FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I base my characters on anyone?
I use a trait to get a character started. I knew Eileen was going to be stubborn, to have a past nobody would guess at but she would also have courage and be honourable. Her name comes from my mother’s middle name, which Mum hates for being drab. That’s made me determined to make my Eileen anything but drab! But I deliberately don’t pick someone I know and write about them. It is far better to invent your own characters in the first place as they’re more likely to be interesting, you’re not working out angst, revenge etc and your characters are unlikely to sue for defamation!
What do you like writing best and why?
I love writing dialogue. I’ve always had a an ear for it and enjoy writing characters having a row! Probably says a lot about me! Also dialogue is great for setting pace and reveals so much about character and in relatively few words. You can give hints as to background, education level and social standing for a start. I like the immediacy of short stories but also love the space a novel gives you to expand and develop themes more. I try to make sure I enjoy everything I write. The radio scripts are an interesting challenge. Trying to convey everything by ear alone is not as easy as it might seem.
What do you think is the most crucial element of a novel/short story? Character or plot?
Why choose? It’s like trying to separate the hydrogen from the oxygen in water! Both are necessary! I do think it’s vital to get the right character for the right plot though. A stubborn Eileen would be no good in a comedy of manners type story. She needs action, something to rebel against. A good character will take your plot and run with it. A good plot needs good characters to make it work as effectively as possible.
How do you develop your characters?
I use traits to get me started, then I picture how they sound. I knew early on L’Evallier would be a posh elf who never abbreviates anything while his boss, the Queen, while usually speaking in a formal manner does “slip” when stressed or annoyed with Eileen. I don’t write biographies, though I can see why they’d be useful but I did know the Queen, Jenny and Eileen would share the same luxuriant chestnut hair and blue eyes. L’Evallier is a dark type (and in his nature too, dark as in quiet, deep waters, there being more to him than meets the eyes). I put myself in my characters’ shoes and ask myself how they would react. A stubborn character will cause problems for themselves whereas a meeker one wouldn’t, for instance. Everything has to ring true to the character.