Isn’t she nice?

I’m facing a bit of a dilemma.

I’m not very good at writing about nice characters.

pretty-woman-in-field-820477__340

Nice.

I tried. I tried really hard to make Alice, the heroine of “The Manor on the Moors”, a thoroughly nice person, her one flaw being an ever-so-slight (but utterly endearing) lack of confidence. She would develop confidence in spectacular style throughout the book to make her, by the end, practically perfect.  And then along came Caroline. She was meant to be the opposite of Alice’s niceness, throwing just what a lovely person Alice was into stark relief. She was meant to be mean, domineering and constantly cross to make Alice seem utterly lovely.

But the problem I found was – if your characters begin the book being thoroughly nice (or nasty) where have they got to go? If your main character is already beloved by all, pretty, intelligent and sweet, how can she grow?

Authors often say that when writing the characters take over, and this is what I allowed to happen. Flawed characters are much more interesting to write about than well rounded, happy characters, so Alice’s lack of confidence grew to be not just a tiny little flaw in her all-round general niceness, but a crippling problem that was going to ruin her life if she didn’t deal with it. I found I warmed to Caroline because of her awkwardness. I had to explain it, develop it and then show that there was more to her than a grumpy middle-aged woman constantly trying to tell other people what to do, but I couldn’t stop her being awkward. And I couldn’t stop her trying to take over ever scene she entered.

nice woman

Utterly lovely.

Instead of Caroline’s attitude making Alice seem more attractive by comparison, Caroline’s sometimes harsh judgement rang a bell of truth. When Caroline wonders ‘if it was legal to shake a visiting PhD student into some semblance of common sense and  [she] concluded that probably it wasn’t …’ I couldn’t help but sympathise with Caroline’s judgement. Alice’s niceness was diminished by Caroline’s attitude to her.

I ended up with two very different heroines with very different issues – but neither of them was practically perfect, or even close to it.

And there’s the dilemma. Because, especially in the genre of cupcakes and cafes that my books inhabit, readers in general warm to a sympathetic main character with whom they can empathise, not a flawed one who can be (let’s be honest about this) a bit irritating at times. I’m no longer even sure whether I’m capable of creating someone nice enough to carry the weight of genre expectations – and crucially, I’m not sure if I want to.

nice woman 2

Practically perfect

 

The Manor on the Moors is now available in both e-book and paperback form here if you want to read about two not entirely lovely ladies …

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Nothing to report

It’s all been a bit quiet. That’s the problem with writing a winter themed book, once winter is over, there isn’t much call for books about winter. And spring is definitely here now. I even saw a daffodil in the garden today!

So, what have I been up to? Well, lots of research and writing of book number two, currently with the working title of “The manor on the moors” which I am now editing frantically. It features a crumbling stately home, a family in decline and a nervous PhD student with a thing for a long-dead artist – “the bad boy of the arts and crafts movement”.

Starting soon, I’m going to be blogging a bit more about places that inspire me. Places are usually the starting points for any story, even before the people who inhabit them. I find a place and think “what kind of person might live here”? and that’s where my stories begin.

 

I’m going to start with considering the inspiration provided by a recent trip to Walt Disney World, Florida although I will not be using that directly in any of my novels – I suspect the mouse would sue me. it was, however, like walking into a storybook for real! And if you’re wondering about the giant cinammon loaf I’m eating in the photograph – yes, that was at Disney World and no, I didn’t manage to finish it …

This week’s mistakes

Anne of Green Gables was one of my favourite books as a child. One of the things I have always remembered Anne Shirley saying was:

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

 

It’s been my writing mantra for a while now. Each day can be both literally as well as metaphorically a blank page, which is good, as every day I find a few new mistakes to make. anne of gg

So, these are the mistakes I have made this week!

  1. I called one of my characters Ellie. I always confuse the names Ellie and Evie (my daughter has friends called both and I can never remember which is which!) Half way through Chapter 6 Ellie went out of a room, and in Chapter 7 she came back in called Evie. That one was easy to solve – I changed both Ellie and Evie into Emma, which for some reason is much easier to remember!
  2. Chapter 13 was just a big mistake from beginning to end. I started it, hated it, deleted it all and started again. I needed a character to show up who had no reason to be in the scene at all, I came up with reason after reason for him to visit, none of them plausible. I was tearing my hair out. I went to bed, woke up the next morning, and realised that if I had him call the heroine’s mobile it meant he didn’t have to be there at all but could still have the conversation. Problem solved (and it’s a good job I’m not writing a historical).
  3. Biggest mistake of all? Apparently it was National Writing Day today and I’d never even imagined there was such a thing. I should have done something to celebrate – some writing, perhaps!