I have one character and must develop the second. For instance, in THE MOST UNSUITABLE COURTSHIP, the hero, Storm, was in two previous books so his character was formed. His heroine needed to be unusual, so I chose one entirely different than any I’d ever written. I had to develop her by deciding her backstory, her goals, and her personality. I have a character sheet for this with some basic questions to develop the character.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Yes, they do. For me, the characters create the plot. I work hard to make the characters realistic, yet a little over the top as far as their ability to cope. I want them to encourage readers who are facing obstacles to believe they can overcome just as my characters did. Yes, it is fiction, but we read for encouragement as well as enlightenment.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Since my books are plotted, I always know how the story will end. My plot is a road map and leads me to my goal/finish line. That’s not to say I don’t take detours along the route.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Both. All my books are set primarily in Texas, and I’ve been to all of the settings. Having at least driven through the locale gives me a good feel of the land. Even my imaginary towns are set in a real location. A fictional town lets me add whatever features and businesses I need for my stories.
When I started writing western historical romances, I did tons of research on houses of the period. Fortunately, in my local library I found books on restoring Victorian houses. These were unbelievably helpful because they showed heating, ventilation, plumbing, stairs, and everything imaginable about the homes. I still refer to my books on costumes for descriptions of the dresses, but I think I have the houses down pretty well in my head.
Various members of my family and I have toured a lot of Victorian and older homes. Seeing them is so much more helpful than trying to imagine from photos in a book. I’ve been fortunate to tour everything from mid 1800’s through early 1900’s homes. Seeing them is such a treat for me. At one time I wanted to live in an old home, but now that I’ve seen how much maintenance goes into them, I think I’m lucky to have my snug little home.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Everywhere. As I said above, I love touring homes and museums. To refresh my memory, I have tons of books on early life in the Old West that encompass everything from food to guns to slang and more. The Texas State Historical Association’s online Handbook of Texas is a great help with locales. Also Fehrenbach’s LONE STAR: THE HISTORY OF TEXAS AND HER PEOPLE has proven helpful. Like many other historical authors, I read history books like kids read comics.
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?
Years ago I attended the all day workshop “Story Magic” by Robin Perini and Laura Baker. What a great day that turned out to be. Those ladies helped me so much, and I use their method to plot. Friends and I go on plotting weekends and each plot several books. We’ve modified the Story Magic method to suit our particular styles and needs.
Once I have the plot, I make a detailed outline and then write away. Occasionally, I take detours that my muse inserts, but I always come back to the planned plot I’ve outlined.
I’d like to say I am a draft writer, but I can’t let the book alone. :-D I edit what I wrote the day before and then start with that day’s pages. After my critique partners make comments, I edit again. When the book is finished, I go back again and again to edit before I send it to my editor. Although the book won’t be perfect when I publish, it’s as error free as I can achieve.