Friday 30 July 2010

Nell Dixon's Talk on Believable Secondary Characters

Sorry for taking an age to finally post about the second talk I attended at RNA Conference several weeks ago. This is mainly due to so much activity with family visits, school holidays, and editing.

The second talk I attended was given by Nell Dixon. I've read Nell's Little Black Dress books and reviewed a couple of them for Novelicious, and I have to say how much I loved them. So, when I saw she was giving a talk on creating believable secondary characters - she is brilliant at this - I knew I had to go.

The lovely Liz Fenwick introduced Nell, who told us that secondary characters depend on the type of book, ie Mills & Boon, sagas, and many more, regarding the subplots. The Secondary Character has to have their own arc, whereas minor characters don't contribute to the main story, ie think of a minor character like an extra in a film, where they make an appearance, but don't have their own story arc.

Secondary characters mustn't be given too big a role, and can be different in each novel, ie they can be a mentor, the comic relief, or the catalyst for some of the action, ie the best friend, who encourages the heroine to make a decision she doesn't really want to make. They can also be the competition, ie the heroine's competition.

Nell went on to tell us how they don't even have to be human. The Secondary Character could be a pet, a setting, or an inanimate object.

Do make sure the Secondary Characer does what you want them to do and that you need them to forward the plot in some way, but don't forget to make it believable and to have their own storyline that feeds into the main storyline. Make sure they earn their place in the book and that they complete their own story arc. Although remember not to let them take over from main characters, or be stereotypes.

I'm sure there was so much more in the talk, but I've recently had to clear out the shed (needed one of the tables for a party) and so have had to take this from the notes that I've managed to find from the Conference. Naturally, any mistakes are my own, and going by the confusion in my brain right now, mainly thanks to an endless stream of washing - just call me The Launderess - and my irons (yes, there are two) tripping the electrics when I try and use them, I'm slowly, very slowly, catching up with all I should be doing.

All in all, Nell's excellent talk showed me how very important secondary characters are, and also how easy it is to confuse a minor character with a secondary character.

Sunday 18 July 2010

RNA Conference 2010 - Talk by Dee Williams

The talk given by Dee Williams was the first one I attended at the 50th Anniversary RNA Conference, and what an interesting lady she is. Dee told us how her father used to tell her off about her dreadful spelling, and how she tried writing short stories and articles, but didn’t get anywhere with them. She moved to live in Spain and whilst there, decided to give novel writing a go.

Dee sent in her first three chapters to her writers’ group and then on to Headline. She didn’t keep a copy as she only had an old typewriter, however, Headline were interested in her work and wanted to see her. They asked for changes, still typed up on a portable typewriter – can you imagine how time consuming this must have been – and was nurtured by them and was signed up by her agent.

Dee made us laugh by recounting how delighted – and no doubt a little relieved – she was when she bought her Amstrad 9512+ word processor, with spell check. She rewrote her novel three times in one year and on 24.4.90 at 12.45 she ‘got the call’ from her agent. Since then she keeps signing two book contracts, thankfully for us readers who enjoy her books so much.

Dee said she likes to have the idea for her next book half way through the wip. She has a rough idea about what she’s going to write, but doesn’t plot. However, Dee obviously knows her subject well and does detailed research. She told us how much she loves the jackets to her books, and has occasionally pointed out amendments for a few of them, ie with regard to one showing a girl not wearing a wedding ring, when she definitely would have done; another where it showed the girl wearing a pristine apron, and Dee pointed out that if she had owned such a material she would have make knickers out of it and then worn sacking as an apron.

Although Dee doesn’t plot, she does keep notes of the date, the names of the girl, colour of her eyes, build, etc. She was always a voracious reader and when young loved the abridged versions of books bought by her uncle. She was also inspired by Lena Kennedy books.

Dee told us about all the changes she’s seen since being published. The main one that struck me was that now we have the luxury of computers, where any changes can take moments, whereas when Dee first started writing, you were lucky to have a word processor rather than a portable. She told us there seem to be more agents now, although writers can email submissions to some of them, whereas before everything was sent by post. PLR 20 years ago was 1.37p and now it’s 6.29p. Also authors have to do their own publicity far more now than before.

It was an enjoyable and interesting talk and Dee told us never to be afraid to ask when researching, as people are usually more than happy to answer any questions.
Freda Lightfoot, who had introduced Dee to us, then thanked her for us.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these notes, but remember, they are deciphered from my hurried scrawl across a notepad, so any mistakes are no doubt due to my horrendous handwriting.

Friday 16 July 2010

Happiness Is...

I always promised myself that when I'm published I'll mark the event by treating myself to a painting by the extremely talented artist, Tom Tomos.

I am now the proud owner of this painting, The Sea I, however, this has nothing to do with being signed up by a publisher, but the lovely (and also very talented) writer, Chris Stovell, author of the excellent Choc Lit novel, Turning the Tide and wife of Tom Tomos, very kindly gave this painting to me at last weeks Romantic Novelists' Association 50th Anniversary Conference.

To say I was thrilled would be an understatement. Isn't it gorgeous? And when I am published - because I'm going to keep writing until I am - I can then buy my second Tom Tomos painting.

Monday 12 July 2010

Books, Books, & A Brilliant RNA Conference

Above are some of the books - three bought and three from my goodie bag - that I managed to cram into my small weekend case. As well as the obligatory highheels and clothes for my weekend, I also somehow forced in a notepad full of notes that I took whilst at the various talks I attended and I'll blog about these in the next day or so.

Poor Rob just smiled when he saw these books and said, "There's a couple of packages for you in the kitchen too." These were books from Little Black Dress and one written by a wonderful writer friend, but I'll be blogging about that one in early August.

So, my feet might be a little sore, my legs/lungs are still in shock at having to run (literally) to reach the gate in time to be let onto my flight home (not easy in 4 inch heels), and I may have copious amounts of washing to catch up on, but I'm perfectly happy. How can I not be, after such a fantastic weekend and all these books to come home to.

I'll be blogging about my weekend at the RNA Conference in a couple of days, but have to say now that I'm in awe of Jan Jones and her incredible talent for organization. That woman is always so cool and calm and arranges everything so incredibly well. To say I'm impressed, is an understatement.

Monday 5 July 2010

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

A few months ago I read Isabel Wolff's fabulous book, A Vintage Affair. It has now been published in the States and is a Barnes & Noble Recommend Reads Main Selection Title. Now, you can't come much more highly recommended than that, can you?

Don't you just love the two covers? The top one is the US version and the bottom one is the UK version. This is an excellent book and I can't recommend it highly enough.

If you want to know more about Isabel, A Vintage Affair, her writing tips, and much more, please read my interview with her here at Novelicious.