I wanted to write something for writing.ie about the character of Beth Burrows I created in my new novel I Always Knew and her emotional journey. I wanted to discuss how I found her within me; how I found her feelings and how I brought them to life because it’s been a very different process on this particular character compared with my other two novels, When Love Takes Over and The Other Side Of Wonderful.
This is an exceptionally emotionally driven book and luckily I trusted my new method because I’m incredibly proud of it. I’m not one hundred percent sure how I felt what Beth was feeling emotionally but I just did. I just stepped inside her. How? No I haven’t had a similar experience in heartbreak as she has had, no I didn’t Google heartbreak or research hundreds of heartbreak stories, I didn’t sit with my heartbroken friends and pick their emotions apart – I did no research on her for the first time ever! It was incredibly freeing and exciting.
I just let my feelings as a woman come out. How would I feel if I had my heart crushed in such a way? How would I feel if the love of my life left me? How would I move on? How would I relate to my friends and family? How would I see myself? I also didn’t want to make Beth a victim because she’s not, she’s human. She’s on an romantic life journey just like the rest of mankind.
Obviously to work on this type of emotional journey I needed some tools. I relied hugely on music. Hugely. I would get up first thing and just play album after album of artists that spoke to me before I sat to write. Music that made me feel, emotive music, sad music, happy music, traditional Irish music like ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ by The Waterboys. Music where feeling and emotions are so raw you can’t help but live the lyrics of the song for those three minutes. I found two particular songs ‘Fake’ by The Frames and ‘I Always Knew’ by the Vaccines and I let these become the backdrop of emotions for Beth. I played them constantly as I wrote (and both bands kindly gave me permission to use their lyrics in the book!)
Then I just used the love and passion I have for my husband, I used the killer instinct I have if anyone tried to harm my children, I used the sadness of how much I loved and miss my granny, I used the respect I have for my parents, I used how the warm sun on my face makes me feel, I used how the warmth of an open fire makes me feel, I used the joy Christmas brings to me, I used the first sip of white wine after that first bite of fresh salmon and capers. I used it all and I amalgamated all these into Beth’s feelings for John Callan.
I have never worked this way on a character before; I have always drawn them from somewhere, something I’d overheard, or read, or something I saw or just someone who jogged a spark in me. But Beth was all within me yet I’m nothing like her. I suppose what I’m trying to say is for the first time I relied on all my emotions to create a character. So she is all mine. She’s not borrowed from anywhere, and for this reason I feel she is the most genuinely rounded character I have ever written.
I am onto novel number four now and the characters are slightly removed from my emotions which is nice also. If you can’t find that character voice look deeper inside you. No, you may never have had that experience so how can you write it from within? Well you can because you source it through music, or film or theatre, or art or any medium that you can relate to, that makes you fffeeeellllllll and you can built your own emotional character from there. I’m not sure I can continue to write this way or I’ll exhaust myself completely, but I found it a most interesting way to write and I wanted to share the process with you all.
(c) Caroline Grace-Cassidy
About I Always Knew
I Always Knew, Caroline’s third book, is a deeply moving story of true love. The story follows Beth Burrows whose shattered heart has never gotten over her once in a lifetime romance with John Callan. Three years on Beth is contented in a relationship with a loving boyfriend, until her best friend announces she is getting married and John will be the best man at the wedding. What will happen when she comes face to face with him again? The thought terrifies her. But then something happens that makes her feeling for John Callan pale into insignificance.
‘A highly engaging portrait of love and longing in contemporary Dublin’ – Fiona Looney
I Always Knew has already been optioned by Park Pictures and the movie will go into development end 2015.