An Author in Progress

This is where you'll find me trying to mould myself into a respectable writer - it may take sometime...
You'll find anything from a piece of experimental creative writing, some thoughts on my novel developments, to even the occasional literature-based academic paper.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Crazy Talk with protagonist, plus added thoughts of the wonderful Chris Cleave in a #bookclub chat

Just a small update concerning the development of my first novel.

I spent an hour with a pad, biro, a mug of coffee and with an imaginary interviewee on Monday afternoon.

Thinking on my protagonist's hopes, dreams, fears (and envies - I shall put this evening's #litchat discussion on Twitter re envy down to a wild coincidence)I figured the nuttiest and probably most direct way to figure out why she ends up doing the things she does was to ask her.

Okay, I know, it sounds bonkers and , yes, if I had been speaking aloud there may have been several undergraduates calling for student support. Try it. I dare you.

I asked author of 'Incendiary', Chris Cleave (again on Twitter - #bookclub) about his process of characterisation and he embraced the idea that getting to know the depths of your characters make the best way in, and sometimes beyond, the project in hand.

Quote: Sometimes I will be halfway through a draft and I will decide, as a character gets bigger, that a particular element of their back story is more relevant to the theme I'm exploring than the front story I was planning to tell. In some ways that's frustrating because I end up throwing a lot of good work away. But it is all part of the process of novel writing, which is about using story to explore a theme. The theme is a dark forest and my story is a dim torch. Sometimes my torch beam will reveal a part of the forest, and sometimes it will reveal a brighter torch just lying there and waiting to be used.
_Chris Cleave

Very cool for me to get a response to a question as I loved his earlier novel 'The Other Hand' which left me desolate and moved at the same time.

So back to my interview with my protagonist. What I did was open my pad, left justify my protagonist Anna's dialogue and right justify my own. I left closed bracketed centred script for body language, surroundings and interventions (a rowdy tour of prospective students took up several minutes) for the time I spent doing this. I found a quiet area with a comfy seat and just let go. Already I know exactly the parts which are more about me than her, and that's a good thing as I can now work on honing the intentional from accidental.

I wonder if anyone else has different ways in which they access their characters? I might be keen to apply different techniques to secondary ones.

Anyway, moving on. A really big thank you to Draven Ames for a cool 'Hard Write' award on his blog. Not sure it's deserved, but it's boosted my rubbish week. Rubbish week totally down to the financial bugbear that being a student is. Really think I should research finding some article work or something. Let me know if anyone hears of any. I love research (sad academic in the embryonic stage)so even if anyone wants some done for their own back stories and can't access specialised information... I have ways ;)

I shall be back very soon with my undergrad critique of self publishing, which I hope will be picked apart and critiqued in its turn by discerning reads. Bizarre that it references a Borders package which may or may not exist any longer. I just need to check that the quotes I have accessed are okay for me to blog, as I can't afford to be paying royalties!!


  1. Love the Chris Cleave quote--thanks for sharing your correspondence!

  2. Thanks for stopping by Jess! I was over the moon to get a brief second of Chris Cleave's time :)