Writing a Novel – Stereotypes and Boundaries

Writing a novel

Author Annette Youngby Annette Young

When I started writing my novel Who Killed September Falls, I had the image of my two main characters firmly planted in my mind. I knew that I wanted September to be wildly beautiful but flawed within her own personality and she had to have the perfect foil, Arianne Tawnison who was the loyal friend, the side-kick who recognised her role within the friendship but who gave willingly and gained much as a result. I wanted September, (Sepi) to have a Latin heritage although she was British, so she could be feisty, passionate and indiscreet, and by contrast, Arianne was sensible, sensitive and transparently honest.

I am a firm believer that you should write about what you know or have experienced, and base your story on solid foundations, pushing back the barriers in ways that stretch the imagination, extending those characters, yet still allowing them to be natural and realistic in their thoughts, feelings and actions.

By the time I came to write my novel, I had lived and breathed both characters for quite some time and had played out various scenarios in my mind. I knew the novel was going to be a murder mystery, but it couldn’t just be that. It had to be about the people who played their part. The characters had to be larger than life, they had to  be emotional, to be able to feel raw pain and to be unable to hide it.

I  also wanted to break down the stereotype that many people have of us Brits, and I say this tongue in cheek because I am sure that there is a definite perception of the  stiff upper lip and that we muster on despite intense heartbreak and emotional turmoil, our lips may quiver slightly but that’s all.  In my mind, I just knew that Arianne wasn’t going to be able to be that tough. She was facing the shock and terror of hearing that her best friend had been brutally murdered. I put myself in that situation wondering what I would feel, how I would cope, questioning how I could recover from such terrible news. As I sat contemplating my writing plan, there was no doubt that I was going to put her through the mill and she was going to feel alone, isolated in her grief and would shed never-ending tears the more that she learned. Arianne suffered the pain of suspected betrayal, faced acute fear and experienced the purity of love which served to comfort and shield her, but throughout, she stuck to her mission with dogged determination and resilience.

I suppose writing those types of scenes made me really consider my own emotions. I don’t like to cry in public and I have never liked to show if someone has hurt me, so I had to turn the tables on Arianne and make life so raw for her that she had to grieve and experience the multitude of emotions that threatens to envelop when someone close to you dies. As she cried, I sat at my desk and cried too. Since the novel was published, I have had many people tell me that there were times in the novel when they cried over the intensity of the emotions and I’ve had others tell me that Arianne certainly didn’t seem like their idea of a British woman and that she seemed to really struggle to get over her loss, so maybe I achieved what I set out to do.

My novel became the murder-mystery with emotion. I created a slice of real life and took two very different women, threw them both into a very dark place which resulted in dire consequences and created a complex mystery with a myriad of twists and turns that took Arianne into emotional places and situations in which she floundered. My ethos was that no-one truly knows how to deal with grief in real life, so I wanted to capture all those dark emotions as a result.

When I started writing my novel, I had no idea of how powerful those emotional scenes would be for me as the writer. I think that Arianne Tawnison really came to life for me because I stripped back the barriers and allowed those raw emotions to live. I think that breaking down the stereotype also enabled me to move more freely in a creative sense. Although September experienced hatred and tragedy, Arianne has evolved and her character has become so powerful that she lives on in a fictional sense in my latest series, Secrets at Cranridge Manor. It’s good to be able to bring her back from those dark depths and to give her something new to focus on.

So when you start writing your novel, consider carefully where you want your characters to end up. How can you break down barriers to make your characters believable? They need to feel real to you so that you can portray them convincingly to others and if they are strong enough, you may be able to breathe life into them at a later date.

Who Killed September Falls?

 

Interested in reading Who Killed September Falls?

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Or take a look at the new series starring Arianne Tawnison…

 

 

Buy Part One here:

Series - Secrets at Cranridge Manor

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Writing the Murder Mystery – The Power of Emotion and Realism

writing the murder mystery

 

 

 

 

When I started writing my murder mystery book – Who Killed September Falls? I embarked upon a crazy challenge to complete it within one month and while this was a self-inflicted deadline, I didn’t want to lose the essence of it being a good novel either. My preparation was to focus on the characters and to have a fair idea of the plot. For me, the characters are pretty much the most important aspect of any book; I knew that they would have to drive the plot forward and that some aspects of my story might change as a result. So I was prepared to be flexible and to amend sections as I wrote, if that was needed.

I was aware that I had to consider the needs of the reader too, engaging them meant creating vivid scenes and planting strategic hooks that would keep them turning the pages. I wasn’t just writing for my own pleasure, but for the reader too. Creating powerful characters is important irrespective of genre and for me, it was vital that I created a powerful and unbreakable connection between Arianne and September.

For those who have not read the book, it starts with the murder of September Falls, so the plot unfolds with her best friend Arianne Tawnison desperate to find out more about the senseless killing so that she can come to terms with it. As with any fatal crime, those that are left behind experience their own sense of hell and Arianne could not move on after the death of her childhood friend. There were too many unanswered questions and a killer still on the loose.

My idea was that through the eyes of Arianne and other characters that had been closely linked to the victim, September’s personality and traits would come to life but often in conflicting terms. In real life, our perceptions of people and events change substantially. It made sense to me that Arianne would discover a great deal more about her friend following her death and from very different viewpoints. I was really keen that the reader would feel the connection between the two friends but also to experience the sense of bewilderment that must come from experiencing a tragic loss. Human emotion was the key to my connecting with the reader and because I was writing the story often with tears in my eyes, I wanted the readers to feel that rawness too.

So not only was it important to bring the emotion to life, but to also plant the seeds of doubt in the readers’ mind too. This meant really getting to know my characters and understanding what made them tick. I planted little red herrings that I hoped would make the reader think and would lead them astray but I also planted genuine clues. I wanted to create the mystery and tension and suspicion that would occur if you are investigating a dangerous situation. Arianne knew that she was taking risks but having received and read the personal journal that September had sent to her just days before her death, it was as if her friend was directing her from beyond the grave.

So, I had characters that interacted and that forced the story forward, I had emotion and I had intrigue and mystery and I also had a fairly grisly murder to start the whole thing off. I was pleased with the novel and its subsequent success, and there is nothing like receiving personal feedback as to how the story had gripped those who read it. I learned a great deal from the process and I will take a slightly different approach with my next murder mystery book – the sequel Who Killed Kendra Laine? But the essence will always remain with character development.

Watch the book trailer here.

Who Killed September Falls

 

Buy the book here – Amazon UK  or Amazon US