Wednesday, 30 January 2019

From Rachael's Desk - Characters

Creating Characters You and Your Readers Will Love

This post is later than I had anticipated because I was buried deep in revisions on my latest book. Actually, I was buried deep in rewrites because my characters didn’t leap off the page. The didn’t bring their story to life. The reason why. I couldn’t envisage them as real people. They weren’t alive in my mind, so how were they going to be anything other than cardboard cut-outs or just silhouettes in your story?

This post is all about creating your characters. Characters you love. So that your readers can love them too, go on a journey with them and more importantly, believe in them, empathise with them.

How to get to know your characters
The best way I’ve found to do this, is to ask them questions by completing an interview. You could even design your own character sheets with all the questions you think you will need to ask and all those you’d love to know the answer to.  It’s a method I returned to during the rewrite and I discovered some astonishing things about my characters. These are the sorts of questions you should be answering. Here's a photo of the many sheets I used for the rewrite.

      Know the basics
Find an image of your character, something you can focus on as you write. Then fill in the basics of what your character looks like. I find Pinterest really useful for this, as well as good fun! This is from my board - complete with its working title - for the book I've just sent into my editor.

You also need other information, like birthday and star sign. Find out what their hobbies are what music they love to listen to, what type of food they absolutely love or hate. Do they have a pet? What is the most precious thing they own and why? Some very leading questions there. A fabulous book from which to learn more about creating a character questionnaire, among other things, is Kate Walker’s 12Point Guide to Writing Romance. A constant on my desk!

        Know your characters’ likes and dislikes
Once you’ve got the basics filled in, it’s time to delve deeper into your new character and find out what makes them tick.  You may not need to put in the story the fact that that your heroine is a country girl at heart, but you will certainly know how she will react when faced with the buzz of a big city and confident alpha male who is so unlike any man in her hometown. Ask as many questions as you can, even if they seem incidental at the time. Treat your characters as a new friend you want to find out more about.

It’s also important to know how your character reacts to situations. What do they do if they are stressed? What makes them laugh? How they deal with bad news? What makes them angry and how they handle that? The list is endless!

 Know their back story
This is what will give your story emotional depth and is a must.  Knowing their back story in detail will create characters that are true to themselves. Every character will come to the blank page of a new book with a past that has unresolved issues and personal conflicts to overcome. You as the writer need to know these from the beginning, even if the reader doesn’t discover this until much later in the story.

Finally the most important question you can ask your characters as they tell you what has happened to them prior to your story starting is ‘why?’ For instance if your hero lets you know he will never be able to go to a certain part of the city, you want to know why not. What happened to him? When? How does it affect him now? What would he do if a situation forced him to do just that?

         Know what they want in the story and why
Your characters must have inner conflicts to resolve and problems to deal with as they progress through your story. At the start of the story you need to know what your characters want and where they want or need to be both physically and emotionally as the story ends. It may be that the hero wants one thing, when really, deep down he wants something completely different and through the course of the story and interaction with the heroine, he will discover what it is he really wants – and needs.

It is vital to get to know your characters even before you start writing chapter one, as you will then have characters that are alive and living in your story from the very first paragraph. This is the type of character you, the writer, can connect with as well as the reader who will be transported into the world of your story. It’s also great fun meeting new characters and part of the writing process I’m definitely making sure I do this as I begin my new book!

Happy Writing


Images from Pixabay

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

From Rachael's Desk - After the First Draft

Welcome to my brand new monthly post From Rachael's Desk! This month it's all about what to do once you've written your first draft.

Congratulations! You’ve written a book and added those magical words ‘the end’ and that achievement alone deserves celebration. Whether you have just taken part in NaNoWriMo or have been writing for many months, the fact that you have finished the first draft is amazing. 

So, go celebrate. Then come back – because even though you’ve written ‘the end’ you’re not finished yet!

Before I became published, this is something it took me a long time to accept. That, and the fact that first drafts are not perfect. I would tie myself in knots, deleting words I’d typed because they were not good enough instead of moving forward with the story. I was convinced I was a rubbish writer because I couldn’t create the perfect paragraph, let alone the perfect story, first time. My first drafts were a garbled mess. 

Now I know better. I know and accept that first drafts aren’t meant to brilliantly crafted pieces of writing. They are simply the process of getting everything from within you, the writer, onto the page. The first draft is merely an assembly of words with which you will create your story later, during the editing and revising process ahead of submission.

Once you’ve accepted that a first draft is not carved in stone, that the words within it can be changed, deleted, added to or moved, it’s time to look at how to deal with that jumble of ramblings which make up your first draft. Here are my tips for turning that first draft into a submission ready piece of writing. All of them apply to whatever genre you write and no matter how long or short.

1.           The first thing you need to do is to step away from the manuscript. Yes, that’s right. Step away. Walk away and don’t look at it. I would suggest at least two weeks, more if you have the time.
Why? Doing this gives you space from the story, from the words that are drafted on you page. It will give you thinking time. When you return to your first draft your mind will be refreshed and the story will appear either new to you.
The time you have given yourself to create distance from the jumble of words that poured on the page will also allow you to see those glaring plot holes you happily skipped over in the first draft.
Whatever you think of it now, good or bad, you must remind yourself it’s still a first draft, or a dirty draft as it’s sometimes called.

2.           Once you’ve taken time away from your story, print out the manuscript. This is something I find really useful as reading the story on the computer screen is so very different to reading it on a printed page. It’s amazing how you can read something on the screen, yet it appears completely different when it’s on a piece of paper. For me it also allows anything from silly spelling mistakes to massive continuity issues to show up.
For best results ensure your printed copy is double spaced so there is plenty of room for notes. It’s also a good idea to have a note book for exploring things you will need to include in the story. If you are anything like me, that note book will have to meet specific criteria! If you have made notes whilst writing your first draft, like time lines, character studies, gather these up. Arm yourself with coloured pens, sticky notes and anything else which will help you pull together the threads within the first draft. This is a time when my desk becomes strewn, even very messy, with colourful sticky notes and pens!

3.           Armed with your printed copy, start reading. Read the full manuscript, jotting down any issues you stumble across either in your notebook or in the margin of the manuscript. Once this is done you can go back and read scene by scene, chapter by chapter, using your earlier notes as reference.
Here are some of the things you need to ask yourself. Does each scene move the story forward? Do your characters achieve their goal? Are there any glaring plot holes – major inconsistency in the story which is totally out of place? Is it possible that you have not made the most of a scene or even missed it out completely? Are there moments when you’ve told the story, now shown it to the reader?
All of these are things to consider when you are reading the manuscript and a notebook comes in very useful.

4.           All those notes made, either on the manuscript or in a notebook will now offer you all the prompts you need as you begin to work on that manuscript. Take it a scene at a time. Ensure that scene counts and above all, moves the story forward.
Do this stage as many times as you feel necessary. Starting each time with a revised print out of the manuscript. There isn’t a right or wrong number of times required to do this. It will depend on you and your story.

5.           Once you are happy you have made the necessary revisions to the manuscript it’s time to read it again. For this stage I find it useful to send the manuscript to my kindle, offering me a new reading experience for the story. Whilst reading it I will check for smaller inconsistencies.
Inconsistencies such as your character suddenly having a change of eye colour. Or a minor character finding themselves with a new name. They sound silly things, but they are so easy to do when you are in the throes of creating your first draft!
Also look again for spelling and grammar errors. They really are the hardest things to find!
One final thing to watch for as you read the end of this reading session, is that all minor threads are stitched up neatly. For instance, the reader will want to know what happened to that minor character which flitted into one of your scenes. You know, the one you had completely forgotten about by the time you reached the end of your story!

6.           Now it’s time to send your manuscript to your critique partner or beta reader if you are lucky enough to have one. Collate your reader’s notes so that you can make any final changes as you once more revise the manuscript.

By now, you will have a well-polished story. A submission that is ready to go to land on an editor’s desk. An editor’s job is to be that magical fresh pair of eyes who will help you make your words into the very best story they can be – which means yet more revisions! This isn’t bad at all. If you are striving for publication and get any kind of feedback from an editor, it is like striking gold. And if you are published, it’s the invaluable advice to ensure your readers will enjoy your new book as much, or even more, than the last book.

It’s also worth remembering that there is not a right or wrong way to revise your first draft, just as there is not a correct number of times to do it. Each writer is different and certain techniques work for some and not for others. This is the way I approach turning my first draft into a manuscript ready for submission, but I always love to hear how other do it!

I’ll be back early in January with another post From Rachael’s Desk, so if there is a writing craft you want advice on, let me in the comments and I will schedule it for 2019.


Friday, 3 November 2017

Walking The Wall

This time two weeks ago I was walking - make that slipping and sliding down the Great Wall of China for the final time. And at the end of it we were all presented with a medal.

The whole week was amazing from start to finish. My fellow trekkers were brilliant and we had such fun getting to know one another as we took on the Great Wall. The trek was run by Charity Challenge and the both the UK team members and the local guides made the week, ensuring we were challenged but safe.

 Here we all are - full of laughter on the first morning and that laughter continued all week!

We trekked along overgrown sections of the wall that had us battling to stay on our feet as we went down hill.

Climbed endless and very steep steps up.

Negotiated tricky parts which tested anyone's fear of heights.

Took on the Stairway to Heaven and it's notoriously steep steps which was shrouded in mist - probably a good thing!

Enjoyed fantastic views.

Even being on the wall as the sun began to set.

But most important of all, as a group of twenty eight we raised over £52,000 for British Heart Foundation and I made some fantastic new friends. If only we could do it all over again!

There's still time to support our efforts on my Just Giving page.

Now I'm back to reality and at my desk working on revisions.


Thanks to British Heart Foundation's Flicker page of the trip and the use of the photos.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Cover Love

One of the fun things about being a Harlequin Mills and Boon author is all the translated copies of my books that are available and seeing the variations of the covers always makes me smile. Here are some to them.

These are my latest deliveries of author copies.

These Manga copies of A Deal Before the Altar are just fabulous!


Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Pen Y Fan

Last weekend, my daughter and I did something different. We headed for the Brecon Beacons National Park to walk to the peak of Pen Y Fan, which at 886m is the highest peak in South Wales and Southern England.

We began the long climb up of our 8km walk and I couldn't resist stopping to take photographs - well that's my excuse!

The stone path stretches into the distance as we come to the brow of the first hill but there is still a long way to go.

A rock pile that walkers added to as they passed gave another photo opportunity and a chance to catch  my breath.

Another chance to pause and and look at the stunning view.

Finally we can see the characteristic flat top of our destination - Pen Y Fan.

And the proof that I made it to the top.

After a sit down and time to take in the stunning views we started our way back down.

We had just walked up the hard route to Pen Y Fan and the path we chose to go back down would have been easier, but as I am in training for a trek on The Great Wall of China in aid of the British Heart Foundation it was the obvious choice.

Almost back and time to take in the waterfall.

Finally we reached the car park and were relieved to see an ice-cream van and as we enjoyed a refreshing ice lolly we watched other walkers on the path we'd just come down.

If you would like to sponsor me on my trek in October you can do so here. Thank you!


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Conference Time Again!

It's July, which means my annual visit to Romantic Novelists' Association's conference. This year it was home from home for me as it was held at Harper Adams University near Telford, which is an agricultural university. So what did I seek out other than fabulous writing friends and books. Cows of course!

The conference was as usual a weekend full of useful sessions and lots of writing friends, although this year I arrived a day early to take advantage of an event at Wellington Library where authors Nicola Cornick, Sarah Morgan, Kate Walker, Freda Lightfoot and Bernadine Kennedy talked of their writing and books.

Authors from Right to left Kate Walker, Bernadine Kennedy, Freda Lightfoot, Sarah Morgan and Nicola Cornick

Before I left, I had a look in the Mills and Boon section and found my first book, A Deal Before the Altar - and had to have my photo taken with it!

The most useful sessions I attended during the conference were Nicola Cornick and Sarah Morgan's social media session, Fiona Harper's Building Characters from the inside out and of course, Mills and Boon's session, this year on creating the perfect heroine for a selection of heroes, which in turn created great stories. Now I just need to keep in mind all the useful tips from all these sessions.

All too soon it was time to go home and for me that meant returning to my cows and calves which gives me another opportunity to post a farm photo!


Wednesday, 28 June 2017

November 2017 - Cover Reveal

Seeing my new cover for the first time is always exciting and my next book, Valdez's Bartered Bride, to be released in November 2017 doesn't disappoint. It's just as I imagined when writing the book.

And the all important back cover blurb ..

Blackmailed into marriage... by Christmas!

Genealogist Lydia Carter-Wilson is horrified by the debts her father has run up in her name. Then magnate Raul Valdez approaches her with an outrageous proposition. If she helps him claim his inheritance, he'll pay off her debts and save her tarnished reputations. But there's a catch. If she fails, she will marry Raul on Christmas Eve!

No matter their instant and electrifying attraction, Lydia knows Raul's proposal amounts to blackmail. Yer faced with an impossible choice - risking ruin or becoming Raul's bartered bride - Lydia finds she cannot resist her desire to make a deal with the dark-hearted billionaire!

You can pre-order your copy here.