Imitation is the highest form of flattery

IMG_1207During a short weekend break recently, my family and I went to the beautiful city of Edinburgh where – as it turns out – Harry Potter was written. I don’t know that. For breakfast one day, we found ourselves in the exact cafe (The Elephant House) where J.K. sat, drank coffee, ate croissants and penned the first few Potter novels. My girls even wrote on the toilet wall – yes, you are encouraged to do this.

Anyway, while this is all very cool and probably worth a blog post in its own right,  that’s not why I’m posting this…

IMG_1203Quite a while back, I wrote a piece about how I like to find names on gravestones. Naturally, I thought this was a novel way of filling one’s novel with authentic-sounding character names. Particularly as I was after historical sounding names.

Well – as it also turns out – there is a graveyard in Edinburgh where some of the headstones bear the names of characters from the Harry Potter books. Why? Because apparently J.K. Rowling did exactly the same thing as me.

So, all I’m going to say is that I’m amazed J.K. reads my blog, and I’m flattered that she decided to copy my idea.

I shall be sending her the bill for my cut of this intellectual property in the fullness of time…

Thanks for reading (that means you too Ms Rowling)

Why do kids’ Christmas films insist on promoting the idea there is no Father Christmas?

With the festive season fast approaching, I thought I’d get into the spirit of things and write a post about Christmas.

And in the spirit of that classic Yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol, I’m going to get a little Scroogey and have a bit of a moan.

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 23.30.36My beef (or should it be turkey?) is with the film industry and their sometimes misguided efforts to persuade us that Father Christmas is real. Continue reading

The Secret to Writing Good Characters

Here’s a great post from a blog that all aspiring authors should be following. Thanks a lot Carly Watters for the original.
Enjoy

Carly Watters, Literary Agent Blog

Ben Wiseman Illustration NYTCharacters make or break a novel, especially for agents. When agents get 100s of manuscripts submitted per month, what is it that draws us to some books and not others? Characters.

What agents look for in a main character:

  • Degree of likability
  • Interesting
  • Honest
  • Have a strong and unique voice
  • They feel like they had a real life before the book started and after the pages are done
  • No coincidences
  • Motivation for what they do
  • That we meet them at an interesting point in their lives
  • Most importantly: They must have a secret. What are they hiding?

All strong and interesting characters carry a secret with them. A secret that is slowly revealed to the reader. A secret that some find controversial always helps. A secret that the character has to explain and is the reason why they do what they do and why they are the way they are. And

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Using titles to underscore a character’s context

I’m not usually one for posting writing tips, as until now I’ve never really felt I have the authority to do so. However, since I’ve just finished my first book (and owing to the fact that I learned a lot along the way) I thought I’d share with you some of the tricks that I stumbled upon.

So here’s tip that involves the use of names and titles to convey a character’s personality or underline the context in which you want that character to appear. Confused? Ok. Let me explain…

My hero is called Horatio Lee. He’s a lieutenant in the spacebourne Royal Navy, and hence there are a number of different names or titles I can give him:

  • Horatio
  • Horatio Lee
  • Lieutenant Lee
  • Lee

What I have noticed (due in part to me trying to avoid repetition) is that depending on what I call him in the narrative, I can convey his personality and the place he currently occupies within story. For example:

I call him Horatio when I want humanise him:

This nightmarish scene was especially disturbing for Horatio to witness as he knew those men were only exposed to that maelstrom on his orders.

I call him Lee when I want him to blend into the scene as just another member of the ship’s company:

“Oh yes,” Lee sounded energised, “it’s definitely a ship, but we don’t think it’s a warship.”

And I call him Lieutenant Lee when I want underscore his rank and position amongst the men:

Lieutenant Lee and his officers received them in the captain’s cabin, which was presently cleared for action and more a part of the gundeck than a cabin.

This method can be very useful when you have characters with titles, for instance: police officers, doctors, university lecturers, &c. It’s a great tool for underscoring their exact place in the story at any given time (as mentioned above), but also avoids having to call them the same thing every single time you write their name. It’s not a book-changing writing tool, but it certainly can alter the dynamic of a section of dialogue or action.

Thanks for reading.

The importance of paying attention to coincidences…

I’ve talked about character names on this blog before, and you may recall that I get many of my names from gravestones.

Well, in relation to that, a funny thing happened the other day… or not so much funny, but more such a striking coincidence that I really just had to pick it up and run with it.

So here’s what happened… Continue reading

Using A Crowd To Create Tension In Your Story

Loved the ideas in this post. Thanks Sharla Rae and Writers In The Storm for the orginial.

Enjoy…

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Sharla Rae

Personally, I dread crowds.

They make me feel a bit claustrophobic and oh, the noise! Perhaps this comes from working in my nice quiet office all day; I don’t know. I strive to hit a mall or grocery store on weekdays and not at end of the day when hungry, tired, short-tempered 9 to 5ivers race from work to do a quick and dirty grab for whatever they need. We’re talking lots of negative energy here and these scenes aren’t pretty!

There are many kinds of crowds, though and some are full of energy, the kind that makes excitement bubble beneath your skin and vibrates right down to the bones. This type of energy is contagious. You can literally feel and hear the high voltage zinging through all the people. Think favorite plays, concerts and sporting events. It’s exhilarating. The rushing crush to reach the parking lot…

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AUTHORS: Three Circumtances to Let Readers Know You Share Their Frustration

I really like the way this touched on a subject not often mentioned around the blogosphere, so I just had to reblog. Thank you Victoria Grefer for the original.
Enjoy…

Creative Writing with the Crimson League

reading-books-at-home-1145735-mThis post is about annoyed readers: specifically, how we authors can “annoy” readers in a way that’s NOT annoying. Or at least, how we can annoy them in a way that they’ll accept and overlook.

Confused yet? Let me explain.

There are times when a necessary aspect of fiction might frustrate or annoy a reader; when authors know that’s the case, a great strategy to approach the troublesome point is to make it obvious that you, the author, feel the same way the reader does.

Remember: this is for necessary aspects of your work that might be annoying or troublesome.

And that is the first point I want to make. Clearly, when some part of your novel or short story is cumbersome, or frustrating, and it is possible to cut it, you cut it. If you can tone it down in any way, throw some of the focus elsewhere, you…

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