Gran Bramhall’s Recipe for Delicious Characters – a guest blog by Andrea Bramhall

6 Sep

cleanslateSo, Clean Slate, my second novel, has just been released by Bold Strokes Books. It is the story of Morgan and Erin Masters. At the beginning of the book Morgan suffers a terrible head injury and loses twenty years of her memories. The effects of this memory loss are at times hilarious, heartbreaking, and shocking. There have been times throughout the writing process where I have cried, laughed, and then cried some more. And then I cried laughing.

I have blogged quite a lot lately about the inspiration behind Clean Slate and why it has urged me to pledge half of the royalties I earn from Clean Slate to a local charity, but if you want to know more about that you can check out this blog here.

Instead I thought I’d talk about my ‘evolution’ as a writer. Big words, hey? Well, that’s part of it. As is learning all those pesky grammar rules I obviously didn’t learn in school.

My first novel, Ladyfish, was a labour of love written over a very cold winter while I basked in the memories of a sunny holiday, scuba diving and getting a sun tan—yes, you can insert ‘burnt’ in place of ‘sun tan’. The story fell out of my head in three weeks, and my poor editor could very definitely tell when I first submitted it. But we slaved over it and I began to learn the work of writing. The hours of editing, rewriting, and torturing myself…I mean searching to find the right word to convey exactly what I meant. But I think one of the biggest things I learnt was the layers that are required to build believable, three-dimensional characters that people want to read about. It’s kind of like making a trifle. I know, you probably think I’m a bit crazy for that, but hear me out before you send for the straitjacket.

With a trifle you have all these different layers, right? You’ve got the jelly, which is your character’s basic personality type, or archetype. Let’s take Morgan Masters, the main character in Clean Slate. She’s basically a lost soul. That’s her jelly, or if you’re American, her Jello. Then inside the jelly you’ve got fruit and sponge fingers and a hefty—read here huge—glug of booze. This is my gran’s recipe I’m following here and I’ve been told not to mess with a classic. I think she was talking about the trifle…but I can’t be sure.

So fruit, booze, and sponge fingers, well these are Morgan’s issue’s. The insecurities, fears, worries, and concerns that make up a huge part of who she is. Then gran puts a load of custard on the top. Now this isn’t as deep as the trifle goes, but it’s totally smothering all that lost soul angst, those insecurities, and trust issues. We know there’s more underneath—but I’m damned if I can see through the custard! Then we add the layer that everyone gets to see. Cream. Whipped cream, no less. The sweetness that gets our mouths watering and our little mitts reaching for the spoon. This is what everyone sees. The public face. Sprinkle on top the hundreds and thousands like a smile on a very bad day, and the strawberry sitting on the very top.

You see? There is a method to my madness, people. This is how I layer up a character. I follow gran’s trifle recipe.

As the reader you get a big bowl full of trifle, a spoon, and a chance to see the character—warts and all. Characters in the book, though, only get to see certain parts of the trifle, depending on their perspective. So some of them will only see the cream, the hundreds and thousands, and this strawberry on the top. They don’t get to see what flavour jelly is in the trifle, they don’t know if it’s strawberry, raspberry, or even lime, or anything that’s inside it. Other characters in the book may see the serving bowl, they may see that there’s custard beneath the cream, jelly, fruit, and sponge. But they still don’t know what type of fruit it is or how much sponge is in there, and they certainly don’t know that there’s more than a hint of booze. But as the reader you get to see every side, see every part, and taste all the hidden stuff inside.

Now, Morgan has an additional problem: because of her memory issues she doesn’t know what flavour the jelly is, what kind of fruit is inside. She has no idea that there is sponge in the jelly or what flavour booze. She’s learning who she is—who she was—through the eyes of everyone who has ever known her. The question is, who knew the real Morgan? Did anyone know every ingredient that made up the original trifle? Or is that recipe lost for good?

trifleSo, who doesn’t love trifle?

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One Response to “Gran Bramhall’s Recipe for Delicious Characters – a guest blog by Andrea Bramhall”

  1. andreabramhall September 6, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    Reblogged this on Andrea Bramhall and commented:
    I’m guest blogging over at the UKlesfic blog today. Thanks Tig and Cari for the invitation to tell everyone about my Grans secret recipe for delicious characters…

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