Earlier this week, I was doing an interview to promote my third book, Dishonour - this feels strange in itself because I completed that book this time last year and edited it before the end of July. I'm now in the zone with my WIP and Dishonour feels like a lifetime ago.
Weirder still, though lovely of course, are the emails I've been receiving from Germany where my first book was recently published.
Dear Ms Black (very formal the europeans), please excuse my poor English (cue several paragraphs of perfect English), but I would like to congratulate you on Schweigepflicht (which is, ever more confusingly, a translation of the origianl title of book one and not a translation of the title it was published under in the UK)...
Sometimes I feel like a juggler.
Anyhow, back to the interview. One of the first questions was how I had managed to create a memorable character like Lilly Valentine. Now I've learned that in these situations a full explanation is NOT desired...a twenty minute muse on character arcs and their place in story structure will bore the pants off your average, normal person. So I gave the punchier version that I've honed. Lilly is a woman I conjured up as someone I would want to know. Someone I would like if I met. Someone who embodies some of the virtues that I admire.
Now, whilst that answer isn't false, I'm the first to admit that there's much more to it than that. A wonderful main character is at the heart of any great story. Think Poirot, think Inspector Morse. Or what about Harry Potter. For me, these MCs are almost alive, the story in which they are set, scondary.
Indeed, however ingenius or strong a plot line, it will always fall short without that special character to root for.
But how to create one? How-to books, I'm sure, wax lyrical, as no doubt do teachers on creative writing courses.
I too, have been giving it much thought of late. As I say, I'm deep into book four in my series and am increasingly aware that at the very centre of my books is Lilly V. She is the driving force, what makes readers keep coming back. She is the reason a TV production company has optioned my books, not my groovy sub-plots.
More than ever, I feel the pressure to keep her fresh, attractive and exciting.
So what have I discovered?
First, I know a lot about Lilly. Her back story is as familiar to me as my own. The childhood in poverty, the absent Father. I know where she went to law school and how she met her first husband. None of these details may ever come up, but I know them all the same.
Second, I understand Lilly's world inside and out. I used to do the same job as her so I can feel it and smell it.
Third, I know how Lilly will react in a given situation. This won't, however, always be predictable to anyone but me...which leads me to
Four, Lilly is complex. She says one thing and does another. Not because she is some ditzy chick, but because, like so many of us, her subconscious desires fly in the face of comon sense. I place her in situations where difficulties and complications abound but it is her inner conflicts that make her into someone with which a reader can identify.
As always, I don't set myself up as an expert, but I pass this on in the hope that it might help you find your own special someone.