Tag Archives: notes

The Pleasures of Play-Doh

Still thrashing out some last minute edits for Fifty Shades Fatter but with a bit of luck and a following wind the thing should be available in the Kindle store next week. I’m also trying out Rachel Aaron’s method for cranking up the wordcount. I can’t report that it’s been a total success – at least not yet, since I only bought the book yesterday, although I have doubled my wordcount today so far and feel like I still have gas in the tank, so to speak.

Word-counting can sometimes feel counter-productive to me; I’ll hammer out three thousand words in a day and then the next day getting anything on paper will leave my head feeling like an orange that’s already been squeezed to within an inch of its life and then some. The thing I like about this advice that she emphasises notes – notes, notes, notes. Make them. Lots of them. You are not nearly as good at keeping things straight as you think you are.

It makes sense to arm yourself before advancing into forest of an intricately plotted novel. There are things in there that will eat your brain, spit out the pips, burp and laugh mockingly before finishing off the rest of you.

I also like her advice on keeping your characters reasonably squishy. One of the reasons I tend to avoid writing forums is that I just get sick of seeing the same questions asked over and over again, and the same mistakes made too. Someone will wander in and say ‘How do I write fictional characters?’ and then someone will offer the helpful suggestion that they should fill out some kind of D&D sheet, or some elaborate questionnaire determined to discover the character’s favourite colour, their rising astrological sign and their preference for lobster over shrimp. This is why I don’t go to writing forums. I don’t want to be the apparently crazy person capslocking IT DOESN’T FUCKING MATTER.

But seriously. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t. There’s no point setting your characters in stone, because they are not stone. They’re Play-Doh. Specifically, they’re your Play-Doh, and you can make them do or say anything you need them to. Obviously with main characters this comes with a certain level of limitation. You must still strive for consistency. One of the gnarliest problems I had with Paris Green was that when I looked back at the first draft I realised that my heroine was wandering around behaving like a woman who had just undergone a personality transplant. I was so invested in the love story playing out in the background that Caroline suddenly turned into this siren, rather than the anxious, angry and deeply damaged young woman she was in the first half.

But would knowing that her favourite colour was pink rather than blue have changed or helped with this? Of course it wouldn’t. There’s no reason to worry yourself with these superficial details.

The thing about not tying yourself down to specifics is that you have all the fun of inventing new details about the characters as you go along. For instance, I always saw Andrew Blakemoor as having really good cheekbones – nose too long and chin, chin too short, ears too large, but man – he had some good cheekbones. His voice I kind of imagined as a male version of Clarice Starling – very soft, very countryish. I hadn’t committed myself to making him a Southerner, but somewhere along the line I picked up North Carolina and suddenly those great cheekbones made sense; his back-teeth were rotted to hell from all that sweet tea. His passion for sugar was suitably fly-like, considering that he lived most of his life as a sort of psychic parasite.

It was one of those lovely little moments of serendipity that make life much more fun for a writer. It’s even more fun when you’ve got a character like Andrew Blakemoor; someone who lies so often and so well that you can reinvent them every time they turn up.