Friday, 5 February 2016

Guest post by Laura Wilkinson

Last week Laura and I (joined by others) wasted much of a morning talking about shoes. Because Laura is a professional writer, that time turned out not to be wasted at all, as she made this blog post out of it.

Laura Wilkinson

Bottom Up or Inside Out?

Last week, three days before the publication of my third novel, Redemption Song, I posted a photo on Facebook of the boots I planned to wear at the launch party. To say the posf a pat attracted attention would be an understatement. Among friends my love of footwear, clothes and all things glittery is well known. At the Waterstones launch I joked that the boots might prove more popular than the book. But how is this relevant to writing I hear you cry?

The famous boots
It’s about character and, specifically, character creation. In my 20s I worked as an actress and footwear was incredibly important for getting a handle on my role. Once I had the right shoes all else seemed to slot into place. I knew how she moved, what she loved, who she was. This was especially true of the period roles. When wardrobe presented me with a knackered pair of old boots during a stint as Dinah (in a stage adaptation of George Eliot’s Victorian masterpiece Adam Bede) I slipped them on, glass slipper style, and become a tub-thumping, devoted Methodist lay preacher.

The correct shoes, and clothes, are also important in my novels – for whether we like it or not, clothes, our attitude towards them and how we present ourselves, reveal a lot about us. And even if our characters are constrained by uniforms, the adjustments they make – if they make adjustments – are revealing. Tom and I, amongst others, had an extended conversation on Twitter about shoes. As you may know, Tom is a passionate dancer, but even if you didn’t know this, you might have guessed by taking a look at some of his footwear. My female lead in Redemption Song, Saffron, wears black Doc Martens, thick black tights, black jeans and jumpers. She’s even dyed her hair dark. It reflects her internal world. By contrast, her mother Rain’s style is more flamboyant and colourful and she is a more optimistic character at the story’s outset. And while Joe is constrained by his profession – he’s a carpenter – his haircut and the way he wears his clobber also tells us something. Or should.

All that said, when it comes to writing I create characters from the inside out and not the bottom up. When I first embark upon a project I have no idea what my characters look like. They are nebulous, indistinct creatures; part spectres, part shop dummies before the window dresser sets to work. I find out what they like to have for breakfast, what’s their favourite hangover cure (if they drink and if not, why not?), the childhood secret they’ve never shared, what they like least about themselves… You get the gist. Only once I know these kinds of things can I dress them and even then, from time to time, during the intense period that is the first draft, they can pick something out of their wardrobe and surprise me. ‘You’re going to wear that?’ I sometimes shriek. In much the same way I will sometimes gasp: ‘You said what?’ or ‘You did it!’

Thanks for having me, an outsider from over in contemporary fiction land, at your brilliant blog, Tom.

Laura has written three novels. By a strange coincidence, her third, RedemptionSong, has just been published. 

If you lost everything in one night, what would you do?
Saffron is studying for a promising career in medicine until a horrific accident changes her life for ever. Needing to escape London, she moves to the Welsh coast to live with her mother. Saffron hates the small town existence and feels trapped until she meets Joe, another outsider. Despite initial misgivings, they grow closer to each other as they realise they have a lot in common. Like Saffron, Joe has a complicated past…one that’s creeping up on his present. Can Joe escape his demons for long enough to live a normal life – and can Saffron reveal the truth about what really happened on that fateful night? Love is the one thing they need most, but will they – can they – risk it?
Redemption Song is a captivating, insightful look at what happens when everything goes wrong – and the process of putting the pieces back together again.

If you’d like more information about Laura and her work visit:

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