Wednesday, 31 December 2008

A letter from your character to you

I can't remember where I picked up this tip for getting to know a character in your novel.

It's once you've done the basic notes about his family, background, tastes, desires, fears, pets, past relationships, things he likes/dislikes about his looks etc., and it works surprisingly well. You write a letter to yourself from him/her.

Here is one I wrote for Emma Redfern, an ambitious singer;

Hi Lexi,

Well, you wrote me so you know I’m gorgeous to look at. Blonde hair, shoulder length, and the sort of childish features that made Marilyn Monroe so sexy. I’ve never had any trouble attracting guys’ attention, and I don’t mind admitting I use it. Why not? I’m determined to get where I want to go, and I don’t let anything get in my way. What do you mean? Of course I’m a nice person. I don’t go around beating up old ladies or robbing banks or anything. Some women don’t like me, it’s true, especially when their boyfriends can’t take their eyes off me. That’s their problem…

Phil fell for me the minute I walked in the room. You can always tell. He’s not the type I normally go for, but he’s quite sweet. A bit old for me. And married – I didn’t think that mattered at first, but it turned out to be a major drag. He’d never take me anywhere in case we met someone he knew. We went to Paris once for a romantic weekend. There was some friend of Paula’s on the plane, a middle-aged woman who rushed up to him, and he was totally spooked. He didn’t relax until we were back home. I’d thought he’d be more help getting me established than he was, to be honest. Thing is, he cared more about me than about my career. In the end I thought I could do better.

Bryan had put his number in my mobile the week I was ‘temping’ for Phil – I can’t type with more than two fingers – and I called it. He took me to the Connaught on our first date, and on to Annabel’s. We were photographed on the way out for the first time. Within a month we were in Hello magazine. ‘Love in the city for Bryan Orr and his new girlfriend – Voices’ bass guitarist Bryan Orr hangs out with the platinum-haired beauty in London’s West End. The pair have been inseparable since they started dating last month. Emma Redfern is talented as well as beautiful; the Croydon-born songstress is at the start of a promising career in the world of music.’

Bryan was going to write a song for me that would launch my career and get me a recording contract. He’d do anything for me, Bryan. Anything at all. It’s funny, but if a man’s too keen, you don’t feel so keen yourself. Though of course I liked him, he was very sweet-natured.

Ric Kealey? He was always a bit off-hand with me, as though he thought I shouldn’t be there or something. And I told Bryan that Ric was taking advantage of him, and he shouldn’t stand for it. I don’t suppose that made Ric like me any better. Bryan took notice of what Ric said, and Ric didn’t like it when he stopped. He fancied me though, whatever he said. Yes, I did fancy him – most women do – there was a danger to him; you felt he didn’t care, he’d do anything he wanted...

(I've cut the rest, as I realized it was a spoiler...)


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Bravery and trust - good things, surely?

At the start of my novel, Catch a Falling Star, my heroine, Caz, takes her breakfast on to her roof terrace. She is startled to see a man asleep, with a scruffy dog beside him. After a brief exchange, she allows him into her flat to use her bathroom, because she thinks he looks normal, not dangerous.

Most of my readers, on YouWriteOn and Authonomy, are okay with this. But a few people are shocked and incredulous. They see Caz's behaviour as too reckless to believe. I was puzzled by this, not least because in my twenties I did similar 'reckless' things, that involved reliance on my judgment of another human being. (Still do, come to think of it.) And I've never had a problem. Didn't they ever take that sort of chance? I don't regard myself as particularly rash, brave or trusting.

But then, while reading the umpteenth unpublished novel that involves females being raped, sliced up or having their heads cut off by males, I was struck by a revelation: evil psychopaths may be extremely rare in real life, but my goodness there aren't half a lot of them in fiction. And I think this informs a minority of readers' outlooks.

Or maybe they're just timid and suspicious. Poor souls...

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Slightly Published

Great Short Stories by Writers is now available to buy! And in it is my story, Comforted by Darkness. Which means that I am, in a very small way, a published author.

See it (and buy, should you wish) on Amazon.