One of the questions I am asked about my writing is the way I go about it. As every good student of writing has learnt there is three act structure to all good writing, and I suppose that is always in the back of my mind. Another lesson that was taught to me was that you should build that structure with plot points and have a reasonable storyline mapped out in your head before you begin. This is where I tend to deviate.
To me, characters are the most important part of the book. You need to know your character inside and out, right down to their favourite food or colour, their strengths and weaknesses and most essentially, their thought patterns. Before I even begin to write their story, I need to know everything about them so that they will respond to conflict as only their character would.
I took a big gamble on Mairead Kavanagh, heroine of The Finest Line. Through my life I've had the privilege of knowing some wonderfully, wild women whose antics have absolutely astounded me over the years. Though I didn't always agree with some of the things they did, their lives were incredibly interesting and I loved them for it. I wanted the very first character I wrote to be a representation of that, and so Mairead was born. She is rude, bratty, self centred and completely irresponsible, but still has a good heart which is shown in her compassion for the underdog. Circumstances have dictated some of her behaviour in losing her mother at an early age and being thoroughly spoilt by a father who is trying to compensate for her loss. Mairead longs to be good, to be liked by her peers, but only if they accept her as she is. From an early age, Mairead knows that she has a desire to be disciplined, to feel the physical pain of being chastised, something she has never experienced in any parental situation. It is a desire that she struggles with as completely abnormal, which only furthers her ventures into self destruction. To make matters worse, in her mid teen years she is attracted to a man who is every bit her opposite. James is ex military, disciplined, polite and educated. He also has a persona of strictness that is like an aphrodisiac to Mairead. When he first threatens her with a spanking, he becomes the very epitome of everything she has wanted in a man, but she can't harbour these ideas. In a politically correct world, women do not allow men to dominate them in any way. She sees it as a weakness in herself to even want this type of relationship, so she shuns it but can never put out the fire it has sparked in her. She can't believe that James could even want a woman like her.
Mairead is not your normal heroine. One only has to read the reviews to see how frustrating and angry she can make the readers. Fantastic! One reader said she nearly threw her kindle across the room because Mairead had angered her so much. Brilliant!
I never set out to write a sweet girl that everyone could adore, because where's the challenge in that? I set out to write a character that would evoke a whole range of emotions in my readers. My victory has come from those who have gone on with the next two books to watch her growth and have finally fallen in love with her. One reader told me that he dated women like Mairead, too high maintenance for him to handle but as he said, "They are the ones that you never forget."
To me, character is everything in a book. If you have good strong characters to begin with, then it is those characters that will guide your journey. I've heard this referred to as writing organically. I don't know, but this is the way I write. When I start writing I have no idea where I'm going. I just keep banging the letters on the keyboard from one point to the next. It is my characters that decide which way we are going. I've never had such a fun journey than the one that Mairead has taken me on.