A Study in Pink

With apologies to fellow Sherlock fans whose hearts may have leapt into their mouths when they saw this title, this is not about the first episode of that fabulous series. Sorry!  This is, in fact, about characters. My characters. And what they taught me about writing and the difference that’s made to my writing process.

I said in a previous post that writing book two has been a very different experience to book one. It was much quicker, for a start. I took two and a half years to write the first book and only a few months to write the second. Now book two, A Kiss from a Rose, has gone off to the NWS to be critiqued and the nail-biting starts all over again, because what if the fact that I wrote it so quickly means that it’s total rubbish?

It’s funny because when I was writing it I found myself thinking, well this is okay but it will need loads of tweaking when I’ve finished the first draft, although I laughed out loud at several scenes and really enjoyed writing it. After I’d completed it I put it away for six weeks and for the whole of that time I was convinced I’d written a pile of rubbish. I didn’t look at it once while I finished editing There Must Be An Angel. When I finally went back to it I was quite astonished. I really liked it! It was a pleasant surprise to discover that there wasn’t half as much to do to it as I’d expected. I had to add a couple of scenes and I cut one scene completely, and obviously there was a lot of chopping and changing of words and sentence structure and a hefty amount of flicking through the dictionary just to double-check and Googling information and so on. Even so…it didn’t take long at all to reach the point where I felt it was ready to go to the NWS, so I duly printed it out and posted it off.

And then the doubt set in. The thing is – and what is the main difference between Angel and Rose – that book two was most definitely character-led. When I wrote Angel and sent it to the NWS, the report I got back was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging, but the reader did wonder if I’d started with the plot rather than the character as she said it was over-complicated and there were parts where I seemed to forget about the integrity of the characters. I was quite puzzled by this because, in my mind, I had started with the characters. That is, it was the characters who popped into my head first and I wove a plot around them. However, writing A Kiss from a Rose, I finally understood what my reader meant.

For a start, my two protagonists weren’t supposed to be the hero and heroine of book two at all. In fact, they were supposed to be part of a secondary plotline in book three. However, my heroine leapt out of the pages of There Must Be An Angel at me and some of my beta-readers, and I just knew she had to be the heroine of book two. She insisted, in fact. I felt I knew her really well, and liked her in spite of all her faults. Now, that’s one of the main differences right there. Eliza, the heroine of book one, was extremely difficult to get to know. I wrote draft after draft and she simply wasn’t coming alive. It was only when I switched to writing in the first person that she began to talk to me and I finally started to understand and like her. By the end of that book I truly loved her, but it was a long journey to get to that point. With Rose, the heroine of book two, it was instant. It was the hero who was the problem because he was so quiet…it took me a good while to figure out what his problem was. The thing was, I didn’t rush him. I let him take his time telling me. And it worked.

The truth is, with Angel, in spite of the fact that the characters came first, I didn’t really know them. I came up with their names and a general idea of their appearance, and their ages and some basic facts about them, and then I wove an over-complicated plot around them. It took a long, long time to get to know them, but once I did, the plot changed, a lot of minor characters and sub-plots disappeared and the story became truly about them. With Rose, I didn’t even have a plot. I had characters. Real characters. I knew who they were, what they felt. I knew how they would be at the beginning of the book and I knew how they would end up. Then I left them to make their own way, letting their personalities dictate what happened to them. Really, at times it felt as if the book was writing itself.

The problem is, Rose has quite a few flaws. I wasn’t aware of them really when I wrote her into book one – at least I didn’t know I was aware of them, if you see what I mean. When I look back, I did in fact sow the seeds for some of those flaws back then. I just didn’t know I had. I guess I’m quite nervous now because, what if the reader decides she’s too flawed, or the character quirks she has are just not suitable?

Then there’s my hero, Flynn. *Sigh*. I really, really love my hero. But he has a secret and it’s quite a big one and I’m not sure how that fits with a romantic comedy. But really, what can I do about it? Rose is far from perfect and Flynn has a whopping big emotional scar to deal with. I can’t help that. They told me all about it and I just wrote it down for them. The fact is, I love them both, scars, flaws and all. And I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if allowing the characters to dictate the action was a wise move or not. I foresee chewed nails and a lot of worrying ahead.

And the study in pink? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out why I chose that title. And hopefully you’ll get the chance pretty soon…:)

Have a great week xx

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