After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna is permanently scarred. She struggles to rebuild her life, but every stare in the street, every time she looks in the mirror, makes her want to retreat further from the world. Until she meets Ryan. Ryan’s a traveller. When he and his mother moor their narrow boat on the outskirts of a village, she tells him this time it will be different. He doesn’t believe her; he can’t imagine why this place shouldn’t be as unwelcoming as the rest. Until he meets Jenna. But as Jenna and Ryan grow closer, repercussions from the crash continue to reverberate through the community. And then a body is found... (from Goodreads.com) Published March 5th by Egmont UK
Today as part of the UK Skin Deep blog tour I’m welcoming Laura Jarratt. Over to you Laura!
How I write my characters
There’s a lot of stuff in ‘How To’ books on writing about ways to make your characters vivid and real. You can carry out interviews with them, fill in questionnaires, write pen portraits, face match them to actors, create mood boards for them etc. I have to say I do none of those things. They would absolutely kill my writing stone dead.
Every main character for me starts with a line of dialogue and nothing else. The rest of who the character becomes springs from that and even I don’t know who they are until I start writing. All I have is that one line of their dialogue to go on. Sometimes they whisper their defining line in my ear before I put pen to paper; sometimes it doesn’t happen until my pen (yes, I still write longhand for first drafts) touches the paper and I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen…but then somehow that line is suddenly there and the character begins to weave him or herself.
With Jenna in Skin Deep, it was the line ‘Ugly people don’t have feelings.’ And that line of hers came first, defining the whole book. With Ryan, it was the line about his mother’s ex-boyfriend: ‘Chavez – sounded Mexican, actually from Bishop Stortford. He thought he was Che Guevara, if Che had spent his life permanently stoned and bumming around on a narrowboat.’ Ryan’s line was changed a little in a later edit so that now he says that in a conversation with Cole.
I had no idea Ryan’s mum even had a partner called Cole until I was scribbling Ryan’s opening chapter and this came out: ‘Mum’s a vegan. When people asked what a vegan is, Cole always said, “It’s someone who farts a lot.”’ Cole was a completely unplanned character, even in terms of his existence! I’ve glad Ryan invented him though as he was lots of fun to write.
You’ve probably worked out by now that I don’t plan my books in advance. I start writing and they happen. All the plot flows out of the characters – I only ever have the loosest structure in my head until at least a third of the book is written and I know them all really well. It takes me ages to get started on a new book because I have to mess around until I find the characters’ true voices so I do a lot of re-writing for the first ten thousand words until I’m happy they sound as they should. It’s too easy when you’re writing in first person to let your own voice intrude so I try to eliminate that as fast as possible.
So when you read that Ryan sneaks off behind his mum’s back to eat dead cow burgers with Cole, I didn’t know that either until just that point in the book. Or that Jenna and Lindsay both had ponies – I didn’t know that until Jenna took apples from the kitchen for them on her way to the canal before she meets Ryan for the first time. For me, something happens when the pen inks the paper – people are created and I don’t know how. To borrow a line from Shakespeare in Love: ‘It’s a mystery.’ But it’s the best part of writing and the biggest buzz J
Skin Deep By Laura Jarratt Ugly people don’t have feelings. They’re not like everyone else. They don’t notice if you stare at them and turn away. And if they did notice, it wouldn’t hurt them. They’re not like real people. Or that’s what I used to think. Before I learned…