Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Author Spotlight - Michelle Levigne casts the characters!

This is a story where I had the germinal idea, and had to fill in all the blanks. Sometimes, I start with a character in a situation, and have the situation "come to a head," and work through it. For instance, for "The Family Way," in other books I had already talked about what a nasty man Mr. Montgomery was, and how people pitied his daughter-in-law, and I had even introduced Lisa and Todd and their on-again/off-again romance in a rough draft for a Quarry Hall novel (Blatant plug for the new Women's Fiction series, here!). So I had characters and situations already established for me, which actually gave me material to work with and a foundation to work on.
So, starting from scratch, how do you cast a story?

The germinal idea -- and I even mention the source of it within the story -- came from half an episode of "Northern Exposure." Anyone remember that show? How, you ask, could I work from half an episode? Well, I saw the first half, and never watched the second half! I think I was at a friend's house and watching TV while I waited for her to finish getting ready to go out. The story: a local celebrity was having his annual blow-out party -- gourmet food, fancy decorations, fancy plates, fancy invitations, etc. The new guy in town, the doctor, hears from everyone else what a great party it is. And of course, the doctor is invited -- but his invitation is lost. And before I turned off the TV, he was already facing the dilemma of not admitting that he didn't get an invitation to the big fancy yearly party.

So, that's where "Invitation to a Wedding" started. What happens if your childhood friend is getting married, and you're invited, but someone doesn't just lose the invitation -- they make sure you don't get the invitation?

The first question is: Why would someone do that? What kind of person is the heroine, that someone would want to keep her from going to a wedding?

Other questions I had to ask, so the story was believable -- especially when Stacy and Dinah don't get a chance to talk and fix things in the first two chapters -- dealt with why they weren't talking, compressing the timeline and circumstances to make it believable that Stacy wouldn't be included. Then I had to work on the hero -- what kind of a guy was he, that he would find out Stacy wasn't coming to the wedding, at a very late date, and be so upset that he had to do something about it?

What I came up with was: 1) Heroine is low on the social scale -- not that it matters to the hero and her childhood best friend. 2) Bride has been living in another state and lost contact with heroine. 3) Hero has been away from home for years, in the military and then seminary. 3) Bride eloped, so it isn't a wedding, but a weekend trip home for a wedding reception months later. 4) Childhood nemesis is living near the bride and pretends to be changed, so she is trusted with party details, and no one suspects when she takes over.

Compressing the time element of the story helped with the "why don't the idiots just sit down and TALK?" factor. I don't know about you, but I hate stories where the conflict could have been resolved in chapter 2 if the two main characters could have just been face-to-face for half an hour.

What I ended up with was a Cinderella story, and a year-long correspondence between the hero and heroine that gives everyone an overview of what else will be happening in Tabor Heights in Year Two.



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