I’ve been so taken up with my wretched nose (now minus stitches but revealing a revolting crater where the skin graft has yet to puff out – I’ll spare you the photo this time!) that I’ve got completely out of the way of working, and it was something of a shock this morning to realise that (a) I felt much better and had no excuse to loll around feeling sorry for myself any more, and (b) I had to write another book. Grips must be got, in fact.
The next book will be another romance, number 59, and so far I have only the vaguest of ideas to work with. I was reading an article in Hello! not very long ago about some celebrity A-list person who had had some lavish wedding, and was described as the apple of her (obscenely rich) father’s eye. Almost as an aside was the fact that one of her bridesmaids was her sister who was six or seven years older than her. I don’t know anything more about these people, but it was enough to make me wonder what that wedding had been like for the older sister who was not the apple of her father’s eye.
So the ghastly wedding will have to feature, and I need my heroine, who I’m calling Frith, to be as different as possible from her sister, but still close enough to grit her teeth and do what it takes to make her sister happy on her big day. I’m thinking of making her a civil engineer. I know lots about civil engineers, and while I’ve had plenty of engineer heroes, can’t understand why it’s taken me so long to have an engineer heroine instead. My hero is called George for now, and I suspect he’s going to have to be a laid-back, devil-may-care type of hero to contrast with Frith, but that’s not necessarily the case. I’ll need to start a shitty first draft and see how he emerges.
And of course, I’ll have to do what I tell everyone to do on my courses, and think about what the emotional conflict is going to be. What is going to drive Frith and George to behave the way they do? What matters most to them, and what are they going to learn? I use the SFD to ask myself questions about the characters and to build up a backstory, so that when I start a proper draft (otherwise known as the shitty second draft) I’ve got a clear idea of their goals and motivations.
I tend not to use questionnaires or clusters or any of the other techniques there are for ensuring that you know your characters thoroughly. I much prefer going out for a drink with one of my plotting team, and talking it through with them over a bottle of wine, but selfishly they are all elsewhere this week, which means I’m going to have to fall back on the last resort, otherwise known as writing.
By the way, the winners of the latest lucky dip for a copy of Loving Our Heroes are: Charlotte McFall, Catherine Coles, Annie Seaton, Kiru Taye and Kavya Rizwan. Kiru and Kavya, let me know your address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll put a copies in the post to you.