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Writing Hints



Fay Cunningham has this to say about how she develops her characters.


First I have an idea – then I either people my plot with characters or design a plot to suit the characters I have created. I start with physical characteristics of my main characters and add things as I go along. I like to let them develop in their own time with their own little idiosyncrasies. Some characteristics are taken from real people, but in the main they are entirely imaginary.  I like to create gorgeous alpha males and strong, beautiful women, and then give them a few flaws taken from real people. I like to refer to a photo to get an idea of type, but often change eye or hair colour.


I see and hear my characters. They are very real to me when I am writing about them. The way they speak and the way they phrase sentences gives them individuality. I visualise action scenes, see inside buildings, and feel the rain or sunshine. An emotion has to be experienced to write about it convincingly.


I don’t have too many main characters and I make sure the names are different enough for the reader to remember. My walk-on characters don’t usually have a name. If they have a name, they become important to the reader.


I use mannerisms sometimes. Catch phrases are often too obvious, and accents are just confusing. The way a character phrases a sentence or raises an eyebrow can be useful, but used to excess mannerisms become a cliché. Characters gain individuality from the way they behave and how they deal with a given situation.


Maureen Lee


I write mainly in the third person, but occasionally first person. I use multi-view point when necessary, but I don’t think a woman can ever know how a man thinks. A man writing from a woman’s viewpoint doesn’t work, either.


Unfortunately my characters run away with plot all the time. I have to keep hauling them back and telling them to behave themselves.


As I write thrillers as well as romance one of my characters might kill a villain. I don’t like to read about the death of a child or an animal, so I don’t subject my readers to that kind of trauma either.


Both character and plot are equally important. In an action/adventure or crime novel the plot is obviously very important, but plot is nothing without interesting characters. Romantic fiction demands memorable characters but needs a good story line as well. The answer is – it depends what you are writing.


Maureen Lee has slightly different ideas to Fay


The idea for the plot will automatically contain characters so you start with both.


I don't write a biography or back stories for my characters. Apart from a single instance in one book, they are imaginary.


I never under any circumstances cut photos out of magazines to use as your main characters?


I see and hear my characters.


How many characters will work depends on the plot and the length of the book. I must admit my spirits wilt a bit when I start a book that has a list of characters and their role in the book at the beginning. I suppose the author should begin to realise after a while she/he is introducing too many people.


It depends how important the character is to the plot how much individuality they need. It is a good idea to have a bad-tempered bus conductor, for instance, who appears just once, or a helpful, smiley assistant in a shop. The main characters can be described as fully as you want.


It is true that sometimes you introduce a character who you like so much that they play a much more important part in your book than envisaged. Some seem so extra real that, in my case, I look back on them as if they really had lived. I had an Armenian solicitor in The Leaving of Liverpool who died about three quarters of the way through. I became really fond of this character and deeply regretted him leaving my book. The same thing happened with a character in Mother of Pearl. One day I might well bring these people back to life.


I have twice had a child killed and it really upset me. Once a dog nearly died, but was found to be still alive on further inspection.


In my opinion plot and character are as vitally important as the other.


I think Maureen and Fay have covered the ground admirably I won’t burden you with my opinion about characters. I'd like to thank them for taking the time to drop into my blog today.