Monday, June 27, 2011

Serendipity Friends

We have had friends visiting this weekend, which is why I am looking bleary-eyed and exhausted. The craic was good and it was the wee sma hours before we got to bed, but at this time of year in our northern climes the sun is well up by three in the morning, and the blackbird in the garden doesn't see why he should restrain his exuberant greeting of the dawn for the sake of those of us who have only just dropped off to sleep.

These are what I like to call serendipity friends. We went on holiday to China two years ago and in our group of eighteen we found a couple my husband at been at university with, and hadn't seen since. We got on well so arranged to visit after we got back, a little nervously, since holiday friendships are notorious for coming unstuck on home territory. To be honest, the first time was a little strange, but it went well enough for us to want to try again. We learned more about each other and started building up a sort of hinterland of shared experience, and now it's a good friendship we acquired quite by chance.

It struck me that this is a bit like the characters in a series. We talk about 'creating' characters, but really when I'm writing it seems more like discovering them. If the character won't 'talk' to me, I'll just be pulling the strings of a wooden puppet.

Having written stand-alones I was worried at first about having the same protagonist. Once I'd described Marjory Fleming's character in book one, how was I going to make repeating it interesting when I got to book six? To my surprise I found that, like a friend I was getting to know, I discovered things about her past that I hadn't realised before, and as the books went on her outlook and attitude changed with her experiences.

I'm always uncomfortable when I try to set down the way characters come to me. I'm aware it sounds a bit sort of cutesy, and I'm sure there are highly successful authors who are much more logical in their approach. But I'm also sure I'm not the only one who became a writing junkie because of the extraordinary sensation of writing faster and faster to discover what's going to happen, because you just don't know.

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