Creating Pets For Your Characters – The Hidden Benefits #amwriting

I am the owner of a small gang of unruly cats and an over excited dog. As an enthusiastic pet owner I often project human traits onto my animals. I am always talking to my cats and dog. They all have elaborate fictional histories and we often speak to one of my cats about his time as a stowaway on an old sailing boat in the eighteenth century.

Giving a character a pet side kick was something I thought writers did when they had an overwhelming urge to write about a particular animal or to leave a legacy for their beloved pet by adding them into their best-selling novel. I have come to realise there is so much more to fictional pets.

One of my favourite authors, Nicola May, adds brilliant pet characters to her romantic comedies. They all have their own personality and leave you with great book memories. I still chuckle about the hilarious African Grey parrot, Lady P and her foul mouth in, Love Me Tinder.

Before I talk about the benefits I think it is important to explain what I believe are the golden rules with fictional pets.

I don’t think you should add your real life pet into a story because you will end up assuming the reader will automatically relate to your pet in the same way you do. They won’t. It is a bit like adding your loved one into a romance story and expecting everyone to fall in love with their strange ways. You are the only one who can relate to your pet (and loved one).

Pet characters need to have annoying or frustrating traits, as well as loveable ones to be relatable. Most of the time my animals disobey everything I say to them, make a mess of my house, vomit at the wrong times and leave me tearing my hair out. In your books you cannot create angelic household pets who are always alert and on the look out for life saving opportunities. This does not happen in real life. My pets tend to be either squabbling, sleeping or digging holes in the garden.

Here are the hidden benefits of giving your fictional character a pet side kick:

A fictional pet can bring two characters together who are trying to avoid each other. In my novel; Instructions For Falling In Love Again, used Maria the bulldog to get my characters in close contact. Maria loves showering people, wary of dogs, with her affections. She makes a beeline in the park for Mikey, dragging Pippa with her, after he displayed a look of fear.

A fictional pet can bring some light relief to a gloomy tale. In real life pets can bring a much-needed smile to your face during dark times and this can apply to fictional characters and their pets. They can also add some fun into the writing process and boy do we need this!

Animal / owner relationships don’t have to follow the norm to be endearing to the reader. I love Caitlin Moran’s description of her pet in her book, How To Be A Woman. ‘The stupid new dog is under my bed. She has got pregnant by the small dog, Oscar, who lives over the road. None of us can quite work out how this has happened, as Oscar is one of those small, yappy types of dogs, only slightly bigger than a family-sized tin of baked beans, and the stupid new dog is a fully grown German Shepherd… I look into the dog’s eyes. She is as stupid as a barrel of toes. Galaxies of nothing are going on in her eyes. I’m going to talk to Mum,’ I explain. The dog remains under my bed, looking, as always, deeply nervous about being a dog. The phrase ‘stupid as a barrel of toes’ and coupled with the dog ‘being deeply nervous about bring a dog’ conjure up a comedy picture of the dog.

A fictional pet can assist character development, they can help illustrate an important characteristic of one of the main characters. This could be in shown in how the character speaks to the pet or cares for the pet. Useful for characters who live alone and have limited human contact.

Unusual pets are brilliant for showing bringing out a character quirk. Giving your hero or heroine an unconventional pet to love can add an unexpected dimension to their personality.


A fictional pet can help cause conflict and present their character owner with numerous obstacles. This is where those annoying and frustrating animal traits come into play


Fictional pets are great ways to bring your characters and stories to life.

A big shout out to all fictional pets – we love you guys!

5 Things Your Female Character Needs To Have – Guest Post by Author @zoe_writes

If you write romcoms or are mulling over a romcom story idea this post is for you.

I am thrilled to have Zoe May on my blog. She’s a romcom queen to me and I can’t believe she’s written me a wonderful guest post.

Photo taken from https://www.zoemayauthor.co.uk

Zoe May is the author of four romantic comedy novels, published by HQ Digital, HarperCollins.

Her debut, Perfect Match, about online dating, was an iBooks bestseller.

Zoe is currently working on her fifth novel, Flying Solo, which she is self-publishing this summer.

So I am going to hand over to Zoe May *squeal*

Hi, here are five things I believe your female character needs to have.

Flaws

I’ve read a few rom coms recently where the main character is practically Mother Theresa and it really annoys me! I strongly believe that characters don’t need to be perfect in order to appeal to readers. Some of my favourite rom com heroines, like Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, are flawed. Becky is completely materialistic, a little shallow, a bit self-involved and pretty misguided, but that’s what makes her interesting and relatable.

None of us are perfect and when I read about an overly nice character in a rom com, it feels like a likeability box ticking exercise by the author. The heroine ends up seeming fake and the execution feels forced. I like writing characters with flaws because I’m flawed and so is everyone. Flawed characters feel more real and as a result, they’re more engaging to write about. Giving your character flaws also gives them an opportunity for growth throughout the book. My debut, Perfect Match, is about a woman who has a very superficial attitude to dating, looking for a rich, handsome, successful man, and the story is about how she changes and grows and realises what’s really important in a partner. Her growth drives the story forward.

Friends
Your heroine has to be relatable and fairly likeable (in spite of her flaws), and relatable and likeable people tend to have friends. Including scenes featuring your main character’s friends will show us more about her as a person and will move the story forward as her friends may encourage her to make certain decisions. For example, in my current novel, Flying Solo, my heroine’s best friend supports her decision to embark on a trip to India to win her boyfriend back after he dumps her to jet off on a self-discovery mission.

Your character’s interactions with her friends can provide good opportunities for humour too. I love writing funny dialogue between best mates.

Not too much baggage
While I think main characters should have flaws, I think there are limits to how much baggage heroines should have. Rom coms offer readers escapism. The world is a messed-up place and when we pick up a book with a bright happy cover and a chirpy blurb, we don’t want to be reading about dark themes like death, abuse, rape, violence, war, terrorism or whatever else. We want to be cheered up, not depressed! I steer clear of anything too dark. My heroines tend to have had pretty decent lives. It may not be totally realistic as terrible things do happen to lovely people in real life, but I think it’s best to keep that kind of thing off the page when it comes to rom com.

A good heart
I’ve mentioned that I think main characters need to have flaws in order to feel human and relatable, but that being said, in the genre of rom com, your main character definitely needs to have a good heart. She may be misguided at times, she may make mistakes and screw things up, but ultimately, she must be a decent person. Rom coms are meant to be uplifting and stories about bitchy girls tend not to be. If you want to write about an antagonist, write a thriller!

Humour
Your main character has to be funny. Her thought processes, the situations she gets herself into, her dialogue with people – she needs to be entertaining. She is the epicentre of the story so if she is not amusing, the whole book will suffer. We read rom coms partly for the “com” element after all, so she has to be humorous!

Check out Zoe’s latest book, Flying Solo, here.

 

10 Things I’ve Learned About Writing A Novel @toodletinkbaby #Books

Here are my reasons for letting author Roxie Cooper guest post on BlondeWriteMore today:

  1. Her guest post is fab. It is written from the heart and it resonated with me in so many places.
  2. She has the name ‘Roxie’. Anyone who has same first name as my fictional character Roxy Collins is always welcome on my blog.
  3. Roxie Cooper is a fellow blonde romance writer.
  4. Her new book ‘The Law of Attraction’ is destined to be on my ‘To Be Read Pile.’
  5. Like me she can dance. I am not a professional or anything but I like to think of myself as a professional dancer, once I get on a dance floor at a party. *Sigh*
  6. She sounds like she would be great company for a coffee and a chat.

So, here she is, Roxie Cooper, author / Barrister / Ex-ish dancer and Classicist.

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Hi,

Before I started writing The Law of Attraction I researched all the technical stuff; how to create good characters with internal conflict, what story arcs were, and what made a good sub-plot. But there are some things you simply can’t learn in a book. Between plotting the outlines of what became my debut novel all those years ago and my publication day last week, I’ve learned so much.

So here are my top ten most surprising things.

1) Writing is cathartic

People have their own reasons for starting to write. I’d never written anything before this book. I started writing it when I was in an unhappy marriage with two babies, living in a town where I didn’t know anyone, and I’d go weeks without speaking to another adult. I was in a very bad place. Writing suddenly gave me something to focus on and allowed me to ‘escape’. As the book progressed, so did my self-esteem. Words are powerful.

2) People can get a bit judgemental

Some people have written six novels whilst holding down three jobs, five kids and a circus of pets. Others have written one novel with no ‘real’ job or responsibilities. And then there’s everything in between. I think everyone on this scale is pretty impressive, to be honest. But some people like to be a bit judgy-face about it.

I don’t have a ‘proper job’ at the moment. This means that a lot of people think I spend all day sitting in a beautifully lit orangery, smiling smugly, sipping on chilled chardonnay as I gently type my latest novel out off the top of my head. Comments like “Oh! You must be well-off if you don’t have to work!” and “Alright for some!” are standard. Rarely can I be bothered to explain that I gave up my lucrative career as a barrister after much consideration to care for my son who has special needs. After home-schooling him for several years, it became impractical for me to return to the Bar once he finally settled in school, for various reasons. Everyone has a story behind them, everyone makes sacrifices, but many are quick to judge.

But…

3) People can be wonderfully supportive

You truly do find out who your friends are when you write a book. It’s such a gruelling, exhausting process. You’ll be so grateful for the little “Keep going!” comments when you’re close to collapsing, which then lead onto “I bought your book!” when you’re published. These people who prop you up all the way through the whole writing, edits, submission, book deal, revisions polava are the special ones. The week before I was published I had a little local drinks gathering for my friends to thank them for their support, because I couldn’t have done it without them. They made me feel so very loved and I couldn’t thank them enough for that.

4) You read other novels and watch films in a completely different way

I find it impossible now to read novels without deconstructing them. Even films follow a formula (if you want a classic, basic template for a story – watch any Disney film). Breaking down films and books has really helped me find out what makes a great character, plot and twist in a story.

5) Your house will become a rubbish tip.

As you get more into your book, the more time you will dedicate to it. When you have a deadline, don’t even think about doing anything else remotely important like eating, dressing your children or cleaning your house – all of these things can wait until you press SEND. If you’re a dust control freak like me, this WILL drive you crazy, but you’ve kind of just got to run with it.

6) People will ask you wildly inappropriate questions.

Because you’ve created a literary piece of work and thrown it out into the world, some people think it’s okay to ask things like “So, how much money do you earn now?”, “How much was your advance?” and, most cringingly, “Who was that sex scene based on?”. The best way of dealing with these questions is to throw it back in their face: “Tell me how much YOU earn first…” and “Well, Gordon, that scene isn’t based on you going by what your wife tells me… *all the sarcastic LOLZ *”

7) You’ll develop amnesia at the most inconvenient moments.

You’re in the shower. You’re walking to pick the kids up with your iPod on. You’ve thought of THE most incredible scene; rich dialogue, beautifully descriptive, the whole thing is swoon-a-rama. “My God”, you think. “I have NAILED THIS!” You finally sit down to type it up…and you can’t remember a damn thing. You remember bits of it, but on the screen it literally sounds like a half-asleep toddler has written it.

8) You develop the patience of a saint

This one is hard, but it pays off. So, you’ve started writing this new book and the first three chapters are GREAT. You’re desperate to send them off to an agent. DO NOT do it. Why? Well, not only because – even if it’s brilliant – they will tell you to write the rest of the book. Some wise soul said “You can’t write the beginning until you’ve written the end” and this is 100% true. Your characters and plot change so much by the end, you may want to change those early chapters. So much depth was added to The Law of Attraction by adding the prologue…which was done after I’d finished the entire book. Don’t be in a rush to show your book off to the world, make sure it’s the best it can possibly be.

9) You become obsessed

Writing consumes you. You cannot switch off. I no longer watch TV on an evening (well, apart from Game of Thrones, obviously). Every non-child weekend I spend writing because I’d feel guilty doing anything else and, ultimately, I am addicted to it. Who knows if I’ll be successful? All I know is that I love it and can’t stop.

10) Some stuff you type will be the worst writing the world has ever seen…

Terrible. I mean, REALLY awful. The words won’t come. You’ll cringe. You’ll hate yourself. You might cry. Okay…STOP. Shut your laptop down. Go out with friends and have a drink. Go dancing. Go to the cinema. Forget about it for a day. There will be other days when you write stuff so bloody brilliant, you’ll read back on it and think “Yeah…I got this”.

***

Roxie was born and bred in Middlesbrough. After studying Classics at University, she became a dancer in a nightclub for a few years, before going travelling and living in Australia. When she returned, she swapped dancing on a bar, to practising at the Bar, and became a barrister for 7 years.

It was after being constantly told “Ooh! You don’t look like a barrister!” by absolutely everyone she met, that the idea for her debut novel was born.

Roxie lives in Yarm, a pretty little market town in the North-East. She’s a bit (lot) obsessed with Prince and spends far too much time watching him on YouTube. Her hobbies include watching musicals, making her hair as big (and blonde) as possible, and wishing she was Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

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THE LAW OF ATTRACTION

Amanda Bentley has always dreamed of being a barrister…

But as a platinum blonde bombshell from the wrong side of town, with a perfect tan and sleek high heels, she doesn’t exactly look the part – or fit in with the brash public school boys and cold posh girls of Newcastle Crown Court’s robing room. Amanda’s never been one to back down from a challenge, and so when she wins a prestigious pupillage following law school, she’s determined to make the most of her chance – and make all her dreams come true.

Only three things stand in her way: Sid Ryder – the sexy, irresistible barrister who she absolutely cannot, under any circumstances, sleep with. At all. Marty Gregg – her smarmy law school nemesis, who she’s in direct competition with for the top job. And her big, dark secret that could jeopardise everything she’s worked so hard for.
Who said that following the laws of attraction was going to be easy…?

Isn’t Roxie Cooper fab?

I think this is an excellent guest post Roxie and thank you for taking over BlondeWriteMore today! Yay – blonde romance writers rule 🙂

You can contact Roxie on Twitter at @toodletinkbaby or on Facebook here. 

Have a great day all.