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In shreds

A friend recently gave me a small posy of artificial violets from a village near where she lives in the south of France. Tourettes-de-loup is famous for growing violets. They have a violet festival around this time every year. 

I walked into the living room this morning and found my dog lying under the table.  Now, she often lies under the table—it’s her favorite place, a kind of den—but this morning she was lurking with a classic guilty look on her face.

“Milly, what have you done?”

She slunk out from under the table with that tentative tail-wagging appeasement look that dogs do so well, leaving a bunch of strange little shreds behind her under the table .

 

It wasn’t until I’d gathered them up that I recognized them. . .

So much for leaving a posy on the coffee table.  She doesn’t usually steal and chew things, apart from balls, and the odd, smuggled-in bone, but she’s eaten off all the violet flower parts and left the rest, so clearly they smelled and tasted good. To dogs, anyway.

As it turned out, when I told my other friends this story, they investigated their posies more closely, and found the “flowers” were really — in one friend’s words: “the loveliest sweets! A sort of crispy white outer shell and this lovely chocolaty filling. Thanks Milly :-) ”  

All I can say is hmph! Chocolate is bad for dogs. If I’d known they were edible I’ve never have put them on the coffee table.

By the way, the photo of the posy at the top of this post isn’t the posy my friend gave me. It’s one I found on the web. I didn’t take a photo of my friend’s posy — I didn’t realize I needed to preserve it for posterity.

To learn more about Tourettes-de-loup, the violet-growing village in the south of France, where my friend bought them go here. And also here.

 

Considering Characters

Considering your characters

When thinking about characters, the tendency for many is to start with an archetype — the strong silent soldier/cowboy,  the remote, buttoned up duke/billionaire businessman, the wild, unpredictable bad boy etc.

Archetypes can be useful as a starting point, but unless you go deeper, there is a risk of your characters being a bit too clichéd for comfort.

You need to twist the cliché, go deeper into your character’s personality and back story, find out his secrets and his deeply buried fears/hopes/vulnerabilities.

Consider this poem, by the Russian poet, Yevtushenko.

People, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

No people are uninteresting.
Their fate is like the chronicle of planets.

Nothing in them in not particular, 
and planet is dissimilar from planet.

And if a man lived in obscurity
making his friends in that obscurity
obscurity is not uninteresting.

To each his world is private
and in that world one excellent minute.
And in that world one tragic minute

These are private.
In any man who dies there dies with him
his first snow and kiss and fight
it goes with him.
                                                    (Read the rest of the poem here)

At a distance, your characters might fit an archetype, but the closer and deeper you go, the more individual and particular they become. Think of your character’s ‘one excellent minute’, and ‘one tragic minute’,  their ‘first snow, and kiss and fight’ — or your versions of those— the events that contributed to the formation of their character and personality, gave them their hangups and their strengths and their blind spots. 

Consider the ways in which they might be “stuck” in their current life.

Then brainstorm events and challenges in your plot that might cause them—force them!—to change.

And finally, consider this quote from Vicki Hinze: “Find your character’s Achille’s heel — their greatest fear or weakness or vulnerability.  Then stomp on it.”

Writing Workshop in Sydney

On Saturday 11th March I’m conducting a one day writing workshop at the beautiful old NSW Writers Centre in Rozelle, Sydney. Further details of the course, including booking links and pricing are here: http://www.nswwc.org.au/products-page/fiction/romancing-the-page/

Here is part of the blurb for the course:
Romance is character-driven genre fiction. Forget about “the formula” — there’s no such thing. Like all popular fiction, it must delight, surprise and entertain readers.  Romance (in all its varied guises) accounts for a huge chunk of the international fiction market, and even adding a thread of romance to a story in another genre will extend the appeal of that book — as long as you do it well. 

The NSW Writers Centre is a little tricky to find — it’s in the grounds of Callan Park, Balmain Rd
Rozelle, in Garry Owen House (The NSW Writers’ Centre) Enter the park grounds from the Balmain Road gate opposite Cecily Street and follow the green signs to the NSW Writers’ Centre — the photo above.