Saturday, March 22, 2014

Awesome Indie Approved!

How do you like my shiny new badge? Orla's Code has been awarded a place on the Awesome Indies list of quality independent fiction! Awesome Indies is a critically acclaimed site that reviews and showcases excellent Indie fiction. What a great idea, to help readers in their search for quality independent books. Their mission is "to identify and honour independently published books that meet the same standard as books published by major mainstream publishers and their imprints." I'm feeling proud that Orla's Code has been placed among them.

Here is their 5 star review of Orla's Code. And if you're taking a look around, why not check out
their many categories including genre fiction, literary, YA, experimental, and contemporary fiction, including Orla's Code.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Character Building

I have finished the first draft of Beverly and while I feel I know the characters instinctively, they have not been more than an outline, a bit like clothes pegs, holding up the plot. A few months ago I went to a talk with Eleanor Catton who spoke about her characters having star signs in her novel The Luminaries. I thought this would be a good exercise while fleshing out my characters. Then I thought of some other character definitions to work with. 

Here are the three main characters: Beverly, Ella and Roland, described through popular templates.

Star Signs

The Crab
Beverly - Cancer

A predisposition towards shyness means the Cancerian tends to internalise emotion, but their desire usually centres around security and love. While known for being passionate and loyal, the 'moon-child' is also known for her moodiness and jealously. When hurt she tends to shut people out but can also strike back with venom.

Ella - Aries
The Ram

A real Aries - Ella is enthusiastic, spontaneous, competitive and a natural leader. Pace of life tends to be hustle and bustle with a positive attitude. Meanwhile, others can be overwhelmed by the Aries, experiencing their self-centred or overbearing side. They are also known to be trusting and have faith in people which can lead to their getting hurt.

Roland - Taurus

The Bull
A calm exterior with good self-possession while deep desires remain hidden. The Taurus can be easily charming but doesn't let people in more than he wants. Creature comforts, security and balance in life are real motivators. Determined and reliable, the Taurus tends to think deeply before making a decision and thus can find change stressful. They are also known for their stubbornness and insecurity.

The Colour Code

"The Color Code Personality Profile also known as The Color Code or The People Code, created by Dr. Taylor Hartman, divides personalities into four colors: Red(motivated by power), Blue (motivated by intimacy), White (motivated by peace), and Yellow (motivated by fun)."

If you have ever worked for a multinational corporation then you have probably been assessed in this manner. It is really helpful to managers with no natural people skills ... if only they could put stamps on us ... Anyway here's how I think the three would measure up:

Beverly - White
Thoughtful, perceptive, a good listener. Private, comfort seeking. Avoids conflict.

Ella - Yellow
Charming, highly sociable, wants to reach her potential and help others. Can be self-centered. May go outside the rules.

Roland - Red
Determined, focused, reliable. Can be dominating, can be stubborn and calculating.

Pop Culture


Likes electro-pop and techno. Anything with a strong beat, including music with native rhythms like Ladysmith Black Mobaza. Finds drums soothing, earthly - stirring. She doesn't really like dancing but Ella can sometimes get her up on the dance floor after a few drinks. Movies: Forest Gump, Big Fish, rom-coms - anything comforting and sentimental is an outlet for her. She mostly reads fantasy and Sci-Fi - she likes to read about worlds other than her own.


Likes any music that she can dance to. Movies: Donnie Darko, Seven, The Princess Bride - Dark thrillers and broad comedy. Hates rom-coms - thinks they stereotype her as a single thirty-something and feed on female insecurities. Reads autobiographies of people who inspire her.


Doesn't really get music. He hates dancing. He used to pretend he liked music when he was young but decided this was a bit silly when he was about sixteen and thought that it was better to just be himself. Movies: he identifies with stories where a person changes their circumstances: The Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather, Kane and Abel. He reads biographies about interesting people.

Facebook Pages

I don't think I'll actually create these, but here's what they would look like:

As a shy person, Beverly has a small number of friends on Facebook: school friends that she grew up with, some college mates and a handful of people from her adult life. She never accepts requests from people she doesn't know or like - and she does not mind if people think she is being rude - Ella points it out but Beverly shrugs and says something, like, It is of no consequence. Her activity is mostly music related: when she goes to gigs, she uploads photos and links to the band's Facebook page. She experiments with baking and puts her recipes on Facebook. 

Holiday photos, selfies, shares jokes, joins communities, debates with people online. 'Likes' articles so they'll be linked to her Facebook page. Where other people feel uncomfortable with their private life being exposed, Ella loves sharing things about herself.

The bare minimum. Doesn't have a photo up. Likes to stay connected with his two older brothers in The Netherlands who both have families. He has set up a Facebook account for his parents but they never go online.

On to Siblings

Beverly is an only child. It might have been the chaos in school in contrast to the quiet of home that planted a sense of being an outsider in Beverly. Her older parents used to pray for her self-confidence to improve.

Ella has three older brothers who she always tried to play with. They were into gaming and gadgets and she followed. A little tomboy who turned herself into a glamorous swan but who still likes to show sh
e can hold her own with the boys.

Roland also has three older brothers. But since the second youngest, Theo, is the black sheep of the family getting in trouble through drugs and general recklessness, Roland feels like Theo is the youngest. He always aspired to be accepted by his older brothers, the twins, who did take him under their wing.

Politics and Papers

Beverly is left wing. She feels the suffering of others and rejects Ella's point of view as being ruthless and weakly thought out. She would love to work with a charity and sometimes day-dreams about it. The only paper she reads is The Guardian online. She thinks magazines are a waste of time and finds herself getting depressed about her looks whenever she picks up one of Ella's magazines.

Ella is a pure capitalist. She believes in the power of the individual to better themselves and that a good life is available to everyone if they work hard. She believes Beverly is overly sympathetic for the sake of political correctness and her ideas unrealistic. She reads gossip magazines and is addicted to rolling news. She also reads the Daily Mail which Beverly throws out whenever she finds. Ella likes the hit of sensationalist journalism but takes and leaves the opinions as she likes.

Roland believes generally in a welfare state like The Netherlands model, in contrast with the corrupt version of capitalism he sees in other western countries. But he also thinks the Dutch system is taken advantage of. He is more interested in finance than in politics. He reads The Financial Times - he likes feeling he needs to, and The Guardian. Occasionally he reads De Telegraaf to keep up with what is going on at home.

What is their deepest desire?

Beverly: Security, stability, to be loved
Ella: To be the best she can be. To lead by example
Roland: To be successful in life, marriage, and finances

What is their worst fear?

Beverly : Speaking in public
Ella : Not reaching her potential
Roland : Not succeeding in life

First Memories

A roundabout in the school playground. It's Beverly's turn. Momentum has picked up and the kids just have to tap the frame to keep it spinning around. Beverly is trying to say Stop but the wind is whipping the word out of her mouth, so only st-st can be heard. It is a moment of delight.

She remembers the squeaking of her arm-bands in the swimming pool and echoing shouts. Her legs are kicking below her but there's no ground. She has a moment of panic as she slips down in the rubber ring around her waist, but then realises what floating is as she bobs in the water.

His family are all sitting in the living room with rugs around everyone because the electricity has gone out. He is in between his brothers, under one rug on the couch. Everyone is laughing at his dad, wagging his dog slippers. Roland is frightened by the candle light dancing up the walls.

How do you develop your characters? Do you have a method? Do you let them develop organically? It is at times like this I wish I could sketch. These people are living inside my head and they keep telling me about themselves. It's a bit like having ghosts.

Click on images for source.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Orla's Code in Readers' Choice Award!

I am excited and feel honoured that Orla's Code has been nominated for a Readers' Choice Award! 

Big Al's Books and Pals - recently selected as the Best Review Site
by Indies Unlimited - receives thousands of books for review and nominates what they consider exceptional writing each year, in 13 categories.

The voting has already begun so if you would like to vote for Orla's Code in the Chick-lit/Women's Fiction category then click on the badge and follow the steps. Your vote also entitles you to an entry in Big Al's Giveaway!

You can find Big Al's Books and Pals' 5-star review of Orla's Code here