Thursday, 30 July 2015

Guest Post - Getting To Know Your Heroes | Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Hello folks, today I am pleased to say that we have a wonderful guest post from talented author Valerie-Anne Baglietto. She has written a wonderful piece on how to get to know your heroes. 


A while back, I asked the hero of my WIP a question. It was rather a personal question, but seeing as he was my invention, I fully expected him to answer. He refused – in a gruff manner totally characteristic of him, which was flattering to my writer’s ego. But (shock, horror!) he said no. To me. His creator. Then I realised, if I were the heroine, the love of his life, his soulmate, he would have answered. As a writer I may have breathed him into existence, but in the process I gave him a dangerous thing: I blessed him with free will. 

It was at this precise point that I realised he was one of the most ‘real’ characters I’d ever crafted. When he became like any other person in my life. Because who do you truly know, inside out, upside down, to the very last wrinkle and freckle? Your spouse? Your children? Your parents? Your best friend? You may think you do, but you don’t. And I’m not saying this in a creepy, disturbed way. I’m not talking about the big lies or the omissions. It’s usually the tiny, silly, inconsequential things that we don’t share. The things we think, and then instantly wonder straight afterwards: am I mad? No. (Probably) not mad. Just human. 

As writers, we’re given the advice to know our characters down to the very last detail, even if it doesn’t appear in the story. What they eat for breakfast, their first childhood memory, which idol was pinned to their bedroom wall during their teenage years, eye-colour, hair-colour, favourite colour… the list is extensive. And it’s not bad advice, it’s very important, in fact, and there are many devices to help us gather all that information. I won’t go into the methods here, that isn’t quite what this post is about. 

Sometimes, we start work on a new book with pages and pages in a notebook brimming with details about our protagonists. With other stories, they grow with us gradually as the tale unfolds. Maybe we don’t flesh them out until the second or third drafts. We need to remember one thing, though: the lists we make about them can’t be set in stone. Some things, like favourite food and colour, can change. Even hair-colour can change; it just takes a trip to the hairdressers or Boots. Other things, those from the past, are more fixed. They rely on the character’s memory, though. Not ours. Theirs. And in the same way our own memories can be sifted, and shift slightly in our minds to trick us, or transmute into something else entirely - they can do this for the characters, too.

For instance, two characters remembering the same event aren’t going to remember it exactly the same way, especially if it happened in the distant past. Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t get so hung up on nailing every last detail for the sake of consistency, if it means two characters are viewing something without even the slightest variation. 

The tiniest twist in the details and the individual filter through which we each view life – these are vital elements. A multi-viewpoint story won’t ring true without them.

It’s another one of the things that made the hero in my WIP suddenly real to me. He wasn’t seeing the narrative through my filter, as an author, he was viewing it fully from his own POV. That’s effectively what POV is, at least when it isn’t from the omniscient author stance. Seeing the world of the story through the filtering lens of a single character; perhaps just for that scene, maybe for the entire book. The point being, it’s no longer your story as the writer – it’s theirs, as the narrator. 

And the main thing to remember, if you’re doing your job right, then they’re not you. They have different hang-ups, prejudices, likes and dislikes. They might swear more, or less. They might be kinder, or meaner. Whatever. Your inhibitions won’t be theirs, which can be scary, but so much fun. You have to let go of yourself, and allow them to take over, even if they end up keeping secrets from you. 

So, with that in mind, I think I’ll go scoff a chocolate digestive and pretend it’s my current heroine who’s eating it. Maybe that way, the calories won’t count.*

[*Yeah. Right. Who am I kidding?]

By day, Valerie-Anne Baglietto writes modern, grown-up fairy-tales. By night, she clears up after her husband and three children. Occasionally she sleeps. During her career, she has written rom-coms for Hodder & Stoughton and won the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writer’s Award. Aside from writing and household management, she takes perverse delight in bossing around the other members of Novelistas Ink, a writer’s collective founded by the bestselling author Trisha Ashley. You can also find her hanging out in the usual places on social media…

Her latest release is FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY

What happens when a spirited, young fairy godmother goes rogue?
Romance and magic in the sleepy Cheshire village of Fools Castle…

Available on Amazon worldwide.