I’ve just finished writing LADY LIGHTFINGERS – a novel partly set in the slum area of 1850s London. Parts of this book turned out to be stark and rather gruelling to write. There is nothing romantic about poverty, when each day must be endured in the battle to survive, and the future seems more of the same. My heroine is a resourceful, gutsy young woman who was able to survive her bad start to life, but grew up streetwise enough to avoid the traps that can beset the poverty stricken, to find happiness and shine through.
Writing stories that have a downbeat theme can be difficult if you don’t want to make your readers miserable and put them off side. There are several qualities a main character needs to stop her from being a sad sack.
The first is a strong sense of optimism, so she doesn’t wallow in a sea of self-pity every time something goes wrong. Secondly, a sense of humour is required. This can be ironic, wry or sarcastic, depending whether it’s being spoken or thought. A heroine should also be brave, and courageous enough to take risks when the chips are down. Even though it might go against the grain, she might decided to sell herself, or get away with crime, if the motivation is great enough. My heroine is tempted by both to help feed and shelter her family. I won’t say which one but the title might give you a clue!
One of the things I like most about saga writing is that the heroine usually rises above fairly humble beginnings, and through personal sacrifice, endures. If she doesn’t succeed in gaining wealth, at least she’ll emerge from her trials a stronger, wiser person – one enriched by personal satisfaction and happiness.