Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tuesday Tip - Add complexity

Your story should be layered, just like life. There is no life-story that is not intersected by hundreds, if not thousands, of other life stories. All of these characters will have their own inter-relationships, but more importantly all will have their own imaginative life.

In writing fiction it is easy to forget that the character also has an imagination, perhaps a fictional life or an attachment to a certain story. To make a character complex and nuanced, we must tap into their imaginations as well as our own. I am just reading Essie Fox's The Somnambulist. She does this really well, the life that Phoebe's Aunt Cissy lives is more to do with what her imagination rests on, than it is to do with her mundane life.

Likewise, when I was writing "The Gilded Lily" the story of "Snow White and Rose Red" had profoundly affected the way the sisters felt they should behave towards each other, providing an ideal which both struggled to maintain.

So delve into your characters imaginations. What might they fantasize about, what key stories have they heard, which book has affected them so much it has changed their life?


  1. Agree completely, Deborah. The life of a novel is all in the details. Success is in judging the right amount!

  2. Hi Deborah, the right amount - hmm, I think that can vary from reader to reader too, just to add another layer of complication!For example some readers of historical fiction like to learn a lot of detail about specifics of the period, others find that too much detail clogs the narrative and slows the story.

  3. Great post, Deborah. I love reading advice from established authors, and I love the cover and first chapter of your book!

  4. Thank you for your lovely comments Tanya. And Grace, good to see you here. Hope "Dead Man's Debt" is selling well.

  5. I've just ordered your book Deborah, and now I'm wondering - did you post some chapters on the WW site way back - or am I thinking of something else?


  6. Hi Essie,
    Yes I did, but I think they were for the second novel, "The Gilded Lily" (formerly titled "The Eye of the Beholder")now finished and coming soon, also from Pan Macmillan. I hadn't yet found a publisher for "The Lady's Slipper" when I began work on Gilded Lily. Thanks for buying my book, I really appreciate it. I've finished "The Somnambulist" now and loved it. Review coming next week!

  7. Love your books Deborah and agree that the right details can transport to another world or drive you crazy. I researched so much about the Peninsular War for certain scenes and then used just one or two words. It was a struggle not to indulge my ego.

    Karen Wasylowski

  8. The Lady's Slipper has arrived, and what a beautiful looking book - I can't wait for some free time in a few weeks time,just to settle down and read.

  9. I find that in writing, I write the main story and then go back and weave others into it. I love your thought on bringing in their emotions and thoughts. Definitely a must.

    Waiting for my copy of Lady's Slipper to arrive! Any day now.