Writer’s Retreat

A Writer’s retreat that left me buzzing.P1040506 (1024x768)

Held at the Paradise Valley Lodge near Rotorua,  New Zealand’s thermal wonderland. The Lodge is in a peaceful rural setting far from the madding crowds, with manicured gardens that are not only a delight to the eye, they gave us time to replenish our creative minds and souls.

The retreat is a time to re-kindle friendships, give encouragement to other writers, listen to workshops that hone our craft and above all, to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people.

This year we were privileged to have the very talented author, Sophia James deliver a workshop on character development and layering character in your writing.  Sophia is  a very successful historical romance author and wriCapturetes for Harlequin Mills & Boon.


She explained that while the historical hero could literally get away with murder because he existed in a less politically correct and meaner world, fraught with danger where lives were easily lost and medicines non-existent, and life was infinitely more difficult, the contemporary hero has to be larger than life too,  a man who others find attractive inside and out, a man who stands out from the crowd, and is dangerous and rawly attractive.

So how does an author create these strong, memorable characters who will stand out from the ordinary in what is a very crowded market place?  Sophia’s answer is to get to know your character, inside and out, to take risks, and above all remember that every detail has to count.

A strong name is a good place to start … ideally a name that can be shortened.

Put this name in a circle in the centre of the page then ask the questions that matter. First concentrate on looks, mannerisms… Hands are important … in a book you need to consider every tiny detail…why are his/her hands like this? What has made them this way? Dark questions throw up dark answers…you don’t answer these questions, you drop them in… and at this stage write down any ideas, no matter how wild…and when you as the author have asked ten questions … ask two or three more, don’t take the first choice, the easy choice, dig deeper and this way you create a character who will tell his own story.P1040527 (1024x716)

Physical imperfections lead a reader to question the character’s past and will inevitably spark more questions, and make your reader sit up and take notice.  In the first three chapters you lay a trail of bait that makes a reader question what is going on, and in doing so you hook a reader and keep them turning the pages in the need to find the answers.

This thought-provoking workshop has given me a greater insight into the craft of writing.





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Published on Monday, November 11th, 2013, under Latest News

4 Responses to “Writer’s Retreat”

  1. Susanne Bellamy says:

    Sounds like a great writing retreat and what excellent advice, Shirley. I love Sophia’s stories, and her depth of characterisation is one of the main reasons. Flawed heroes, physically challenged heroes, but especially her nearly blind hero. Am going to reread that story this holiday.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Shirley says:

      Thanks for stopping by. It was a stupendous workshop crammed full of really useful, practical information. If you ever get a chance to go to a workshop of Sophia James, I would recommend it to anyone.

  2. Gaylene Atkins says:

    Great write up Shirley.

    • Shirley says:


      Thank you so much for stopping by…it was a great weekend and I’m still buzzing. Will be blogging next week on the Workshop You and Jenny did on working with Runes.

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