Jack made a suggestion last weekend which I thought was brilliant. (Where did I find this man who is so full of great ideas?) He said that it might be a good idea to compile a sort of guide to my characters – with a brief summary of who they are, without containing spoilers.
How clever he is!!!
I love this suggestion.
So…I am working on it.
Soon to be published here on WordPress – the authoritative guide to the world of Annabelle Riley – the people in her story who are so essential to her journey.
When I was first writing Annabelle’s story and getting to know her, I knew that the adult as made up of all sorts of childhood experiences (perhaps I am stating the obvious!), moments that impacted her, crushing disappointments, stabs of shame and embarrassment, periods of isolation and loneliness.
It has been fascinating to explore more of Annabelle’s childhood in my recent writing. You might remember that Annabelle’s Christmas at the age of fourteen were featured in two recent parts of her story:
Fast-forward ten years, and Annabelle is completely alone during the holidays after her recent break-up with Dean. Two years later, Christmas marks the loss of her daughter to meningitis. Then another two years later…and we arrive very close to the end of the first Annabelle novel “We Hide What We Hate About Ourselves” and we find Annabelle travelling to New York and putting huge effort into preparing personal cards and gifts for all of her family…but nothing seems to have changed.
I knew when I started writing that my character was not going to have a fairy-tale storyline or a magical blessed existence. I did want there to be hope in her story, but also a lot of real challenges, and a lot of growing.
Christmas is a painful stressful time for many people, and for my character Annabelle, there is no exception. For her, it has been one of the loneliest darkest times of year.
There is one Christmas towards the end of Book Three that is less dark, less lonely…but it comes of course just over eleven months after one of the most horrific challenges Annabelle faces. At her weakest, she learns so much more about the word “family”.
I am longing to continue posting the content I have been working on, digging into Annabelle Riley’s teenage years. However, I have found my thoughts slightly muddled by some of the Child Safeguarding training I have had to do recently with the NHS.
There is one particular section that I have been analysing. It picks up where we left off…Annabelle is still fourteen and Christmas has passed. The start of the new year brings snow, lots of snow. Annabelle is still trudging up to Sand’s house each Saturday so that she has the chance to see Dean, who is practicing every weekend with the rest of the band. But at this stage, there are no walks in the park with Dean, and she is missing that time alone she used to have with him.
During the snowy months, a teacher at Annabelle’s school sends a letter to her parents to report that the shoes Annabelle has been wearing need to be replaced. The snow has ruined the flimsy shoes she used to wear. For her 15th birthday (which if you have read the books you may know is in March) her parents present Annabelle with a pair of new school shoes as her birthday gift. When Annabelle sees them she is mortified. She knows that if she wears them for school, her peers will mock her.
Now in my head…there were all sorts of possibilities that I had played with, but the Child Safeguarding training has made me uncomfortable with them.
Annabelle has asked her parents if they would consider giving her an allowance or “pocket-money”. Her parents decline and say if there is anything she needs they can ask them. Annabelle has asked if she might be able to find a job so she can earn some money for herself, but again her parents tell her they want her just to concentrate on her school work, and if there is anything she needs they will provide it.
But the “dorky shoes” incident has presented challenges to me. I cannot have Annabelle turn to Dean over these shoes. For a start, she is embarrassed about them. She does not want Dean to look down on her. Secondly, Dean has already made a comment to Annabelle which has had a deep impact on her, his mother passed away when he was a youngster, and his father has been behind bars for most of Dean’s life. So he rebukes Annabelle for complaining about her parents when he first meets her.
I also know she won’t complain to Lauren about the shoes. She looks up to Lauren. Plus although it is Lauren who takes Annabelle shopping for lingerie, school shoes are just not on Lauren’s radar.
So…it seems obvious that the person that Annabelle speaks to about the dorky shoes is Sandy, Liam’s mother. Only how will Sandy react? Sandy is a lovely lady, and she seems to have a better idea of the challenges a fourteen year old girl faces than Annabelle’s parents do. Remember Annabelle’s parents are now in their mid-late fifties and their attention is focused on their grandchildren rather than their youngest (unplanned) child.
But Sandy is also a very responsible person. She has already expressed her concern over the connection between fourteen year old Annabelle and eighteen year old Dean. So, she is not going to abandon her astute sense when it comes to how to support Annabelle who is clearly upset at the idea that her parents would buy her such “dorky shoes”.
I have decided that initially, Sandy might sympathise over the shoes and might search her own closet in search of something that might fit Annabelle. But soon, Sandy decides she will allow Annabelle to pick out some shoes from an online retailer and have them delivered to her home. Annabelle knows that if her parents see a different pair of shoes, there will be trouble, so the shoes Sandy buys will have to stay in her school locker.
Of course, Annabelle wants to pay for the shoes, but she has no money. Liam suggests to his mother than Annabelle might be able to help out in her Health Shop. Sandy makes it clear that she cannot go against Annabelle’s parents by providing a source of income for her. But Sandy suggests to Annabelle that there are always little ways to help out with domestic tasks, but she will leave that to Annabelle’s initiative.
Aaah, having a teenage character traverse challenges is actually quite tricky. Her love interest cannot do anything while she is so young. Her adult friends have to remain respectful of her parents and not put Annabelle in a vulnerable position by supplying her with money or flashy gifts.
I think it is especially because of the Safeguarding training I have had to do (spending hours learning about County Lines and Online Sexual Exploitation involving teenagers has made it hard to work out a credible explanation for how Annabelle can enjoy the friendships with her colder friends without raising concern with her parents).
So…I am sorry I have fallen behind with developments for Annabelle – but I need to work out the journey this fourteen school girl takes to become the partner of rock legend Dean Mathers. A teenage protagonist is not an easy subject!!!
I learnt something from Rose (you know from Titanic) recently. I learnt that I can keep precious memories and feelings to myself. Like the precious “Heart Of The Ocean”, I can carry them around without anyone knowing the immense treasure I possess. I don’t have to answer every question. I don’t have to explain everything in detail.
I have a life rich with memories, experiences, and I carry many many inspiring people in my heart who have impelled me to make some extraordinary decisions. Occasionally, when I have shared something of why I have made these choices with a person, it has been rather like “casting pearls before swine”.
My heart is a deep ocean, and although I am not especially secretive, I am very protective of my priceless treasure. I like it here on WordPress, because I am able to bring out these precious gems and allow them to sparkle and dazzle me. It brings me great delight. That is why I am hooked on writing.
Indie music is such a great theme for today’s Song Lyric Sunday. I have already published on post today featuring Ash – one of the primary sources of inspiration for Mildew – the fictional rock band that are a part of Annabelle Riley’s story. As promised, I am going to share some of the other bands that have given me so many ideas to shape my vision of the band.
THE VERVE – two members went to my high school – and boy were we influenced by their music, their image, their scene. I am sure that Dean has penned tracks that have caught the US and other countries by storm.
THE CHARLATANS – It’s the incredible guitar presence – tracks like these are so hard to forget. I imagine Dean’s song-writing to feature anthem-like guitar riffs.
OCEAN COLOUR SCENE – The iconic opening to this track made it one of the best known songs from the era. I love the thought of Dean penning distinctive guitar riffs that make the band instantly recognizable.
OASIS – Full of swagger and attitude, which you sort of expect from a rock band. There are so many tracks I could have shared with you…but I have chosen one that I remember loving as a kiddo. The idea of Dean Mathers and Mildew is that he has become an phenomenally productive song writer and has been churning out albums packed full of songs that please the critics and the fans and have formed their distinctive “sound”.
THE LONGPIGS – I saw this band when I was fourteen. The crowd went crazy!! There was one particular track that provoked a roar of excitement from the audience. This was hugely popular. I imagine Mildew evoking that kind of reaction from their audiences when they start playing smaller gigs throughout the New York state.
BLUR – there is one particular track from Blur that provides inspiration for a scene where Mildew really make an impression on their audience at one of their early live gigs. Annabelle sees the band really finding their confidence as their audience revels in their perfomance.
I could go on…but I think perhaps you have the idea of how music, the music I used to listen to as a kiddo, has left me with masses of inspiration to develop the fictional band Mildew, the talented songwriter and guitarist Dean Mathers and other band members.
I have so many memories of hanging around at the record company and all the bands I met during my teens. It is fueling the flow of describing the clothes, language, attitudes of my characters, and it is fascinating for me to dive into the reservoir of real life experiences that are pooled within me…and recreate them on the page.
I was reading another bloggers post recently, and it was full of advice I needed to pay attention to and heed. I have a real weakness with my style of writing. I am not very good at suggesting something to the reader, allowing them to fill in the gaps. Instead, I tend to waffle and supply way too many trivial details that don’t aid the flow of the story.
I don’t really know why I do that. I guess I am just such an amateur when it comes to crafting a story and captivating readers. I become immersed in my characters, and find that almost everything they think, feel, say, hold back from saying, do, regret they didn’t do – it all matters to me…and I sort of expect it to matter to others who read their stories.
But it does not always work that way. Ultimately, nobody will ever know or love my characters as much as I do. That is just a fact. So, if I go overboard with revolving the story around my characters alone, it can be like having dinner with a parent who wants to show you a host of photographs of their little ones, the pictures they drew at school, their first milk teeth that fell out, and share you with accounts of every memorable incident since birth. Yeah…there is only so much you can take of that!!!
There is another issue I have…I realized I have in some cases been too explicit in my explanations. I don’t want to shy away from the fact my characters have complex issues they grapple with. But I think in some areas I have made the explanation of what is happening almost too clinical. They are difficult, provocative subjects, but I don’t need to handle them like a Doctor or a Social Worker. I need to get down on to the level of my characters and indicate just how uncomfortable they are with talking about their weaknesses. I need to learn the art of suggestion, and not be overly graphic or descriptive.
Hmm….writing is such an education in itself! It is truly fascinating to look back at your writing and analyse patterns in your style, seek improvements and enhancements, and learn how to see things from your Readers point of view always.
Did you notice??? I wonder if you did? My WordPress site is called Caramel, but my name is showing up as CARAMELODY. I have been called this by several other WordPress users over the years who know me by my writing name Melody Finch.
Well….it sort of grew on me. So much so that finally I added “ODY” onto the end of my WordPress user name. It feels good – you know like that feelng of just having a haircut?
I use my writing name because I feel safer and less inhibited when I write. I am grateful to all of my friends who know me in person have honoured my request to only use my nom de plume online.
I admire writers who are comfortable with using their real name and sharing photographs of themselves…but I have so many reasons to be anxious for our security (Jack and myself).
Caramelody is making me smile. I hope you like it too!
I am finding a torrent of ideas flowing in regards to Annabelle’s story through her teen years. Other characters, primarily Dean are becoming more layered, more intriguing. I am getting to know some of the minor characters I only made fleeting references to in the Annabelle Riley LEARNER AT LOVE series.
I am enjoying it so much…but there is not enough time to keep up with the flow of ideas that I want to preserve.
The GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF has been an event to bring together some amazing WordPress users – both writers, poets, bakers, bloggers, readers and others who want to engage with other very lovely WordPress users. It has been an incredibly colourful, yummy and joyful event for the past three years, and Jeanne, Gary and I are delighted to be preparing for the 2022 BAKE OFF.
This year, we are inviting writers to respond to a special GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF Writing Prompt. However, your writing does not have to be strictly about baking (although we would be thrilled if there was a baking aspect).
Many of you will have seen that this year’s BAKE OFF has the theme:
The Joy Of Baking
But we are focusing on three areas of baking that can bring joy despite the anxious worries many of us have due to tumultuous world events and personal concerns.
SHARING THE JOY OF BAKING WITH OTHERS
This year we are asking you to write in response to one of the following three themes (you can respond to as many as you like):
THE COST OF LIVING
OUR BEAUTIFUL HOME – PLANET EARTH
HOW TO FIND JOY IN LIFE AND SHARE JOY WITH OTHERS IN TROUBLESOME TIMES
Your piece can take any format you prefer. It can be short, it can be long. It can be comedy, mystery, or real-life drama. It can be a work of fiction, a story, or it can be your thoughts on any of these subjects. But we would love your work to be a reflection of you as a writer. Every year THE GREAT BLOGGERS’ BAKE OFF introduces us to more and more fabulous bloggers so we would love you to put some of your personality and style into your writing so that new readers can get to know you.
Please publish your writing in response to the special bake off writing prompt ON YOUR SITE. During BAKE OFF weekend (15th & 16th October 2022) we will have a special post featuring links to your posts. But our writing prompt is open now, so please either pingback to this post or copy a link to your post in the comments below, so that we can find your post.
You are very welcome to advertise our SPECIAL BAKE OFF WRITING PROMPT. You are very welcome to use the Pixabay image used for our writing prompt logo. You are very welcome to send in any questions about the BAKE OFF (or indeed baking photographs) to:
I have found that pictures can provide huge inspiration. I remember seeing an image a few years ago and deciding that was Annabelle the night Robin met her…
In my mind, Robin is just one of the men who see the stunning siren walk into the venue where a PR event/cocktail party is being held by a New York media company. Robin is there with his flatmate, who works for the company. Seeing that Robin cannot keep his eyes off Annabelle, his flatmate (who knows that Annabelle is known as the blonde on the arm of one of the hottest musicians in the charts – Dean Mathers – until their recent split) tells Robin that he does not have a chance with Annabelle.
Determined not to be put off, Robin makes a beeline for Annabelle. He has no idea who she is and he has never heard of Dean Mathers.
Now although the picture above was the original inspiration for Annabelle’s breath-taking entrance at the party where Robin sees her for the first time, I knew there were a few details that I had to address. Annabelle has been very low and lost since her break up from Dean. The last place she wants to be is at a party, but in her new role for Sony, she is expected to be at these social events. There are signs of how troubled she is on her arms and legs and other parts of her body. So I realized that her stunning dress actually needed full length sleeves as well as being long and nowhere near as revealing as the dress above. Annabelle has deliberately chosen the dress because it hides her injuries, but the dazzling gold is eye-catching.
Then comes the worst start. Robin attempts to flirt with Annabelle by sidling up to her and remarking, “You do realize that your dress isn’t in fashion, don’t you? You the only woman in the room not showing off any cleavage.”
Annabelle is quite rightly unimpressed by Robin’s overly personal and direct comment. She gives him that look of “Go away please Creep!” Coldly she replies, “I don’t need any advice on how to dress,” and turns to move away.
Realizing immediately that Annabelle does not see any humour in his comment, Robin tries to keep her attention, “What about my tie? What do you think of my tie?”
Irritated by Robin’s persistence, Annabelle states, “It’s just a black tie.”
“Is that all you can see? There’s a lot more to this tie than that.”
Bewildered, Annabelle turns Robin’s tie over and reads the garment care label, “100% silk, delicate dry-clean only”.
Robin looks into Annabelle’s eyes, “Don’t judge too quickly on first impressions. There is a lot more to get to know.” When Annabelle is still hesitant, Robin holds out his hand and suggests, “Can I go back and start again? Hi, I’m Robin Grainger. It’s nice to meet you.”
Accepting his handshake, the beauty replies, “Annabelle. No, there is no going back, we can only go forwards.”
Gambling the progress he has made during an awkward conversation, Robin boldly asks, “Does going forwards mean you will consider coming back to my place?”
It is just one scene…but it included lots of references that tie into other conversations in the book. It is Dean who has always said to Annabelle, “No regrets. There is no going back, you can only go forwards.” The night she meets Robin, Dean is still at the centre of her thoughts. It is the care label on Annabelle’s dress that he uses to show her he is not going to let her down.
I am finding as I am imagining and writing, Annabelle is profoundly aware of the differences between Robin and Dean.
It is Robin’s direct confident manner that Annabelle is bowled over by and she soon find herself swept off her feet by the self-assured, strong-willed, decisive and dynamic man, who is a contrast to often disheveled and unkempt Dean, who suffered from stage-fright and turned to alcohol to settle his nerves and cope with pressure. Annabelle has spent years with Dean, her first boyfriend, who grew up like her in the Bronx, and talked about guitars, motorbikes and tattoos…and has habits that distress Annabelle, meaning she often has had to care for him when he made himself ill. She cannot help see the contrast in the clever, well-read English man who dresses well, eats well, and is thrilled to have met Annabelle.
It is so much fun to go back and think about these characters in more detail. I love Chris Ward as much as everyone else who has read Annabelle’s story. But for now, I am dwelling on Annabelle before she ever meets Chris. This is a stage in her life that fascinates me, and I am amazed at how much fun it is to work out the intricate detail.