Saturday, 19 September 2009

Character Traits: Unusual Phobias

Recently, I came across this article...source here

Why is this interesting? Why should writers be on the lookout for articles like this? If you want to make your characters interesting...why not have them suffer from a phobia.

The UK's most unusual phobias

A pair of knees (Image © PA)

Do you suffer from a fear of kneecaps? Have an aversion to the sight of some frozen peas? Perhaps you shudder at the mere glimpse of a copy of the Yellow Pages.
If so, you may be afflicted by one of the UK's most unusual phobias. Genuphobia, or the fear of kneecaps, has recently been acknowledged as a genuine medical condition. One sufferer, Sarah Lister, from Gosport in Hampshire, has spoken of how the phobia affects her life.
She told the Daily Telegraph: "In the summer it is worse because I don't feel like I can go to the beach or go to the pub. I worry that if I saw someone in a bathing costume or a short skirt I would just freak out. I quiver in fear if anybody tries to touch my knees, or accidentally bumps into them.
"I am fine with my fiancé, my immediate family and a select group of friends, but strangers' knees still hold a lot of fear for me. Even the thought of other people's knees makes me feel very uneasy."
Miss Lister believes her phobia began when she was 11 years old when she witnessed her father dislocate his knee in a fall. 
Genuphobia is just one of a number of unusual aversions people have testified to suffering.

If you have an aversion to a glimpse of a daffodil, a copy of the Yellow Pages, a baby chicken or a banana, you may suffer from a fear of the colour yellow.

Earleen Taylor, of Sutton in Surrey, told the makers of an ITV documentary on phobia in 2008 she was so frightened of frogs that she has to run from her car to her front door in case one was lurking in the garden. "I have a sixth sense for frogs," she said. "When it has been raining, I'm on red alert. I start to hyperventilate, and am gripped by fear."

This is a phobia of mirrors, or a fear of seeing your own reflection.

Kim Crosby, from Cambridge, told ITV of her aversion to seeing barns. "It's very hampering in the summertime because I would like to drive around with the roof of my car down, but then there is nothing to protect me."

Louise Arnold, from Gloucester, told ITV she had a fear of peas that prevented her walking down the frozen food aisle of a supermarket. "They tend to just look at me - ganging up on me," she explained. "All the hairs on the back of my neck go up. I have to know where they are in the supermarket before I go in. It's just controlling my life now. I would like to be a dinner lady at my daughter's school, but I'm not even able to be in the same room as someone eating them."

If you have an irresistible urge to strip off in public, you are either a rampant exhibitionist or are a sufferer of vestiphobia: a fear of clothing.

This is something that has inspired everything from books and films to superstitions and nursery rhymes: a fear of the dark.

This is a fear of clowns. The term was coined fairly recently, and is based on the Greek word koulon ('limb'). The Greek word kolobathristes means "one who goes on stilts".

Cotton wool
Michelle Andrews, from Cherry Willingham in Lincolnshire, told the BBC in 2002 that she had been afraid of cotton wool since she was just six years old. "Wanting to wrap someone up in cotton wool is supposed to be a way of showing that you care," she said. "In my case, it would be the ultimate form of torture."

Rather appropriately, this is the fear of long words. The condition, sometimes shortened to sesquippedaliophobia, can leave sufferers with shortness of breath, rapid breathing, an irregular heartbeat, sweating, nausea, and overall feelings of dread.

Not one for the squeamish: a fear of being tickled by feathers.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

It's not what you write, it's how you write it.

There are only thirty-six different novel plot patterns:
  1. Supplication - Persecutor, Suppliant, a Power in Authority
  2. Deliverance - Unfortunates, Threatener, Rescuer
  3. Revenge - Avenger, Criminal
  4. Vengeance by Family upon Family - Avenging Kinsman, Guilty Kinsman, Relative
  5. Pursuit - Fugitive from Punishment, Pursuer
  6. Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune - Unfortunates, Master or Unlucky Person
  7. Disaster - Vanquished Power, Victorious Power or Messenger
  8. Revolt - Tyrant, Conspirator(s)
  9. Daring Enterprise - Bold Leader, Goal, Adversary
  10. Abduction - Abductor, Abducted, Guardian
  11. Enigma - Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
  12. Obtaining - Two or more Opposing Parties, Object, maybe an Arbitrator
  13. Familial Hatred - Two Family Members who hate each other
  14. Familial Rivalry - Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kinsman, Object
  15. Murderous Adultery - Two Adulterers, the Betrayed
  16. Madness - Madman, Victim
  17. Fatal Imprudence - Imprudent person, Victim or lost object
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love - Lover, Beloved, Revealer
  19. Kinsman Kills Unrecognised Kinsman - Killer, Unrecognised Victim, Revealer
  20. Self Sacrifice for an Ideal - Hero, Ideal, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  21. Self Sacrifice for Kindred - Hero, Kinsman, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  22. All Sacrificed for Passion - Lover, Object of Passion, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  23. Sacrifice of Loved Ones - Hero, Beloved Victim, Need for Sacrifice
  24. Rivalry Between Superior and Inferior - Superior, Inferior, Object
  25. Adultery - Deceived Spouse, Two Adulterers
  26. Crimes of Love - Lover, Beloved, theme of Dissolution
  27. Discovery of Dishonor of a Loved One - Discoverer, Guilty One
  28. Obstacles to Love - Two Lovers, Obstacle
  29. An Enemy Loved - Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
  30. Ambition - An Ambitious Person, Coveted Thing, Adversary
  31. Conflict with a God - Mortal, Immortal
  32. Mistaken Jealousy - Jealous One, Object of Jealousy, Supposed Accomplice, Author of Mistake
  33. Faulty Judgment - Mistaken One, Victim of Mistake, Author of Mistake, Guilty Person
  34. Remorse - Culprit, Victim, Interrogator
  35. Recovery of a Lost One - Seeker, One Found
  36. Loss of Loved Ones - Kinsman Slain, Kinsman Witness, Executioner
And in the world, there are about... oh, a billion different books. So? So, that means that all the books out there had one of these plot lines.

With all the lack of plot lines, it's important that to make it less about what you write about and more about how you write it. And that means studying the art of writing.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Creating Suspense

Useful ways to create suspense:
1) Weather: storm clouds, flash of lightning, distant thunder suggest something will happen
2) Objects that cover other objects: closed curtains, tarp covering something, folding screen, partially opened door, shadow...
3) Internal sensation: shows your character feels the anticipation. Your character pulls up her collar, pats her pocket to make sure she's got her mace or pocket knife, or she feels her scalp prickle.
4) Something is just not quite right: phone off the hook, broken window, a single shoe, water left running in the sink...
Use these techniques in your book.
If you want to be a better mystery writer, read this book:

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Contest from The Next Big Writer website

Join A Project to Create the Internet's First Workshop - Based Novel - The Cloud

Winning entries receive a publishing contact for inclusion in the published novel.

Deadline: 11:59 PM ET on January 21, 2010

TheNextBigWriter in conjunction with Odin Roark of iPOV BOOKS present the first workshop-built-novel. The novel will be comprised of individual chapters/short stories written by different writers from TheNextBigWriter around a central theme and premise.

The Cloud

The novel project called THE CLOUD is a concept created by Odin Roark based on a premise that challenges religion, commerce, and science, as well as general behavior in the 21st century. The plot involves reactions to a dark gray cloud that takes residence over the skies of Las Vegas in August of 2013 and is still there at the book’s conclusion in January 2014. The genre of this book is literary.

Learn more about The Cloud Project.


  • The writers whose stories are selected as winners will receive a Publishing Contract to have their story published as part of the The Cloud Anthology. (50% of the net proceeds will be equally shared by the estimated 15 to 20 authors. 50% of the remaining net proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the formation of a charity fund developed by Odin Roark that will provide computers for children in developing countries.)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Poem: Goodness Graciousness

It's a dinner party.

You've all been there.

This looks scrumptious, you say

as you sit in your chair.

You bite a morsel,

Filled with flavour and zest,

Another few bites

and you've gulped down the rest.

You sit back in your chair

your stomach a happy beast.

You give kudos to the chef

for the wonderful feast.

Now this is where

it starts to go awry.

The host looks at the food

and out escapes a loud sigh.

Rather than accept with a nod

or a gracious thank you.

The cook starts a long spiel

Oh, what a to-do.

The meat was no good,

To hell with the lot.

It's the worst meal they've made.

It was like eating wood-rot.

The next bash comes at time,

there wasn't enough.

Had they had longer,

it would not be so rough.

Oh no, you start

but get interrupted.

Then they go on,

the herbs calumniated.

It goes on for minutes,

but you sit there and wait.

The time will come

to say what you hate.

From those in need of approval

it's a cry out for praise.

Their self-esteem

in need of a raise.

So you support their habit

like drink for a drunk.

I shake my head,

oh, to what lows I have sunk.

I always say

as I'm leaving the house,

the next time they seek

they will find a louse.

I'll agree their cooking

was rotten as hell.

Almost went for the toilet

because of the smell.

But would that solve the problem?

I think that's how it started.

Not enough praise

from parents long departed.

But, what do I do?

I keep my words to myself.

Cause I hate to cook

and want free meals at their house.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Really good writing:

I am going to post what I think is good can be in the form of books, screenplays, poems and the like.

Here's the first example: Why is it good? Because it's funny. If you saw this in a movie or book, you'd laugh. Hopefully.

Jeremy Clarkson: You know in the run up to Euro 2004, a lot of people believed that David Beckham had done some practice and know, training... and they've put flags on their cars to kinda show their support for the team. Cause we were in with a shout, we thought anyway... of winning. While everyone had flags on their cars, somebody has done some research on how much drag that created. I'm not joking...

Richard Hammond: Yes?

Jeremy: Yeah seriously, he said, 'You'll lose with two flags, four break-horsepower... uh, and that means that in the run up to the tournament, 4.5 million gallons of fuel was wasted by people flying flags. I actually know the man who did this survey, okay? I will spare him his blushes and wont say his names but I will tell you he has face hair. Okay? So, I've done a calculation of my own...if a mustache weighs two grams, and we think it does...

Richard: Sounds fair enough.

Jeremy: So, if you can get into a Ford Fiesta, you will increase its weight by 0.0000036 of a percent.

Richard: With you...

Jeremy: Which means you'll increase its fuel consumption by, complicated equation here, by 0.000083 miles to the gallon. So over a year, normal mileage, your mustache is costing you an extra five pounds in fuel...

Richard: Five pounds to run a mustache for a year?

Jeremy: That is the kind of information you simply don't get on any other shows.

From: Top Gear (Series 4, Episode 7)

Okay, so why is that good writing? I should say, good dialog? Because it's it, learn from it.

This is what makes it good:

1) The speakers use contractions where possible.
2) One person may answer a question, the other replies with something complete different, ignoring the question all together...that's natural.
3) You get a real feel for the personality of the characters though their speeches.

Try taking your favorite tv show and typing out the dialog as they will really improve your dialog technique.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Writing in the White Space

What is writing in the white space?

It's the ability to communicate a point without actually writing it.

For example, a description of a character: He was tall, six-feet-two, with a nose to match - tall, thin and straight.

This is the author talking.

What's a better way to describe him? Why not let him describe himself?

He caught sight of his six-feet-two reflection in the window of a bagel shop, paused to studied his thin, straight nose both in profile and straight on. Straight on, he decided, always show his nose to her straight on. Never from the side.

Why is this better?
1) You're not stopping the story - there is still action taking place
2) We see through the character's eyes - how he sees himself, he's vain