Readers are fascinated by writers’ ideas. Where do you get them from? they ask.
Over and over again.
Sometimes we writers know. And sometimes — to be frank — we don’t.
How many of us have woken up in the morning with clear ideas about a new book and no inkling about how those ideas came to be? How many of us have more ideas jostling about in our brains than we can deal with?
For most of us the difficulty isn’t finding the ideas, it’s turning them into a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Here’s a case in point.
Ideas? Silver shreds for starters…
It began quite a long time ago. And it was all the fault of my crit partner, Sophie Weston of this parish… Continue reading →
Altering History. In other words, changing what actually happened into something that didn’t happen; or didn’t happen in quite that way; or happened at a different time…
Is it OK for an author of historical fiction to do that?
Always? Sometimes? Never?
Does it depend on what the alteration is? Some think it’s OK to alter small things, relating to minor characters, but not decisive things relating to really important characters.
Some might say an author can do whatever he or she likes, provided the reader knows what the author has done. In other words, the author has to come clean.
Others don’t care, as long as the end result is a good read.
This week I have been remembering the first draft of my first book. Well, the first book I actually completed.
I remember that it was written by hand, mostly while I was waiting for books to be retrieved from the stack in a very famous library.
The leather-bound tomes, the scholarly hush, the dust dancing in the sunbeams, the academics concentrating all around me…. oh, I remember them as if I’ve only just walked in from that day with my book bag stuffed with notes and my head full of my characters.
Or sometimes I wrote that first draft while I was waiting for an old friend in our favourite coffee shop.
When inspiration struck there, I sometimes scribbled the idea down on any old scrap of paper — including a cafe napkin once or twice.
Mnemonics, as a word, is no advert for English spelling. And English spelling most certainly needs help. What’s the point of that silent M at the start? (Blame the Greeks. Their spelling isn’t easy either.)
English spelling (and pronunciation) may well be the world’s worst. How many students, trying to learn English as a foreign language, have been flummoxed by:
through, thorough, cough, enough, hiccough, sough, dough?
I often have problems with words where changing the spelling changes the meaning: practise/practice and the like. The spellchecker is no help to me with that, of course.
My regular bugbear is affect/effect. I have to stop to work out which is correct when I’m writing.
The Oxford Dictionary tells me that affectand effectare quite different in meaning, though frequently confused. (A statement of the bleedin’ obvious?) Continue reading →
Revisiting the Romantic Hero Formula —
except that there isn’t a formula, as I tried to show in the first blog on this topic. So, instead, I’m going to explore some aspects of creating the romantic hero.
With examples from a master of the art of hero-creation — Georgette Heyer.
Which Qualities Make a Romantic Hero Attractive — to Readers?
Most of us would say that our aim in writing romance is to create a heroine that our readers will identify with and a hero that they will lust after. Warning: it is not easy to do and not all readers will respond in the same way. Some may adore our hero and some may hate him. As romance authors, we’re winning if we have a lot more of the former. 😉
Tall Dark and Handsome?
Tall dark and handsome? Not necessarily. As readers we probably all have favourite heroes who are none of those. As writers, we may have created some of them, too.
Most telling recent example? Who became the abiding hero in the Game of Thrones series? Yes, Tyrion, the dwarf. Continue reading →
Delightful chap, isn’t he, our villain? I particularly admire those enormous teeth. And that improbable moustache.
I’ve blogged about villains before — including charismatic villains played by Alan Rickman (yes!) and Richard Armitage — but today’s blog isn’t about individual villains. It’s about what villains can bring to our manuscripts, especially when we’re stuck.
I was stuck on my current wip. It was moving at the rate of a glacier before we had climate change.
In other words, it was going nowhere very slowly.
Ravi Naik, a human rights lawyer with Irvine Thanvi Natas, the British solicitor who is leading the case, said the decision “totally vindicates David’s long battle to try and reclaim his data”. He added: “The company put him through such a torturous process over what should have been a very simple subject access request … “
A torturous process? Is it really being suggested that Cambridge Analytica tortured David Carroll?Or was it a process full of twists and turns, excessively lengthy and complex?
In fact, a tortuous process?
Lots of writers confuse the two words, possibly because, in speech, it can be difficult to tell them apart. If the Guardian‘s quote was taken over the phone, it could be a mis-transcription. Or maybe it’s not wrong? Maybe the speaker did in fact mean that it was a process involving or causing torture?
Or perhaps — subversive thought — some of the increasingly common misuse of torturous arises because writers don’t know that two different words exist? Continue reading →
I hear hollow laughter from my friends and fellow authors.
And yet only a couple of days ago someone was telling me a story which appeared to demonstrate the exact reverse.
Writer in Control While Lecturing?
The story is this: some time ago a Very Distinguished Author was holding one of those literary Events in an overseas capital. I detect a faint whiff of the British Council. But possibly it was just a simple commercial book tour. At some point the Very Distinguished One invited questions. As they do.
In control? I don’t think so.
Anyway, my interlocutor, a kindly soul, recognised her civic duty. She bit on the bullet, braced up and did, indeed, ask a question of the Very Distinguished Party. Did his characters ever get away from him? Continue reading →
The first thing my agent ever said to me was, “Readers hate first person narrative.” I had sent her a thrilling escape-from-the-bad-guys romantic suspense set in Greece under the Colonels. And, yes, it was told in the first person.
Still she’d read the thing. And then taken me to lunch.
So I nodded politely and murmured that it seemed to have worked all right for Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, P G Wodehouse and Mary Stewart.
“Yes, but they’re great,” she said impatiently.
I couldn’t deny it.
“What you need to do is forget all this ‘I think, I feel’ stuff. Readers won’t buy it. Concentrate on what people DO.” Continue reading →
This week I have been asking myself: where do I find story inspiration? It’s never been a problem for me. Stories are always queueing up. But I don’t really know how they get into the line in the first place.
Maybe this is partly because I’m in final edit mode at the moment. I have to admit to a chronic state of excitement, terror and permanent why-on-earth-did-I-think-I-could-write-this-story?-itis.