Saturday, January 21, 2012

What comes first, plot or characters?

The very first book signing I did, I remember one customer asking me: what comes first, the plot or the characters? Without hesitation, my answer is and will always be the characters.

It is my opinion that without strong characters, a story feels empty. Readers must be able to relate to those in the tale; to build a level of concern, sympathy or at least curiosity for the person they are meeting within the pages. That requires a character to have as much depth as a living, breathing person.

To build those characters, I first decide where they've come from; what is their background? Then the question is: how do they feel about that, how did it shape them? From there it's time to decide what their dreams and fears are, what kinds of things fuel their anger or fear or give them peace. What do they love, what do they dislike. And of course, it never hurts to learn their favorite foods, music, entertainment, whatever is relevant to the tiniest detail of their lives. It's different building a character for a story set in the here and now of what we all know than it is for developing a character to populate a setting hundreds or even thousands of years in the future, but the principles all stay the same. It's imperative for the author to get to know them like a best friend. What kinds of foods do they order at a restaurant or carry in their supply pack, what do they do with their free time, how do they react to uncomfortable situations? And the list goes on and on.

That is where all my stories start. From there I throw a few incidents at them, ones which start propelling a story forward. It is their reactions to the few set things I know the story needs - dictated by what I know about them and their world - that drives its every step. And that is how my stories are known for twists and turns and surprises that are true to the characters, but unexpected all the same.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why do I write so often in a male point of view?

Over the years I've been asked many questions about my writing. I've been writing -- seriously working the craft -- since the early 1990s. During all this time, some questions have been asked over and over - why I write in the point of view of so many male characters is one of them.

My first book featured 17 year old Codey Mathews as the star character. He was center stage and did not share it with a female lead. I don't know why, it was just the way the book unfolded. My second book featured a young mother, Cierra Lancing, but she shared the main stage with her confidant, Tristan Durant. It was important to show readers what was going on when Cierra wasn't with him. The Manipulated Evil Trilogy balanced out between female and male points of view but the girls won out by one in the end. Rise of the Arcadians, Desire and Rand shared that stage evenly, like Bryce and Kynly did for Among the Ancients. With the Disillusionment Series, it's also been fairly equal, but I have to say Tarenek has been the most fun to write, and yes, he's male.

I guess the answer is that I really don't have an explanation for it. I've never had anyone complain, but a few have been surprised when they discover I'm a woman. I write the characters as they come to me, not paying any attention to gender - only to character personality. The owner of any particular scene is the POV I write. In all my stories, I use multiple POVs to show readers the full scope of what's happening to change everyone. From there, it's just how it all works out.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

The Beginning of the End

By now most everyone has heard at least a mention of the Mayan Calendar and the general assumption is that the end of their calendar, which falls on December 21, 2012, is also the end of our world. Then there is the prophecy of the Hopi Indians. And of course there was the movie 2012. There are dozens and dozens of other stories, articles, Youtube videos, and blogs on the subject. Theories ranging from world ending events to the arrival of a higher consciousness abound.

I would like to believe some ability of deeper understanding for us humans could come about by the end of this grand new year, but my logical side is more inclined to believe any change that may happen will be so undetectable it won't be noticed.

It doesn't mean it's all lost though. 2012 sure can fuel ideas for a fiction author, especially one of fantasy and thrillers like me.

So, while theories continue to build about the true meaning of December 21, 2012 (maybe they merely ran out of room on their stone, or the stone containing 2013 and beyond was lost), I'll work on finishing Retribution: Disillusionment Book Seven, the final book of the series before December, and starting on a new tale. Not sure if I hope for another series so soon or not, but I'll go where the characters lead. Whether there's an end looming on the horizon or a beginning, or maybe both, I'm looking forward and forging on with new goals and projects.

Hopefully you can do the same with your year. Make 2012 a good one.