The writing process for me varies completely, depending on the story itself, and where I’m at mentally.
Sometimes, and this is rarely, the story just flows From The Void, on to the page as if I was taking dictation. This is one end of the spectrum, and usually it’s when I have the characters firmly in my mind, and I just “follow them around and write down what they do and say”.
At the other end is the Brick And Mortar story, which can be excruciating. You plan everything out, outline the story, break it down to beat sheets (each scene or moment outlined), and have copious notes on each character, their likes, dislikes, desires, and how they think or feel about the other characters. Then, brick by brick, scene by scene, you write the story. It’s the slowest and least fun of the ways, but it is a way. For many writers it’s the only way.
In the middle is where I usually am, although I’ve been at both ends a few times. Often I’ll have an opening CLEAR in my mind, and I have to start writing it, but then I get lost or bored or stuck on choices and it peters out and stalls. Most of the time I try to fake myself out, muscle through these blocks by just putting down scenes, one at a time. Write ANYTHING to keep going. A first draft is just that, a draft. The real writing is in the editing, and rewriting.
My current work in progress is like that. I have a vague idea of where I’m going, and I put together scenes, and then I change my mind and revise the earlier stuff later. The point is to keep going.
Ian Fleming (007 author) wrote a great piece you can probably find online called “How to Write a Thriller”, and the thing that stuck is, (paraphrasing), “each day start with the last sentence you wrote the day before, then continue from there,” basically put one foot in front of the other and keep writing. Details, errors, those can be fixed in editing, but if you keep revising or overthinking your first draft, you’ll never reach The End.
Stephen King said, again I’m paraphrasing, “Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft,” It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time. But once that draft is done, put it on The Shelf for a while and rest, work on something else, and come back to it fresh before you start working on your second draft.
Now on to the specifics:
What inspires the look of your characters (physical, mental, emotional, and social)?
I usually steal from my friends. Seriously, observe the people around you, their mannerisms, tags of speech, everything. My wife once told me that every female character I write has an element of her in them. It’s like artists painting their lovers; They’re right there with you, “Stand still for a bit darling, one arm up like this…perfect!”
How many characters do you usually plan to develop and/or fall in your story?
As I loathe slogging through stories with dozens or hundreds of characters I try to keep it simple. 1-3 I find ideal. Maybe 5 or 7 at most. If you asked a reader, “Who is the main character?” what would they say? Who’s going on a journey? Who will be changed by that journey?
Do you struggle with narration and/or character dialogue? If so, which one? (For me, I struggle with the wording of narration when ot comes to describing a certain situation.)
Nope. For me, that’s the easiest part.
How do you end up finding the perfect setting in which your characters live, travel, and leave? (For example, my characters live in LA, but they will soon be moving to Florida.)
I usually either write what I know (look around, sounds good, proceed) or world build to the point where nobody can say, “Oh that’s not how it is in real life,” because the rules and details are all mine. AND THERE MUST BE RULES. I wrote a fantasy script and had to sit down and reverse engineer the Rules Of Magic from all my scenes. (Is a focus item required? Incantation? Must it be said aloud? Is there a possible antidote? Can ANYONE do it or do you need a Gift or special training? What powers the magic? Where does it come from? etc etc). Whatever kind of world you’re building, make sure it’s internally consistent.
Complicated. Ask someone. Research. Be respectful. Don’t cheat.
Always tell the truth, even when you’re lying (writing).