Okay, my idea is chosen: an estranged couple forced to share a rather eventful car journey which makes them face up to the problems that tore their marriage apart.
Exactly what is going to happen to them is anyone’s guess. First, I need to get to know my characters, and the best way I know how to do that is a character interview or worksheet. Now, I have a love-hate relationship with character worksheets. I love sparking off new ideas for the story, but answering the questions often makes my brain hurt.
I use the character questionnaire from Kate Walker’s “12 Point Guide to Writing Romance”, with a few changes of my own. It covers all the basic stuff: hair, eyes, age, place of birth, parents etc. Then come the hard questions: what is her most treasured possession? How would an ex-lover describe him? What would she never do for any amount of money? Tough questions! (You’ll have to see Kate’s book for the full list.)
While my brain cells are spinning trying to answer these questions, little flashes of inspiration come – tiny details that flesh the characters out and make them likeable and, hopefully, unique.
So, now I have Adele and Nick. Adele is fiercely independent, and is buttoned-up a little too tight sometimes. But she cares deeply for people and is totally loyal to those she loves. Nick is a charmer, full of imagination. He’s a bit of a daydreamer and finds it hard to take life seriously. And he has dimples. Sigh.
Now, some authors definitely like to have photos of their hero and heroine to look at as they write. (Check out Julie Cohen’s or Ally Blake’s blogs, or Trish Wylie’s hero database, if you haven’t already!) I just can’t seem to work that way. I can see a picture that will fit my characters basic physical type, but it never matches the picture in my head exactly.
For my ‘Luke and Gaby’ book (coming out March 2007, by the way) I had a photo of Rupert Penry-Jones pinned onto my picture board. Luke was a kind of rougher looking version of him when I started the book. But the further into the story I got, the more he stopped looking like Rupert and looked more like – well, Luke. And I haven’t found anyone who looks remotely like Gaby yet!
So now, I’ve got to know them, the ideas for how to start the book are starting to brew and bubble. The first thing Adele has to do is catch a spider…