Making Chicklit Sparkle
In one of my rejection letters from an agent they told me that ‘true chicklit has to sparkle.’
My first reaction was of course to take it like a massive insult, have a nice big glug of Baileys and throw said letter in the bin. I longed for the pre-printed compliment slip that was the usual decline for an unsuccessful submission, but after the initial shock of an agent actually writing anything other than a pre printed sheet it got me thinking. And to be fair to the agent, I think they were 100% right.
So what makes chick lit sparkle? Is it the storylines, the fashion and glitz, the happy ever after ending or the writing style? I think it is partly all that, but in my mind its all about the characters. When you read a thriller you read it for the action, which means you don’t care if the characters are a little two dimensional and a bit wooden. But with chick lit if you don’t get your characters right, then no one's going to care whether their life crumbles down around them or if they don't meet Mr Right.
Take one of my favourite characters Becky Bloomwood from Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series. I couldn’t probably tell you any more what the plot line was for Shopaholic and Baby or Shopaholic and Sister. To me Sophie could write Becky doing just about anything, but I love the character so much that I know I would still love it. It’s the same with one of the very first chick lit books I read Jemima J by Jane Green. I couldn’t tell you what the book was really about, but I still remember Jemima and identifying with her.
After a taking a good hard honest look at my novels I know that they don’t sparkle. I think objectively when I look at my characters I have a fabulous supporting cast. I seem to have cracked it with every other character in my novels except my main character. Which is just a slight flaw in my plan, as when I think of my favourite books it isn’t the quirky other characters I remember.
I think the biggest problem I have is that my main characters are too much like me. With the other characters I create I imagine their personality and I describe it into the book with the flaws and their quirks. But in my head as I see the main character as ‘normal’, independent women in her late 20’s she just becomes like me. All that imagination just goes. And whilst the story goes on around her, I guess if I’m honest you could read the novels and not understand exactly what makes my protagonist tick. As in my head I already know what the main character is like and her inner psyche.
This big revelation on my need to create better characters who would sparkle of any page comes at a time of NaNoWriMo. So I’ve decided to sign up and write a novel (or attempt to) in November which has a brand new sparkly main character who doesn’t resemble me at all (well only in the sense that she will be female). It’s only 50,000 words to write in my spare time, how hard can that be? I’ll keep you updated in the column to let you know how I’m getting on.
Don’t forgot to also tell me what you think it is that makes ‘true chick lit sparkle’. Maybe I can watch out for that too in the NaNoWriMo frenzy.