Cork based author Mary Malone is the author of four books, all of which feature lively and engaging characters – how does she do it?
CHARACTERISATION – WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?
Well rounded characters need to be real and interesting. They must spring to life from the page, they must be memorable. Ask yourself honestly whether you would spend time with any of your characters? If the answer is no, then that’s exactly how your reader will feel about your book.
Lucy, one of my characters from Love Match is a victim of domestic abuse, a lady locked into an unhappy marriage. I was overwhelmed when one reader – a victim of domestic abuse herself – emailed me to thank me for dealing with what she called ‘her story’ with care and sensitivity. Reading about Lucy reminded her of the prison sentence she’d endured at the hands of an abusive husband, not a happy memory for the reader but a poignant reminder of the good choice she had made the day she found the courage to walk away. I will treasure that email for the rest of my days and as a writer, I feel proud to think that a person born from my imagination could touch somebody to this degree.
LOCATION, SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE – WHAT WORLD DO THEY LIVE IN?
Being transported to somewhere new is magical. As writers, this is one of our magical powers. Whether you’re creating a fictional location or using a real place, visualize your location, allow it breathe life into your story. My first novel, Love Match, was set in Kinsale (my favourite place in the world). As I was writing the story, I paid regular visits to the West Cork fishing town, jotting down the names of shops and streets to ensure I created it as accurately as my readers deserved. I chose various houses (real life ones) where my characters should live. And now, though Love Match was published in 2006, I still see Jenny, Tina and Cathy’s houses each time I drive into the town. Believe it or not, numerous readers have emailed me to say thanks for bringing them on a journey through the well known Kinsale.
My second novel, All You Need Is Love, is set in Bandon, Co. Cork and again, I had great fun ‘locating’ my characters in real life settings. What better fun than walking a town in search of houses etc for fictitious characters? Great fun, try it and see.