A very warm welcome to Samantha Tonge on the Tuesday Chit-Chat slot. First of all big Romaniac congratulations on the publication of her debut novel ‘Doubting Abbey’. Today Samantha is getting all emotional – but in a good way.
Let’s Get Emotional
Part of the reason I’m so thrilled that my debut novel, Doubting Abbey, is finally ‘out there’ in the big wide world, is that I have several unpublished novels under my bed. It’s been a hard slog, getting published – although a rollercoaster ride along the way, filled with disappointment, yes, but many highs, like the excitement of a new project; my first positive rejection letter; getting the full manuscript requested; finally bagging myself an agent.
In retrospect I can see what was wrong with the very first novels I wrote and one aspect only really became clear in the last year or two, thanks to an editor I worked closely with in the short story world. She said I needed to put even more emotion into my work. It makes sense to me now. Readers love a story if they care about the characters – to care they must feel what those fictional people are going through. Otherwise they might get to the end and ask “what was the point”?
So now when I write, I try harder than ever to put myself into the characters’ place and convey their emotions according to my own feelings. Nerves? Yes, a twisted stomach or sweaty palms. Fear? A dry mouth and racing heartbeat. Love? Flushed cheeks and a warmth spreading through my chest. Someone recently recommended a book to me called the Emotional Thesaurus and it is brilliant at listing such reactions.
Also, as the writer, you need to think of emotional actions, not just physical change. In Doubting Abbey, arrogant hunk Lord Edward is secretly a tortured soul. Hence the occasion when he’ll sit with his head hung in his hands. Pizza waitress, Gemma, who must pretend to be his posh cousin, Abbey, hates all the lies – which could be conveyed by a lack of eye contact and a wavering voice.
The emotional stakes can also be raised by particular storylines – in Doubting Abbey friends from the past are brought together. Reunions are emotional gold, making the reader care not only about the people in your novel, but also the plot and what happens – and not necessarily to flesh and blood. Lord Edward’s family must win reality show Million Dollar Mansion to save their beloved but run-down Applebridge Hall – a building I hope finds a place in readers’ hearts. With its cracked tiles and faded wallpaper, on the surface it’s just bricks and mortar – yet the family portraits from bygone centuries soon tell the tale of a place once filled with vibrant parties, kind-hearted residents, passionate love and unbridled laughter.
So next time you read a book, think about what moves you and makes you care. Have you laughed? Did your eyes well up? Did you fall just a little bit in love with the hero…?
Swapping downstairs for upstairs… How hard can it be!?
Look up the phrase ordinary girl and you’ll see a picture of me, Gemma Goodwin – I only look half-decent after applying the entire contents of my make-up bag, and my dating track-record includes a man who treated me to dinner…at a kebab shop. No joke!
The only extraordinary thing about me is that I look EXACTLY like my BFF, Abbey Croxley. Oh, and that for reasons I can’t explain, I’ve agreed to swap identities and pretend be her to star in the TV show about her aristocratic family’s country estate, Million Dollar Mansion.
So now it’s not just my tan I’m faking – it’s Kate Middleton style demure hemlines and lady-like manners too. And amongst the hundreds of fusty etiquette rules I’m trying to cram into my head, there are two I really must remember; 1) No-one can ever find out that I’m justGemma, who’d be more at home in the servants quarters. And 2) There can be absolutely no flirting with Abbey’s dishy but buttoned-up cousin, Lord Edward.
Aaargh, this is going to be harder than I thought…