Not because I’m inherently narcissistic but because my faithful livejournal reader, squint13, was curious and wanted the following questions answered.
What’s your writing process like?
The short answer is that my writing process is still evolving as I am new to this game and it often looks a mess to an outsider looking in. I find that I start writing without much planning and then get stuck between 10-20 000 words on first draft and need to stop and take stock and start a planning process of what my plot looks like. I only worry about plot in first draft, then worry about world building and research details and consistent characters in second draft.
How do you come up with characters?
I often start a story with a couple of burning scenes in my mind and characters just happen. For my first fantasy novel, I had four protagonists, which was too many. I did a course with author, Kate Forsyth, and she got me to stick with one, my favourite, who is now the Claire character. In my second fantasy novel, which is half written in first draft now, I started with a revisionist take on Snow White and Rose Red and the two Princes they marry so in a sense had some vague character traits already laid out for me. I then scratched the idea and went with telling the story of Prince Charming’s brother without the framework of the fairy story. It gave me more freedom. In my crime novel, about fame and fandom, I based the two main actress characters off actual actors on the screen, but obviously as I write, I imbue them with what I need for the story so that now, they aren’t anything like those two actresses at all. On the whole, I often write the characters to match the plots in my head, so even when my characters start out as being one thing, they morph to meet the needs of the story.
Do you use character sheets, like with characteristics and backstories and quirks and friends and looks and favorite things and family stuff? Do you write backstory things, and little stories about everyday things and stuff they get up to, just to get to know them better?
No, I don’t. I should. It would save me so much time in second draft on getting characterizations and motivations right. I do plan the basics in my story notebook eg character motivations and desires and fears.
How are you inspired; do you use music, do you go for walks, do you watch movies/shows/read?
I am inspired by the entire world. Sometimes it’s the lyrics to a song, sometimes it’s to history, sometimes it’s to minor characters in books and movies, or to the way actors portray some form of human emotion. Stories always start from the place of, ‘what if?’ ‘What if Prince Charming was horrid?’ ‘What if the murderer in Wire in the Blood hadn’t given himself away to Tony and Carol had been strangled?’ ‘What if a character could travel back in time?’ I never have a shortage of ideas.
Do you have someplace where you like to go to write/think?
I like to write at night in bed in my notebook. Otherwise I set time aside and just type away at the computer. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t any good. That’s the main thing. Just keep typing. Especially on first draft. You can fix inconsistencies and bad writing later. The main thing is to start. A writer writes. That’s it.
Have you read books on writing?
Yes, and I really recommend doing it. The best one I’ve read is ‘On Writing’ by Stephan King. Go read it. Now. I’ve also got some books on english grammar and puncutation because I’m rubbish at it, a thesaurus handy and a great little book by Australian author, John Marsden, with writing exercises for students. I should read more. I hear Carmel Bird is good.
How do you work out plots and subplots and twists; and do you do something to keep track of everything, like a mind map or diagrams or have a book full of scribblings of things?
I have a notebook now for each story I tell. It is too hard to keep track otherwise. I am getting better at planning. I used to just smash out word and worry about logic later, which was incredibly time consuming and impractical. For my current fantasy ms, Thashidion, I have been plotting and planning in an A4 notebook late at night. The best tool for figuring out plot/sub plot and twists has been advice from Joanne Anderton. Particularly in genre fiction, start with the ‘what if?’ and follow up with the ‘so what?’ question. So if the what if part is ‘what if Prince Charming was emotionally abusive?’ the ‘so what?’ might be ‘and that makes Snow White have to learn her step mother’s magic to free herself. Too bad she let the step mother die.’A twist might be that the step mother was never actually all that evil and now Snow White must deal with that emotional realisation.