Thursday, 22 May 2014

Guest Post: The Plot Thickens... by Janey Fraser

Today I'm joined by bestselling author Janey Fraser as part of her blog tour for her latest novel After the Honeymoon which is out today.  Janey has written a fab guest post for us about writing novels from multi-character viewpoints so I'll hand you over to Janey...

I’m not ashamed of admitting that I wrote one book a year for nine years until I got published. It was part of my apprenticeship. After all, you wouldn’t go out and wire a house without learning the complexities of the electrical circuit.

But I’m certain it was no coincidence that the first novel which did get published (THE SCHOOL RUN under my other name SOPHIE KING) was written from a multi-character viewpoint. 

This means that the first chapter was written from the point of view of one character. The second from the next. The third from another. And so on. If you have three main characters, the fourth chapter will go back to character number one. However, all the characters inhabit the same world eg a school run or, in the case of my new novel, the same honeymoon destination. So they are bound to come across each other....

As soon as I hit on this concept, the ideas began to flow. You never think ‘What am I going to do next with this character?’  because one of the others will have done something that affects the one you’re working on now.

However, you do need to keep your wits about you. ‘Isn’t it complicated planning and plotting a multi-view point novel?’ asked someone at a library talk the other day. Yes. But that’s part of the fun. Here’s how I go about it. I get an idea for the centre stage: in other words, the world which all my characters are going to live in. AFTER THE HONEYMOON is partly set in Greece but also in Corrywood, a fictional market town where I have set previous Janey Fraser novels. This gives it continuity while the Greek setting provides an exciting warm contrast. (I love the sun!). Besides, people do things on holiday which they wouldn’t do, back home. Just what we need for a novel....

Then I think of three main characters who would appeal (hopefully) to my readers. One is always a man because that can give an edge to the plot and an insight into how men and 
women think. I deliberately set each character a problem. For instance, in Chapter One of the Honeymoon, I introduce Emma who is a young mum with small children. She’s not keen on getting married because her parents had got divorced when she was young. But her partner insists. Yet deep down, Emma isn’t really sure about the man she’s marrying, even though he’s the father of her kids. She certainly doesn’t want a honeymoon as that would mean leaving her little ones. Her excuse is that they can’t afford one anyway.

I always make sure there is a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter. In this case, it’s when the girls at work present Emma with a honeymoon voucher as a wedding present and she has no choice but to go.

In Chapter Two, I work out the second character’s problem. Winston is a dishy bachelor and a television celebrity. He falls in love with a divorcee (who has surly teenagers) but he is haunted by a secret from the past. Hints at this provide the cliffhanger for this chapter.

In the third, - you’ve got it – there’s another character with another problem and another cliff-hanger at the end of the chapter. Enter Rosie. She’s English but ran away to Greece when she was seventeen and pregnant. Now she runs the Greek villa where Emma and Tom are going on their honeymoon. The local reformed lothario wants to date her and she finally succumbs. But the day after the seduction, Rosie meets up with a long lost love.......

When I’ve got those ideas in my head, I start writing. I will have made some notes in the previous weeks while I’ve been thinking about the characters and their world but to be honest, it’s mainly in my mind and my fingers. The different twists come to me as I’m writing. I don’t know what the ending will be until about three quarters of the way through. It might sound unstructured but when I used to plan my novels from A to Z, they felt stilted. They were also the ones that didn’t get published. I do, however, have some golden rules.

Always have a twist at the end of each chapter. Don’t have more than a page of internal introspective thought. Make your dialogue move the plot along by telling the reader something he or she doesn’t already know. Make sure your characters are warm. Give the baddies a background that explains their actions. Or make seemingly nice people into snakes. (We’ve all met one.) Ensure that each one of your multi-viewpoint characters is different – not just in the way he or she looks but in terms of background, problems, action and dialogue.

Revision is crucial with multi-viewpoint. I do about four revisions including one where I will take one character and check him/ her throughout, like a strand. So I’ll look at the first, fourth, seventh, tenth chapter and so on. This should tell me if I’ve missed something out like a referred-to anniversary or birthday. I’ll then look at the plot as a whole in terms of credibility; structure; character; dialogue; settings; and presentation. 

As you can imagine, this does involve a lot of work. I tend to write the first draft fairly fast – 2000 or 3000 words a morning. I also need to write every day to keep the story in my head. It takes me about four months to get that first draft and then another three to fully revise it. I always read it out loud at the end. You pick up so much more that way, than reading it from 
the screen (even though it’s expensive with printing ink and paper). 

Phew! When you look at it like that, it sounds exhausting. And it is. My long-suffering family are used to me being on another plane when I’m writing. But I love it. And every day, I count my blessings that I’m doing a job which doesn’t feel like a job at all. 

Even though, behind the screens, it’s a long, tough slog.......

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