Monday, 17 December 2012

Character Study - Alyssa James in SONATA

I always begin any new book by choosing a setting I know and love, and then by creating the characters I want to put in that setting. Only after that do I start thinking about the plot. Then I write a synopsis for that plot before I write page one of the book. 

Any of these three things, setting, characters, or plot, can change as my story grows, but I have a very complete plan before I start any new novel.

This is, of course, just my way of writing. I realized that many very fine authors have started with the first line of their stories and kept going until the last lines. Who could ever forget “Scarlet O’Hara was not a beautiful woman.” And “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” I don’t know whether Margaret Mitchell was a planner or a seat-of-the-pantser. But somehow I suspect she was the latter. Gone With the Wind has a spontaneity that I don’t think could ever come from advanced planning. But perhaps I’m wrong. After all, she gives us a detailed backstory of how Scarlet’s mother came to marry the improbable Irishman O’Hara.

I like complex multigenerational stories. And I really like older men. In Sonata Sean McAllister, the father of my heroine Sayuri, is a fifty-something millionaire tech tycoon. He’s handsome and fit. He swims and kayaks. And he’s been a widower for eighteen years. 

His daughter, my heroine, Sayuri, comes home after studying in Paris to find him engaged to a woman she’s never met and about whom she knows nothing. Who is Alyssa James? Below is the brief character study I originally drew of Alyssa. As Sonata developed, Alyssa became much more important to the plot than I originally intended, and I watched her character shift and change as my story shifted and changed. Alyssa James, as I originally drew her below, developed into a quite different character by the end of my story. That sometimes happens. Still, for me, it’s important to have a clear image in mind for each of my characters before I begin writing.

Alyssa James:
Sean McAllister’s fiancĂ©.  Sean met her when her firm was hired to do some consulting for his business. Alyssa emigrated to Canada eight years ago from Great Britain. At thirty five, she’s nearer Sayuri’s age than her father’s. Alyssa is the first woman Sean has been serious about since his wife’s death, 16 years ago. 

Alyssa has blond hair, worn in an elegant French twist and an English peaches and cream complexion.  She’s a bit shorter than Sayuri, graceful, sophisticated, worldly. She wears expensive designer clothes and stiletto heels and wouldn’t dream of going out without a hat. Her long fingernails are painted crimson. Expensive scent. (Guerlain?) She wears furs. Extremely feminine, she carries herself like a model.
She’s given to occasional sarcasm with Sayuri when Sean isn’t around. Sugar sweet when he is.
Alyssa James is the picture of an older man’s trophy wife, apparently in it for financial security and social position. She sees Sean’s daughter, Sayuri, as a potential threat.

Below is a brief excerpt from Sonata that gives a hint of Alyssa’s character at the beginning of my story.

Alyssa smiled. “You must stay with us while you’re in Vancouver. The house is certainly large enough for all of us. I hope you’ll continue to consider it your home.” 
Sayuri was shocked into silence. Was she being told, none too subtly, that she was a guest on her own home?
Her father spoke sharply. “Of course Sayuri will stay here. Where else would she stay?”
“Just as I said, dear. We must organize some dinner parties and perhaps a dance to welcome your daughter back to our home.” 
Sayuri threw a startled glance at her father. Our home? Alyssa was living here? She took a deep breath.  Of course she’d be living here. After all, they weren’t children and they were engaged to be married. 
She turned to Alyssa and responded. “I have an incredible amount of work ahead of me in the coming months, preparing for my upcoming recitals and for my performance with the VSO. And I’ve been invited to replace the cellist in the Amalphi Quartet.  On top of that, I’ve agreed to take some advanced students at the Conservatory and give some Master Classes at the University. I’m afraid I won’t have much time for socializing.”
A small frown crossed Alyssa’s features. “I shouldn’t think you’d need to teach, Sayuri. Surely your father can support you until your concert career builds in North America. You should concentrate on performing.”
“But I like teaching. It’s as important a part of my life as performing.”
Alyssa shrugged her shoulders, a small dismissive gesture. “As you like. We’ll keep the social life to a minimum until after your recital at the Chan. We must have a reception here after that. And of course you’ll be involved in our wedding. We’re having the rehearsal dinner at the Club and a reception after the ceremony here at the house. We’ll bring in caterers for that. It’s a bit beyond Nora and Joseph, I’m afraid.”
Her father cleared his throat. “We were hoping you’d play at our wedding.”
Sayuri tried to hide her dismay. The wedding was that imminent? “Of course I’ll play for you. When is it to be?”
Alyssa answered. “Six weeks from today. We were just waiting for you to arrive.” She put her arm through Sean’s and smiled at Sayuri. “Shall we go in to dinner?”

I currently have three novels and one short story. I hope you will add them to your reading list and let me know if you enjoy them.  All are on my Goodreads page, so you can share your 'review' there if you choose.

 • Abigails Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
Abigail's Christmas is a holiday story about Abigail who goes looking for a tree on Christmas Eve, and ends up with the man of her dreams in a sleigh in the Rockies --- with a wedding in the offing! Is it real?  Is she dreaming?  Or is it just Christmas magic?

 • The Memory of Roses ~ The enduring love story of two generations of the McQuaid family unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu. It is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.

 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to discover some startling circumstances:  
~ A robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame;
~ Alyssa James who she barely knows, is about to become her new stepmother; 
~ and Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, is a charming Irishman who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. 
It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to send a comment. I will get back to you as quickly as I can.

Blair McDowell