I’ve called this blog Points of View because that is what I’ve been thinking about, off and on, since the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference two weeks ago.
Not just in a relation to writing, either, as you will see.
I admit, however, that I have been struggling for some time with POV issues. I’m in the process of an Absolutely Last Edit of a book that, when I first imagined it, had a first person vibe. It didn’t last and it has much improved as a result. But in some places the “I voice” has left an uncomfortable shadow.
At least, I think that’s the answer. Especially after a really excellent workshop on Psychic Distance from Emma Darwin.
I have just read PGW’s royal romance, The Prince and Betty. When I first wrote about romantic novelists in Wodehouse World, I knew that the book existed but I had never read it. Now that I have, the story itself and, indeed, the history of its publication is a jigsaw puzzle.
However, I’ve also learned something about how it fitted into PGW’s life and other writing. And it has made me think again about Wodehouse’s place in romantic fiction. And, indeed, of romantic fiction in his own life. So I thought I would share.
PGW’s Royal Romance – before the beginning
Wodehouse made his reputation initially with school stories. By 1909, however, he wanted to leave that behind and “butt into the big league,” as he told fellow free-lancer L H Bradshaw.
In New York, on leave of absence from his UK employer, The Globe, he found a literary agent who sold the two short stories PGW had brought with him for US$500. He was earning less that 10 guineas a pop from magazines in the UK. Continue reading →
Punctuation was invented to help the Reader. And the very first invention was space breaking up text — so you could tell one word from the next. Seriously.
A couple of months ago I was putting the final touches to an online course on punctuation. Not a subject to rock them in the aisles, I thought. Mind you, I love the stuff. But I have learned that, as a subject of conversation, it doesn’t generally draw children from play and old men from the chimney corner.
So when I was preparing the course, I thought I’d throw in a bit of history for context.
Only then, of course, I had to check online whether what I remembered was a) accurate and b) still received wisdom. And found something new to me: Aristophanes, Head Librarian of Alexandria aged sixty. He was sitting there, receiving rolls in Greek, the language of the prevailing empire.
Most people then, of course, would be illiterate. So the purpose of these scrolls was to provide a text for someone else to deliver in the market place or to perform as an entertainment.
BUT they arrived with all the letters in a continuous line. Presumably to save papyrus and possibly time, as they were being hand-copied by scribes.
So Aristophanes thought of a way of marking up copies of the text to help the Poor Bloody Orator who had to read them out loud. Continue reading →
Rather to my surprise, people have been asking me to recommend books for lockdown reading. Virtual strangers, some of them. I suppose they think a writer reads more than other people. Well, to keep abreast of the competition, if nothing else.
Now, I like talking about books. And I am congenitally incapable of ignoring a request for help.
But this particular question throws me into a quandary. I mean I can happily spout for hours on books I love. As you probably know. But…
Finding a story that somebody else might like, especially someone I barely know (not to mention that someone’s son, daughter or grandchild) is hard. To be honest, it has left me with eyeballs swishing about, looking for the escape hatch.
So far I’ve blundered through, hauling up titles from the cellarage pretty much at random. Do people want books they can read together? Or are they trying to read to block out the effects of too much togetherness?
With a very uncertain Christmas coming, I thought I’d try to be a bit more disciplined.
“On a gloomy March afternoon, sitting in the same high school classroom she’d been sitting in for thirteen years, gritting her teeth as she told her significant other for the seventy-second time since they’d met that she’d be home at six because it was Wednesday and she was always home on six on Wednesdays, Quinn McKenzie lifted her eyes from the watercolour assignments on the desk in front of her and met her destiny.”
Jennifer Crusie is famous for putting wonderful dogs in her books and this is no exception. Quinn’s destiny is a small black dog with desperate eyes and he isn’t a prop, a cute accessory for her heroine. He gets the opening line in Crazy For You, because he’s about to change her life.
Animals in books? Dogs, more dogs and a duckling or two
Georgette Heyer, seen here with her dog, was another author who used dogs, kittens, even ducklings to delight us. In a long scene in The Grand Sophy the ducklings escape, are recaptured and generally cause chaos.
Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay
Venetia‘s Flurry flew to her rescue when, shockingly, Damerel kissed her. Unfortunately Flurry desisted the moment he was commanded to “sit”, recognising a master when he heard one. But he was enough of a distraction for Venetia to extract herself. Once she’d done that, she was more than a match for the man!
And Ulysses, the disreputable mongrel Arabella foisted on Beaumaris, is a joy.
A recent lecture on La Dolce Vitastarted me thinking about the variety of fictional blondes I have come across in my life. For there is something special about The Blonde. She grabs our attention the moment she appears. Indeed, in twentieth century western culture she became almost an icon.
Yet at the same time she has as many aspects as a Greek goddess, positive, negative and sometimes just plain loopy. And we all know them.
“Having a blonde moment,” my friend, author Sarah Mallory, will say, as she discovers the sunglasses she has been searching for are lodged securely on the top of her head.
She’s channelling the Airhead Blonde — charming, disorganised, sometimes a little naïve, sociable, and so good-hearted that you forgive her any amount of stuff that would irritate the hell out of you in a grey-haired matron or a sultry brunette.
Forgive her and maybe even love her. We pay to go and see movies about her. That shows you! 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 →
The very first piece of advice that I remember anyone giving me about writing was, “Avoid cliché.” I was ten. I had to look up “cliché”. So now I have a question.
A cliché is a word or phrase so worn out by overuse that it has deteriorated until it is meaningless. It may once have been striking. Today it is white noise.
The gentle reader ignores it. The ungentle critic berates the writer for laziness and lack of originality.
Dickens got away with “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done,” because he thought of it first. After that it became popular, then heard widely, then untouchable by any writer with pretensions to respectability.
“What do editors do?” I asked my first literary agent, having established that it was not, as I had first thought, copy editing. I was very young.
She was an editor by training, temperament and still, occasionally, practice. “Teach you to write,” she snapped.
Over time I came to see that she was right, in one way. They intend to teach you to write what their employer desires to publish and/or knows he can sell. And they want an end product that will do just that.
This is how I think modern editing evolved.
Editors Keep You Legal
Back in the day when printer Samuel Richardson was writing Pamela to keep his presses busy, nobody edited fiction. Printers could be prosecuted for content, so such editing as they did of their clients’ work aimed to keep them out of the law courts. Fiction? Not a risk.
Dickens was his own editor. This could not happen:
Editors Keep You Decent – and may have a go at saleable