Piecing together a character- one bit at a time

So anyone still out there? Not hiding under the duvet? Tempting though isn’t it? Enough of this Covid nonsense ( Oh, yes please!) I’m starting to think about a talk I’m doing in December entitled ‘It’s never too late to write a novel’ – you can book to join it on Zoom here: https://www.wherecanwego.com/item/e1426299/its-never-too-late-to-write-a-novel-an-online-wirksworth-heritage-centre-talk-by-local-author-shir – and thinking about how I develop a book and I warn you, it’s messy.

It was suggested by a friend who knows me far too well that I fly by the seat of my pants…in life and books and she may be right, I may have to begrudgingly admit. I woke at 1.30am last night to foolishly start thinking about an impasse I had reached with a plot line. I had no idea how to resolve it and then it came to me. I was so bloomin’ impressed with my little self, I can tell you. I have no idea where these ideas come from, it’s like something unfolding beneath while I watch from an astral plane above without me having anything to do with it. I’m so excited I wish I could share it with you but that would be a plot spoiler. Anyway, I then lay awake for two hours wondering why I always have to go to the precipice before reeling back at the very last minute. It’s just unnecessarily dramatic.

So I thought I’d just go through the process with you all to see how you can help by pointing me towards a calmer, more organised way of doing it.

I start with a name, this next one is Hannah. It’s got to be because that was her name in ‘Lily’s War’ where she first introduced. I love the fact that the title’s already there…’Hannah’s War’ – such inspired branding don’t you think? I wanted to make this heroine different from the last two and that created a problem for me, because I made her shyer. Now, as my family will tell you, shyness is not one of my attributes, I’m far too chatty for that, so it’s taken quite a while to unfold Hannah’s layers to get to the essence of her. I really wanted to make her have a journey so when another friend bought me an amazing paper doll of a Land Army girl, I began to think of her developing character like that. I start pinning on bits of her and giving her layers until she finds out, one day, that’s she’s completely dressed and ready to face the world.

It’s allowed me to travel with her and although I’m only just over half way through, I am beginning to have a huge respect for this girl. She didn’t start off knowing where she was going ( well, her creator certainly didn’t) but she is travelling such an interesting road, I think we’ll all be really proud of her by the end.

I am in constant awe of the way these books reveal themselves to me. I know other writers plan their books in detail but I go straight for the roller coaster, hoping that somehow, I’ll get back to the ground at the end, no worse for wear and with a solid story then that will make up for all the angst and panic of having no idea where I’m going next. I’m quite convinced it’s nothing to do with me but those characters just want to tell their stories. (OK maybe Lockdown’s getting to me now and I need to get out more but bear with me!) Remember, I did interview quite a few service women and I think its their voices I hear. I just want these books to reflect that and if that means I have to lie awake for a few hours at night until I make room in my brain for them, then so be it.

Can’t wait to hear what they say to me next!

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