Friday, 3 July 2015

Postcard 5 from Marseillan. Abby sat up in bed...

 Inevitably, sitting here on my balcony in sunny Marseillan, I am fizzing up a new story – the next novel or novella or whatever it may be. On element of this is the waiting, waiting for characters to walk off the streets and into the novel. This has happened before. In many places, at many times.

Yesterday I was in the city of Agde yesterday, feeling so affectionate about the narrow streets, the ancient atmosphere. I spent some sitting beside the magically green river Hérault. The quayside is busy now with cafes and travellers but still in my mind’s eye  I see bustling traders and fishermen, fishing boats and tall ships trading exotic spices for Langedocean wine and oil in this port that goes back to 600 BC.

This is the place that inspired two of my novels: An Englishwoman in France, which goes back to the Roman occupation of this region, and most recently Writing at the Maison Bleue which goes back to the German occupation in World War 2...

I’ve been meaning to write some posts about the role of characters in the writing process and how one builds on the seeds of a character after he or she has walked into your mental and imaginary space. I thought first I would reflect on characters in Writing at the Maison Bleue with reference to a helpful article I stumbled on. I’ve already mentioned my conviction that the best writing follows intuition and naturally derived insight. But here in the relaxed sunshine I thought an exercise in back-checking might be useful. This article mentions four elements: a driving need, desire, ambition or goal; a secret; a contradiction; and vulnerability

Of course my characters in Writing at the Maison Bleue are already made - Francine on her bicycle, Joe with his rucksack - living, breathing and striding out between two covers. But in this series of occasional posts I will look at all eight characters in the light of this article and see if I have hit the mark. 

What do you think?


In this excerpt we meet Abby:

Abby Constantine sat up straight and yawned. The rough fabric of the hostel sheet folded rather than slid down her smooth form. Felix lay against the pillow admiring the way fine dark hair gathered like an arrow in the small of her back. He laid his finger on the nape of her neck and allowed it to sketch a line to just that point.
She shivered slightly. ‘Don’t do that, Felix.’ Her light voice was well modulated, low key. Felix had a good ear and had always known that he could never make love to a girl with a voice like a corn-crake, no matter how beautiful she was. He’d fallen for Abby first because of the silver tones of her voice. She was very pretty, if too plump to be beautiful, and she could be violent and crude in many ways. But she had the voice of an angel and that was enough for Felix.  

More characters and excerpts soon…

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