How I Write: Barbara Parker
Published: August 29, 2003
|Barbara Parker was an attorney in Miami when she decided to go back to school and earn a master's degree in creative writing from Florida International University. Her master's thesis was also her first thriller, Suspicion of Innocence (1994), which established her as a talent to watch and introduced readers to two of the sexiest crime-solvers in fiction, Miami lawyers Gail Connor and Anthony Quintana. A tropical setting, a hot romance and danger add up to the great chemistry that has landed Parker's series on bestseller lists. But her books are more than sizzle. Her characters are fully drawn, and her themes--including the death penalty, politics and legal issues--complex. Parker, who was born in Columbia, S.C., once worked as a prosecutor, but found she liked writing about lawyers better than being one. The mother of a grown daughter and son, she lives in Lauderdale by the Sea, Fla., with her dog, Max.|
Credits: Books include Suspicion of Madness (2003), Suspicion of Vengeance (2001), Suspicion of Malice (2000), Suspicion of Betrayal (1999), Suspicion of Deceit (1998), Criminal Justice (1997), Blood Relations (1996) and Suspicion of Guilt (1995).
I love the process of creation, creating characters, seeing how they move on the page and resolving problems of the plot. I started as a lawyer and found that unsatisfying; you need to have a personality that goes after only one side of things. As a writer, I'm able to examine an issue from all sides.
|When and where:|
I write every day as I get into a book, and it becomes more involving as the book proceeds. In the last two or three months, I'm writing full time. My favorite place to write is under a palm tree on the beach, but I don't get much writing done there! My most productive hours are at my desk.
After I get an idea of what the book is, I get an idea of the ending. I have no idea of the territory that lies between. You have to fight your way through the wilderness.
At some point, I turn to the bulletin board behind my desk and put up squares of paper representing chapters. I use sticky notes to write down scene plot points or characters and put them in the chapters. You can throw them out or move them. When the entire bulletin board is covered, I'm done. If I raise an issue that is important, I put a red flag on the bulletin board and move it forward until the issue is resolved.
Say that in Chapter 12 John leaves a box on the table. So that I don't forget about the box, I reduce the chapter to a page or two of important clues and events. I make a computer file called "Chapter 12 clues." Then, when I go back, I don't have to slog through 25 pages of the chapter to find the clue.
|What I've learned:|
First, if I'm writing under a heavy deadline, I avoid digressions. Second, I decide exactly what I want to say in every scene. I construct a scene as if it were a short story. At the beginning, the character wants something, but there's some opposition he or she has to fight through. I begin every scene with questions to myself: What is the point? What do I need to accomplish? How is it resolved? I try to end the scene on an issue that leads to the next scene or sometimes a question that will be addressed down the road.
The third thing is to ask myself: "How much can I cut out of this scene?" I find the compression of words tends to move the plot along.
As a lawyer, I learned to be organized and to communicate clearly. Creativity and beautiful words are wonderful, but if you don't communicate to the reader, then all the beautiful words in the world won't matter.
Too many of us who write in one genre tend to read one genre. It's good to read the best in your field, but read other genres as well. I write mysteries, but I just reread For Whom the Bell Tolls. If you're writing literary fiction, read popular fiction. Those books sell for a reason. If you determine why they connect with people, then you can turn those lessons to whatever you write.
--Posted Aug. 29, 2003