I recently did a talk to secondary schoolers about creative writing. I wanted to tell them a little about structuring a satisfying story and about building compelling characters. But what I wanted to get across to them more than anything was the importance – and the joy – of finding their own voices.
Last week I shared some handy tools and techniques for planning a novel and because I’m literally currently doing this, I thought I’d follow up with the next step: planning characters.
Most of my books have a small ensemble ‘cast’ but I tend to start with the most ‘active’ voice and build that character first, the other characters are formed almost as ‘answers’ to that first character.
In Don’t Close Your Eyes, which features twins with equal billing and points of view, I started with one character (Robin) and then built the others using her as a starting point. The reason for this was simply that Robin came to me almost fully formed, so I had a running start. It’s not always that easy!
In Try Not to Breathe, I started with Amy. Although in the present day she is definitely not the most active, Amy’s point of view opens the book. And because the central question of the novel is ‘what happened to Amy?’ it was vital that she really came alive for the reader straight away.Readers have to care about what happens to a character, and you can’t care about someone you know nothing about.
But I don’t use anything remotely cutting edge to plan my characters…
To celebrate its UK launch on 7 June, I’m giving away three signed copies of Love Will Tear Us Apart.
“One of the most moving and involving books I have ever read… just perfect. I absolutely loved it.” – Gillian McAllister
“Beautifully written, with an intricate yet perfectly constructed backstory, and characters I didn’t want to leave. A must-read.” – Clare Mackintosh
On Friday 16 March, I drove my hire car into the visitors’ car park at Colyton Grammar School and parked next to the classroom where – around 25 years earlier – my friends and I spent break times firing as many paper aeroplanes as we could out the window. I took a tour of the school – the facilities staggering compared to my day – and kept quiet about all the detentions I’d had in the re-kitted classrooms.
I’m giving away two signed copies of Don’t Close Your Eyes in paperback. This is the British version but I’m happy to send them anywhere in the world.
UPDATE: Competition closed and winners now notified. Thank you to everyone who took part, there will be more prize draws soon!
…So the day is finally here. My second novel, Don’t Close Your Eyes, is published in paperback in the UK and Ireland!
I’m still in The Netherlands for the moment, glamorously dealing with my son’s chicken pox and using my literary skills to do loads of laundry as we’ve still not caught up after Christmas’s Norovirus outbreak.
But I’m vicariously living through friends and readers who are kindly sharing pictures of tube and rail posters like this one from my schoolfriend Charlotte. Isn’t it beautiful? I’m so grateful to my publisher, Corvus Books.
It’s an absolute privilege to publish a second book, and I really hope you enjoy it.
This competition has now closed, but there will be more in the future!
I have three signed hardback copies of Don’t Close Your Eyes to give away. This is the British version, but I’m happy to send worldwide.