Wednesday 20 October 2021

Don't Give Up on Characters

Pic of laptop

It can be disheartening at times when you've been working on a book that just isn't working out. It can be due to a number of reasons - maybe the story isn't strong enough or the scenes and characters in your head simply won't transfer onto the page in the way you'd hoped. Giving up on a project can be hard but it doesn't have to be the end.

It was around twenty years ago that I started to write a story about a fairly large group of friends after being inspired by the film St Elmo's Fire. I envisioned this group of friends that were once inseparable but, years later, had splintered off into smaller pairings who rarely saw or spoke to the others. What had happened to drive them apart, and could they regain the bond they'd once had?

St Elmo's Fire

I worked on this story on and off for a few years. Some of the characters changed. It became a smaller group of friends and there were now just four of them. I had a title for the book. I think I even submitted it to agents but it obviously never got anywhere and I shelved it. I worked on other books. I submitted some of them to agents. I wrote more books. I self-published some and had others published with HQ Digital. But still, those characters from years and years ago stayed in my head.

A few years ago, I went back to that book. I wrote a synopsis and the first chapter. It had changed a bit - there were now only three friends - but those three main characters were still as clear in my head, still fighting to get out on the page. But my editor wasn't keen on the story and I wrote something else instead and figured it was probably time to forget about Lily and her friends. I'd tried to write their story for such a long time but it clearly wasn't meant to be.

A bit more time passed. More books were written and published. I'd been thinking about writing a time-travel Christmas rom com for a long time but was worried I couldn't pull it off. And then I watched a time-travel TV show on Netflix called Dark. I was hooked, and my daughter and I binged the first two seasons within days (and then had to wait an agonising year for the final season). Like St Elmo's Fire years before, I was inspired to finally write my own time-travel story. 

Dark | Netflix

I already had the title and knew the basic storyline (it had been playing in my head for a long time) but I didn't know who the characters were who would take part in this adventure. And then it hit me: Lily and her friends. I already knew them and could see them vibrantly in my mind and they fit perfectly into my time-travel concept.

Most of the names of the characters had changed over the years, but Lily had been Lily for so long and I couldn't imagine her as anything else. The name for Jonas, however, was borrowed from Dark (it seemed fitting) and this time the main character was called Maisie. It had taken a very long time but finally my characters had names and stories that stuck and The 12 Christmases of You & Me was published a year ago today.

So just because you have to shelve an idea for whatever reason, it doesn't have to be forever. Sometimes characters take a bit of time (or a lot of time in this case) to find their homes.

Find out more about The 12 Christmases of You & Me

The 12 Christmases of You & Me Jennifer Joyce

What if you could go back in time and fix the biggest mistake of your life?

Two years ago, Maisie’s best friend walked out of her life and she hasn’t heard from him since. When she wakes up in 1994, she naturally assumes she’s dreaming. But when she finds herself in the past again the next night and her actions in the dream alter her present-day life, she begins to wonder if she’s somehow hopping back in time. And if she is time-travelling, can she save her friendship with Jonas?

When Maisie is forced to relive Christmases of the past, will she face up to her mistakes, or make them all over again?

The 12 Christmases of You & Me is a magical tale of friendship, first loves, and learning to live in the present.

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