Not Forgotten

I am still here and I have not forgotten this blog.

Currently I am doing research ahead of the proposal for my final project. Combining this with the busiest time of the year at work, having a cold (whats new there!) and trying to have a home life I have not given much thought to this blog recently.

Once my proposal is done and this month is over at work I will have more time and brain cells to dedicate to the site.

Up to date

I have now migrated all the posts from my previous blog to this new site. With the last two months worth I didn’t add any extra comment as they were still quite fresh. It was an interesting experience rereading the posts as this is the first time I have kept anything resembling a diary. It is comforting to know that I felt the same at the last two deadlines and I will get through. I have a mind to keep a personal diary now as both a writing aid and for personal reasons.

Now that the site is up, I will be looking to add Blog posts and reviews on a semi regular basis which I will post once I have an idea of my upcoming workload. I know there is nothing more annoying than big gaps between posting on a site you follow so I will aim to keep to a schedule.

 

Not what you would expect

Originally posted 25.01.12

Two things got me thinking this week. The first was when I went for a sports massage to sort my back out. My previous experiences with massages have been of the relaxing kind and this is how I would describe them in my writing. My eyes are now open. Friday and Saturday were spent with ice packs on my shoulders while gulping down ibruprofen and codeine tablets. Don’t get me wrong, my movement is now much better. I just wasn’t expecting the brutalisation. The searing pain throughout my back and the nightmares of being attacked by women in white gowns.

The second was when I was reading a free novel on my Kindle and the author described two characters going to play nine ball pool. They had a discussion about their respective love lives and then one said ‘I can’t remember if I’m stripes or spots?’ The author here had confused the rules of nine ball and eight ball, easily done if you are not familiar with both games.

I wonder though how many errors like this I have made by assuming I don’t need to research something because I already know the details. How much information is enough? How do we validate our knowledge and how much poetic license is acceptable? Describing a massage as relaxing would not be wrong, describing a sports massage, maybe? I have only had one, it could easily be the injuries I was suffering from caused the pain and the next will be wonderfully relaxing? Likewise, asking whether you are spots or stripes would have been fine if the author had said the characters were playing pool rather than nine ball. To many, the mistake would not have been noticed and it doesn’t affect the story or plot at all even if you do.

I hate using poetic license in my writing. If something is wrong then I can’t bring myself to write it down even if it helps the plot. I have abandoned countless pieces due to either finding out the premise to be flawed or a resolution of the events to obvious to ignore. This said, I enjoy slasher films that require serious suspension of disbelief. Seriously, stop splitting up into groups, sit in a circle so you can’t be sneaked up on. Arm yourself with anything to hand and use one of your mobile phones to ring for help and wait it out. The problem is that this doesn’t make for a good story. This is something I am going to have to come to terms with I think to improve my writing. It is my world I’m creating and, as long as I am not breaking too large rules which break the spell for my reader, my pernicketiness will have to be reigned in.

Are you feeling lucky?

Originally posted 13.01.12

Watch out for the axe wielding murderer behind you! It is Friday the thirteenth after all.

While this may just be the name of a film series to many of us, to others it appears to hold great symbolism. One of my co-workers blamed everything that went wrong today on the date as it is ‘bad luck’. My scoffs were greeted with the usual tripe of there are many things in the universe we don’t understand. This then descended into debate on superstition, religion and holistic medicine.

While the discussion itself left me despairing, it did get me thinking again about the characters in my writing. I typically give them the belief set I have and have not really explored this avenue of characterisation. I thought how fun it could be to add little foibles to my creations. The world renowned scientist who has to have his lucky childhood smurf with him and who falls apart without it. Or how about a hardened war veteran who is afraid of white cats with black paws? Little traits which add reader interest and highlight the characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

Alternatively, they could be used for plot development. Need a reason to send a character somewhere? Have their fortune teller tell them to go! Observance of religious festivals gives rise to all sorts of requirements for people, which could easily be used to advance plot.

This and my recent posts have shown me that although I know my characters, there is so much I don’t know about them, which is true of people in the real world as well now I think of it. To aid myself I am going to create character sheets, a throwback to my Dungeons and Dragons days, which will include things like favourite food, religious attitude, likes and fears, etc. Whilst many things will not be needed – I’m not going to force stuff into the narrative just for the sake of it – it will help me add more realism to my characters and to allow me to get a better feeling of how they may react in a situation.

Resolutions resolved

Originally posted 05.01.12

So another year ends and a new one begins, who would have thought that would happen?

At this time of year the dreaded resolutions come to mind and this year I’ll be making a couple. Having already quit smoking (the secret is to get a stinking cold, it really helps for the first two weeks, after that you’re on your own) and enjoying drinking and red meat far too much, I will focus my resolutions on my writing. My first resolution will be to successfully pass my MA with a good grade. Unlike many resolutions in the past, I think I have a very good chance of fulfilling this one. The first year has gone well and I am actually looking forward to starting work on my final project.

My second resolution is to complete my first novel manuscript. This, if I am honest, is the same resolution I have made for the last two years and, as I am making it again, you can guess how well the previous attempts turned out. This time though, I am much more confident that I will achieve this resolution as well. The first reason is that the course has improved my discipline, which I am first to admit has not been that strong in the past. I am helped this time by the need to complete fifteen thousand words for my MA project. This gives me a structure, a deadline to stick to, and will be a good start.

The course has improved my writing as well, which helps me avoid the plot holes which killed off one novel, the unrealistic characters who only succeeded in murdering another manuscript, and the generally poor prose which halted progress on a few more novels due to my despondency. With these failings resolved, my chances of seeing a book through to the end are significantly improved.

The last reason is because I have more confidence in my own writing. This is due to what I have learned on the course and, more importantly, good and encouraging comments from my tutors and fellow students that have given me self-belief. I can actually do this! Working through the course has also shown me that the publishing world is not as scary a place to enter as I have imagined in the past. I am sure I will get my fair share of rejections, but it is not the impregnable fortress of my nightmares and if I can’t secure an agent the self-publishing route is now a very viable alternative.

All in all, I am quite confident that this is the last time I’ll have to make that particular resolution. Next year, who knows, maybe I’ll resolve to secure my first book deal.

Twittering twit

Originally posted 02.01.12

I have just signed up for Twitter for the first time.

Needless to say I am slightly confused at the moment. How do you know who the real people are?

I’ll persevere and hopefully get my account linked to this website soon.

Food for thought?

Originally posted 29.12.11

The festive season has gotten my little grey cells working overdrive it seems. My latest musings are on the food and drink that our characters consume and how this could cause a stereotypical reaction by the reader to them.

I started thinking along these lines because I was in the pub celebrating early with a few friends when a man in a tatty leather jacket came in with his wife and ordered a pint of lager and a bottle of Smirnoff ice. He then proceeded to drink the bottle while passing the lager to his wife much to my initial shock and then delight. Once home I read through a lot of my recent work and saw opportunities to make characters more interesting just by changing their choice of beverage at the bar or dish they order in a restaurant.

I noticed also how lazy I had been with this part of my characters make up. All my young male characters drink lager. My middle aged women drink wine and my older male characters either drink bitter or whiskey. An eighteen year old man who drank only wine because of a hops allergy would be much more interesting than your run of the mill lager lout.

My thoughts were further prodded when my wife commented on our choice of Christmas dinner and how others may view it. We eschewed the traditional and had vension loin with red cabbage and apple and some potato rostis. The red cabbage was made in advanced and frozen so that the whole meal took only twenty minutes cooking on a very busy day. This sense of time practicality apparently says a lot about us. It does follow though that a food choice will give extra characterisation and tell a lot about them as a person. Does our single man order takeaway, make a microwave meal or prepare pasta with a fresh veg sauce from scratch? All are valid options, but we all will have an idea of three different people in our heads now.

Anyway my sticky toffee pudding is about ready now so, Happy New Year and I will be back soon.

Seasons writings

Originally posted 20.12.11

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat, etc. etc. With the season of goodwill almost upon us, my thoughts have turned to how best to handle the event in my writing. I’m not thinking necessarily about stories about Christmas like Dickens’ Christmas Carol ; more how to use Christmas as a plot device in any work.

Of all the books I read at school, one of the few scenes I can remember well and that has influenced my enjoyment of thriller genre occurs at Christmas. I can’t recall the name of the book but it revolves around the kidnapping of a young boy. A woman in the kidnapper’s gang takes pity on him and makes a proper Christmas dinner for everyone. This  then descends into an argument with the lead kidnapper spoiling it by pouring custard over the turkey. This showed me how you can use the festival to either break up tension or increase it.

It can also be used to give characters access to objects and situations they would not normally or previously have had through the gifting of presents and the meeting of friends and family at parties. J K Rowling makes great use of Christmas in the Harry Potter novels. It is then that Harry gets his invisibility cloak, a deus ex machina device if I ever saw one. The festive period is also when they are free to explore more, as the other children have gone home.

The rituals around this time of year allow the writer to freely have people form relationships and have arguments without it seeming out of character as people do do all sorts of crazy stuff at this time of year. Just think of your last Christmas office party for proof.

I do have concerns about including Christmas in my writing though, however useful it maybe. You need to treat it with a certain amount of respect. Whilst only being a day, the build up takes at least a month so this needs to be included to some respect as it suddenly being Christmas without your character mentioning it before would look out of place.

More word

Originally posted 05.12.11

Following on from my post about changing word, I feel the need to share this wonderful updating of Shakespeare for the modern era.

link

Good times

Got the board game for Christmas, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt and an Assassin’s Guild scarf. I love Discworld.

Originally posted 30.11.11

Hogswatch was a wonderful event. Met lots of lovely people and talked about Discworld most of the weekend.

The impact a series of novels has had on so many lives is incredibly inspiring for a writer just starting out. Sir Terry’s books have brought joy to so many people and they have become so much more. Three TV series on SKY have brought them to the attention of a wider non fantasy audience. You can collect the stamps of the Discworld, figurines, there have been three computer games and countless stuff which has made a series of books become a world.

If I achieve a hundredth of what Sir Terry has managed, I will be a happy man