She came to me in a dream, and I was grateful for that, I had my publisher breathing down my neck for my next book that I hadn’t started. This is, generally, how it begins. I invent a character, one that I can see vividly and give them a voice, a style of dress, habits, flaws and positive traits. I interview them in my head, asking question after question until I know them better than my own sister.
Often the more outrageous a personality; the more straightforward it is to paint them with words. Of course, some don’t make the final cut, and some need tweaking beyond first recognition. But this is my method of writing and my fiction, I feel, has always been the better for it.
So when Nancy Bellerose was born in my slumbered imagination, I awoke full of resolve and clarity, a smile on my face and relaxed shoulders. I could still see her as I stumbled through the morning, as I do, with countless cups of coffee, numerous cigarettes and a love-hate relationship with morning television. She had immaculate hair, well groomed raven black locks, mostly straight until the flicked up kink at the bottom, glossy and smooth. She had impressive cheekbones; her face was slim but not severe. Her hazel almost cat-like eyes were to die for, as were her sultry lips that she would paint red. She adored fashion, loved to see and feel fabrics, bought the finest that her wealthy Papa’s money could buy her.
I would have fun with Nancy Bellerose. I imagined her as a chew men up and spit them out sort of woman. She’d clamber over (and indeed, under) anyone to get ahead, ambitious, ruthless, determined. I knew I needed a twist, a way for my readers to somehow feel as though they could still warm to her; allow her to win in the end. She must have a soft side, one that she concealed from the world, the mask had to slip, the devil horns shrink enough to fit on a small fluffy white halo. They had to love her; she must climb down from her sulky horse and appeal to them. I hadn’t developed the entire story, I rarely do. I prefer to start writing as soon as the character finds their tone and take it each word at a time. I give my character space to grow and move through the story like a strong willed marionette, occasionally they decide which way to turn.
Chapter one was going well, I’d introduced Nancy Bellerose immediately, and she was behaving like a luscious bitch in a coffee shop, almost curdling the goddamn cappuccino she sneered at whilst jangling her disgustingly expensive gold bracelet. Just the simple fact that words were leaving my active fingers as I typed on the keyboard thrilled me more than I can explain, but to have someone as elegantly spiteful paving the way felt like a dream come true. And so the words kept on coming, I had her hurling vicious abuse at her driver, cackling into her designer tailored coat as she splashed some poor woman in murky puddle water. I had her situated at a business lunch, besmirching every idea and ruining everyone’s day. And all this was gravy to my train until I remembered that I hadn’t got my glasses on and a gigantic headache was poking at my temples. I felt quite cross at myself as I rubbed at my stinging eyes, switching off the computer and abruptly called it a day.
I thought I’d take a leaf out of my very own beginnings of a book and pop out for a coffee. I regretted this decision as I felt the cold shards of rain miraculously find their way down the back of my jacket and wet my neck. But by now, the coffee shop was closer, so I slipped inside and hogged the last free table. And fuck me, guess who was there? I thought I’d lost my mind (or at the very least my spectacles again). A waitress came to take my order and, somehow, I just about managed to get the words out of my mouth to ask for a large coffee. Could it really be? But how is that? She looked just like her. I had a strong desire to slap my own face. That woman couldn’t be Nancy Bellerose, I mentally chanted, because I had made her up. She didn’t exist. If she did, then I must have seen her somewhere before and conjured up her face to fit my character? I watched her rebuff her foamy drink and heard the jangle of the bracelet I had just written about moments before.
She turned in my direction and noticed my intent gaze. I’m sure there was a micro expression of hesitancy, but then she smiled that deadly smile with ruby lipstick and blew me a kiss. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t respond. It was absolutely
fucking Bellerose. Nancy
She stood up, fluffing her hair and fastening her long black coat. She sauntered by, in the seductive style of walk I knew she would have. She leaned down to kiss me, leaving a scarlet mark on the flesh of my cheek. She flung the doors open wide and I felt the spit of rain from outside. I followed her out and I watched her get up close to her driver, leaning in to his personal space, seething, shrieking expletives and nastiness. He apologised and immediately opened the car door for her; she slipped inside like a movie star. I glared at the scene before my eyes, the one that I’d written, the one that was happening. I pleaded with her with wide eyes but she sped off, drenching me from head to toe as the tyres raced through a puddle. I heard her laughter and I felt sorry for the poor bastards at the business meeting.