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Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Creating Characters with Zing!


Welcome to ISSUE 4 of Getting Published. In a change to the prescribed topic, this issue we will be looking at characterisation, and how to make your characters interesting and unforgettable. Many thanks to Naked in Knightsbridge author Nicky Schmidt for helping us out in her own hilarious style.

Also, we are proud to announce a new and regular feature to our newsletter that is sure to appeal to every new writer: our newly signed author Elle Symonds' 'Diary of a Newbie Novelist'.

Finally, we would like to thank the positive feedback we have been getting for Getting Published, and ask you all to keep those suggestions and questions flooding in. The best way to do this is via the 'Contact Us' link at our

All the best, and feel free to retweet!

The Editorial Department at Prospera Publishing.


We have just signed Elle Symonds to our small but happily successful stable. As so many of you are interested in the publishing process, we thought that Elle's as-it-happens account of her own journey would be both entertaining and enlightening. Of course, a huge thanks goes out to Elle for doing this on top of her many other commitments.

#1 - In which I am not Barbara Cartland. There she sits, visible through the window of the coffee shop, her dark scarf wound casually (yet artfully) around her long neck, her regulation dark clothing blending perfectly into the cream and chocolate-coloured interior. Looking thoughtfully through thick-rimmed specs, she stares at a pristine Macbook, not only blissfully happy, but also blissfully unaware that yours truly is watching her, wine in hand, through a pair of binoculars from the watering hole across the street.

"What's she doing?" I wonder.

"What's she writing? I bet it's some literary masterpiece."

"Or maybe coursework?" Friend replies.

"It could be coursework ..."

"True. But look at her! It's much more likely a future, bestselling novel."

I can't help but wonder and suppress a smile, my stomach giving a little flutter of excitement. Because soon (well, next year, but we'll get to that in a minute), my own debut novel will be hitting the shelves. . My name is Elle, and I'm a newly signed author. And this is my diary, in which I'll air my dirty laun ... I mean, give you the lowdown on what being a first-time author involves. Last year I was finishing my novel - the novel that had taken me months to write. Months of being glued to my laptop, consuming far too many double-shot lattes; having too many naked dashes down the stairs during the night in search of a notebook when inspiration suddenly hit; months of being in my own little fantasy world. But it all paid off, because THIS year, my dream came true. I'm now signed with Prospera Publishing, with the first in my chick-lit series due to be released in early 2011. And I'm ecstatic! I'm currently making changes to the book, and doing a complete rewrite. The publisher and I came up with some fabulous ways in which to make my original story even better, and already it has improved so much (more fun, more hilarity, and some new characters). So far the first couple of chapters involve spies, stardom and some rogue knickers. Something for everyone!

The series is about a struggling gossip journalist who, after a nasty - and highly embarrassing - accident, wakes up to find she has a very special new ability that she decides to use to enhance her career. (That's all I'm saying at the moment! You'll only find out more by holding a gun to my head. But please don't.) The prospect of ... well, new author-dom (ha!) is only just settling in, and after having told a select few people shortly after my meeting with Prospera, the congratulations and questions started pouring in. You see, there are certain assumptions some people (read: non-writers) have about authors, and most are simply myths. Things to expect when you start telling people you're going to be a published author*: *Friends, colleagues and acquaintances to ask such questions as 'When will it be in the shops?', 'When can I buy it?'

'THAT long? But I want to buy it noooooow!'

*Friends, colleagues and acquaintances to assume you'll become 'the next JK Rowling', thus earning millions and millions of pounds. It's not unusual in this case for such people to advise you to not forget 'the little people'; ask what you'll do with the money as though you've just scooped the Euromillions rollover; and if you can buy them a nice posh car.

*Friends, colleagues and acquaintances to assume that you don't want alcohol or cake because you are now posh author. Who DOESN'T want celebratory alcohol or cake? Jeez!

*People start to think that you spend all your time in coffee shops, clad in interesting scarves, and staring intently into your MacBook.

*People assume that you either live in Starbucks (see above), or you're the next Barbara Cartland. Neither, obviously, is true. *Which is why, two weeks later, you wish you'd kept your mouth shut. Okay, these are TOTAL MYTHS. Far from the coffee-shop image of artsy glamour, you have yours truly, slaving away on a pink netbook at home in her pants. Or sneaking novel moments at the day job (in clothes over pants). Or tapping away on coaches to London (yes, still in clothes over pants), as overly enthusiastic women beside her shout: 'YES, I'M ON THE BUS! I SAID, I'M ON THE BUS! HELLO? OOOH, REEEEEALLY?' into her ear.

People like me spend every spare moment cramming in the words, going to bed at unholy hours and living for the dream of one day seeing our names in print. And I really, REALLY can't wait for that day. Which makes all of the above totally worth it. The rewrite has started, and I'm raring to go. 2010 is going to be a busy year. So welcome, readers, to my journey!


PS. I'm still waiting for the alcohol and cake.


This issue, chick-lit author Nicky Schmidt gives us her take on what makes novel characters great.

Hi there, it's me, Nicky. Self-confessed, full-time cake-aholic and sometimes author. The nice people at Prospera have asked me to tell all about characterisation and I am happy to oblige.

However, firstly I would like to send out a huge 'cheers' to everyone who has been so positive about Naked in Knightsbridge. It's nice to know all that hard work is appreciated. Except of course the freak who asked me to visit his basement and peruse his collection of pants. (Answer: Let me check my diary.)

While we are on the subject then, I suppose that Naked works because the characters are so, well, unbelievable. You thought I was going to say believable, didn't you? The theory goes, in my caffeine-addled mind at least, that while people buy books for a variety of reasons, one of the most important jobs of an author is to transport readers from their own lives. Let's face it, if authors wrote about people you were familiar with - sour woman at supermarket, sour man at petrol station, sour husband who falls asleep on sofa promptly at 8:00 pm every night - we might face a rather nasty lawsuit for enticing a mass suicide.

Of course it does, naturally, depending on the genre, but in the case of a contemporary novel with a comic bent, I would say, make your characters showstoppers. Memorable. Left (or right) of centre. Turn them into metaphors. Prospera tells me that people in the office often say 'I feel like such a Jools' (the lead character in Naked), as they pig out on doughnuts or buy one too many bags of crisps at lunch. Equally, creepy behaviour at home can illicit: 'Thanks for that, Niles!' after the insane stalker in my first book. Once you have established your outline, think about how many characters you have, and how many you really need.

The trick is to leave out anyone superfluous unless they definitely progress the story in some way. One mistake I made when first starting out was to add that extra person here and there, who appeared two or three times for no apparent reason other than to converse with the protagonist. Suffice to say, they (and the useless conversations) were edited out pretty quickly.

When you have your definitive list, write a list of characteristics down next to each name. Look them over. Are they too similar? What about the names? If the personalities aren't jumping off the page, or if two or more characters bear a striking resemblance to each other, or worse, to you, try again. Trust me, you'll be proud of your newborns when you finally create them. And if and when you reach this point, I recommend a nice visit to a patisserie and a few yummy treats as a reward!

One final point on character names. Personally, I try to avoid the ordinary, because it makes it difficult for readers to remember who is who. Nicknames are a good way to manage this if you really don't want to use unusual names, but I suppose the bottom line is that a character remembered may be a book recommended, so go on, call that handsome villain Fortescue Von Strudel. I dare you!

Nicky Schmidt, Feb 2010

Naked in Knightsbridge is available via paypal with free worldwide postage from our
website, or on Amazon or in the UK and Europe via your local bookstore. Nicky Schmidt's second novel, Marrying Out of Money, is due out later in the year.

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