Developing and Sustaining a Character in a Series by Trevor Belshaw
I am delighted to welcome author Trevor Belshaw to the blog today. He is also my my stable mate following my move to Spellbound Books. It is interesting to learn about one of the main characters in his Tracy's Hotmail series. Over to you,Trevor.
Hi, and thank you for the invitation to appear on your wonderful writer’s blog. It really is a pleasure to be here.
My name is Trevor Belshaw an author writing under the name, T. A. Belshaw. I write in many different genres including Children’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Cosy Crime, Suspense and Humour. Today I’d like to expand a little on one of my favourite characters. Tracy, from the two-book, Tracy’s Hot Mail series which has recently been taken on by the wonderful people at Spellbound Books Ltd. Spellbound have commissioned a third book, provisionally titled, Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail.
Tracy's Hot Mail is an unusual book in that it has no formal chapters. The text is laid out as a series of emails sent from Tracy (the new girl in the office,) to her best friend Emma who works at the bank. Tracy is a gossip collector and dishes the dirt on friends and colleagues alike. No one is spared, her benefit fiddling father and porn obsessed boyfriend get the same treatment as her boss, Mr Tugger and the office tart, Olivia. The book is a rowdy romp, detailing the life and longings of a typical British working girl.
So, who is Tracy?
Tracy is every girl on the bus, every girl who has a boss, every girl who works in an office. She's the girl on the end of every cheesy chat-up line. She’s the girl that older men mistakenly believe they have a chance with, the girl that has opinions on everything and everyone; even if those opinions are based solely on second or third hand information.
I found Tracy on a bus one morning when my car was in for repair after a minor bump. I didn’t have a courtesy car so had to use public transport to get to work. On the Monday morning I sat in front of a group of five, late-teen, early twenty-something girls who didn't waste time taking a breath for the entire bus ride.
They gossiped about bosses, boyfriends, rivals and workmates. They chatted about nightlife, drunkenness, mishaps and family. By the time they got off the bus I felt I knew their colleagues and close relatives intimately.
The following morning, I was lucky enough to get the seat behind two of the girls I’d had the good fortune to sit with the day before. This time the conversation was held in something of a secretive, raised whisper, but it was still loud enough for me to be able to hear. Before we’d travelled fifty yards, I heard the first gasp of, ‘she didn’t?’ quickly followed by, ‘how could she? and in public too.’
I pricked up my ears and set my brain to auto record.
By midweek Tracy was born. I had taken the almost childlike innocence of one girl, the pure, vitriolic spite of another and the all-knowing worldliness of a third. I added the fashion tastes of one particular girl and the proneness to blonde moments from… well, a blonde actually. Seven girls contributed to the finished character in one way or other. I would like to thank them all personally as they gave me the tools to build the ultimate gossip machine that is Tracy.
The real people the girls spoke about and the situations they discussed, didn’t make it into Tracy's world. The majority of it was far too mundane. I did amalgamate two of the most talked about managers to make Mr Blunt; it seems all offices have a character like him. Olivia came from my own head but Tracy's continual description of her as, 'the tart,' came straight from the back of the bus. It was a term used more regularly than any other.
The second book in the series is, Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail in which Tracy is determined to rise to the heights of a D-list celebrity.
Tracy’s Celebrity Hot Mail is a satirical look at the celebrity business. Writing comedy is extremely hard work although a lot of people (who have never tried to do it, seem to think it’s easy. Tracy has to have at least one funny situation per page and there are 180 pages in the sequel. I haven’t counted the jokes, quips, one liners or funny set pieces, but there are a lot, and every single one of them has to work just as well as the previous one. The humour can’t be forced either, if a joke doesn’t make me smile, it won’t make the reader smile either, so it has to be cut.
As I mentioned earlier, Tracy is making a comeback via those lovely people at Spellbound Books. Spellbound have asked me to dig into Tracy’s life again to see what she’s been up to over the last few years. She is now in her twenties, and has lived through the political firestorm of Brexit and the problems her celebrity career suffered during the Covid lockdowns. There will also be a few flashback diary entries from Tracy’s last year at school.
In her own mind, Tracy has matured into an independent, sophisticated, twenty something woman. In reality, not a lot has changed. Tracy still believes in her own, quirky brand of feminism. She still adores Primark and Ali’s market stall. She still gets herself into dodgy situations most women would see coming a mile off and she still slips the words and phrases she doesn’t understand into her every day conversations.
All the characters from the previous books are still around, including Gran, whose political views make Margaret Thatcher seem like a communist. Spotty Irene who is still scouring the internet for miracle cures for her rampant acne, and, Olivia, Tracy’s arch enemy whose name can’t be uttered without the epithet, ‘tart.’
Tracy’s Twenties Hot Mail, coming soon from Spellbound Books.