Me and my characters – Maria Duffy

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By Maria Duffy

Every author has a different way of approaching a new book. Some make notes or do a lot of research, some make story-boards and work out storylines and some, like me, work on the characters first.

My stories are very character driven. I love getting right into the soul of my characters – discovering what their weaknesses and strengths are and what drives them. I’ll always have a rough story-line in my head, but once I have that, I set to work on my characters. They move into my head and there they stay for the duration of writing the book.

I’m a very visual person so I think about what they look like and I allow the story to play out in my head like a movie (while all the time dreaming that one day it might really happen!). I’m not a great person for taking notes but the one thing I do every time, is profile the characters. I write down everything I can think of about them – everything from how a dimple might appear on their left cheek when they smile to how many sugars they take in their coffee. Sometimes months will go by and I won’t have written a word of the manuscript. I won’t begin until my cast of characters are fully formed and ready to go!

So when I finally set to work on the book, I need to be surrounded by these characters. By that time, I know exactly how they look so I head to my old friend, Google Images. I’ll type in some details such as ‘thirty-five year old woman with a blond bob and green eyes’ and go through the images until I find one that looks like my character. I repeat this for each character, printing the pictures so that I can fill the wall in front of me. It’s only at that point that I feel ready to begin.

Sometimes people ask me how long it takes me to write a book and honestly, once I have everything in place, I write fairly quickly. For me, it’s all about setting the scene and once that’s done, things tend to flow pretty easily. It might not work for everyone but if you’re a visual person and you like to write character-driven stories, doing the preparation for your characters beforehand and surrounding yourself with their pictures in your working space works wonders. And besides, if you’re a dreamer like me, you can sit back and look at the characters on the wall and imagine that they’re the cast of the movie that’s been made from your book…!

Maria Duffy is the author of five best-selling novels, including The Letter, One Wish and A Love Like This. Her sixth novel, Falling Softly, is out now, published by Hachette Ireland. Maria lives in Dublin with her husband and four teenage children.

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