How to Make a Character Stand Out in a Novel

How to Make a Character Stand Out in a Novel

The profession or the jobs of your character does plays a major role in making your novel a hit.

That’s because a character’s profession affects the entire story.

A job or profession gives an indication of personality, class, wealth and motivation. You can use it as a stereotype or as a short-hand description or develop the character with it.

Just think for a moment. What character attributes would you give to a teacher?

Perhaps the teacher in your imagination is a dotty old professor. A man dressed in tweed with patches on his elbows, a mop of thick grey hair and horn-rimmed spectacles. He teaches classics and quotes passages from Cesar’s Gallic Wars.
Alternatively, the teacher of your imagination may be a young ambitious woman of Anglo-Caribbean descent who teaches physics. She wears a smart white lab coat and red, five-inch heel stilettos. She’s sassy. She drives a sports car and the boys in the class don’t know where to look when she comes into the lab.

Muriel Spark’s character Jean Brodie from the novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a highly idealistic character with an exaggerated romantic view of the world. The phrases Spark gives her character are now clichés in the English language. “Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life.” “These years are still the years of my prime. It is important to recognise the years of one’s prime, always remember that.” ‘I am a teacher! First, last, always!’  Spark gives the character the name of the historical Jean Brodie the common law wife or mistress of Deacon Willie Brodie.  Brodie was an Edinburgh cabinet maker and thief hanged from a gallows of his own design. The fictional Jean is doomed like her namesake whose husband was the was the inspiration for the gothic novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. 

Now think about a taxidermist? Somehow there is always something a bit creepy about this job. Is it the association with dead things, the dismembering of bodies or the macabre nature of the results of their work – an animal that looks alive but is dead? The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Moss is a story in which ghosts and ghoulish patriarchal secrets, estranged female psyches, and tumultuous bird-life. All these elements coexist in a compulsively readable yarn.The novel is a cabinet of curiosities, a tale of sexual predation and female revenge. The protagonist Connie is bright, beautiful, determined, and has a very strong stomach. She’s a victim of traumatic memory loss. The plot involves her mind’s recuperation from obscene events 10 years ago. A crime opens the story. A woman’s corpse is found outside Blackthorn House, where Connie is attempting to stuff a jackdaw. The woman has been garrotted with taxidermist’s wire.

These examples show that giving your character a profession enables you to start building that character and the character, in turn, helps you to build the story. In my novel Sinclair, which is set in the late 18th century, Sinclair is a man of the Enlightenment who has rejected religion. This leaves him isolated from his family and much of society. He is a dedicated doctor who wants to heal people.

Fantasy jobs

If the story is a realistic fiction, it’s best to avoid ridiculous characters and professions that don’t exist in the real world.On the other hand, if you are writing a general fiction story, an absurd and unrealistic profession is perfectly acceptable as long as you stick to the descriptions you have given about that character and his or her profession. For example, if you plan on writing a fantasy fiction, your character will probably include mythical creatures such as goblins, trolls, giants, or unicorns. The main character will possibly possess magical powers again consistency is the key here – what can your character do with magic and what are their limitations? Limitations are often the making of a character.

Sci-fi

Even in Sci-fi, the best characters have jobs: Ship’s captain, the General of an invading army, the pilot or navigator of a space of underwater cruiser. Phillip Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a science fiction novel describing humanity’s struggle for survival in a post-apocalyptic world after a nuclear war has irradiated the Earth, forcing humans to create a separate colony on Mars. Character Rick Deckard is a bounty hunter who is about to have one bad day.

Unlike the bounty hunters of the Wild West, this space age cowboy will, within the space of twenty-four hours, have to kill six state-of-the-art androids, have an inter-galactic corporation mess with his mind, meet a metaphysical god twice, and discover an extinct animal.

Rick clearly lacks empathy for androids, his electric sheep, and for his wife which, in an ironic twist, is the very fault androids are accused of and as a result, they must be killed. Rick is a hypocrite, in a way he represents the hypocrisy of mankind. He punishes androids for lacking empathy when he’s the least empathetic person on the planet.

Ironic Jobs

Some authors and screenwriters choose to write an ironic character that doesn’t match their profession. Other times, a profession can be used to create a twist in the plot. This is usually true for novels with a dramatic theme. A character could be shown doing something they don’t enjoy at all. They are bored of their ordinary life and their ordinary profession.

Take “Fight Club”, a book by Chuck Palahniuk for example; in this novel, his protagonist who is never named is a man who works as a product recall specialist. Our protagonist hates his job and his lifestyle. In this anti-capitalist story, the narrator attempts to treat his depression and insomnia through obsessive consumerism and knowledge of brands.

On a flight home from a business trip, the Narrator meets Tyler Durden, a soap salesman with whom he begins to converse after noticing the two share the same kind of designer briefcase. After the flight, the Narrator returns home to find that his apartment has been destroyed by an explosion.

With no one else to contact, he calls Tyler and Tyler invite the Narrator to stay at his place but requests that the Narrator hit him first, which escalates into a minor fistfight. The Narrator then moves into Tyler’s home, a large dilapidated house in an industrial area of their city and begins assisting with Tyler’s handmade soap business. They have further fights outside the bar on subsequent nights, and these fights attract growing crowds of men.

The fighting eventually moves to the bar’s basement where the men form a structured club (“Fight Club”) which routinely meets to provide an opportunity for disaffected local men to fight safely for recreation. Ultimately, the story degenerates into a stop the bad guy destroying capitalism movie but the initial idea is interesting.

See also: 10 Things that can turn a character bad.

About the author: Julia Herdman writes historical fiction. Her debut novel Sinclair is available worldwide in print or as an Ebook. Go to Amazon to find out more.

 

Writers of Influence – Mary Wesley

Writers of Influence – Mary Wesley

I loved Mary Wesley’s books. I think I read them all in the 1980s and 1990’s before my children were born. I really enjoyed the TV adaptations too. Her work was refreshing, vivid and bittersweet, her style was effortless. She is a great influence on me still.

Mary Wesley, died aged 90. She amazed the literary world by having her first novel published when she was 70, in 1983.
She went on to write nine more (three of which were filmed for TV), figured regularly in the bestseller lists and was appointed CBE in 1995. A remarkably good-looking woman, she had a commanding presence and could appear reserved when meeting people she did not know. But she was much less confident than she seemed and she had a wonderful sense of humour. She was also a generous friend.

She often claimed that her novels were not autobiographical, but aspects of her life are reflected in the themes that run through them. A typical Wesley heroine is a young woman, damaged by parental dislike or neglect, who ties herself to a conventional man who does not understand her, only to find happiness later with an eccentric, tender lover, who values in her all the qualities no one else has recognised.

The third child of Colonel Harold Mynors Farmar and his wife, Violet, Mary Aline was born at Englefield Green, Windsor Great Park. She grew up hardly knowing her father and believing that her mother preferred her elder sister.
It was assumed that she would never have to work for her living and so she was not sent to school, which added to her isolation. Her beloved nanny was sacked when she was three and her minimal education was left to a series of foreign governesses.

Regretting this, in the 1930s she attended lectures on international politics and anthropology at the London School of Economics (60 years later she was awarded an honorary fellowship there).

She was presented at court and married Lord Swinfen in 1937. Having given birth to two sons, she had fulfilled her parents’ expectations, only to scandalise them when she left her husband. They were divorced in 1945. The second world war, which was to form the background to many of her novels, changed everything for her.

Like so many well-bred young women, she found work in intelligence. She once told an interviewer that the war years gave her generation a very good time: “an atmosphere of terror and exhilaration and parties, parties, parties”.

It was in 1944, dining at the Ritz, that she met Eric Siepmann, the Winchester and Oxford-educated playwright, and journalist. Siepmann’s father was German and his mother Irish. Her family strongly disapproved.

They lived together until his second wife could be persuaded to divorce him and then married in 1952, settling in Devon. Ten years after their first meeting he wrote in his autobiography, Confessions Of A Nihilist, that she was “somebody whom I really loved, who believed in God and who thought that loving meant what you give and not what you take”.

Their years together were so happy that Siepmann’s death in 1970 devastated Wesley. She felt as though she had been cut in half, “like a carcass at the butcher’s”. Siepmann had changed jobs frequently and never accumulated any capital, and his death left her bereft and without an income. Wesley sold her jewellery and knitted for whatever her customers could pay.
She had been writing for years but had no confidence in what she produced, in spite of her husband’s encouragement, and threw most of it away. Her first published works, in 1968, were two children’s books, and a third followed in 1983. It was only after Siepmann’s death that she found her voice.

Then, in Jumping The Queue, she wrote about a woman who could not bear to go on living after her beloved but eccentric husband’s death and planned a suicidal picnic.

This quirky, sad and very funny novel was quite unlike anything else that was being published in the early 1980s. Had it not been for the intervention of her friend Antonia White, it might have followed its predecessors into the bin. With White’s encouragement, Wesley began to submit the manuscript to publishers.

Several companies turned down Jumping The Queue on the grounds that there was no interest in “that kind of book”, but when her then agent Tessa Sayle sent the book to James Hale of Macmillan, he confounded his rivals. Her work soon found a wide public and was admired by critics.

Much was made of the fact that the novels are full of illicit sex and that the characters are free with the sort of four-letter words that few women of Wesley’s age and class would use. Perhaps more interesting, although it was less remarked at the time, is the hate and violence beneath the surface. Several of her heroines kill, from Mathilda in Jumping The Queue to Sophie, the unloved but deeply lovable child of The Camomile Lawn (1984, and filmed for TV in 1992).

It is the violent expression of long-buried anger and distress, quite as much as the frank sexuality of her heroines, that makes her work so different. Her novels are suffused not only with her humour but also with the emotions she preferred not to discuss, and they are inimitable. A book about the West Country with photographer Kim Sayer, Part Of The Scenery, was published in 2001.

She had always dressed elegantly, even when she couldn’t afford a railway ticket to London. She enjoyed success, the strange circus of book launches and the excitement of planning the film of a book (even if she tended to dislike the films that emerged). Book promotion tours made her feel she was earning her living and doing something for her publishers in return. She delighted in good reviews and was stung when she was attacked, especially since she avoided reviewing books which she did not like.

She really enjoyed writing, and that quality of pleasure is in everything she wrote. She complained bitterly when a plot got stuck, but she was desolate and lonely when a book was completed and had been handed over.

Her best-known book, The Camomile Lawn, set on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall, was turned into a television series and is an account of the intertwining lives of three families in rural England during World War II. After The Camomile Lawn (1984) came Harnessing Peacocks (1985 and as a TV film in 1992), The Vacillations of Poppy Carew (1986 and filmed in 1995), Not That Sort of Girl (1987), Second Fiddle (1988), A Sensible Life (1990), A Dubious Legacy (1992), An Imaginative Experience (1994) and Part of the Furniture(1997). A book about the West Country with photographer Kim Sayer, Part of the Scenery, was published in 2001. Asked why she had stopped writing fiction at the age of 84, she replied: “If you haven’t got anything to say, don’t say it.”

Her take on life reveals a sharp and critical eye which neatly dissects the idiosyncrasies of genteel England with humour, compassion, and irony, detailing in particular sexual and emotional values. Her style has been described as “arsenic without the old lace”. Others have described it as “Jane Austen plus sex”, a description Wesley herself thought ridiculous.[6] As a woman who was liberated before her time Mary Wesley challenged social assumptions about the old, confessed to bad behaviour and recommended sex. In doing so she smashed the stereotype of the disapproving, judgemental, past-it, old person. This delighted the old and intrigued the young.

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/jan/01/guardianobituaries.books1, Wikipedia

 

Writers of influence – Hilary Mantel

Writers of influence – Hilary Mantel

The dead are always present, says Hilary Mantel, they live with us in our memory, in our genes and in the legacy of their decisions and actions that shaped the world we live in today. In the words of St Augustine, she says, they are ‘invisible, they are not absent’. My inspiration for it Sinclair was family history.  Whoever we are we all have some sort of family and some sort of history, we could not have got here without it even if we do not know that history.

There is a poem by WH Auden, called “As I Walked Out One Evening”:

‘The glacier knocks in the cupboard,

The desert sighs in the bed,

And the crack in the tea-cup opens

A lane to the land of the dead’

Like most people I come from a long line of very ordinary people; people who struggled most of their lives to make ends meet them to keep a roof over their head.  These are not the people we think of when we think of history. History was, until the last century, very much the domain of great men and great events. When we imagine the past in drama, in books, and, in films, the characters are always the movers and shakers of history; their decisions and actions change the world. Rarely do we think of the ordinary run of the mill people in the background who were most likely our ancestors.

My grandparents were born at the turn of the 19th century, they were Victorians.  They lived through great events, the Great War, the economic depression of the 1930s, the Second World War, and the post-war boom but they did not shape them.  They were lucky, they survived these huge historic events and so did their children; all of them living to ripe old age thanks to the introduction of the National Health Service in 1947. They were the first generation to live in Council Houses, proud tenants who always paid the rent on time. They worked hard and life was not easy but it was certainly better than it had been for their parents who had lived in overcrowded city-centre tenements with no interior sanitation. My Victorian ancestors worked hard, feared the workhouse, died young and were buried unceremoniously and as cheaply as possible.

My novel, Sinclair, is inspired by my husband’s family, the Leadams, who came from Walkington near the market town of Beverley and city of Hull. Christopher Leadam trained as a surgeon in York then moved to London sometime in the 1770s. I recently visited Walkington to look at the place he left to work at Guy’s Hospital. The contrast between this rural idle of the East Riding and the busy streets of Southwark could not be greater. Walkington is a beautiful place but as the 10th child in a family of farmers Christopher, who was clearly bright and adventurous, knew that if he was going to make a life for himself he had to leave the place of his birth.

Christopher died when he was relatively young, probably around 40. We know from the historical record that when he died he was the owner of an apothecary shop in Tooley Street and that he had a 14-year-old son and a wife. Christopher was not a great man of medicine but he was one of the cast of players who helped to heave medicine out of its medieval roots into the modern scientific age.

The Leadams of Tooley Street has led me on a journey into the 18th century and early 19th century. My novel begins in the aftermath of the disastrous American War and ends as France is about to throw the shackles of the ancient regime. Most historical romance is about aristocratic families, families with connections and status. My fiction is about a family too but this family has to make their own way in the world. They have no estate or inheritance to come into; they have to use their hands and their brains to make their way in the world. Men like the Leadams and the fictional Sinclair were men of the professions, industry, ideas, and commerce; they were the men for a new and enlightened age, the men who shaped the world we know today.

As a novelist, I want to tell the story of that change, of the development of the middle class if you like. The middle class is much maligned and forgotten in the pages of history and novels. Today middle-class values are under attack from libertarian capitalists who view government as a barrier to the unfettered accumulation of personal wealth, they do not believe in society or collective endeavour. In the historical novel, the middle class gets lost between the aristocratic splendour of the ballroom and the rags to riches stories of the poor.

‘The pursuit of the past makes you aware, whether you are novelist or historian, of the dangers of your own fallibility and inbuilt bias’ says Mantel. I agree I am the product of my own history. I am not the past I am now writing about the past in a language that is understood today. I am a writer of fiction but I am a historian too; an anachronism an oxymoron. The 19th-century historian Lord Macaulay said, “History has to be burned into the imagination before it can be received by the reason.” I burn with a passion for the past, but I also burn with a passion for the future, for a better future for my children and mankind. I’m biased and I don’t feel guilty about it; all history is biased, I am not perturbed about my desire to tell stories about people who live in townhouses and not country estates, people who value education for its own sake, people who want to engage in the political life of the nation because they want to improve the lives of others and build a better future.

Mantel says, “The historian and the biographer follow a trail of evidence, usually a paper trail. The novelist does that too, and then performs another act, puts the past back into the process, into action, frees the people from the archive and lets them run about, ignorant of their fates, with all their mistakes unmade.” Sinclair makes plenty of mistakes.

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.42  Also available on:

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Writing about women in the past

Writing about women in the past

The position of women in the historical novel is problematic for authors. I am interested in exploring the strengths and weaknesses of my characters and how they cope with the historical world and I want to show women in a positive and realistic light. However, when it comes to writing about women in past I am confronted with some tricky problems. The main problem is that for most of history women were legally, socially and economically subject to the will of men.

In a strange way, poor women were the freest to be themselves as they worked even when they were married and had children. Poor women earned their own money. The problem for these women was that their earnings were always vastly inferior to men’s. A woman alone in the past was almost invariably a poor and exploited one.

It is true that in London and in other large towns where there was the possibility of social anonymity many women turned to prostitution as a more lucrative way of staying alive.

For women of the middling sort, I hesitate to use the word class here, as for most of history there was no middle class as we know today, financial dependence on men was the norm even into the middle of the last century. Of course, financial dependence on men has not gone away as women are still paid on average 16% less than men for the same work but women are thankfully no longer forced into financial servitude to men.

A single ‘free’ woman in the past was the exception. Any unmarried woman would almost certainly be viewed as unsuccessful.

Marriage and children were the markers of success for a woman in past. With no meaningful contraception, women were constantly burdened with pregnancy and subject to premature death in childbirth. They were responsible for almost all childcare unless a woman was wealthy enough to employ a nurse or nanny.

Of course marriage still an honourable estate for most men and women but more women are going it alone than ever before and are happy with their decision. For the majority of us who marry, it’s a struggle to manage a demanding career and a family no matter how successful we are in our chosen profession.

So how does the modern author go about creating their female historical characters?

Well, some authors focus their attention on the few women who broke the mould in the past while other abandon any sense of historical verisimilitude. Some use the Cinderella formula while others make their female characters masculine, sassy and ruthless. All of these forms can work if the story is good enough but they were not for me in the Tales of Tooley Street as the characters are inspired by actual people who lived and worked at 65 Tooley Street for three generations.

Approaches to representing female characters in the past:

Some argue that The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders (commonly known simply as Moll Flanders) a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1722 is the prototype for a female character who by the end of the novel controls her own life and is financially independent. Moll achieves what many feminists call success.

Feminist writer Diana Del Vecchio says, “By the end of the book, Moll has completely appropriated the role of the husband, the provider, the masculine, the seeker, the adventurer, the leader, the thinker, and has figuratively donned the clothing of man, while keeping her nature as woman intact. She makes the final decision to enter and sign a legal contract with her son, where he manages her inherited land and gives her an annual compensation of the lands’ produce. When she returns to Jemy, it is she that supplies him with a dowry of a gold watch, a hundred pounds in silver, a deerskin purse, Spanish pistols, three horses with harnesses and saddles, some hogs, two cows, and other gifts for the farm. She enters this relationship with the fortune of her inheritance and the many accouterments that she has acquired and accumulated in her years as a thief. For the first time in her life, she forms a relationship with a man, where she is the one in control.”

The fact that Moll has to step outside the law to become independent is the problem for me but it is probably a realistic one as Defoe was fully aware of the way society worked in the early 18th century. Prostitution and thieving were rife in London in the 18th century but most women involved in the trade did not end up like Moll. Most ended in an early grave, at the end of a noose or transported for life if caught. My character is inspired by a respectable widow who raises her son to be a successful doctor so prostitution and thieving are not options for her.

Historian Lucy Worsley’s most recent BBC TV series on the Wives of Henry III offers an alternative approach to the female character and narrative in history.

In the series, Dr. Worsley looked at the events of Henry’s reign through the eyes of the women involved. She cleverly managed to breath new life into this overworked territory by showing Katherine of Aragon as a competent and popular queen not as the obsessively religious woman of traditional portrayals. She showed Katherine was intelligent, ambitious and for much of her 24-year marriage to Henry, she gave as good as she got. Anne Boleyn too was shown as a clever and ambitious woman betrayed by her husband and removed on trumped up charges of adultery. Jane Seymour was a young and tragic a woman fed to the old lecher of a king by her male relatives only to die in childbirth. Ann of Cleaves was a smart political operator who negotiated herself out of disaster and ended up one of the richest women in England. Catherine Howard was what we would call an abused child who did not know how to say no to powerful and determined men; and, Katherine Parr was a wily woman of great learning and intellect who used her position to promote the establishment of the ‘new religion’ Protestantism and managed to outmaneuver and outwit her enemies at court.

In my own writing, I have taken the Lucy Worsley approach. My heroine, Charlotte Leadam, the widow of the Tooley Street surgeon, Christopher Leadam, is intelligent and resourceful but she is an 18th-century woman living in 18th century London. She faces financial ruin when her husband dies. As a woman, she cannot run the apothecary shop she owns because she cannot hold an apothecary license as a woman but she must pay her husband’s debts. As a widow, she yearns for the return of the feeling of financial security and independence she enjoyed when she was married but she does not want to remarry.  Charlotte achieves her desires by complying with some social conventions of the day and by ignoring others but she’s always well within the law. Here’s an excerpt.

“You and John will stay here with us now that Christopher has gone,” her mother said, in a tone that indicated it was not a matter for discussion.

“That’s very kind of you and father, but Christopher has not gone, as you put it. He died; my husband is dead. I am a widow, not an abandoned child.”

“We know that, dearest. Your father and I comprehend the situation all too clearly,” she said, handing her daughter a fresh towel and a bar of soap. “You’re a woman without a husband and without an income. You cannot simply go back to your old life, Charlotte; it no longer exists. Your father and I have discussed the matter, and we have decided that it is best that you and John stay here where we can provide for you. That is until you marry again.”

The flame of ire burning in Charlotte’s chest was rekindled and refuelled. Whilst she could not dispute her mother’s analysis of the situation, she was nonetheless livid with her for expressing it so clearly. She bit her lip, held her tongue and breathed the long slow breaths that Christopher had taught her to use in such situations. Experience told her that this was not the time or the place to have an argument with her mother. Losing her temper never worked; she had to be more cunning than that. As calmly as she could she said, “Mother, I have no plans to remarry.”

“I’m not saying that you have to forget Christopher. I’m not that cruel and insensitive. ” She pointed to the bath. “Your father took this in lieu of payment from a whore in St James’s. The poor woman could not pay her rent either, so your father took the bath before the landlord did. My friend Mrs. Peacock says that bathing is of great benefit for the nerves, so I thought you might like to try it. I shall not be doing so: I’m too old to change the habits of a lifetime. Besides, they cost a fortune in hot water – which is all very well for Mrs. Peacock: her husband is a banker. And I can’t use poor Millie like this again; she is exhausted with carrying the pails from the kitchen.”

When her mother had gone Charlotte launched herself face down onto the bed and let out a long, low scream of frustration. How dare her mother decide what she was going to do with her life without even talking to her about it? And why had she told her about the whore? Was she trying to warn her what happens to women who are left on their own?

Julia Herdman writes historical fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon 

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The Apothecary Poet

The Apothecary Poet

Like my hero Sinclair, the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821) studied to become doctor but unlike Sinclair’s his heart was not really in it. Keats’s letters to Fanny Brawne are among the most famous love letters ever written. As next-door neighbours, they exchanged numerous short notes, and occasionally more passionate letters.

Fanny Brawne

Keats trained as an apothecary at Guy’s Hospital from 1815 to 1816 and attended lectures on the principles and practice of surgery by the famous surgeon Sir Astley Cooper who also makes a brief appearance in my novel. In 1816, Keats received his apothecary’s licence, which made him eligible to practise as an apothecary, physician, and surgeon.

Keats’s desire to become a poet led him to abandon medicine soon after he completed his training. In his ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ recalls his experience of caring for the dying:

The weariness, the fever and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows spectre-thin, and dies.

Ironically, it was his medical training that made him such a good carer for his brother Tom when he died from tuberculosis. In giving that care Keats became infected with the disease himself; there was no inoculation at the time, the now well-know BCG vaccine was first used in humans in 1921. Infection for Keats meant certain death but not before, he fell in love and wrote some of the world’s greatest poetry and love letters. Here is one of them.

“25 College Street, London

My dearest Girl,
This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my Mind for ever so short a time. Upon my Soul I can think of nothing else – The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you again[s]t the unpromising morning of my Life – My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love – You note came in just here – I cannot be happier away from you – ‘T is richer than an Argosy of Pearles. Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you. My Creed is Love and you are its only tenet – You have ravish’d me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often “to reason against the reasons of my Love.” I can do that no more – the pain would be too great – My Love is selfish – I cannot breathe without you.  Yours for ever, John Keats

Their love story was made into a film – Bright Star in 2009. It stars Ben Whishaw as Keats and Abbie Cornish as Fanny. It was directed by Jane Campion, who wrote the screenplay inspired by Andrew Motion’s biography of Keats; Motion served as a script consultant on the film. The film was in the main competition at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, and was first shown to the public on 15 May 2009.The film’s title is a reference to a sonnet by Keats titled “Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art”, which he wrote while he was with Brawne.

For more see: http://englishhistory.net/keats/letters/love-letter-to-fanny-brawne-13-october-1819/

Julia Herdman writes #historical #fiction that puts women to the fore. Her latest book Sinclair, Tales of Tooley Street Vol. 1. is  Available on Amazon – Paperback £10.99 Kindle £2.29  Also available on:

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

Amazon New Zealand

Amazon South Africa

Amazon USA