Thursday 28 May 2015

Even Antagonists Have Feelings...

I've made good progress with the character bios. I've completed those for my hero and heroine- and found out a few snippets I hadn't realised before which will be useful in the later chapters.

Now I'm at the stage of creating the profiles of my antagonists. One isn't very pleasant, but I now know why.

And the second, lesser antagonist, is my heroine's sister. She's not really bad, just selfish. And she's a catalyst without intending to be.

(Now I know they are fictional characters, but they have to be real to a reader, so they need to be real to me too. So remember that as you read the next couple of paragraphs.)

Just like the other characters, the baddies will have had a mother, and perhaps other family members that they may have loved and cared for in their own way.

 They could even have shared some of the same influences and experiences as my protagonists, but something has made them unpleasant instead.

Think of Star Wars, especially episode 3, when you see Anakin Skywalker turning to the dark side and taking on the identity of Darth Vader...

I remember a writer explaining that while a reader won't like the bad person, they want to understand why they are bad.

Perhaps it's just human nature; compassion, or the unwillingness to believe that someone could be evil for no reason.

Fortunately my main antagonist is taking a role in a romance, not a gruesome psychological crime thriller...

I hope to be back to writing Chapter Twelve by the middle of next week, if not sooner.

So, do you want to know how an antagonist has turned out that way?

Sunday 24 May 2015

Chapter Outlines Complete...

I've been lucky to have some undisturbed time today, so I've made good use of it by getting my chapter outlines written up and printed out.
It's the chapters...

I found it really useful with my Nottinghamshire novella- that was planned from the start- and even though some bits moved chapter position, it made it easier for me to work through. The plot ideas were already formed and it reduced how much was still swirling around getting in the way of the 'maybe' stuff.

As I'm already up to Chapter 12 in my contemporary romance the first few pages were done quite quickly, so the brain work started with Chapter 13.

Of course, by the next draft the number of chapters may have changed, but I'm not really too concerned about having some short chapters versus longer chapters- I go for where it feels right to end a chapter. So I may actually end up with twenty by the time it's completed!

This afternoon I've written a little over 1,200 words, and could finally see where everything was going, rather than realising I'd missed something important because my brain's too clogged up with possibilities.

Actually I was even seeing snippets of scenes developing in my mind as I wrote some of the chapter outlines...

Now I just need to get my character bios done. I do have some notes on the main ones, but I need more detail as I've discovered more about them as I've gone along; and neither my hero or heroine are quite as I imagined them at the start- she's stronger minded and daring than I thought, and he's less confident than he appears.

I'm certain that I can make much better progress on my word count once the bios are done this week...

Illustration courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Thursday 21 May 2015

Yes, I Need a Plan..

I've been thinking- seriously...
The past few weeks have been a struggle with my writing.

It's not that I've lost my enthusiasm, or lack ideas- still too many to get through- but I've realised that I'm a flexible planner; just writing the story as I go along doesn't work for me. I need thinking time...

While the current work in progress (the contemporary romance) has been evolving, I've learnt more about my characters, but they're still a bit too two dimensional at times.

It's okay when they're having an emotional scene, they come alive, but between times they flatten out because I don't know enough about them. While they talk to me I know they're holding important information back, and it's that deep down stuff I need to get to to round them out.

Also secondary characters and incidental ones have turned up as part of the plot, and while it's not essential I know a lot about the latter, I do need to know a bit more about the former.

At the moment I feel like bits of the border of the jigsaw puzzle are missing, and it's making it harder to complete the whole picture.

I also know there are important areas of research I need to clarify.

Usually I research as much as I feel I need to start with, based on the characters and my general plot outline, before I begin writing. But because I only had a few basics to start with, and a lot more questions have arisen as I've gone along, and I've had to note in the manuscript that info is needed on x.

Yes, I need to find out other information as I go along on my planned stories, but never in as much depth as I need with this current story.

I roughly know where I'm going with it, but I need a better plan, and more thorough character bios than I have at the minute.

And my historical novella is demanding attention too, the second draft has been on hold too long and I need to get back to it.

So I've decided that I'm going to spend the next week creating those detailed bios, and chapter outlines- they're not set in stone, elements can be moved around if need-be. And the really important research items will help.

I feel certain that once those are done I will make better progress, and hopefully get the first draft completed.

I now know the writing system that works for me. I just need to build on it to get the most words out of it.

Nothing is wasted, because the story will get written...

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at www.freedigitalphotos,net

Saturday 16 May 2015

Guest Posting on Womagwriter's Blog

You may be familiar with the womagwriter's blog that was originally run by Kath McGurl, and now is under the safe wings of Patsy Collins.

Today (16th) I'm guest posting on the womagwriter's blog about joining the ALCS - and hopefully dispelling the myth some writers may have that it's complicated.

Membership of the ALCS (Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society) has been increasing each year as word spreads, but I'm sure there are still writers who qualify, but haven't joined yet.

I hope you'll pop over and leave a comment, or any questions...

Sunday 10 May 2015

Brain Swirl...

This is actually blog post 501, and I don't know what to say...

At the moment my brain is swirling ideas around, beyond my current work in progress.

I suppose it's because my routine has been thrown out of sync, just when I was back into routine after being ill.

There's been a list of things that needed to be done- a few with deadlines, a few still outstanding that need a completely free day to get done.

My combination microwave had to go in for repair- it's still under the first year's guarantee- but it means I'm missing my porridge and (made with milk) drinking chocolate for breakfast. Cold cereal just doesn't set me up for the day.

Fingers crossed it's a simple repair...

We probably all have rituals, but never think about them, and it's only due to the microwave problem that I really became aware that I did have distinct patterns.

For me, I can't start writing until I've had breakfast, dressed and had at least one mug of coffee- no sitting around in my dressing gown writing, my brain doesn't associate dressing gowns with serious writing, just procrastinating! :D

I've been making more effort to go on Twitter regularly, for about ten minutes a day, to keep in touch with others, and also what's going on locally in the city. Sometimes I just read and retweet anything interesting.

I've written a couple of short pieces for other people, one to fill a gap in the quarterly magazine that the writers' club (I'm a member of) produce. There is also a slightly longer piece too which I wrote last month for the same edition.

The other item will be online later this week, so I'll post a link when it's up. Again it's only a short piece, but even so it still needed thinking time and editing, but I was happy to do it, because it's an important issue.

So I have actually been writing, even though it was factual rather than fiction.

Now I'm off to write my to do list for this week...

Sunday 3 May 2015

Giving Characters the Right Name...

As possible names for the new royal baby is getting press coverage at the moment, with the birth of a daughter to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, I thought talking about suitable names for characters might be a good topic - and it's wonderful to have something other than the approaching general election to discuss.

Names 'come with baggage' even if we don't realise it. It's built into us as we grow, experience life and are exposed to the numerous influences around us; certain names can suggest certain things- when you may have been born, and even social background.

But it doesn't have to...

Ethel for example; it suggests an old lady, which was perhaps why the early writers of EastEnders called one of their fictional elderly characters by that name. But to someone else who grew up with the golden age of Hollywood films, the same name would suggest the gutsy singer and actress Ethel Merman, Two completely different examples of the same first name.

There are lots of name books available, and the Internet has numerous sites where you can find out the etymology of names, whether general or to specific cultures/countries. So if you need to find a name for a character you've decided was born in another country, you won't have such a struggle...

Have a look at the random name generator on the Behind the Name website. You can set options for country; there's even Myth to Fantasy via Ancient, Biblical and even Fairy, Goth or Transformer!

If you have a contemporary setting there's a lot more choice of names, even taking into account setting, location, and background of your characters.

Look on the ONS website for the list of popular baby names each year going back to 1996.

Names in an historical settings are different too, especially the further back you go. Name choices are reduced for the ordinary worker, compared to the variety used for those with land and money.

If you've ever done family history research you will often see the same names being used, in the 1600-1700's, William, John, and Thomas are extremely common- it wouldn't be unusual to find first cousins with the same first name (that must have been confusing at times).

By the Victorian period there was a much wider variety of first names- even unusual ones, probably reflecting the progress made with the industrial revolution and the wider movement of the population..

Genealogy websites can be useful if you want suitable surnames for a character located in a specific region or county. I did this for one of the main servants in my Dorset novel, and it just brought her to life, giving me a stronger mental image of her.

I've learnt to listen to my characters where names are concerned. If I choose a name that my characters think is wrong, whether their own, or someone else's, they'll deliberately start referring to them by the name they think is right.

A few even tell me straight out that what I've called them is wrong, and their name is...

To be able to write these characters' stories their names have to be right, because if they aren't, the words don't flow for me. So it's all in the depths of my brain.

So, how do you choose names for your characters? Are there any books or websites you'd recommend to others?

As Shakespeare wrote, what's in a name?

Image courtesy of Tim Seed/