Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scene by Scene

As a writer, I get asked a lot of times about my creative process. I have some very specific processes and I actually wrote about them in a book I put together on various workshops that I've taught over the last few years, titled "A Writer's Workshop."

And I use my process, but I also tend to work a book in my head before I ever sit down to write out anything within the process. It's actually a natural thing for me. It just happens and I can't give anyone wanting to write a checklist in this aspect. So much of the time my ideas come with the characters already and then as I develop or already have developed the characters I hear their dialogue and begin creating scenes in my head with them.

For example, just the other day when I spotted a really cute little Chihuhua (spelling--help!), I could hear one of my characters from the Wine Lover's Mysteries start his chat in my head--Simon (Nikki Sands' BFF--for those of you who don't know, Nikki is the heroine of this series) saying, "Oh my God! Way cute. Too cute. I want one. Love it. Not just like. But sooooo loooooove it."

Then I could hear Nikki saying, "I thought you were allergic to dogs. You can't even get around Ollie without popping a few Claritin."

Then I can see Simon make a gesture with a shoulder shrug and a flip of the wrist. "That's only your brutish hound, Snow White. He's like five thousand pounds and his dumb blonde act is a little old. I'm not buying it anymore. He thinks that I think he's stupid because he acts stupid, but I know and you know that Ollie is not stupid.  Now that..." he pointed to the half pounder of a beast...

"Is a stupid dog?" Nikki interrupted.

"No. Pleeeeze. That is what I want. No. I want two." He held up two fingers. "Dos. Two. Yes. Yes. Yes. I want two of them and I'm going to name them Senor Estefen Sanchez and Senora Veronika Sanchez."

"Really? Really, Simon? Married chihuahas with last names and everything." She shook her head. "From Mexico, I take it?"

Simon's eyes lit up. "Yea-ah."

"You're kidding me, right?"

He shot Nikki one of his "I hate you," looks, and she let out an aggrieved sigh realizing that her weekend would most likely consist of helping Simon find his new puppies, even if that meant making a trip down South to Mexico.

Maybe I am crazy (oh yes, mentioned that before), but that is how books/stories come to life for me--scene by scene, character to character.

Some writers/readers here might ask as far as plot point. Okay, so I have this silly dialogue, which is a big part of the Nikki Sands' series (quirky, silly humor), some might ask how a short scene like that would play into the big picture and then tie it all together? Good question and it is something that as a writer you have to ask yourself on a regular basis--will this be able to work within the major or sub-plot line of the story, and does it in some way move the story forward? And, remember that even your sub-plots have to at some level lend themselves to the plot.

For example, one of the sub-plots that has been an undertow in the series is that Nikki was basically abandoned at a young age by her mother to go and live with her aunt who was a homicide detective. I don't push this in the reader's face and in some of the books in the series it doesn't get brought up. However, there are underlying insecurities that my main character Nikki has that shows up throughout all of the books in the series and it's these insecurities that can hinder her in solving crimes and also in her relationships. It is suttle but it is character and plot development throughout a series. But back to this small scene between Nikki and Simon in regards to the dogs. In the big scheme of plot line--these dogs will become two new characters in the series. I am an animal lover and I find that animals have distinct personalities and I like to incorporate that in my writing. There are a variety of ways Senor Estefen Sanchez and Senora Veronika Sanchez may play into various plot lines (be them sub or main). They could save the day. They could find a clue. They could bite the bad guy or even trap him in some way. As a sub-plot, they could show character flaws or strengths in anyone that comes across them. I have learned dogs have a way of bringing out the best and worst in people. They can also help develop Ollie's (Nikki's Rhodesian Ridgeback) character. Plus, can't you just see some fun scene on the vineyard with these two little dogs and the gigantic 120 pound Ollie romping around?

I don't mean to make light of creating scenes, because there are days when I sit and stare at the computer and go, "Duh, duh,, um, um......), and actually most of my scenes aren't created in front of the computer. They start when I'm driving, in the shower, eating lunch, making dinner, etc--and then when I sit down at the computer I have something to work with.

Any writers out there who play scenes in their head? Any readers out there who may add to scenes they've read, or think about the characters after the book is finished? Do you ever get lost in a fantasy land of scene by scene? I'd love to hear back from you!




Gayle Carline said...

Geez, I got a bazillion things to do today and I'm slumming on your blog instead. Yes, yes, my characters appear when I'm presented with a prop or a situation that reminds me of them. Mostly, I am always thinking about whether you could use that potato peeler to kill someone, or if this place is good for hiding a body... I've learned to keep these thoughts to myself, for obvious reasons.

Funny story about small dogs - my friend's dad was an indy contractor and went into a house to do some repairs. A teeny dog came bouncing toward him, barking like an idiot. He laughed it off, until the pooch launched itself from the back of the couch and attached its teeth to his crotch. Yowser!

Michele Scott said...

OMG! Okay first off--I am super flattered that you're reading the blog. But get to work dammit! :)

Second, I so want to use that little scenario in a scene. I love it. Can I use it????

You made me crack up!

Gayle Carline said...

Feel free!

Michele Scott said...

Yes!!! Thank You. I hope others will laugh as hard as I did when they read it.