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.
Interested in reading Who Killed September Falls?
Or take a look at the new series starring Arianne Tawnison…
Buy Part One here: