Sunday, 28 February 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 8

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'


1. Why is it that, when there is music to listen to, you are saddened by it?
2. Happy music should result in happiness.
3. Why do you pretend to love what you don't really want?
4. And receive with pleasure what clearly annoys you?
5. If the uniting sounds
6. Played together in harmony offend you,
7. If they bother you when together
8. But played alone you can bear it
9. Look at how the strings, played together on the Lute (popular in Shakespeare's day)
10. The strings reverberate against each other in appropriate order.
11. Like a happy family with husband, child and mother
12. Who together make a happy sound.
13. Though made up of many components are actually one.
14. And one string played alone will actually be nothing.

This sonnet can have two meanings...

1) The one above or...

2) The idea of marriage with it's responsibilities to wife and bearing children may seem tiresome. Being single is like playing only one string of an instrument or one instrument of an orchestra... it's really nothing.


Sidenote: Going to the USA/Mexico border today... if you don't hear from me in a few days... well. Not to worry you, I'll probably be fine. It's an adventure... right?


Saturday, 27 February 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone's neurosis, 
and we'd have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.  ~
William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958 (Writer of Sophie's Choice)

Though some read for escapism, most literary work is not escapism... or perhaps it is. If I'm having a crap day and I read Macbeth or Tess of the d'Urberville, it makes me feel my life isn't so bad. The fact that my coffee maker is on the fritz isn't as bad as having to choose which of my children will have to die by gassing in a concentration camp.

So we need to take time out to thank those neurotic out there that imagined the horrible life stories of characters both real or imagined. We may not like our life so much if everyone we read about pranced about their mansions with the love of their lives.

How does the quote touch you? Have you read Sophie's Choice or seen the movie? How did it affect you? Can you see why the writer said what he did?



Also, if you haven't seen the video posted on Elizabeth's site - Mystery Writing is Murder yet, go see it. It's a funny look at editors.


Friday, 26 February 2010

Writing Transitions and Tie-backs: Part II

Now were going to look at tie-backs which are reverse transitions. Because you're tying back to things that have happened earlier, you need to have an idea of what will happen through the novel.

So, if you're a writer who plans an outline, you can plan your tie-backs, if not, you can always add tie-backs in revision.

Tie-Back Techniques

1) The flashback - we've all seen them done in movies where it gets blurry and immediately we're thrown back in time and everything's explained.
However, there are problems with tie-backs done this way:
a) they're cliche - writers use them too much instead of finding a creative way to explain their actions and motives
b) they stop the story to go back
c) the last problem and one of my biggest writing peeves: they lead to dream sequences!
Please, I beg you, limit your dream sequences! Please, for the love of my sanity!


2) Foreshadowing - another overused technique. In case you don't know what it means, here's a definition from Wikipedia: (notice how many times the writers uses the words 'in other words ' in his definition)

"Foreshadowing ... provide[s] clues for the reader to be able to predict what might occur later on in the story. In other words, it is a literary device in which an author drops hints about the plot and what may come in the near future or, in other words, the plot developments to come later in the story."

In other  words, it assumes the reader is too dumb to get the point so they foreshadow a big scene more than once. And when the big scene actually arrives, the reader says, 'deja vu.'

So, does this mean that you should not use foreshadowing and flashbacks? No. But, don't overuse them.
Be creative with your flashbacks and produce surprise effects with your foreshadowing. It can be done and probably you've seen them in your favorite novels.

More on this topic next week.
Source: Brainstormer Writing Series

This award was given me by Patricia Stoltley. She has a wonderful writing blog and she writes great mysteries set in Colorado. Check out her blog.

I give the award to:

1) Reaganstar at Star Shadow Creative Mishaps.
2) Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs
3) Rachel at I Picked up a Pen One Day
4) http://journeysinink.wordpress.com/
5) Erica at laugh.write.play


Thursday, 25 February 2010

Novel Transitions and Tie-backs - Part I

We want our stories to have continuity and flow. That's where transitions and tie-backs come in. Even when watching a movie about seemingly different lives, usually at the end, they all have one purpose or somehow their lives have crossed paths. Each character and their story ties into the theme of the work. That's transition and tie-back.

Our words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters should flow from one to the next. Every bit of your story should be related, an orderly part of the whole that can't be taken out without damaging the overall structure of the story.

How can we master transition? Two ways:
1) Think of cause and effect. Something that happens in a present scene will result in something happening in a later scene. That's why it's important to keep tract of things that happen in your plot because at the end, all the unsolved issues should be cleared up and in a way the reader least suspects.

For example, in the book Jane Eyre, references were made from the beginning about Jane's relatives and how they came from wealthy backgrounds and how some were akin to her. The reader always had that information in the back of their mind so when at the end, Jane is left with some money from her rich relatives, it didn't come as a shock, it all fit together.

2) Consider motivation. Writers who truly bring to life rich characters with personality and motivation and then give them a story that tests those motivations, it's only natural that a reaction will occur. Knowing what a character wants helps create well-rounded people in your fiction. But what’s underneath that desire to rob a bank, ski down a vertical cliff, or fall in love?

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs may not seem to apply to fiction, where a character's needs deal more with getting the guy, solving the murder, or restoring family relationships. But understanding the theory can help writers get at the core of their characters.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs says that the most basic, primitive needs must be met to form a foundation before higher needs can be considered. The seven needs, beginning with the most basic, are:

* Physiological: air, food, water, sleep
* Safety: shelter, physical and financial security
* Social (Love/Belonging): family, friendship, acceptance in a group
* Esteem: confidence, respect, acknowledgement
* Self-Actualization: morality, wisdom, personal potential
* Cognitive: acquire and understand knowledge
* Aesthetic: appreciate and create beauty and structure
What Really Drives a Character?

With these basic needs in mind, writers can deepen their characters by determining how the things a character wants (revenge, romance, a promotion, to solve a mystery, to hold a marriage together) are caused by what he or she really needs.

* A bully doesn’t pick on someone just to be mean. Does it make him accepted with his friends? Is the other worker is a threat to his job? Does he think he’ll be seen as powerful if he forces someone into submission?
* Is the village wise woman completely altruistic in helping others, or does she need the acknowledgment of others or the self-respect that comes with giving advice? Does she need the empowerment and control the position gives her? The status within her group?
* And does the corporate power broker simply enjoy the challenge and excitement of business, or does he need the outward show of respect to feel accepted? Or is he driven to success to make up for a past failure?

Writers Know More than Characters

It is important to note, however, that just because a writer knows the character’s deepest needs does not mean that the character realizes it. A woman who was shoved to the background for years while her sister dealt with cancer won’t connect that experience with her need for belonging and her desire to be the life of the party now. But you as a writer know that, and you can let that understanding come out in other ways.

Source: Read more at Suite101: Deeper Character Motivation:



What is the benefit of reading in Google Reader vs on the Blogger dashboard?






Also, here are some really cool blog articles I read yesterday:
1) Courtney Vail from Journeys in Ink talked about where we can find great plot ideas.
2) Charmaine Clancy showed us the important of having good web sites for our books.





Wednesday, 24 February 2010

For Writers: Speech to Text

Today I am doing my blog by using speech recognition. I finish the tutorial but I guess I still need to finish working out the bugs.

I read recently that an author had written three books using speech recognition. I was skeptical because it seemed like there would be way more complications and than need be. On my computer I use windows operating system and it comes with a speech recognition program so I decided to try it today. It worked out really well. It's easy to correct and most of the words that I have said are correct.

So who knows, perhaps I will write my next book using speech recognition. I just need to kick my dog out of the room because any time she makes noise, the speech recognition program wants two record her sounds.

What do you think about speech recognition programs?? Would you ever use it to write your book? Do some of you prefer to type instead of speak?


Also, for all you mystery and crime lovers. There is a website that listed the
50 Best Blogs for Crime & Mystery Book Lovers Check it out! Some of the blogs I follow are on that list.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The History of Publishing


Remember, back in the day when we read off scrolls? Boy, were they ever frustrating to carry around... but, we just couldn't give up that scroll smell. Yum, papyrus. We liked it so much we came up with toilet paper on a roll, tape, and Fruit-Roll-Ups. Good days. Good days.

Then, the blasted Codex people came along. We can make books better, they said, we'll make them more portable. You had to carry many scrolls just to have a book. Well, now you can have a book in small brick form. You can carry more than one at a time! 

Sure, we thought. And how much will this cost us?

It'll be cheaper, they said, not your 15.99 copper Roman coins but only 9.99 copper coins... well, unless you buy from Roman bookseller Caesar MacMillanius, he wants to charge you 12.99.

We gave in and look where that got us... we let our guard down and now our walls are cluttered with paper books.

Then came Gutenburg and his new-fangled gadget. No! We stamped our feet. Yes, yes, he said, like that... a press, a printing press!

The use of a press was a key technological difference that provided European book publishers increased profits over their ancient Chinese counterparts. (Sound familiar?) Now, the average person can have access to books... anywhere!

To weak to fight, we gave in... again.

But, we must not give up! Our reading freedom is about to be challenged once again. Read on a computer? A device the size of a hand? What!? That's insane! My eyes, my poor eyes!

It’s just not the same as a book. There is no feel of the paper between your fingers, no sense of wear and tear on the spine of a well loved tome. You can’t dog ear the pages or make notes in the margin. You can’t lend it to a friend when you are done. You can’t lovingly pick it out of a book store and drop it in the mail because you think your nephew would really dig the scary vampires and zombies on the cover.

How are we to look intelligent and well-read if all our books can get lost behind the cushions in our sofa? Perhaps we will once again give in and our world will change again. Can we really stop progress?

Monday, 22 February 2010

Why didn't they ask Evans by Agatha Christie

Why Didn't They Ask Evans? (St. Martin's Minotaur Mysteries)
Genre: Agatha Christie MysteryHow I read it: I own the book.

What attracted me to the book: It's an Agatha Christie and I've read all her books.

What it worth the money? Her books are cheap. You can probably find hundreds of her books in a used book store... so yes.

Who should read this book: Everyone!

Summary (from amazon): Was it a misstep that sent the handsome stranger plummeting to his death from a cliff? Or something more sinister? Fun-loving adventurers Bobby Jones and Francis Derwit's suspicions are certainly aroused-especially since the man's dying words were so peculiar: Why didn't they ask Evans? Bobby and Francis would love to know. Unfortunately, asking it of the wrong people have sent the amateur sleuths running for their lives-on a wild and deadly pursuit to discover who Evans is, what it was he wasn't asked, and why the mysterious inquiry has put their own lives in mortal danger...

Sean Biggerstaff plays Bobby in the movie
My thoughts: I love all of AC's mysteries, she has created some of the greatest plot lines in all of history. But, what made me love this book was not the mystery as much as the chemistry between the two MCs. Francis, the female MC is witty, adventurous and rich. I bonded with her immediately. Some of the things she did in the book were outrageous and funny.

However, AC doesn't leave the mystery lover hanging. This book has: a chase for an unknown murderer, a near-death poisoning for Bobby, multiple disguises for Bobby and Frankie, a plot to do with mistaken identity, a subplot of a mental hospital and a lunatic patient, a scheme of faking a will, a murder in a locked room, a scheme with impersonations, and a thriving drug business.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character(s): No, but I wasn't really trying to piece the clues together in this one. I was along for the ride.

Bottom Line: If you haven't read Agatha Christie yet, why not? Get started already!

Rating:

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 7

Phoebus in Greek mythology
Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty;
And having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, 'fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way:
So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon
Unlooked on diest unless thou get a son.

There is a great deal of meaning in this poem. It could compare the sun, which men look upon with wonder as it rises in the east (sunrise) and watch it work it way over the earth. However, as it approaches noon, and the sun beats down heavily upon the earth's occupants, we are forced to look away because of its brightness and from it's zenith or high-point it's only downhill from there, the daylight will soon be gone. Like a human approaching middle age if he doesn't have a child before the end of his prime, people will only look down on him as he approaches death.

1. Look! in the morning when the sun (because, as we know, the sun rises in the East)
2. Rises over every human
3. We pay respects to his appearing in the day
4. By gazing upon it.

5. And by rising into the sky...or advancing in time (the chariot of the sun, driven by Phoebus in Greek mythology, climbs up the steep slope of the sky.)
6. It still remains beautiful even to middle age (midday)
7. We still look upon its beauty
8. As the sun makes his way across the sky.
9. But when it reaches the highest point in the sky (midlife) having used up its useful energy.
10. Like old age, it starts its descent.
11. Our eyes, before in awe, are changed
12. From his lowest point and soon we forget the sun
13. So youth, you will soon pass your prime
14. And die unnoticed unless you have a son.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

Writing is a product of silence.  ~Carrie Latet

I liked this quotation when I read it because it could mean different things to different people.

First, it could mean that to get a good session of writing done, you need silence. You need to hear the words your characters are speaking to you. You need the silence to focus on the scene and where to place your characters.

Secondly, it could mean writing is a product of a lonely childhood. Perhaps you were raised an only child and/or your parents worked a lot and you had to keep yourself occupied. Those hours creating an entertaining world for yourself, has made you adept at creating wonderful worlds for others.

Or maybe it means you should not tell your story idea to anyone. Debating possible plot options could effectively stops production in its tracks. It may turns your project into an attempt to please everyone at once. Others suggest it distracts you from the delicate process of actually working on the project; you become the type of writer who is always talking about his/her book without ever actually writing it.

These are some ideas of what the quote might mean...WHAT DOES THIS QUOTE SAY TO YOU?

One source: here
Picture source: here


Next, I wanted to send a thank you to Kristen who gave me this award. She's a new blogger with a fantastic looking blog. Go check it out.

I've already received and handed this award out...but thank you so much for the mention.

Seven things about me:
I'm Canadian and I don't:
1) like the cold or play outdoor winter sports
2) speak French
3) like eating wild game
4) live in an igloo
5) have a dog sled or huskys
6) have a president
7) say 'eh'

Friday, 19 February 2010

21 Tips to Get Out of the Slush Pile

First, I'm starting to make websites for my books. And for my WIP, Blondie Brilliance vs. The Titans I create a website. I would love it if you stopped by and let me know what I need to add to make it better... Remember, the website is not done. I do need to add more gadgets and such.


Today is Friday and I'm exhausted. So, I'm going to pick an article I've read and liked from this past week. 
Here is the essential checklist of tweaks to consider when reviving a rejected story (or while writing or editing your first draft).

During the 16 years that I edited Clockwatch Review, I often found myself wishing that every writer could work as an editor for a year. After all, it's impossible to read 60-plus manuscripts daily and not develop a pretty fair sense of what makes a short story work.

While editors learn a lot about fiction, writers, unfortunately, are left only with cryptic rejection slips that say things like "sorry," "try us again" or "this came close." But the high volume of submissions makes it impossible for most editors to explain what revisions a writer might undertake. That's probably one of the most frustrating aspects of editing, because I often think to myself that a tweak here or there would make a huge difference in a rejected story. Here are 21 tweaks to consider when trying to revive a rejected story:

1. Could it use a new beginning? Lead with a powerful scene, a witty exchange or a dazzling description that's now buried. Or, try x-ing out paragraph one, then two and so on, until you get to something that includes more action, interest or contrast than your original beginning. You'll find that what you had may have been only throat-clearing, rather than saying something necessary to the overall story.

2. Does the ending allude to a deeper story? The best endings resonate because they echo a word, phrase or image from earlier in the story, and the reader is prompted to think back to that reference and speculate on a deeper meaning.

3. Is there a dominant visual image? With the movie Deliverance, it's the "Squeal like a pig" mountain rape scene; with Pulp Fiction, it's the needle thrust into the heart of a woman who had overdosed. Strong central images such as these anchor the story in our memories.

4 Is the right person telling the story? I vividly remember a Kurt Vonnegut story of a broken relationship, told not by one of the participants, but by a plumber wedged underneath a kitchen sink whom the couple seems to have forgotten. Speculation on the part of a narrator is sometimes more interesting than exposition.

5 Have you included enough interior monologue, or too much? It's amazing how many writers tell a story from a certain point of view, but don't spend much time inside that particular character's head. Without internal thoughts—which can help to serve as a counterplot to the physical action—a story will be less complex. But pick your moments carefully. Characters should reflect during pauses in the action—not during physical action scenes.

6 Are there too many minor characters, or too few? There are no hard and fast rules, but short stories can't hold too many characters (or proper names). If characters aren't absolutely necessary, get rid of them—or at least don't give them names. Call them by their occupation, function or dress, like "the grocer," "the girl who kept staring at him" or "the man in the blue shirt."

7 Have you created appropriate frequency and intensity of scenes? A scene should reveal something about the character, advance the plot in a significant way, provide insight into the "theme" or, as Eudora Welty suggested, do all three. Too few scenes can make a story seem like little more than a sketch; too many scenes can dilute a story to where important scenes can lose their power; and dramatizing the wrong moments is like highlighting the wrong passages in a novel for the next reader to find.

8 Why are you telling me this? Ever stand at a party and wonder why someone was telling you a story? The movie Stand by Me is a tale of 12-year-olds framed by a beginning where a grown writer is seen contemplating a headline about a local attorney's murder and an ending where we see that writer finding inspiration from his son and a playmate to end his story. The frame gives the story an immediate context and anticipates the "why" question.

9 Do you appeal to a reader's senses? The world around us is made "real" by our senses: touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing. Stories that lack a convincing sense of reality often lack imagery that appeals to a reader's senses. A writer once told me that he strives to include five sensory details on every page. In retrospect, that seems like overkill, but you can make a fictional world come alive for readers by making it first come alive for your characters.

10 Do you appeal to a sense of place? Many stories exist in a vacuum, where lines are spoken without any description of an interior or exterior setting. That's like going to the theater and having the house lights never come on, or having characters stand there and deliver lines without any stage action.

11 Are your characters motivated? What drives them to do the things they do? Do we know what they want?

12 Is your time frame interesting? Too many stories revolve around a single incident covering one to three hours. Could your current story really be a scene within a larger story? What if the story was stretched, like an image stamped in Silly Putty, until it became distorted and possibly more interesting?

13 Could you add texture to your story with echoes, allusions and metaphors? The fiction studied in college—Literature, with a capital "L" —is rich with figurative language and echoes. Figurative language includes metaphors, similes ("he had teeth like an alligator"), symbols and allusions ("someone had arranged the leaves on his lawn in the shape of a cross"). Echoes work by repeating key phrases or words within the story so that they have a cumulative effect on the reader.

14 Have you considered the use of an unreliable narrator? Would your story be more interesting if we were led to believe that your narrator wasn't telling the whole truth, or if our perceptions were something different from the narrator's?

15 Do you provide both trivial information and "deep thoughts"? If your character is a bricklayer, then readers want to learn more about a bricklayer's world—the technical aspects of the job, as well as the mind-set of a mason.

16 Could lyrics, letters or lists add interest? These details double as plot devices. Consider what the "Sheik of Araby" lyrics add to F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, or the letter that turns to pulp in Daisy's hand or the list of socialites who frequent Gatsby's parties.

17 What about coincidence and irony? These literary conventions add considerable interest. Say you have a story about a divorced parent who contracts AIDS, where the focus is on her first finding out and then wondering how to make provisions for her children. If you make her ex-husband the one in the relationship who is promiscuous or a drug abuser, it establishes an irony that sets up an emotional response in the reader.

18 Have you created enough contrast? Too many stories focus on a cast of characters who look, talk and act alike. If your characters are similar, try introducing quirks, interests, speech patterns, expressions, physical traits or emotional responses that will set them apart from others. When you walk down the street, what do you notice in a sea of people: two men of the same race and height, or members of the opposite sex who also are dressed radically different or have dramatic height contrasts?

19 Is your dialogue lively and engaging? Friends of Tennessee Williams said that they often thought the author had a whole house full of people, because there were all sorts of voices in varying tones and volumes coming from his writing room. That's because Williams acted out his scenes while he wrote, trying to get each character right. You can try that trick, but if your dialogue still doesn't ring true, perhaps it's what your characters are saying rather than how they're saying it. What's more interesting? Overheard conversations at the beginning or end of a date, party or gathering of friends, or conversations from the middle?

20 Can you up the ante? The simplest fictional formula is situation, followed by complication and (ir)resolution. Many times we get stories where the complication feels like part of an emerging problem the character must face, rather than an additional factor that will make a resolution tougher. Other times the complication just isn't complicated enough, or there simply isn't enough at stake. Try intensifying an existing complication, or toss in one or two more for good measure!

21 When all else fails, why not try a "sidecar" approach? So many of the stories we saw felt like theme park rides where the car follows a predictable route and never leaves the track. A boy breaks his mother's priceless vase, and the story follows the external action of his attempts to repair it and the internal action of him trying to decide whether (or how) to tell his mother about it. But what if that boy was in junior high and had just hooked up with his first serious girlfriend, and the story's focus is instead on their relationship? The vase could become a subplot, which could complicate things if the girlfriend thinks he should do something different from what he's inclined. Greater complexity means greater reader interest. So tweak away!

Source: Writer's Digest
February 11, 2010
by James Plath

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Writing: Sentence Structure

What makes an effective sentence? In one word: Comprehension!

What makes a sentence easier to comprehend? In two words: less words. As the number of words increase, so does the risk of incomprehension. Each sentence should only state one idea. If you have to state another idea, start another sentence.

That doesn't mean that writing double sentences or compound sentences aren't allowed. But, try not to use them too much. You risk losing the reader in your words.

You don't want to only write short sentences either. Imagine reading this: The boy went to the store. He bought milk. He brought it home. His mother thanked him. They had cereal for dinner. After, the boy washed the dishes. Together, they sat and watched Jeopardy. At eleven, they went to bed.
How monotonous!

You want to combine short and long sentences together. Not all too long, not all too short.


Put the subject close to the beginning of the sentence: Writers often bury the subject behind a lengthy clause, rendering the subject punchless. Obviously, there are times when the writer intends to highlight something other than the subject. It should, however, be done sparingly.

* Ineffective: Hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius, Caesar collapsed and died.
* Effective: Caesar collapsed and died, hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius.

Use active voice, not passive voice.

* Ineffective: Frank was very angry at Ted's betrayal.
* Effective: Ted's betrayal angered Frank..

Source: http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/22352.aspx


Take it as it Comes gave me this award. Thank you so much...I needed a happiness reminder on this gray day.

1) My son!
2) Coffee!
3) My friend and husband, who will kill me for listing him third. (This list is in no particular order...)
4) Writing
5) Sleeping
6) Showering
7) My dog and her cute wrinkly little face.
8) My nieces and nephews
9) Dancing like a crazy person
10) A good old fashioned locked room puzzle or any puzzle for that matter.

I give this award to:
1) Coffee Rings Everywhere for making me cry this morning. Rayna's blog made me cry!
2) Tirz at A Clever Whatever, you need a bit of cheering up!
3) Martin Edwards
4) Elizabeth Spann Craig
5) Corra at from the desk of a writer
(Some of you may already have it...but, it's good publicity anyway.)

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Writing: Copy a bestseller to be a bestseller!

I read recently in my Brainstormer writing book that when you start writing, you should take a book - in the genre you're wring in - and copy it out word for word.

What!?

This didn't make any sense but what he said next did... Why you should do this - maybe not the whole book but parts:

1) You practice writing proper grammar and punctuation. Need help punctuating dialog? Copy a master writer!
2) From copying chapters, you learn what length chapters should be, you learn story structure and proper narration.
3) You pick up tips on writing action and dialog or any areas you may be weak.
Fiction Writer's Brainstormer4) Writers have to choose their words carefully. Anyone can eventually explain their novel in 500,000 words but most publishers will want less then 100,000 so you need to value each words you pick. By copying a best-seller, you see how every word chosen serves a purpose. You don't waste your time or your words.

Now, don't actually try to sell your copied novel... that's called plagiarism. But, as you copy, take notes and write the lessons you learned. Ask yourself why the writer chose to write this way or pick the words he did.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Writers: Stay out of it!

I'm currently reading Jane Eyre and one thing I notice about the Bronte sisters is they often say: "Dear Reader". Most modern writers don't step so blatantly into their story but sometimes we can't help ourselves and think we can do it subtly.

Here's another example of the writer speaking to their audience: Little did she know what was waiting for her on the other side of the door. The character doesn't know, but it's clear the author does and he's letting the reader know too.

Still, you may be saying, that's quite obvious.

What about these examples?

1) If a writer uses word gimmicks - like alliteration 'She wound up wishing she was washing in a wishing well.' Unless the character says that in dialog, it's the author choosing those words...not that they ever would chose those exact words because they're awful... But, ultimately, is the character in the story thinking that or is it the writer? What about multiple exclamation points not in dialog.

2) Preaching from the mouth of a character - please, don't use your writing to make unnecessary political, social, or religious statements that aren't vital to the story's plot or the character's personality.

3) Showing off our knowledge - writers need to do research, but if he just writes what he knows to show off and not advance the plot, it's writer intrusion. Lets say you do research on dogs to find the best dog for a certain climate condition. Do you then need to write about ten different breeds and their Latin names just to say: Mark picked the strongest St. Bernard to accompany him as he cross-country skied through the snowy woods.

4) If a reader can't understand skips your words because of flowery writing or excessive description, the writer has allowed his/her presence to be felt. If you've ever read a book and have had to stop because your confused, you're no longer in the character's world, you're in the writers. A reader should never have to ask, 'What was the writer trying to say?'

5) Don't keep repeating your own pet phrases or words in the narrative.

Can you think of any other examples of writer intrusion?




Next, I wanted to send a thank you to Kimberly Franklin who gave me this award. She has changed the background on her blog. Go check it out.

I guess, I'm suppose to list seven things but I will do that on a later blog. Also, I have to give it away to deserving, but first, I need to find those who haven't received this award yet. Hmm, if you don't have this one and want it, let me know. I will be glad to advertise your blog here...

And the award goes to:
1) Book Dilettante
2) from the desk of a writer
3) Ellie O'leary  at Writing Thru It
4) Mystery Writing is Murder (though she already has it...)
5) Carol at Carol's Prints

Monday, 15 February 2010

Pretty is as Pretty Dies by Elizabeth Spann Craig

Pretty is as Pretty Dies: A Myrtle Clover Mystery (Myrtle Clover Mysteries)Genre: Cozy Mystery
How I read it: Kindle for PC

What attracted me to the book: The title and the awesome cover! Love the gnomes. Maybe because I love the TV show Amazing Race.

What it worth the money? Yes.

Who should read this book: If you love cozy mysteries set in small American towns with great characters and witty banter... it's for you!

Summary (from amazon): No one in Bradley, North Carolina, is exactly crying into their sweet tea over the murder of Parke Stockard. Certainly not retired schoolteacher Myrtle Clover. Upon discovering the corpse, Myrtle is struck-not with grief, but a brilliant idea! Solving the crime would prove to everyone (especially her son Red, the police chief) that this eighty-something-year-old is not ready to be put out to pasture just yet.

The victim, a pretty but pushy town developer, had deep pockets and few friends. Myrtle can't throw one of her gaudy garden gnomes without hitting a potential suspect. Even when another murder takes place, proud Myrtle forges on, armed only with a heavy cane, a venomous tongue, and a widower sidekick.

My thoughts:This was my second cozy in a row and I wasn't too enthused to read another after not liking the first, but I'm glad I did. I enjoyed the characters in the small town and some bits were extremely funny. The sleuth in this series is an old lady, Miss Marple-ish but with attitude.

Also, what I liked is that the author never took the situations to extreme. I never said while reading, 'that would never happen.' I think that realism is important when you have as a main character a sleuth not normally involved in crime.

My editing work sometimes takes the enjoyment out of reading and the multiple POVs in each chapter threw me, but once I got used to it (and the mult POV provided humor) I dove right in. However, the author has an amazing way of describing things, I felt the small-town life and the small-town personality.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character: Yes. But, the author did make me doubt myself a few times.

Bottom Line:If you enjoy cozy mysteries with interesting characters, you won't be disappointed with this book.

Rating:

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 6

Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That's for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.

1. Don't let old age's wrinkles ( raggedly) disfigure you
2. While you're still young, before you have children (distillation is made of your essence)
3. Have children and make some woman's womb happy with your seed (treasure)
4. Have children before you no longer can.
(Back then, the man's seed was considered to be the essential substance for the generation of new life. Women's function in the reproductive process was not understood. The woman was thought to be no more than the vehicle for carrying the man's progeny.)
5.Using your seed for gain is not forbidden
(use in the technical sense of usufruct,interest, making money by lending it out. Usury was considered sinful, but a ten percent return on money was legally permitted. The usurers performed the function of modern day banks) 6. Especially because it makes those happy who gain from it with children.
7. Because you only gain if you make another of you
8. Or ten times happier, if you have ten children instead of one.
9. Having ten children would make you ten times happier than if you only had one child, or certainly happier than you are in your present childless situation.
10. Ten children will keep ten fresh images of you around and more if they have grandchildren.
11.Then, if you die, death hasn't won
12. Because you will still live through your children. 13. Do not be stubborn, for you are too good for that.
(There is a sexual innuendo derived from will. Hence ' do not devote yourself to self-pleasure'.)
14. You do not want death to win and leave only worms to benefit from you (breeding from your corpse). (Also apparently there is a legal meaning of conquest: - property acquired by means other than inheritance (usually by force of arms).)


Source: Shakespeare's Sonnets

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Saturday's Writng Quotation Examination

The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.  ~Samuel Johnson

 Saturdays are slow days in the blogging community. Perhaps it stems from the fact that most writers (myself excluded) have lives away from their computers. So, I've decided to save my writing posts for mid-week and make Saturdays a writing quote study.

How it works: I take a random writing quote and examine its meaning and search for wisdom within.

This is my first quote. Samuel Johnson lived in the 1700s and was best known for his essays, poetry and sermons. Johnson even influenced Jane Austen's writing style and philosophy.

What he says here rings true for me... writers whether they wrote long ago or today have a great deal of power. Their words shape the thinking and view points of the readers.

How?

For example, let's say we were against the slave trade a few hundred years back. We could write a book from the point of a slave or a slave owner and make the characters ones we relate to or feel sorry for. If we write enough books with subtle situations describing the follies of a certain course, we can shape the society that reads our work. Many, including Samuel Johnson, did such with their writings.

Many topics off-limit and banned to readers years ago have become a norm because literature has made it acceptable. Example, Harry Potter.

Now, how does a writer make familiar things new?

Through the creativity of the writer, we can make a walk through a park full of love, laughter, murder, mystery, suspense, or even a thought-provoking take on life.

We can take a simple balloon ride and change the lives of many...(Black Dogs by McEwan)

What is your take on this quotation?

Friday, 12 February 2010

A Stitch in Crime by Betty Hechtman

A Stitch in Crime (A Crochet Mystery)Genre: Cozy Mystery
How I read it: Kindle for PC

What attracted me to the book: The genre and the free crochet pattern.

What it worth the money? The Kindle version cost me $8.39 and the savings in gas. It came with two recipes and a two-part crochet pattern. If those things are important to you, the answer will be yes.

Who should read this book: If you look around and you're sitting in a nice cozy arm chair, listening to Mozart, a book with a fancy crocheted bookmark in it is sitting next you as you crochet - this is the book for you and your crochet bookmark!

Summary (from amazon): Molly's been handed the reins for this year's creative retreat-an exhilarating weekend out on the Monterey Peninsula, complete with crochet classes. Unfortunately for one teacher, though, the breathtaking scenery is where she'll take her last breath. Now Molly will have to find a new instructor, and, if she can squeeze it in, solve this murder-with the help of her pals from the Tarzana Hookers.

My thoughts: In all fairness, I've gotten used to more intense reads like those of Caroline Graham and Val McDermid, so in comparison, I found the book timid. I also had issues in that I haven't read the first three books in the series and I found references to situations I didn't know about.

The book is written in first person and while I got close to the main character, it didn't make me feel for any of the others. When the victim died, I felt no sadness or shock, to me, she deserved what she received. The author is funny and there are some funny and crazy scenes in the book. I haven't had the time to create the purse with the pattern given but I did create the flower, you can see it on the right.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character: No.

Bottom Line: This book is what it is, a cozy who-dunnit. If that's what you're wanting to read, you'll find it in this book.

Rating:

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Writing: Creating Powerful Images

When I write my first draft, I write bare-bones. Only what I need. The next draft, I fill in some of the little details or descriptions.

One thing that irritates me when I read a novel is the constant interruption in action to describe things. If a woman is being shot at, I don't need to know her shirt is red or that she's shorter than her sister who was born in the Yucatan and only likes to drink beer.

Description is important but you can create powerful images without disrupting the flow of dialog, action and conflict.

How?

1) Paint the image in small bites - if a woman is running through the forest, don't stop action to describe the trees and the birds and the fact that the forest is known for its conifers.
Better example: As she escaped through the woods, pine branches lashed her face. (you know you're running through a forest of pines, close together.)

2) Incorporate image into the action - Have the character describe not the author.
Better example: She pointed in the direction of the looming hulk in the pitch black of night. 'Did you hear that?'
'No,' he said, 'it couldn't be...'
The crashing of brush told them it could.

3) See through the character's eyes.

4) Don't describe the cliche, the norm, describe telling details - When describing the forest, don't just describe the eerieness of the trees and the shadows...that's been done. Instead, describe a spider's web that the character got caught up in or ran into or maybe a startled rabble of butterflies fluttered off the tree in front of her face and the dust from their wings made her sneeze.

5) Choose better verbs.

6) Make verbs into better adverbs - Looming could be an adjective or crashing could be a noun. Love your thesaurus and your dictionary!

7) Invent fresh viewpoints - describe the scene as a blind person feels it. Or as a deaf feels it.

8) Create an image without saying so - 'She threw her Kindle across the room, breaking the glass on her father's platinum album award' says a lot about the character, a) she's into technology b) has anger issues c) doesn't value her possessions d) is rich e) her father is a musician f) a famous musician g) she likes reading

Picture source: here
From Fiction Writers Brainstorm

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The Hook: Get Caught! & Awards!

First, I want to thank a few people for some awards. Kimberley Franklin gave me the coveted Over the top Award. You can see my answers here.

Second, Under The Tiki Hut gave me a "Creative Writer" award. Apparently, I'm a great liar. Thank you.

Both of these awards come from great blogs. You should check them out if you haven't already.

Alright, six of these are lies and one is the truth. Which one is true?

1. I know Morse Code.
2. I put 4 tsps of sugar in my coffee.
3. I can read your mind... (No wait, that one is true. You were just thinking, 'Oh yeah, what was I thinking?') I'm considered obese.
4. I've been stabbed by a family member.
5. I've been in three States at once.
6. I know how to count to ten in 15 languages.
7. I never forget anything.

I will hand this award out tomorrow.

Now, to finding your hook.

In this dog-eat-dog world of publishing, a hook is vital. A hook will make a buyer pick your book to spend his $15 on instead of another. 

What is a hook? Understand this, it's not the plot. But it's your character's goal or quest and and what stands in the way. It should plant a seed of suspense, set the mood, begin building dramatic tension, and pose a question the reader wants answered.

Lets look at some examples:
STAR WARS--will Luke become a great jedi?
A FEW GOOD MEN--will they uncover the culprits behind the soldiers death?
A GAME OF THRONES--will the land survive the long night?

Jane Austen's opening line, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

Your hook has to be put down right away. A reader wont wait until 1/3 of the book is done for the hook. Your readers should know right away what the story's about.

How do you write a hook?

Where most of us go wrong is focusing on that ideal conflict-laden opening, the one guaranteed to bring in readers and sales. Forget conflict, excitement, and sales for the moment. What the hook does is represent the story. It tells readers what to expect from the story as a whole. If the reader likes that kind of story, that will be excitement enough to draw him in... and if he don't like that kind of story, you didn't have much of a chance anyway.

So the first step is to identify what is most important about your story. All stories contain four main elements: people, plot, setting, and style. In most stories, one of these four will be more important than the other three. What element of your story do you expect people to be most drawn to? Which sets it off from other, similar stories? What do your first readers compliment you on the most?

Some of this will be genre-dependent. Romance novels will mostly be character-centric, mysteries likely to focus on plot.

It may be that characters that are the best things about your story, but there is one character -- your protagonist -- who is the best character of all. It may be plot that people read your stories for, but there is one plotline -- the main one -- that they really want.


Step 1

Study the competition. To be a successful writer, you need to be familiar with not only what ground has been previously covered but also how it was covered in fresh and innovative ways. For instance, although the romance genre is known to follow a standard formula of "boy meets girl/boy loses girl/boy gets girl back," the broad number of variations employed involve elements such as conflicting religions, the chasm of respective job/social status, and fantasy obstacles such as time travel, science experiments and magic spells.

Step 2

Identify at least three things in your plot that are unique from the titles you have researched in Step #1. For example, suppose you are an expert on Mesopotamia and have written your romance novel in this time period. Unlike many period romances that transpire in the Middle Ages, during the Civil War, or at turn-of-the-century London or New York, the setting of Mesopotamia is pretty much an untapped territory and readers would probably be interested in learning more about it. Furthermore, your heroine has come to power by pretending to be a man. Thirdly, the object of her affections is blind and wouldn't know how beautiful the heroine was even if she wasn't in disguise. Put these three spins together and you've got yourself a good hook.

Step 3

Identify at least one thing about yourself that puts you in an expert position to write this book. Let's say that you have written a nonfiction text about how to cope with the challenges of living with an autistic child. If you are a doctor or educational professional whose specialty is the field of autism or if you are a parent who has gone through the experiences of raising an autistic son or daughter, your level of credibility will cause readers in similar circumstances to seek you out for advice and support. Even in a fictional context (i.e., a crime novel), the real-life experiences you can bring to the table (i.e., as a former detective/investigator/attorney) will make the events that transpire in the book resonate with accuracy. This is the kind of supporting documentation that editors notice when you mention them upfront in a query letter.

Step 4

Summarize your plot in one short question. If, for instance, your book was adapted to a movie and it was playing at the local theater, what would the teaser on the lobby poster say? The question you come up with should be something that not only dares a reader to wonder "what if" but also drops a hint as to what the movie is going to be about. Example: "What if the greatest magician of our time...wasn't from our time?" This technique works well as the opening line to your agent/editor query letter because it dares the recipient to keep reading to find out what it means. Steps 5-8 offer other openers that will keep your submission from sliding into the slush pile.

Step 5

Compose a controversial statement that catches the reader off guard. Whether it's the first line in your book or the opening line in your query letter, the intent is to grab their attention. If, for example, you noticed a magazine article titled "Your Diet Is Killing You," you'd be drawn to read it because it contradicts your belief that diets are supposed to help you lose extra pounds to live longer.

Step 6

Open with a fact. If your book is nonfiction, this is pretty easy to do because you're probably just lifting something from one of your own chapters that falls into the "bet you didn't know this" category. If you're pitching a work of fiction, however, the "fact" in question can actually be just a creative perception of one of the characters with absolutely no bearing on reality.

Step 7

Open your query letter with a catchy quotation, especially one that hasn't been done to death. Internet sources such as Brainy Quote (see Resources) are great for this purpose. If it's a quote that you can twist a bit, even better. Example: "Time wounds all heels."

Step 8

Start your query letter with a story. It could either be the opening paragraph from the book itself or it could be the synopsis. The latter is especially effective if it's a first-person narrative based on a true event. Example: "Dear Ms. Jones, If someone had told me eight years ago that I'd be writing to you, I wouldn't have believed them. There's nothing about my personality that shouts 'writer' nor anything in my family background that I ever felt was extraordinary. For as long as I can remember, I've simply gotten up every day and gone to work and come back home. All of that changed, though, on a Tuesday morning in September when the world as I knew it came crashing down and I was soon thereafter listed among the missing."

Step 9

Study the list of the "100 Best Novels of All Time" (see Resources). As time permits, read the opening paragraph of each book for its "hookability." Likewise, read what the critics have said about what made each book stand out.

Sources: Writing Hooks
E-How

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

12 1/2 Rules of Writing

Too lazy to do a blog, so I thought I would have a picture do it for me. A picture does say 1000 words or in this case, fewer.

Picture source: here

Monday, 8 February 2010

Writing: Make A Scene!

You often here writers say they write in scenes rather than chapters. Or they say, a chapter is a scene. That's the case for me.

I think first of all, we need to know what a scene is. I like this definition from the website Holly Lisle:
The scene is the smallest discrete unit in fiction; it is the smallest bit of fiction that contains the essential elements of story. You don't build a story or a book of words and sentences and paragraphs -- you build it of scenes, one piled on top of the next, each changing something that came before, all of them moving the story inexorably and relentlessly forward.
...It contains the single element that gives your story life, movement, and excitement. ...Change.
When is a scene a scene? When something changes. What defines the completion of a scene? The moment of change.
 Okay, so that's a scene.

The reason I prefer to use the terminology of scene rather than chapter is that sometimes my chapters have more than one scene. How do we know we've got a scene?

Lets take a page from my WIP scene notebook: (There are 3 main parts.)

Scene # (you can write your own scene # here):

  1. Goal: In this case, my MCs are going to the _____ (I wont say here in case I spoil my book for any future readers) to track down the killer. They don't know who he is, they only know where he works. And, they know it's a 'he'.
  2. Conflict: They enter but they don't find any men. The person in charge at this ____ won't help them and when they finally get her to cooperate and hand over a list of men who work there and find the one who matches a previous address in their list of suspects...
  3. Disaster: They find out ----- (something shocking - I wont say what that is and ruin the surprise)
Of course now, to continue with these two characters, before you can create another goal, you will need:
  1. Reaction - they are shocked and frustrated not to find the killer readily available - but at least they have his name
  2. Dilemma - they have to find out where he lives
  3. Decision - they get his home address and decide to go there...
Once the character has his decision, he can make a new goal... the cycle starts again.

Picture Sources: Men with Pens
Source: Advanced Fiction Writing

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 5

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o'er-snowed and bareness every where:
Then were not summer's distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
 This poem takes you through season ie. the years of your life...
1) The (hours) time that nature (gentle work) spent on you making (frame) you what you are - beautiful
2) The face (gaze - your face has eyes to gaze) or beauty that everyone sees
3) Well, those hours or time will be cruel (a tyrant) to that same beauty.
4) And make ugly (unfair) the beauty(fairly) that you have
5) Time will bring upon summer (time, another season, more years)
6) Til finally you reach the end (winter - last season) where it will destroy (confounds).
7) Young beauty (sap-spring) now old (frost -winter) well past prime (autumn leaves)
8) Beauty is gone and barren.
9-10) If you can't hold on to beauty like the fragrant flowers perfumed in a glass vial*
11) Then beauty will be lost (bereft)
12) The beauty and its remembrance of it would be lost.
13) But if you could capture it (flowers distilled), even if winter came,
14) The flowers (outward beauty) would be gone but the sweet smell (internal essence/being) will remain.



*This refers to the distillation of perfume from fragrant flowers, such as roses. Rosewater was much in demand for sweetmeats, confections and kissing-comfits. The distillate would be kept in a glass vessel, a vial.

Source: http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com
PIC Source: Description des Royaumes D'Angleterre et D'Ecosse. Composé par Estienne Perlin.Par. 1558. Histoire de LEntree de La Reine Mere dans La Grande Bretagne.Par. 1639.
Re-printed by W.BOWYER and J.NICHOLS:For T. PAYNE and W. BROWN.LONDONM DCC LXXV(1775)
PIC Source: http://www.bottlebooks.com

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Best Writing Inspiration Movies - Finding Forrester

Summary: Because of scoring exceptionally high on a state wide standardized exam and being an exceptionally good basketball player Jamal Wallace is sent to a prestigious prep school in Manhattan. He soon befriends the reclusive writer, William Forrester. The friendship leads to William to overcome his reclusivness and for Jamal to overcome the racial prejudices and pursue his true dream - writing.

You can't watch this movie and not want to finish your book. So if you have writer's block  - and I don't think it exists in the sense you may believe it exist and that's another blog worth of information - watch this movie.

What movies inspire you to write?

Interesting Info:

1) Star Rob Brown got the role after initially auditioning as an extra. Brown had no aspirations of being an actor and was only hoping to make some money to pay his $300 cell phone bill. But Gus Van Sant invited him to audition for the role of Jamal and liked his natural ability.

2) The character of Robert Crawford is based on a real life Robert Crawford, who teaches history at Phillips Academy Andover, a private school outside of Boston. (Wow, I hope he liked the portrayal of himself.)

3) In addition to being based on J.D. Salinger, William Forrester is also heavily inspired by John Kennedy Toole. Toole wrote the book "A Confederacy of Dunces", a mysteriously autobiographical book, but when no one would publish it, he gassed himself to death in his car. Years later, the book was published and won the Pulitzer Prize.

4) During filming, it was discovered that Sean Connery could not type. When you see Forrester's hands on the keys, they are the hands of someone else.


Source: Wikipedia 
IMDB

Friday, 5 February 2010

Howard's End by E.M. Forster.

Summary: "Only Connect," Forster's key aphorism, informs this novel about an English country house, Howards End, and its influence on the lives of the wealthy and materialistic Wilcoxes; the cultured, idealistic Schlegel sisters; and the poor bank clerk Leonard Bast. Bringing together people from different classes and nations by way of sympathetic insight and understanding, Howards End eloquently addresses the question "Who shall inherit England?"

You may be saying to yourself: sounds more like a commentary than a novel. Well, I have to say, it reads more like one too. It was one of the most difficult books to get through... I considered scrapping the read many times.

I think the problem lies in that it's told (sometimes subtly, sometimes not), not from any character's POV but from the author's. And boy, did he have a message to get across.

Now, I'm not saying his message isn't important, but why not do what Mary Wollstonecraft did in her novel: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. She had a message but it was clear in the novel that it's purpose was to use the story as a case in point. I knew that up front when I started the book. (BTW, it's a good book. Also, it's short.)


I have to be fair... there were bits in the book I liked:
Margaret could not bear being bored. She grew inattentive, played with the photograph frame, dropped it, smashed Dolly's glass, apologized, was pardoned, cut her finger thereon, was pitied, and finally said she must be going -
I believe we shall come to care about people less and less, Helen. The more people one knows, the easier it becomes to replace them. It's one of the curses of London. I quite expect to end my life caring most for a place.
Now that is my honest take from this book. Perhaps you pick up this classic and grow to love it. Perhaps before I die, I may read it again with more knowledge. Perhaps I may someday write my own commentary novel. All I know is... I need another cup of coffee.

So what do I give this book?

Five out of five!? Why? Well, because it's a classic and I think everyone should try out the classics. Even if they're a hard read.  100 years from now, I may even pick up Twilight. It'll be classic literature then.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Writing: Distinctive Characters

I think nothing s more frustrating than creating fiction that your readers can find glaring errors with.

Where writers create problems for themselves is when they try to invent distinctive characters.

Although I don't agree that a writer should only write what they know, if you're going to create a character that's a geek, you, the writer, should at least know what HTML stands for or be willing to Google it. (If you do not know what 'Google' is, don't go down the geek path. In fact, the word 'geek' is probably going over your head right now...)

Why? Because you know there's a geek out there reading your book and saying, 'you can't do that.' Or what kind of coding is this?

What if you're really an experienced writer, what if you've never been out of the state or province you were born in? What if you want one of your characters to speak Punjabi? Does that mean you're stuck?

Yup.

Nah, just joking.

But, you need to be willing to research. And, if you truly know little about a certain subject, don't throw in details that you can't backup.

In my latest book, my detectives go to a house and meet a man who draws Anime. I don't know why I chose that hobby but I don't know much about it. What did I do? I went to the library and I search on Google and learned as much as I could about the subject. And then, I hardly mentioned it at all in the book other than he painted anime floor to ceiling in his living room and that the girl drawn had large eyes in proportion to her head.

Why do I go through all the effort?
1) I want an accurate book.
2) I am a lot smarter now than a fifth grader. Well, almost.

The point: If you don't know and don't research - don't write!

Oh, and please, if you haven't done so already, submit something funny to the contest. I would love to award someone $50 worth of books for their trouble.

Here's a joke my son told me... (this is an example of what I'm looking for)

Question: What's brown and sticky?
Answer: A stick.

That wasn't so hard.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Punch and Judy - Long lived characters

Firstly, just want to remind everyone to post a comment in my contest blog. You may win $50 amazon gift card just by cutting and pasting a funny joke... that's worth it isn't it? Or write a funny situation that happened lately. It can be anything as long as it made you laugh.



Right now I'm reading the book Howard's End by EM Forster - don't even get me started as to how hard that book is to finish... anyway, while reading it yesterday, one of the characters made reference to the 'Punch and Judy Show'.

Now, it's not the first I've heard of it, in fact, I've seen it done on Midsomer Murders. However, I hate only knowing half of a story... so I did research.

May 9 1662 - the date on which the figure who later became Mr Punch made his first recorded appearance in England - is traditionally reckoned by "professors" as Punch's UK birthday.

In the British Punch and Judy show, Punch wears a jester's motley and is a hunchback whose hooked nose almost meets his curved jutting chin. He carries a stick, as large as himself, which he freely uses upon all the other characters in the show. He speaks in a distinctive squawking voice, produced by a contrivance known as a swazzle or swatchel (you can hear what he sounds like on the youtube video below) which the professor holds in his mouth, transmitting his gleeful cackle— "That's the way to do it". So important is Mr Punch's signature sound that it is a matter of some controversy within Punch and Judy circles as to whether a "non-swazzled" show can be considered a true Punch and Judy Show.

In the early 18th century, the marionette theatre starring Punch was at its height, showman Martin Powell attracting sizeable crowds at both Covent Garden and Bath, Somerset.

Punch was extremely popular in Paris, and, by the end of the 18th century, he was also playing in England's American colonies, where even George Washington bought tickets for a show.

In the latter half of the 18th century, marionette companies began to give way to glove-puppet shows, performed from within a narrow, lightweight booth by one puppeteer.

The character of Punch adapted to the new format, going from a stringed comedian who might say outrageous things to a more aggressive glove-puppet who could do outrageous, and often violent, things, to the other wooden-headed members of his cast.

Originally intended for adults, the show evolved into primarily a children's entertainment in the late Victorian era. Ancient members of the show's cast, like the devil and Punch's mistress Pretty Polly, ceased to be included when they came to be seen as inappropriate for young audiences.

The term "pleased as Punch" is derived from Punch and Judy; specifically, Mr. Punch's characteristic sense of gleeful self-satisfaction.

Modern British performances of Punch and Judy are no longer exclusively the traditional seaside children's entertainments they became in summer holiday resorts. They can now be seen at carnivals, festivals, birthday parties, and other celebratory occasions. With Punch and Judy, the characters usually include their baby, a hungry crocodile, Joey the Clown (a friend of Mr Punch), an officious policeman, and a prop string of sausages. The devil and the generic hangman Jack Ketch may still make their appearances but, if so, Punch will always get the better of them. The story changes, but some phrases remain the same for decades or even centuries: for example, Punch, after dispatching his foes each in turn, still squeaks his famous catchphrase "That's the way to do it!!"



Source: Wikipedia
Punch and Judy History