Tuesday 19 March 2019

Welcome, Annie.
In my last post, I introduced you to Elin and Lexi from 'Whispering Olive Trees'. I told you how difficult it was to say goodbye to them and move on to my next characters, especially Mary Ann Evans whom I've called Annie.  She will be the mother in the story and in the two weeks that have passed since that last post, I've been trying hard to get to know Annie better. I already know the time and place where Annie's story will be set, her family circumstances and have an insight into her feisty determined character. From the decisions she'll make, we'll see that she's loyal and selfless. It's the trait of determination that will come to the forefront when she becomes a mother herself. Missing her own mother who died when Annie was such a young age makes her steadfast in ensuring she does the best for her own daughter. 

How I imagine Annie to look
Although the story is not my mother's story, physically I imagine Annie looking like my own mum - petite and pretty, with luscious, thick, dark brown, waved hair and hazel green eyes. Like Annie, she was left to run the home and care for her younger brother and sister after the untimely death of her own mother. Like Annie, she and her father, my lovely granddad, were very close. But that is where the similarity ends. Mum later worked as a secretary for a local business man before joining the Land Army where she worked on the clerical side as opposed to working on the land. However, there are members of the family who did work in domestic service. My nana worked in Abbeycwmhir Hall and she and the Hall are the inspiration for Rose and Greystone Hall in my first mother daughter novel. My mother-in-law worked in service in Cardiff, London and Llandrindod Wells. Recently, because of this connection, a friend bought my husband a book about girls in service in Wales, 'No Job For a Little Girl - voices from domestic service' by Rosemary Scadden. 
It's an invaluable insight into their working conditions and I shall be using this as a reference when I attempt a re-write of my first novel, now named, 'The Secret Daughter'.  Annie, too, will witness conditions for girls in service at Cefn Court when she leaves her job as a stable girl and becomes a nurse-maid to the youngest member of the Pryce household.

Annie has inherited her mother's musical talent. She has a beautiful singing voice and is a keen member of the church choir. It is here that she makes firm friendships with other young people from the village whom she will come to rely on when she faces hardship. Of these, her special friend is Dolly who works as a kitchen maid at the Court. 

Cefn Court
As I showed you last week, I imagine Cefn Court to be a large imposing building, built in pale buff stone and home to the wealthy Pryce family. It is surrounded by an expanse of fields and rolling hills where Annie will ride Kenna, a beautiful chestnut mare, who belongs to Edmund, the son of Sir Charles and Lady Margaret, Annie's employers. Kenna's name means fiery, reflecting her temperament, a bit like Annie's! All I'll say at this stage is that, against the odds, handsome, blue-eyed Edmund will feature in Annie's story. 
Annie's locket

When Annie's mother dies, she leaves her daughter an 
engraved gold locket inscribed with a secret message. The locket is Annie's most treasured possession and she wears it round her neck every day. What happens to the locket, how Annie becomes parted from it and her desperation to find it again are all crucial elements of the story. 

Selecting some images has helped me 'see' the setting and character of Annie. I know that once I've plotted and planned the story, Annie will reveal more about herself to me. I'll get to know her mannerisms, her likes and dislikes and the way she feels. I can't wait to tell her story. As I like to have a working title for my WiP, what title should I choose? 'Annie's Story'? 'The Secret Locket'? 'Annie's Secret'?

Thank you for reading. Do you use images to help you 'see' characters in your story? I'm looking for an photo of a good looking fair haired young man who could be Edmund. At the moment, he is just in my head! Do you have one you would like to share? Do you have a treasured possession? Which title would you work with? I'd love to read what you think. Thanks.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Monday 4 March 2019

Moving On to Meet New Characters
My novel 'Whispering Olive Trees' is out on submission and I'm playing the waiting game. There's nothing more I can do until the decisions start to come back and I'll replace each rejection with another submission. Although I've started planning and writing scenes from my new mother/daughter saga, I'm finding it hard to say goodbye to one of the characters I know so well from my finished novel. 
The reader will meet Elin, a talented young artist, when she
The fishing port that greets Elin when she arrives
arrives in Greece to spend the summer of 1979 to attend the Simonides School of Painting but I know much more about her, facts that don't feature in the book. I know about her early life living and growing up in rural mid-Wales that made her the quiet, sensitive and talented young woman she has become. 
An only child, she has been left devastated by her father's untimely death. She has decided to spend the money he left her to further her studies in southern Greece as a tribute to him and his enthralling tales of the country he loved so much. Part of the novel is Elin's story, written from her point of view. 
I have experienced the whole gamut of her emotions. Having been in her head, I know her thoughts and the reasons for how she acts and reacts, why she says what she does. When a tragedy happens on the island, the school closes. I have been party to the dilemma she faces and understand the decision at which she arrives. Elin leaves the island of Pefka earlier than planned, keeps her life there a secret and she never paints again. Twenty years have passed and the reader meets her daughter, Alexandra, fondly known as Lexi. By telling her story, the reader gets to know why Elin left Greece and felt compelled to keep her time there a secret. I enjoyed getting to know Elin and Lexi and the other characters and loved writing the novel. I have to leave them for now but I hope that one day you will be able to read their stories.

And so, I need to get to know the characters in my new novel as well as I knew Elin and 

Lexi. The time period is earlier, at the outbreak of World War II. Mary Ann Evans, Annie, also lives in rural mid-Wales but her life is much, much harder than the comfortable upbringing experienced by Elin. Annie runs the household for her widower father and two brothers whom she idolises, as well as working long hours at the stables of the local manor house. She's a hard worker, feisty and very determined. 
Even when his lordship refuses her offer to replace her brother as groom when he is called up to go to war, Annie is persistent and does not give up. When he does eventually agree, she is determined not to let his lordship down. 
She is fiercely loyal and misses her mother especially later on at a time when only a mother would understand. When she is faced with a dilemma, she makes a decision that breaks her own heart rather than break her father's.

There are many ways to get to know your characters. I use coloured post cards on which I write notes about each character after creating character profiles. Much of the information will not be used in my story but the more background I have to each character, the more information I will have to inform how each character acts or speaks.

In her article 33 Ways to Write Stronger Characters, Kristen Kieffer discusses how to breathe life into your story by 'creating characters as real, tangible and complex as the people around us' in order to avoid 'caricatures and cardboard cutouts'
How many of these do you use? How do you get to know your new characters? 

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.