Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Writing Characters - Tally & Lisa

Writing Characters - Tally & Lisa

I decided that to continue the writing pieces I had been doing that the next topic of conversation - I see these as me communicating about my process - was to talk about what the inspiration was behind certain characters and how it felt writing them and what worked for me etc. So, for the first one, I'll be focusing on the BLACKOUT main characters - Tally & Lisa.


I think of Tally as the first main character that I actually wrote and created, as you'll find out she wasn't technically my first character, but I still think of her like that. The inspiration behind Tally was the fact that I liked the name and thought it would suit what I was hoping to do with the character. Those of you who have read BLACKOUT, you'll know it's about Tally's life and the struggle to clear her name. I wanted to present her as someone everyone didn't like. The idea was that people would read the first few chapters and think "spoilt brat, ugh, hate her!" and thankfully, a lot of people did. The problem was making sure that people wanted to know enough about her to keep reading after she woke up and discovered her life was a dream.

Tally was your everyday teenager who was desperate to fit in and obviously didn't for whatever reason. I never really gave a reason as to why she didn't fit in. She had the ability to be one of the "in crowd", but she never quite made it. She tried to use other characters, like Lisa for example, to bring herself up to the level of the people she desperately wanted to pay attention to her.

Tally's story was one that had been inside my head for many years. I'd wanted to write it and wanted to bring it to life for a long time until that day when I was 19 and put pen to paper (I didn't type everything in the beginning) and I have to say I'm really pleased with what I ended up with. She seemed to take on her own role in my head, and sometimes I would have plans for her and then, she'd take me in a different direction. Characters do that sometimes, as other writers will attest to.

When Tally finally woke up and smelt the coffee so to speak and became friends with the most unlikely person, Lisa, I realised that it hadn't been planned like that and she'd shown me a side of herself that I hadn't seen. That is what I love about creating characters because they do that a lot. They take you places and they react in a way and suddenly you, their creator, look at them and think, "Huh, didn't see that coming!"

In the end, Tally did the right thing and although I like to think it's mostly my writing that led her to that conclusion, I know that some of it was her own doing.


Lisa was never meant to be a main character. She was going to be the character that everyone picked on, but was never befriended. I found myself putting her with Tally more and more, and then the opportunity arose for me to explain and explore more of her depth and I liked what I saw.

Every time I would write her and Tally together, I saw something that could be, as Tally put it "a beautiful friendship". I have never planned to give Lisa, Brittle Asthma, as I've said in past interviews, it's a disease close to my heart as I actually have a form of the disease. It made writing her all the more enjoyable. I was able to work out some of my own thoughts regarding my diagnosis and it of course helped with the details towards the end of the book.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted Tally to end up, where I wanted her to be. Lisa, on the other hand, was supposed to be a throwaway character and look how she ended up? It's amazing what we create when we put our minds to it and allow them a little freedom. Lisa was one of those moments.

Without discussing the ending (I don't want to spoil anyone who may not have read it) I agonised over what to do with Lisa, and I think I reached a good middle ground. It could have been worse, a lot worse and it could have been better. I wanted to give Tally the wake up call she needed and through Lisa I was able to do that.

Together, they make a great pair. They truly are very good friends and although their story has finished (except for that tiny cameo in a later book) I like to think that they would have stayed friends long after school had finished. It was very hard leaving BLACKOUT once it was finished. I had, as mentioned previously, wanted so desperately to do a sequel, but alas, it was never meant to be.

You can get BLACKOUT on Amazon Kindle as well as many other e-book retailers. Follow Joey Paul on Facebook or her on this blog for updates about her books and other ventures.

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