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

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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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Man vs Purse: There can only be one winner…

Man vs purse (or handbag to my fellow Brits) is an age-old battle fought on many fronts and one that is known to have claimed many casualties… mostly men.

On chatting to Jennifer a fellow blogger, recently, this slightly strange topic was somehow conceived and it was put to me that perhaps man vs purse and its underlying themes should be the subject of a blog post. I really admire Jennifer for her out-of-leftfield and very entertaining, topics, but I never could quite get my head around conjouring one up for myself. So, not wanting to duck an interesting challenge and relishing the idea of writing something a little bit different, I set to work on thinking exactly what are the underling themes? What does man vs purse imply?

Then it struck me. As I said in the introduction, man vs purse is and age-old contest, and when one begins to look properly, underlying themes abound.

Continue reading

It’s only a name, surely?

There’s no question that picking a name to give our offspring is a massive decision. But why? It’s only a name isn’t it? Why should we care what their title is? I mean, it’s not as if that decision made there in the hospital delivery suite will affect how the rest of their lives will turn out, is it?

Is it?

I think it is. Or at least, it is in part.

I think somebody’s name can have implications far beyond what they are called.

Picture 2Names are important. They can label us, pigeonhole us, stereotype us, empower us and haunt us. If names really weren’t important, I’d have loved to call our girls something crazy and eccentric like ‘Boudicca’, ‘Calamity Jane’ or ‘Princess Powderkeg’. But we didn’t. Naturally, we gave them both lovely names, but not anything so extreme they’d spend their lives’ accounting for our moment of indulgence.

And so what I want to talk about here (and it is relevant, I promise) is how names can affect our perception of a character – and not only in fiction.

For me there are two ways a name can be linked to character traits: by association or by intention. Continue reading

The Dead Rise Again: Odd places to look for inspiration…

Ok, so the title of this post may sound a little macabre and horror-show, but I’m not trying to scare you simply because Halloween is around the corner. I just want to talk a little about inspiration, that’s all.

Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but for me, coming up with characters’ names is a right pain. The principals aren’t so bad, but it’s the incidental characters that give me brain-ache.

Whilst out on a family walk, however, I happened upon an endless source of names and, from that moment on, I knew my troubles were finally over.

Wow, where is this place?” I hear you cry. Well, I can tell you, but you may find it a touch morbid.

First, though, I think I should mention that with my book being set in a pseudo-Regency/Victorian era, this bottomless well of inspiration works particularly well for me; but maybe not so much for others.

Where is this utopia of names; this cornucopia of hidden identities?” I hear you cry, once more.

DSC08468Alright then, I’ll tell you: The majority of the extras in my book are named after the dead (which is ironic really, considering it’s set in the future). Yes, that’s right: graveyards are the places I find these names and – much like the zombies in Micheal Jackson’s Thriller – the dead can now live again.

Gravestone 1Over the last year, I’ve assembled myself a collection of gravestone photographs – most of which belong to those who died pre-1900. So now, instead of scratching a hole in my bald head while I attempt to invent a Victorian-sounding name for a character who appears only once, I simply refer to my ghoulish gaggle of photos and grab a name from days-gone-by. Respectfully, of course.

Gravestone2I have sometimes wondered, however: is this actually legal? And when they make my book into a major motion picture, the credits roll at the end and it reads, “the characters in this motion picture are not based on real people either living or dead,” that wouldn’t be strictly true would it? Has anybody else done anything similar to this, or come up with other novel ways to name their characters?

Thanks for reading.

Dark and Stormy: but great fun.

Hello, friends.

I read a really cool blog post the other day that talked about a writing exercise where you compose a paragraph that begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” The author of the blog had actually gone on to write a dark and stormy (but nonetheless very good) short story from it, but I decided to stick to the paragraph.

Foggy Farm copy

I have to say that I found it a most enlightening experience. In the fifteen minutes or so it took me to write this, I came up with a bizarre scenario and have no idea where it came from. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise and shall look for more such things in the future, being as I am completely self-taught in the writing department – apart from my english teachers at school that is. It was also liberating to use so many exclamation marks in such a short space: Normally, I can’t stand the over-use of this powerful piece of punctuation, but I felt that it worked here.

So anyway. Here’s what I came up with..

It was a dark and stormy night. Which was odd, because it had been a dark and stormy night when I went to bed. And it was still a dark and stormy night at… what time was it anyway? Oh dear. It was nine-thirty in the morning. Where was the sun? Where were the cars, the streetlamps, the people? Come to think of it, where was Mrs Peabody who should’ve been sitting on her porch sipping tea and watching the world slip by. Where were the twins who should’ve been scooting along on their way to school? Why was there no sun? What had happened? Oh no. What was this? What did it mean? Judgement day? Catastrophic climate change? An alien invasion? I knew it. You see? I bloody well knew it. I told them in the dayroom only last week that the end of the world is nigh and they laughed at me. Ha ha! Now I bet they’re laughing on the other side of their faces! This is it. We are all going to die. I told you, but you wouldn’t listen! I told you! I told you! I told y… Hey. Hold on. Who are you? Why are you in my room? Let go of me. Ow! That hurts, take that thing out of my arm… Actually. Don’t. That’s quite nice. I think… I’ll go back… to bed now. Ah look: What a lovely bright and sunny morning…

Does it work, or is it just a little odd? Of course, odd can be good sometimes. If anyone knows of any other short writing exercise like this, I love to hear about them.

Thanks for reading.

P.S. In a slightly related matter a fellow blogger put this link in the comments box. It’s very funny. Just thought you should know…

Photo courtesy of Issy Mey