Hello from Susan Green

Hello Christchurch kids – thanks for inviting me to visit you. I hope you are keen readers and keen writers, because during the month of September, I’m going to write about both.

CREATE A CHARACTER YOU LOVE
Perhaps some of you have read my book The Truth About Verity Sparks? Or the sequel, which came out in May. It’s called Verity Sparks Lost and Found. I am due to start writing the next Verity book and so at the moment my mind is buzzing with all things Verity. I love Verity. I am very proud of her – she is brave, clever and very sensible. If I was going to give you my five top tips for writing stories, at the top of the list would be “Create a character you love”. Verity is such a real character to me that she’s almost like an actual person. So this week I’ll be thinking about the things that make Verity seem real to me – and hopefully, to my readers as well.

Verity first came to me when I was walking around the streets of Melbourne, looking up at the tall, grand buildings built in the Victorian (named after the Queen, not the state!) era around a hundred and fifty years ago. They have carved decorations and big columns and huge doors and if you get a peek inside, often marble halls with more columns and more doors. They seem designed to make a person feel very small and insignificant. I imagined wealthy gentleman wearing suits and top hats strolling in and out…and I started wondering what it would have felt like, to have been little, poor and powerless in those days. And somehow Verity came into my head.

SETTING AND BACKSTORY
When you’re creating a character, you have to give your character a setting. You have to be clear about where and when the action is happening. Verity’s story starts in 1878 in London, where she is employed as a milliner’s apprentice. You also have to create a backstory. Backstory means the character’s history; his or her past. You might not use it in the story, but you use it to help you understand your character.
I made Verity an orphan. Unlike in real life, in fiction it’s always quite useful to have no parents! After her mother and father died, she went to live with her Uncle Bill and Aunt Sarah. They ran a used clothes stall in the East End of London, but it didn’t work out (mainly because her uncle was a cruel, drunken bully) so Verity was apprenticed to Madame Louisette, who owned a hat shop in a post part of town. As it turned out, Verity’s past is very much part of the plot of the story, but even if it wasn’t, working out your character’s backstory is a good idea.
Some authors keep files on their characters, or write detailed biographies. I don’t go that far, but I think you should do whatever is helpful to make a good story.

That’s all I’ve got time for today. Next post, I’ll write a bit more about creating characters – especially getting their voice right.

See you next time!

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