Sometimes the unlikeable characters are the most fun… #writing #characters #bad

Tante Victoire (1775)

I have just been revising (and tweaking) the chapters where I introduce Tante Victoire. She first appears in ‘Isabel’s Choice’, then has a larger role in ‘Sophie’s Temptation,’ and an even more prominent part in some of the later books in the series.

I have to say, Tante Victoire is not very nice! She is an inveterate snob, cares more for appearances and position than her own daughter’s happiness, is horrible to her husband and spoils her son, but… I have been surprising myself with how much I’m enjoying writing her scenes. There are reasons why she is bitter and disappointed and tends to take that out on the people around her, and I am enjoying getting to know her and her motivations. After all, not everyone is sunshine and light… (And at least she’s better than that awful Duke).

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Finding Eloise – A tip for understanding your character more deeply #writer #writing #book #character #image #tip

F3 Eloise - A_Woman_doing_Laundry_by_Henry_Robert_Morland

Writing a main character who is so different from all my other heroines – indeed so different to anyone’s heroines – has been a challenge. But fortunately I have had some help.

I have been writing about Eloise for nearly a year. My first descriptions of her were vague, perhaps a bit 2D (sallow, plain, flat-chested – a deliberate ‘antiheroine’). And then I discovered this painting – and that was her. Superficially (colouring/figure) she wasn’t much like the description I had already written, but in terms of her personality, she seemed perfect. So of course I then had to go back and change her description – but that was fine as it only improved the book. She could still be an antiheroine – but it was her unconventional personality and life decisions that made her so.

Once I had the painting, I understood so much more about her character. She is saucy and knowing, and although not strictly beautiful, she knows how to make the most of her attributes. And she will stop at nothing to get what she wants (although she is clever enough to hide her most of her manipulations). I am sure you love her already (slight sarcasm) … I am certainly enjoying the challenge of working with a character who is basically not very likable – the fun bit is bringing out her good points to balance the bad, and seeing if she can at least partly redeem herself.

I’m getting really close to finishing the first draft of ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ and I couldn’t have done it without this WikiCommons painting. (very grateful to all who contribute to this great resource for historical novelists).

I’m thinking about using this painting on her front cover as well – I will provide a sneak peek when the design is finished. I’m hoping the ‘The Secret Life of Eloise’ will be out by November 2015 (with the two earlier books in the series out in July and September).

How the quality of characters helps define a writer

What kind of writer can make characters [you care about]? I think the kind of writer who is not afraid to access the deepest places in himself, and is not afraid to share what he comes up with… I see plenty of writing that has kernels of good in it, but it’s hedged around with so much tentativeness, or uncertainty, or excess, or stinginess, that it doesn’t allow the outsider — the reader — in… Yet when I read something that speaks to me, that absorbs me, that remains vividly in my head even when I’m not reading it, I’ve been intimate with the person who wrote it before I’ve even met him. This isn’t to say I know anything about him. I only know he or she’s the kind of writer who’s willing to explore the deep essence of character…

Quote from literary agent Ann Rittenberg, 2002