Janet Lane Walters -Brainstorming When You’re Alone

Janet Lane Walter a prolific writer with over five decades as a published author. She is not only a friend but a mentor and an amazing critique partner. I am so pleased she has returned for another visit.

Join me in welcoming Janet and getting to know her better.

Name/Pen name: Janet Lane Walters

General location: NY’s Hudson Valley

  1. When did you first know you wanted to writer?

The urge was always there but I never gave into what was to become an obsession until I had children and needed the mind stimuli.

  • What inspired you to write?

Not sure what you mean by this but after reading a bag full of nurse romances when I had pneumonia, I decided I could write a better book. So I wrote, whether they’re better than the ones I read, they at least got the hospital and medical atmosphere there.

  • Are you a planner or pantster?

     I could say either. I do a lot of planning before I begin the book but it’s not written down. It’s more in the telling myself astory as I fall asleep. By the time I’m ready to begin putting words down, I understand the plot. This is where the planning comes in. Then the characters take over the story with guidance on my part. So I start out planning and then like a panster, I let the words flow in the rough draft.

  • Which of your works is your favorite? Why?

Now that’s a loaded question. Since these are all mind children, having a favorite isn’t my way. The story I’m working on is my favorite until I write the end. Then it’s on to discover a new favorite.

  • Would you say your stories are plot or character driven?

I would say neither the plot is the road of the story the characters take to reach their goals but the characters get to choose which of the crossroads they will take. A completely plot driven story would become staid and even trite. The character story will end up a series of incidents taking the characters nowhere. Both plot and characters must be in place for the story to work.

  • What do you take with you on vacation?

     I haven’t taken a vacation for years so I can’t give any answers.

  • What’s your motto as a writer?

I don’t understand what you mean by a motto. I write. That’s about all I can say but I am billed as eclectic since I publish in a number of genres.

  • What’s your next project or what is in your future?

At present I’m working on the seventh book in the Moon Child series. The heroines are all Cancers. This time the hero is a Virgo.

Any information you would like to share about yourself

         I’ve been published for 50 years and have won several awards.

And now – Brainstorming When You’re Alone

            You’re stuck and can’t come up with a new story.  Your critique friends are off on their own adventures.  What can you do? Think of yourself as a reporter and start with these questions.

            Who, what, when, where, why and how.

            For me, I usually begin with when.  When means time and time means many things.  For my project, I can choose contemporary, historical or future.  I can also choose the time of year, the season, the month, the day. With historical, there are other considerations such as era.  So here’s what I came up with.

            Contemporary, most of the action takes place in late summer or early fall and most of the action takes place over a weekend.  This is sort of what I came up with, but I also need small scenes that take place before and after my initial statement, but I don’t know these things until I’ve done more brainstorming.

            Next, I turn to where.  Where means place.  There is country, state, city, etc.  There is also the place where each scene takes place.  While brainstorming, here’s what I came up with.

            The major place is a village outside New York City rather like the one where I live.  The major action takes place in the hero’s apartment but other places in the village are shown.  One of these is the Peek-a-Boo boutique.  The good thing about choosing these is that I’ve visited them in another story.  But when looking over the story, I knew there would be other scenes.  One is JFK and the other is the offices of the Good magazines and especially the heroine’s office.

            Now comes the time for Who and that means characters.  Call them what you will – hero and heroine or protagonist and antagonist, they are a very important element in your story.  Two books I grab are my naming books and my astrology books.  These books can give me insight into my characters.  The Astrology book I use most given me a more about Why and What so we’ll look at that later.

            For the story I’m brainstorming, since it’s a romance, I’ll need a hero and a heroine.  I need their names and a physical description.  I add this to where they live and what they do.  Then I’m ready to move on to another part of the story.  In this case, The heroine Megan is the editor of Good Lookin’ Magazine and she lives and works in NYC.  She is blonde with green eyes, sister to the heroine of A Savory Seduction.  The hero, Steve is tall, nice build, reddish brown hair and brown eyes.  He is a photographer for a sister magazine Good Travelin’ and lives in the Hudson Valley village.  He is a friend of Megan’s sister.  Other characters will be added as needed.  While working out the How of the story, I decided there had to be a second woman who plays a dual role in the story.  She is Stephanie, lush beautiful, editor of a rival magazine and a former lover of Steve.

            Now comes the What and this factor changes during the story.  What is the characters’ desires.  Why does it change during the course of the story?  The desire changes because people change.

            So what do my characters want.  Megan would like a relationship as exciting as her sister found.  Perhaps for her this won’t change, but her sister is planning marriage.  Is this what she wants.  Maybe and maybe not but that will be looked at when we consider how.  Steve wants to get Megan in his bed.  That’s simple enough but this may or may not change.  Probably will change a bit since this is a romance.  Now we come to Stephanie.  Her desires are dual.  She wants Steve back and she wants to one-up Megan again.  For having Steve back and using him to scoop a feature in Megan’s magazine seems to be the way to go.  After all, it worked once with another man.

            Ready for Why?   Why is motivation both small and large.  Each scene has a motivational direction.  Motivation often shows how a person has to change to obtain their desire.  Motivation can be those fears that keep a character from achieving what they want most in life.

            In the case of Megan, her motivations include a wariness about men.  When she meets Steve, she believes he’s a womanizer and a flirt.  She’s been burned by a man she thought she loved.  He gave a rival something she thought would be an exclusive for her magazine. She blamed Steve and when she learned the truth she feels ashamed.  In Steve’s case, he looks on Megan as prim and proper since she didn’t respond to his flirting.  When she blamed him for giving away a secret, he became anger.  Now they have to change.  Stephanie is motivated by greed and pride.  Steve walked away from her and she feels she’ll get a nice bonus if she scoops Good Lookin’ a second time.  Both Megan and Steve need their motivations to change if the romance is going to work.

            Now comes the How.  This is the plot.  And an initial plot is also subject to change as the story unfolds.  The major scenes in this story will include a meet, but not the initial one or the accusation by Megan that Steve leaked an exclusive.  Those will be done through either a brief flashback or in dialogue.  We go from the meet to the getting to know each other, to the love-making to the problem in the form of a Stephanie showing up with some false stories to the Silken Seduction and on to the conclusion.  To say more would give the story away.

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