Its all about the people!!!

Who can forget the astounding snobbery of Margot Leadbetter? The stunning arrogance of Sir Edmund Blackadder? The spirited wit and common sense of Elizabeth Bennet? The decency of Abel Magwitch? The feisty independence of Bathsheba Everdene? None of these people ever really lived, yet all of them have left their mark on our collective understanding of the world. Google them and you’ll find loads about them.

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You see, great stories aren’t just about the plot, but the characters. The best stories have memorable characters, and when well drawn it’s hard to believe they never existed. They feel familiar, as if they’re people we know. To me that’s the greatest delight of reading and writing, I love people, well most of them anyway, and keep a mental record of the most interesting ones.

Since starting this post I’ve broken the middle finger of my left hand and can’t type much. I was fishing for american crayfish with my grandsons and took a break to sit on a new picnic stool. It felt a bit rocky so I put my finger beneath whereupon it totally broke, crushing the finger in the X frame as it collapsed!

Its not much fun but I was rapidly put back together by our wonderful NHS, aided by 9 yr old Joshua giving detailed accounts to every medical professional we encountered. Even the most hardened medics went pale when enlightened with the particulars of every drop of blood and bit of swelling! One good thing, my daughter is doing ‘A’ level law and wants to be a barrister said to me ‘I think you have a nice little product negligence claim there mum!’ She’s got the hang of it already!

And if you’re wondering who the cranky looking person above is, think moi, dotty enough to delve around in the infant river Thames for crayfish and attend a Mad Hatters Tea Party in a get up that would grace any hatter, mad or not.

Want to know where to find quirky characters? Look no further!

Lynne

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Out of Control by Alys West

I’ve got a confession to make.  I’ve been trying to deny this for a while but I can’t anymore.  I have to admit that I’ve lost control of the characters in my second novel, Lughnasa. Orkney Aug 2010 009

Now some might say that’s a great thing.  Those would be the pantsers who like to go with the flow in their writing.  But I’m a plotter.  I write suspense. I need to know what’s going to happen so I can put the clues in the right places.  And not knowing what’s coming is starting to freak me out a bit.

It started with Winston.  After having a minor role in my first book, Beltane, he’s taken centre stage as the hero in Lughnasa and he’s grown and grown.  He’s a rather gorgeous archaeologist who just happens to be also a druid.  But now he’s got flaws that I never saw coming. He’s late for everything, he’s got a really arrogant streak and an unexpected fondness for Glenfiddich. And he never does what I expect.  I sit down to write a scene thinking ‘Okay, this and this have to happen’ and then Winston turns up and something else entirely actually unfolds.

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Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have a few control freak tendencies.  I like to be organised, I like to plan ahead.  So Winston’s unpredictability is quite hard for me to handle.  And now it’s spreading to the other characters and no one’s doing what I expect.

I realise to non-writers this probably sounds like a borderline personality disorder but I’m pretty sure that other writers will have experienced something like it.  So what did you do?  Did you give them their heads? Or did you force them back in line with your plan?

I realised how far we’d gone astray when I re-read the synopsis that I’d first mapped out about eight or nine months ago.  There’s a small possibility that we may hit the same ending but the middle looks nothing like what I’d planned.  And I don’t know what to do.  Should I tear up the synopsis and see what happens?  Or should I try to persuade them back on track? All advice will be gratefully received before I start tearing my hair out.Orkney Aug 2010 057

If you’d like to leave a comment (and I’m really hoping you will as I need all the help I can get!) you can do that by clicking where it says ‘leave comments’ in teeny, tiny type below.

Alys xx

P.S. Lughnasa is set in Orkney which is why I’ve included a few photos of the islands.

Saturday Spotlight: Lynda Renham

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Today on the blog, we’re delighted to welcome Lynda Renham, author of romantic comedies with the emphasis on comedy, including Pink Wellies and Flat Caps, The Dog’s Bollocks, and Coconuts and Wonderbras.  Welcome, Lynda.

I’m thrilled to be featured on The Write Romantics blog. Thanks so much for inviting me.

Your latest book is called Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers. You come up with some great and unforgettable titles, but does the title come first? Or is it characters, or plot?51OsJLaPmJL._AA160_

Ooh, there’s a question. My writing process is quite odd actually. I can be in the car, in bed, or sitting in the doctor’s surgery, when ideas come to me. So often the characters come first. It may be someone I meet or hear about and then the plot kind of unravels in my head. My husband often chips in with ideas and then I’m off. The title is always the last thing to come to me. Quite often right after the book is finished.

Do you ever find it hard to write such fast-paced, laugh-out-loud books, particularly when you’re struggling with real-life problems?

blog picAbsolutely, I struggle a lot during personal difficult times. Although I do feel that often my best work is written when under stress. I do make myself work no matter what though and wrote ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ when my house was in bits around me and a huge extension was being built. That book was my biggest seller.

 

 

You excel at romantic comedy, but do you think you’ll ever write in another genre?

I have. I wrote ‘The Diary of Rector Brynes’ which is a serious contemporary novel. I have written another called ‘The Cello’ which is unpublished. It is also a serious novel. I would love to write more but I’m not so sure they would sell.

Comedy is very difficult to write, but you make it seem effortless! Do you use beta readers to test their reactions?

Yes, I have two beta readers. I love them to bits for their honesty and constructive criticism.

Is there any subject matter you’d shy away from?

I don’t like violence, so that would not feature in my books. I’m very tongue in cheek about sex in my novels and make it humorous. But I never go over the top with the sex. I would love to write erotica one day. That is a genre I would love to try.

You seem to have a very loyal following on social media. Do you get a lot of feedback from readers?

Yes, I get a lot of feedback from my readers and I love it. I adore them. They are very loyal and lovely to boot. I answer every message I get and am in touch with a lot of my readers.

With so many novels on the market, it’s difficult to make new releases stand out in the crowd. What approach do you use in marketing your books?

I use Facebook, Twitter and blogging. That’s about all. I have done the odd book blog tour but not often. I feel I could use Goodreads more. I send newsletters to my readers and email them when a new novel is out but that’s about it really.

You’re quite a prolific writer. Do you write full-time, or have you got another job as well?

I write full time and love it.

What would you say has been the best thing that’s happened in your writing career so far?

Having several top writers review the books and having Fay Weldon, one of my all-time favourite authors like my author page. That made my day. And, of course, seeing my books hit the top 20 humour chart when they are released.

Finally, if you could have one writing-related wish, what would it be?

It would have to be to see ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’ made into a film.51-Pi1yAbuL._AA160_

I can just imagine what that would be like, having read The Dog’s Bollocks and laughed out loud throughout!

 

 

Thank you very much for joining us on the blog today, Lynda.

Lynda’s latest release, Fudge Berries and Frogs’ Knickers, is available now and can be bought here.

You can find out more about Lynda on her blog here.

Finding A Sense of Place with Jane Lythell

13 Oct 2014 Author picOur guest on the blog today is the lovely Jane Lythell. Jane lives in Brighton and is a sea-lover, star-gazer, film and football fan. She was formerly a Producer at TV-am and Commissioning Editor of Features at Westcountry Television. Jane left to become Deputy Director of the British Film Institute and later Chief Executive of BAFTA before joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office for seven years. She now writes full time and her second novel has just been published by Head of Zeus. Write Romantic Jo was lucky enough to meet Jane at a writers’ lunch organised by the equally wonderful Kerry Fisher. It was a day filled with laughter, fun and some brilliant advice for new writers, so we are really lucky that Jane has agreed to write a guest post for us, to tell us all about the inspiration for the setting of her second novel, her experiences with the first and to share her top writing tips. Here’s Jane to tell us more…

I’ve been a bookworm since primary school and wanted to write all my life, but I was a single parent with a small daughter and a large mortgage. For years I worked in the kind of jobs that didn’t end at six pm. There would be calls and emails deep into the evening and very little thinking and writing time. My great treat was to go on Arvon residential writing weeks. Arvon is a terrific organisation and those courses certainly helped keep my writing flame alive. In May 2011 I finally got into a financial position where I could give myself two full years to write. At last I had the time to do the one thing I’d wanted to do for years.

I’m interested in the dark side of people and what makes them do extreme things. My first novel ‘The Lie of You’ explores jealousy that deepens into full blown obsession. My second novel ‘After The Storm’ also has one character in the grip of psychological trauma.

‘After The Storm’ opens in Belize City and then moves to an island in the Caribbean called Roatan. An English couple,FINAL After the Storm_JANE Rob and Anna, have just met an American couple Owen and Kim who have a handsome old wooden boat. Owen suggests they charter his boat and he will take them to Roatan, where the diving is sensational. Anna does not want to go at all, but Rob is really keen and he persuades her. Unknown to them Kim is desperate to go home to Florida. It is Owen who is determined to continue their life on the boat. So straightaway we have conflict of wishes between the four characters and a boat can be a very claustrophobic place when tensions start to build.

They set off. With only the four of them on board it should be paradise: lazy afternoons spent snorkelling; long nights enjoying the silence and solitude of the sea. But why does Owen never sleep? Why is he so secretive about his past? And why does Kim keep a knife zipped into her money-belt? Anna, who is a speech therapist, can usually get people to talk… but this time does she want to?

I wanted ‘After The Storm’ to have a strong sense of place. I’ve been to Belize and to Roatan and I always felt they would make a great setting for a novel. Roatan is beautiful but it also has a kind of frontier feeling to it where the normal rules don’t seem to apply. I kept a journal when I was there and took lots of photos and I used these to help me create the atmosphere of the island. I try to write character driven stories rather than plot driven stories. My aim is to let the plot develop from how a particular character reacts to circumstances given their history and their psychology.

The shoutline on the cover is ‘Some Secrets Destroy You…’ It took us a while to get to this but I think it’s a very apt one because there are all kinds of secrets in the novel – some are trivial, some are serious and some are deadly.

LOY Paperback Cover‘The Lie of You’ has had over a hundred reviews and I can’t thank readers enough for taking the time to write down their reactions. These reviews are pure gold for a debut writer. And yes a few of them are negative but you learn from these ones too. One of the points that emerged was a difference of opinion about whether or not to sympathise with Heja by the end of the book. This definitely divided people. In ‘After The Storm’ there are four main characters and I’m so looking forward to hearing what readers make of them all because you do become attached to your characters.

Quite a few readers said they found ‘The Lie of You’ very ‘filmic’ and I hope ‘After The Storm’ has this same quality. This could be because I worked in film and television for fifteen years. I do see the scenes in my novel unspooling as film sequences as I’m writing them.

My top writing tips
For me it’s all about creating characters that readers will believe in. I try to think about what food they would eat, what flat they would live in and what single thing they fear most in life. You don’t have to put this in but it will help make them real to you as you write them.

Don’t worry if your characters are flawed or have some nasty sides to them. Flawed people are interesting. It doesn’t matter if your readers dislike them or adore them. But it does matter if they don’t believe in them.

Show your drafts to people you respect. I asked two close friends and my partner, who is a TV writer, to give me some frank and honest feedback. You can only learn from that and their comments helped me so much.
Take the time to edit your writing again and again. Your first draft is just that – a first draft. You only get one chance with a publisher so you need to get your book into as perfect a form as possible. Never submit too early.

And finally, I find it helps me to write standing up! I’ve rigged up my laptop to be the right height and it certainly makes me feel more alert.

Jane Lythell

Find out more about more about the Avron Foundation and Jane’s books at the links below:

ARVON FOUNDATION http://www.arvon.org/

AFTER THE STORM – on Kindle from 1 December and in bookshops from 7 January is available here.

THE LIE OF YOU is available here.

I Can’t Get You Out of My Head!

La, la, la, la, la, la, la la, …. No, not the Kylie song. What I’m talking about is character invasion.

Many years ago, I started subscribing to Writing Magazine. I lapped it all up but what particularly interested me were the interviews with writers, particularly when they revealed the inspiration behind their plot and/or their characters. One thing I just couldn’t get my head around, though, was when writers described their characters talking to them, taking the plot in a direction they’d never planned and/or new or minor characters suddenly bigging up their parts. “Crazy people,” I’d mutter under my breath.

Then something strange happened … I became one of those “crazy people”.

If you’ve read my story on this blog, you’ll know I’ve been working on my novel for about a decade and, whilst the premise and the protagonist have always remained the same, the story has gone through many incarnations. In one of these incarnations, I had a character called Simon. The idea was that my protagonist, Sarah, would get together with Simon but he’d turn out to be still smitten with his ex. The reader would discover that he’d been attracted to Sarah because she looked like his ex. Simon was meant to be quite a nice bloke; just on the rebound and it would all work out fine because he wasn’t the one for Sarah anyway. Only Simon didn’t like his “nice bloke” image. He wanted to be mean. Really mean. The story took an unexpected turn with poor Sarah discovering his obsession with his ex by staying at his house one night and entering the spare bedroom instead of the bathroom only to find a wall plastered with photos of the ex (imagine a stalker’s wall in a thriller or crime drama). Other possessions of the ex – perfume, toothbrush, nightshirt, teddy – were all carefully arranged like a shrine. After fleeing the house, Simon bombarded her with phone messages and texts before turning up at her place of work with a knife and sinister intentions.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where on earth did that personality and plot line come from?! Yes, with a rub of his hands and an evil glint in his eye, Simon had completely taken over. It was as though he had a life of his own and wanted a completely different persona and direction to what I had planned. For that, I had to punish him. He got written out of the story. A stalker with a knife wasn’t quite the angle I was going for in a lighthearted romantic comedy!

I have to confess that Simon didn’t actually “talk” to me. Not sure I’m quite into “hearing voices” territory … yet! But I did now understand what those writers meant about their characters taking over because it had just happened to me.

I once read a writer interview that fascinated me but I’m afraid I can’t remember who it was on (sorry – I know that’s useless). All I can say is it was a he and he writes thrillers. He described a novel he was once writing which involved a jaded detective driving up to a house in the middle of nowhere. It seemed deserted. He parked his car. As he got out, he noticed there was a little girl sat on a nearby wall who asked him a question. He hadn’t planned for there to be a little girl but there she was. And suddenly he realised she was far more interesting than the jaded detective. So he scrapped the book. All was not lost, though; the girl became a key character in his next novel. This really struck a chord with me.

Characters are what make a book. You need to care about the protagonist(s) to want to follow them on their journey and keep page after page turning. If your secondary characters or even very minor ones are more interesting than your main ones, perhaps theirs are the stories to tell instead, especially if you simply can’t get them out of your head. Maybe it’s time to get them onto paper instead. Simon, I haven’t forgotten you. Your day in print will come. Just not in Sarah’s story. Or the other two in the trilogy. But don’t give up hope, you crazy person you!

Oh no! I started this post by saying that characters talking to a writer may seem a little crazy and have ended it talking to my characters. Is that a white van that’s pulled up outside with men in white coats getting out?

Have your characters ever talked to you? Has a new character suddenly appeared out of nowhere and taken over? I’d love to hear about it.

Thanks for reading

Julie xx

In the blink of an eye

It’s gone! I chased it, ran after it, at one point I held it in the palm of my hand. Then like a dream it faded away.

Ideas are the things that weave a novel together. Each strand is woven carefully into the fabric of the story. Carefully you select the colours you are going to use, then decide in which order you are going to start weaving. Everything is ready then you start to weave all those wonderful thoughts that you have had together.

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Isn’t it wonderful all these amazing creations that you have had are starting to come together? The colours are looking fantastic. The fabric is looking good your work of art is coming together.

Then out of nowhere comes a snag in the fabric, something you hadn’t thought of. One of the strands doesn’t make sense it seems to be out of sync. Suddenly the colours are not looking as bright as when you had started. Carrying on you hope it will sort itself out. Keep on weaving and it will fall into place. It’s no good the strand is going to have to be removed.

Suddenly your fabric has a hole in it. How are you going to repair it?

You start looking for that strand that will fill the gap. Maybe another colour might patch it up. It starts to look good, but it’s not as perfect as it needs to be. You try again. That’s it almost got it. There it is the snag has gone, the hole has disappeared. Standing back you see the completion of your work of art.

Writing a novel is a work of art. Every idea is a strand waiting to be tied together. We all want our work to be as perfect as possible. Sometimes it doesn’t come together straight away and there can be delays. Yet in the end when we have done the best to make it as perfect as possible, then we can stand back and say that we are an artist of the written word.

Lorraine x