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Showing posts from September, 2009

Protagonists

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One character takes over a story and sends the intended protagonist reeling. Is there a name for this? I don't know, but I suspect it is happening in my latest wip. My intention was a male protagonist but I find a female keeps taking up the pages in a most demanding way. She needs to be kept in check. Or I need to bring them together, perhaps, in a more meaningful way. I'm thinking my male lead looks something like Aidan Turner in the BBC's " Being Human." (I watched the first episode and the last and thoroughly enjoyed them, but chose not to watch the intervening ones. Strange decision, but there you go. The ghost (female) was a bit of a drag, forever bemoaning her fate. The werewolf was a sweet character deeply troubled by his present predicament - well, changing into a werewolf every full moon could make anyone a tad hysterical. The vampire, our beautiful AT, swore off blood. They all wanted to be human. Now why didn't I watch the middle episodes? Poss

Mark Knopfler and the Border Reivers

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I've been listening to the sounds of Mark Knopfler and his new song The Border Reivers with some puzzlement. I'm a Knopfler fan, loved the music but could not make sense of the words. About seven hearings in, I mentioned this to my dh. He rolled over (we're still in bed at this point), listened and said "It's about Albion trucks called Border Reivers. Made in Glasgow. Nothing to do with your Border Reivers." Aha. Various snatches of song became clear: "heading south from Glasgow...paperwork's all clear...my sleep times good...she's a navvy...in 1969..." Yes, it all fit. "If you want to know more about Albion trucks," dh says chirpily, "I'll introduce you to Jim Wilkinson. He knows everything there is to know about the Border Reivers. He's got one in his garage." Groan. My Border Reivers were some of the toughest desperadoes ever to live through history. Living both sides of the border between Scotland and Englan

Show Don't Tell

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We all hear the phrase Show Don't Tell and grind our teeth a bit, don't we? Well, Nathan Bransford has some good advice on this old theme and I've taken the liberty of jotting some of it down here so I can find it again easily. (And as a reward for doing my homework, I rewarded myself with a picture of Aidan Turner courtesy of the BBC's "Being Human." How about him for the hero of your next novel?) Anyway, back to Nathan and his good advice: "in general: universal emotions should not be "told." " Instead, he advises that we should show how the character is reacting to their feelings. Being told that a character is "angry" is not very interesting - we're reading the book, we know his dog just got kicked, of course he's angry! It's redundant to be told that the character is "angry." More interesting is how the character reacts to seeing his dog kicked. Does he hold it in and tap his foot slowly? Does he expl

Stirling Castle

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My fictional heroes Harry and Matho are heading for Stirling and I'm wishing I could up sticks and mooch around the place myself. It isn't that far, well within a day's journey, but it isn't the best move in the world for me right now. I'm making do with a guide published by Historic Scotland bought for one penny via the internet. I love using maps and diagrams for this sort of thing, especially historical maps, and the web is just great as a research tool. I did attend a dinner in Stirling Castle once, right after the Great Hall had been newly refurbished as it must have been when first built in the 1540's. It was part of the Dorothy Dunnett weekend conference and over 300 people turned up and filled the hall. On the way from Edinburgh to Stirling, our bus broke down. Wouldn't you know it? Other buses had arrived on time, and we were desperately late by the time a replacement bus turned up and completed the journey. We were met and whisked up and into the

Plum pie and Wylam

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I always find myself glazing over when I read something I know so well that I can almost quote it word for word, so editing my own work is not a joy of the first order. It takes a real effort of will power to focus on each word, note a full stop out of place or a double white space where there should be only one. Necessary, I know, and most worthwhile. But not my favourite occupation. These last few days have proved good weatherwise, and we've been out walking. Not far from us an old branch line veers off across the Tyne and now it is a walk and cycle track. We walked to Wylam (see pic) had a coffee at the teashop and walked home. On the way back we passed several apple trees apparently growing wild, so we filled our pockets and had apple and blackberry crumble for dessert. Yum. It has been a good season for fruits and berries of all kinds. The hazel trees are shedding nuts, blackberries are here in profusion and we know where there are some wild plum trees, but they're kind o

The perfect rose

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Thirty pages left to do for the edits. I wrote this story a year ago and even that short space of time has made a difference to my writing. I see the curious habits and cringe. What is it that makes me use one word and use it again in the next sentence like an echo? Perhaps I should scan this blog and see if I do it here, too. If I've taken one shot of the roses in my garden this summer I must have taken fifty, and I rarely get a shot that is sharp and clear. Too much wind, and defective eyesight has a part to play. With contacts in, I cannot see an object close to; with glasses I can, but I can see even better with my naked eye. At three feet, everything works the opposite way. Passing twenty-five is no fun as age starts to tell, at first in such tiny things as not being able to pass a thread through the suddenly fuzzy eye of the needle. With me it was buses - the wretched things were almost past by before I could read the direction or number. I got glasses and was amazed at the

So that's why

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Still with edits because there was some confusion and the doc file did not "hold" track changes. I now have an rtf document, and all is well except that I have to go through the whole story... again. Lesson learned - always check after first few edits... Meanwhile there are good things around. I met with my local writers group today and heard about Michelle's encounter with a Guardian writer - it is a must read piece, and I say this not because I know Michelle - more because I don't seem able to pass through the portals of M&B either. Confessions of a secret Mills & Boon junkie - read the article here Mills & Boon publishes 720 romantic novels a year. Featuring the kind of heroes their female readers can sigh and swoon over, they outsell true crime, science fiction and God in the bookshops. As fiction, they're easy to read – so surely it's easy to write one ...

Viewpoint woes

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Mulling over viewpoint, I hauled Swain down from my high shelf. Creating characters . I looked up viewpoint in the index and scanned all he had to say. Clear as day, here's where the rule originated, I suspect! "Whatever your story, your readers will need some kind of orientation point, some place from which to watch the action. In other words, a point of view. Ordinarily, that point is in a character - a viewpoint character. Or as I used to put it, "Whose skin are we in?" Through whose eyes are we seeing or experiencing the story? In choosing this character, you limit yourself to presenting your story as he experiences it. That is to say, he can watch what other people do, but he can't see himself. (Jack watches others, but cannot see himself.) He will, however, know anything you want your readers to know about his own state of mind." (Jack knows his own mind, though Janet might puzzle him) Characters can only be observed from outside, by another c

EDITS have arrived

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I have the edits for TILL THE DAY GO DOWN We were already programmed to running errands this morning, so we made the quick trip to the coast to buy dh's beer kit and a new barrel (so he can make more beer!) and came home. I got out of the car about a mile and a half from home and walked back so I got my exercise for the day (10,000 steps a day, remember), had lunch and began work. It is a strange exercise, going over something you wrote several months ago. Already I have found two places where I use the same word in consecutive sentences, a sort of echo effect. I wonder how many more I'll find before I get to the end? I love playing around with Adobe photoshop and late last night when I couldn't sleep I superimposed my painting of my heroine on a pic I took of Aydon castle. The result is not displeasing, but not very professional! I have about another 150 pages to check over before I'm done. It won't take too long if I abandon my critiquing and writing till I'

KREATIV BLOGGER

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Ginger nominated my blog for an award...so I must say thanks Ginger and hope you cannot see the fixed grin on my face because now I have to come up with names, information, and some interesting stuff without revealing all my dirty little secrets. I must share with you SEVEN of my favorite things, SEVEN of my favorite activities, SEVEN things no one knows about me. Seven of my favorite things: Easy. If you ask me next year, I doubt they will have changed. Dogs, holidays, watching Rafa Nadal play tennis, meeting my girlfriends for dinner, Merlin (the current BBC production), sleeping, reading. Seven of my favorite activities: country walks, writing, downhill skiing, gardening, driving my Mini Cooper fast, meeting other writers, taking photographs Seven things no one knows about me: I’m deaf in one ear because streptomycin destroyed the nerve when I had mumps, I was once School high jump champion, I’m tidy when it comes to desks, I cannot talk and cook at the same time, South Ame

Dreaded dialogue

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Dialogue should bear information that moves the plot forward, and hopefully creates conflict, tension and suspense. It should be written with one character in mind and that character alone. I'm sure I've said all this this before, but I need reminding every now and then. Dialogue may explain what happened in the past; good dialogue conveys the emotions and thoughts of characters. Until a character speaks, their thoughts and emotions are portrayed either through the narrator’s eyes or those of another character. This allows a split to develop between a character's "perceived" personality and his "true" personality. Realistic dialogue allows the reader to make up their own mind as to the kind of person they might be. Subconsciously we take note of how a character speaks, and when they speak. Are they terse and clipped, or verbose and boring? Do they push forward or hang back, preferring to be out of the limelight? In real life, status usually shows in d