Category Archives: The Cloud Sisters

Creating Characters

This is the third post in the My Novel Writing Process series. Find the others here: Overview || The Story Idea

A story could not exist without characters. But a good story contains interesting, well-drawn characters who appear three-dimensional. The trick to creating characters who appear real? You have to believe they are. You have to see them flaws and all, and be willing to pick apart their personality, to hear their voice and to lend them unique characteristics.

All of these details come from observing and interacting with other people. You might also be inspired by characters in books, movies or even songs. The inspiration for creating characters is everywhere; in every conversation you have, in how you view yourself and others around you.

I love to create characters. I love choosing names, hair and eye colour, body type, ulterior motives, weaknesses, conflicts. But it can easily be made a chore by filling out detailed character charts, dissecting everything from the character’s past to what they like to eat for breakfast.

It’s not necessary to know everything about a character before you start writing their story – the magic is in how they slowly reveal themselves to you as you write. They start showing quirky behaviour, they say things you never imagined they would and do things you hadn’t planned. They start running the show and if you listen hard enough and go with the flow, they may even tell you how the story will end.

Free-Write a Character Analysis

Having said that, I think it’s imperative to spend a little time getting to know your characters. Picking their brains rather than inventing characteristics that you think will please the reader. My background is in psychology, so I am naturally curious about how people tick and what happens when things go wrong. Villains and disordered personalities fascinate me as much as beauty queens and heroes. I like to make characters a little unique in some way by going deep into why they do the things they do. What they fear, what makes them sad or angry. What they are fighting for.

I do this by free-writing. Using a Character Prompt Sheet as a guide, I sit down and think about who this character is that I am seeing in my mind. It’s a stream-of-consciousness exercise – letting the character tell me who they are. I write in block paragraphs but not dot points.

In this analysis, we are focusing on how the character feels about, and interacts with, other characters in the novel. We are letting them divulge what their secret motives and desires are. We may touch on their past experiences and their childhood to get an idea about where they have come from, as well as how they’re living their life now – their job, hobbies, what they do with their time. It’s all about being an amateur psychologist, delving into their personality and life philosophy.

The freedom of the Character Prompt Sheet is that all of the questions do not need to be answered by the time the exercise is finished. It’s simply a list of things to begin to ask when creating your characters. Some sections may be more relevant than others.

The Character Prompt Sheet

There are many examples out there, but this is the list I use in my novel writing process. I hope you find it helpful. Use it as a starting point in creating your own list of prompts if you like. I adapted mine from Elizabeth George’s excellent writing reference Write Away. 

PHYSICAL
Name:
Birth date/age:
Star sign & meaning:
Height/weight/build:
Colour hair/eyes:
Physical peculiarities:
Gestures when talking:
Gait:
Voice:

BACKGROUND
Birthplace:
Educational background:
Sexuality/relationships:
Best friend:
Enemies:
Family (mother, father, siblings etc):
Hobbies:
Occupation:

PSYCHOLOGY
Core need:
Pathological manoeuvre:
Ambition in life:
Positive/negative aspects of personality:
Social persona:
Laughs or jeers at:
Philosophy:
What others notice first about him/her:
What character does alone:

PROMPT QUESTIONS: Personal History

What is the most difficult thing my character is struggling with right now? How does that struggle give them one problem they must solve? Who or what will stand in the way of the solution they seek?

Will reader like/dislike character? How will they view this character?

Does he/she change in the story? How:

Significant event that moulded the character & one that illustrates the character’s personality:

One-line characterisation:

Character Casting

If you haven’t been able to see your characters by now, the Prompt Sheet will have helped you. Now that you have more of an idea of who your characters are, it’s time to try to find a visual representation of them.

Who are you imagining as the main characters in your novel? Do they resemble an actor or actress, a public figure, someone you know, or are they simply invented? Scout out pictures to use as a visual aid when writing the first draft.

Good old Dr. Google image search is great if you know the person’s name. Pinterest can give you a more detailed search and throw up some good pics of young women with brown hair, for example. If you still can’t find what or who you’re looking for, free stock photo websites like Pexels and iStock are chock-full of beautiful images for all types of characters.

I have a Pinterest board for The Cloud Sisters and all my characters are there (including many of my hero who I have a little crush on…)

Here’s Heath Howley (the delectable model Christopher Mason):

HeathH

 

And Elodie McAllister (an unknown stock photo model):

Elodie Mc

If you use Scrivener, you can plug these photos into your project using the Corkboard feature. I do this with only a select few images as I still find Pinterest easier.

The most important ingredient in creating believable, intriguing characters? Have fun and enjoy playing with it!

The Final Push

I’m nearing the end of rewriting Enchanting Elodie. Plot-wise, we are in the midst of the crisis or major setback and approaching the climax or final push. It feels a bit like rounding the bend in a marathon and knowing the finish line is over the hill. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there.

This is where things can get sticky.

I’ve never been much of a runner, but nearing the end of something brings about conflicting emotions in me. I’m exhausted, I want to quit, but I know if I keep going I will have the satisfaction of completion. And sometimes there is a final burst of energy when I can push myself a little bit harder.

So I’m going to set myself a deadline of finishing the second draft of this manuscript at the end of this week. This is not going to be a long drawn-out last leg. I’m sick of almost-but-not-quite being done. I probably only have about ten more scenes to write, so if I can do at least one a day, I should be done in a little over a week. Totally do-able.

I totally agree with the theory of writing drafts quickly before the spark winks out. With Enchanting Elodie, I’ve managed to sustain this spark for close to two years. I was well on my way with the first draft when I went on a 2-week overseas holiday, which threw my writing mojo completely. But when I got home I made myself sit down at my desk and I started again. I’m glad I did because the story took on a life of its own. Similarly, when I finished the first draft I was tempted to let it languish and start on a new project. There seemed to be so many problems and issues I didn’t know how to fix. I faced a tough decision: run the race again, or start training for a new one?

Maybe it’s all about perserverance, or resilience, or maybe just commitment, but after going through the process once, I knew what to expect. And I had material to work with. It was like a do-over: this time, I got to tell the story I meant to write. The kinks naturally worked themselves out when the story started to go in different directions, and characters began to act more like themselves and make better decisions that all made the story smoother.

I know I will finish this book, and I know that when I do I will have a finished (albeit unedited) piece of work that I am proud of. I just need to give myself that final push.

The Cloud Sisters Book 1: Enchanting Elodie

Pic: My mock up of the front cover using Derek Murphy’s online book cover creator tool

It’s the last gig on tour for Australian country girl Elodie McAllister’s struggling band The Cloud Sisters. The dive bar isn’t exactly the kind of place she expected to be discovered, but tonight Elodie will be head-hunted by the biggest name in country music, sexy Texan Heath Howley.

Mistaking him for just another hot guy looking for a hook-up, Elodie almost blows her shot at stardom. But with the promise of a business proposal, Heath invites her to stay with him at the secluded Sugar Creek Estate in the Hunter Valley. Elodie is certain he is interested in more than her voice… but not so sure that she wants to resist him.

Heath Howley is used to getting what he wants – except the girl who stole his heart before he was famous. Something is holding Elodie back from reaching her dreams, and it’s the same thing that’s stopping her falling into his bed. To release her, all it will take is a little enchanting…

Book one begins with the eldest McAllister sister, Elodie. She’s at a place in her life where her band isn’t going anywhere despite early promise, and she and her sisters are sick of playing gigs but not earning enough money to keep going. Elodie is also newly heart-broken and is looking for a quick distraction from her pain with hot men.

When they play at a country pub, the Alehouse (the locals call it the Outhouse which is Aussie slang for a toilet), she meets a handsome mysterious stranger with a Southern American accent. But Elodie is in a bad mood because her latest distraction has let her down and she doesn’t respond well to the guy’s apparent overtures. Little does she know when she elbows him in the guts for being too forward, is that he is in fact a famous celebrity, a country music star by the name of Heath Howley, and he was trying to offer her a business opportunity…

The story takes place in the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia, and Nashville, Tennessee, USA. I have been to the Hunter Valley but I’ve never been to Nashville, so a lot of research and imagination went into writing this book. The celebrity world is also foreign to me, but it’s all around us and even more accessible now with the advent of social media, so it wasn’t too difficult to imagine and create Heath’s world.

Enchanting Elodie is pure escapism for romance fans who are prone to celebrity crushes and who might just have a penchant for country music or its stars!

 

© Tammie Andrena 2017. All rights reserved.

The Cloud Sisters Trilogy

I’m currently writing a romantic trilogy centered around a trio of sisters in a country music band. The McAllister sisters (who go by the title The Cloud Sisters) are an undiscovered act who hail from the fictional small country town of Wattle Hill in my home state of New South Wales, Australia.

Each book is told from the POV of a different sister (and the hero) and follows their journey from being an unsigned act to finding success and love, and is set in both Australia and Nashville.

The idea emerged two years ago from my months-long boxset binge on the TV show Nashville. I’d always loved a bit of country music but after falling in love with the show, I became a dedicated fan of both the music and the scene.

 

 

In January this year I even travelled to Tamworth for the annual country music festival, the most iconic event of its kind in Australia. I wanted to write a fictional series like Nashville about the Australian country music industry, and going to Tamworth gave me a lot of insight and inspiration, not to mention exposure to some pretty talented Aussie bands and artists.

My inspiration for the all-girl sister band came from our very own McClymonts, who have a stack of successful albums and are well-known in this country.

 

 

Also,  being the middle of three sisters has given me a wealth of material to work with! The fun, the love, the fights (eek!). The characters of Elodie, Scarlett and Amber are entirely fictional though (promise, sissies…).

Each of the sisters have their own talents and unique personalities, and even though they’re travelling the same way, their paths to fame and love are very different. I can’t wait to tell their stories!