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)

What’s in a title? (Apart from words, that is)

We all know that covers sell books. But what about titles? How important is it that we get the right title? A title that invokes the spirit of the story; a title that describes the story; a title that grabs the readers’ attention?

To highlight the impact of a good title, I’m going to recall a story that happened to me recently. But it doesn’t involve books; it involves music.

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 17.57.20 Continue reading

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.