Friday, 28 October 2011

How I Plan A Novel

How I Plan A Novel

Although there are many excellent books on ‘How to Write a Novel’ I decided to share how I plan mine.

Once I have an idea, I don’t plot my novels in detail, chapter by chapter, but I do have a plot in mind.

It is said that every plot can be found in classical fairy tales, folklore and mythology. The hero or heroine goes on a journey, a pilgrimage or a quest and encounters obstacle after obstacle. So I consider which of seven basic plots suits my idea for my new novel.

Romeo and Juliet. Opposition to true love.

The Eternal Triangle. Making a choice.

The Spider and the Fly. A siren luring a male or vice versa.

The Fatal Flaw. A weakness in the hero which causes his or her downfall.

Faust. (Faust sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge.) A debt that must be paid. Something that catches up from the past.

Candide. An inexperienced, naïve hero or heroine, who makes the reader re-evaluate society.

Cinderella. Goodness triumphs.

Next, I consider the theme. Is it duty, greed, jealousy, honour, love, revenge or something else?

With the plot and theme in mind I consider my characters. What motivates them and what are the stakes? What do they have to lose or gain?

Before I begin a novel I must name my main characters – I can spend hours chopping and changing before I decide. I also need to get to know them really well. So I complete an analysis which details their physical appearance, their clothes, accessories (jewellery, fragrance & luggage), health, personality, religion and education.

Having sorted out the above, I fill in the details about their background, address, family home, how long they lived there, do they rent or own their home, the décor, the garden, and the importance of their home.

Finally I create their family, their nationality, class, and income and their family tree which lists births, deaths, names and ages. Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg emerges in the novel but knowing who my characters’ antecedents were adds a sense of reality and usually has a bearing on their lives.

It’s fun getting to know my characters, where they went to school, how they see themselves, their relationships, friends, hobbies, employment, the qualities my hero or heroine seeks in a wife or husband and anything else I think of that will breathe life into them and engage my reader’s interest.

Finally, I switch on the computer and begin to write in the first or third person – usually third person. I introduce my novel to my reader by answering the questions who, what, when where and how in the first few paragraphs. Then, with a little bit of luck and a strict routine I write the first draft.

Rosemary Morris
Historical Novelist

New Releases.
Tangled Love set in England in Queen Anne’s reign. 27.01.2012
Sunday’s Child set in the Regency era. 06.2012


Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Little Madeleine by Mrs Robert Henrey

I have just re-read The Little Madeleine by Mrs Robert Henrey which relates the joys and sorrows of Madeleine, a French girl loved by her mother, who earned a living as a talented seamstress, and her father, ‘a picturesque figure from the Midi.’

"Mrs Henrey’s autobiography is the story of her girlhood in Montmartre and the wasteland near the Paris fortifications, or city walls, where the apache wielded his knife. Her father was a picturesque figure from the midi. Her mother toiled as a talented seamstress, who made ‘adorable’ clothes for Madeleine."

The autobiography brings to life the people and scenes of her childhood along with its few joys and many difficulties. The author never indulges in self pity and reveals impoverished childhood with touching honesty whether writing about a street musician murdered by apaches, her experiences in the 1st world war, her intermittent ill-health probably due to being under-nourished and her determination to excel at school

As a historical novelist I enjoy reading about eras which have gone with the wind.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Memories of Kenya & The Bolter by Frances Osborne

Memories of Kenya & The Bolter by Frances Osborne

I have mixed memories of my life in Kenya from 1961 to 1982. On the plus side are my happy recollections of the coast with its golden beaches, the grasslands teaming with wild animals, the lush green highlands. On the minus side I was always a stranger in a strange land. I missed my family and friends in England and in spite of a privileged lifestyle wanted to live in England. In fact, one of the happiest days of my life was when I returned to Europe for good.

Although Kenyan life was not one I embraced, I enjoy reading about the country. Karen Von Blixen’s Out of Africa and Elizabeth Huxley’s Flame Trees of Thika are two of my favourite books. I also found The Lunatic Express about the building of the railway interesting, and shuddered at the thought of the man eating lions the workers encountered in – if my memory is correct – Tsavo on the way from Mombasa to Nairobi.

I am now reading The Bolter the biography of Idina Sackville by Frances Osborne, about which Valerie Grove of the Times writes: ‘A corker of a subject, Idina’s behaviour…probably inspired The Bolter in Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love. Osborne’s richly wrought descriptions of glittering Paris nights and lush mountainous landscapes of Kenya’s Happy Valley are fabulous…A breakneck-paced, thoroughly diverting story.’

Apart from the account of Idina Sackville’s life are evocative descriptions of Kenya – the land, its people and settlers.

Idina and her second husband, Charles, won a 3,000 acre farm in a government lottery. When they reached their land: “…ahead of them the Aberdare Hills rolled dark green in the setting sun; from them fell ice-cold brooks, swollen by the recent rains. Below these their virgin farmland glowed with luminescent grassland and thick, red soil.”

Although the land had been developed by the time I lived in Kenya, there were many such views in the Highlands and always the rich red, fertile soil. When Idina settled there “Each bush throbbed with creatures large and small. Elephant, giraffe and antelope rustled through breaking out and swaying across open land. Leopard and monkey hung from trees reverberating with birdsong….at night when Idina and Charles sat outside they were surrounded by lookouts watching for wandering elephant, big cats or buffalo – its long, curved horns the most lethal of all.”

All this I can relate to but if I regret anything it is the golden Mombasa beaches on the undeveloped, idyllic south coast where we rented a house during our children’s school holidays. We played in the surf, swam in the warm sea and searched for shells at peace with the world.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Spinach and Curd Cheese Curry

I am writing a novel set in Queen Anne’s reign in which the hero lived in India for some years. He became a vegetarian and this is one of the recipes he brought back to England. I hope you will enjoy the receipt – as he would have called it - as much as he did.

Spinach and Curd Cheese Curry

¼ kilo paneer – curd cheese
½ kilo baby spinach
¼ kilo fresh or frozen peas
3tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oi
2 tablespoons of finely grated ginger
1 or 2 chillis optional.
Juice of one lemon
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste

1. Cut curd cheese into cubes. Deep fry until golden brown and put in a bowl of cold water to keep it soft until needed.
2. Shred and cook the spinach until tender in four tablespoons of water. Add more water if necessary to prevent it burning.
3. Cook the frozen or fresh peas.
4. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the ginger and chillis and stir fry for one minute. Add the spinach and peas with the salt and pepper. Cook for two or three minutes on a high heat stirring all the time. Add the curd cheese and, if necessary a little water to keep the ingredients moist, and cook for two minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Serve with lemon wedges, chappatis and or rice with or without a dahl, a spiced soup and green salad tossed in lightly salted yoghurt.