Drawing on reality is Jessica Dafoe’s key to believable characters.
It has been an exciting journey writing and publishing my debut novel, The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart. It may seem that writing fiction requires the least amount of leg work and research; that it’s all make-believe and therefore can involve whatever content the author desires. The latter is quite true and is why I absolutely love writing fiction, but as for the former, I entirely disagree, especially if the end goal is to produce a work that is identifiable and meaningful to a specific audience.
To bring this novel to fruition and to make it the most appealing it can be to the audience that I intend to reach, I have spent the past year observing, analyzing, reflecting and enjoying. I have observed the tenacity and drive of young professional women I am happy to call friends and confidants, I have analyzed my own accounts of recent years from heartbreak to wonderful romances, career lows to deserving successes and the journeys sought out in destinations I had never intended to venture to but somehow wound up visiting. Each of these points of analysis have benefited me and added to plot.
I’ve learned that to be truly successful when creating a believable character of fiction, drawing on reality and my own vulnerabilities and insecurities as a young woman is paramount. I have reflected on verbal accounts told to me by acquaintances and gal pals. In turn we have enjoyed one another’s company and a ton of laughs while reminiscing about the humour found in our day-to-day sagas, experienced while making it as young professionals. I am thankful for the inspiration that has come via these remarkable friends of mine.
The most exciting leg work and research drummed up by this “little” project resulted due to my selection of the various settings used in the novel. I chose Toronto as the city of residence for the main character, Portia Delaney, seeing as Toronto is a vibrant metropolis with unending opportunity for the career focused. It is not only my home, but has won my heart. About Toronto, I did not need to learn much more. However, Portia’s journey takes her to the City of Light, about which I do know the basics, but the term ‘basic’ when writing about Paris just seems utterly contradictory and inexcusable.
I have had the pleasure of visiting Paris in the past, but the most prevalent knowledge I had was about the touristy sites and the common associations the average North American makes when referring to Paris. I knew that to write this remarkable city into my novel meant truly knowing it the best that I could in the time I had. No, I didn’t hop a plane and head straight to Europe (although I would in a heartbeat); I researched. Not only did I research the history, neighbourhoods and landmarks, but the architecture as well. I found myself in Chapters, a well-known Canadian bookstore chain, on numerous occasions parked in front of a particular fascinating display devoted fully to Paris. I became lost in the art work and photographs, attempting to delve into the culture from the other side of the pond. I will be hopping a plane in the new year, however, to this very destination. Oh la la!
In Portia Delaney’s words,
You can join me if you want, or you can stay here and become taken over by envy while I’m traipsing around the Eiffel Tower and La Louvre, eating baguettes and cheese in a magical ancient courtyard and letting a handsome man in a beret have his way with me. – The Tantalizing Tale of a Bitter Sweetheart by Jessica Ashley Dafoe
It is clear that fiction has imaginative elements to it, but I don’t think that there is a writer of fiction out there that doesn’t draw on the known to create the unknown. This is the beauty of story-telling; we uncover the buried coals to blaze a new and exciting trail.
Successful, lucky in love, taking the world by storm?…..not quite. Portia Delaney is down on her luck, disgruntled in a dead-end, mind-numbing career with little prospects and is not even close to finding a stimulating romance to take her mind off her lacklustre situation. Her defeatist attitude and unmistakable idiosyncrasies don’t help much either.
But with rock bottom comes a choice, lie down and enjoy the cold and barren ground beneath, or climb that ladder of success to the top. Portia finally sets out to do just that. With a fantastic group of friends and a bit of fateful circumstance on her side, she begins her trek up and out of the despair-filled trenches. But Portia soon finds out that with success, often comes hardships and unwelcome competition.
Jessica Ashley Dafoe resides in Toronto where she is an educator by day and a literary enthusiast and writer by night. She attained her BA in English Literature at The University of Ottawa and her B Ed at Brock and Queen’s University.