Ally Blake Romance Author - Blog

Latest news from Australian romance author Ally Blake, writer of fun, fresh flirty romance novels.

Thursday 18 January 2007

between the sheets: location

To me settings are as important as characters. I think of them as a character themselves if that makes any kind of sense ;). As they are a product of it as much as of the people and circumstances that have shaped their lives. My editor calls this "context". The greater world in which the characters live.

I can never build characters without building their world at the exact same time. I don't create their whole world or I'd never get a thing written, but at least two or three primary settings are detailed, researched, imagined, googled...

Kissing a Fool is set in a fictional township on the edge of Melbourne. I couldn't set it in Melbourne proper as I usually do as I needed to make the physical world open and spacious with lots of places a person could hide. But their social world to be claustrophobic. People in this township, name as yet as yet undecided ;), have to know Hud and Kendall’s names. Their business. Their pasts. Their ghosts. So in the end there is nowhere left to hide.

The slightly rural setting also gives me lots of scope for the natural beauty I can see inside my head. I see a town with tree lined main street. I see a cool, shadowy pine forest. I see an overgrown garden around a stunning old neglected mansion. The colour palette overriding everything is green, like a veil over the images in my head. Or like I am lying beneath a mossy lake, looking up through reeds and water lilies to the hazy sunlight above.

Yesterday I wrote the first scene in which my hero walks through a garden feeling much the same way. I can only hope I got the mood down pat.

yesterday's questions...

Do you use character interviews or studies?

Never interviews. I know this works beautifully for some writers - asking their characters questions and having them answer them as an exercise to find out more about them - but it’s just never been my thing.

I have always used a really basic character template - one page for each character - to keep track of certain characteristics of my characters such as: eye colour, hair colour, family names & history, job, car, basic psychological and personality traits. I started this years ago when I used to have so many ideas on the go at once I wanted to make sure I kept track and now it’s more of a habit than any kind of real study.

At times when I have become stuck, I have dived into more detailed character studies, several pages of questions asking things like: hero’s worst fear, heroine’s favourite pet, what hero’s feet look like, how heroine dances. Far more information than could ever be needed in a 50,000 word book, but sometimes I have stumbled upon some really nice details which were used as a springboard for later scenes. Right now I written down that my heroine loves Keats poetry, loves spending hours walking aimlessly through the forest between the town and the hero's house, and my hero's Aunt owned an Irish wolfhound when he was a kid. These details may never appear, but even so they can colour the character from the inside out.

But I much prefer to find out about my characters as I tell their story. I like the surprises that come from nowhere in the middle of a scene. In my recent Silhouette Romance, A MOTHER FOR HIS DAUGHTER, I had no idea that the hero’s daughter was not in fact his child until the hero’s brother laid claim to her in the middle of diner one night. I sat back with my hand clasped over my mouth in shock! I’ll never forget it! I do wonder if I knew in advance whether I would have unknowingly sprinkled in clues leading up to the big reveal which then would have made the moment less powerful.

So basically, I like to find out about my hero and heroine at the same pace as the reader, then hopefully my surprises will surprise them too ;).

today’s progress

setting: I found some beautiful pictures around the Hotel Biron, Paris (the home of the Musee Rodin, where that sculptors greatest works reside both inside the beautiful old home, and outside in a beautiful garden - my hubby and I visited Paris a couple of year's ago and it was a highlight). I googled pictures of overgrown gardens as well.

character: I know my heroine lives with someone, I’m just not yet sure who it is. I’m hoping when she gets back home and walks through the front door, she’ll introduce me ;).

word count: 2,972 / 50,000 = 6%

For the journey of writing a Harlequin Romance from initial idea to 'the end',

check out the whole Between the Sheets series

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