Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Problems with my writing

I finished my last WIP the middle of February and in the two months I leave it to sit and rest, I decided to work on another book. It's an Agatha Christie- like novel. Shorter, simple, plot-based novel.

I came up with the plot of this 'locked-room-puzzle' a few years ago and wrote the whole book. However, that was before I took any sort of writing/grammar classes and when I re-read the manuscript, thought it absolute rubbish!

So, I decided to re-write it.

Although, I love the premise, I've been having trouble getting into it again and it's left me with a sort of writer's block. I couldn't figure out why until a couple of days ago.

When writers write mystery novels, it's not all suspense and chasing the bad guys around. My detectives have to do investigating - asking the suspects questions, chasing false leads. I know who the killer is and how he/she did it and why. The culprits are fascinating characters and chapters that include them are interesting to write.

However, the other minor characters  -the ones the readers don't spend much time with - are less interesting to the writer and chapters that include interviews with them are somewhat boring to write and sadly, somewhat boring to read. But, that can't be! I have to make even those chapters interesting for my reader. My wonderful reviewers won't put up with drab chapters!

Hence the writer's block.

So today, I have to fall in love with my characters again. I have to find each and every suspect interesting to talk with. I have to find a motive for each and prepare alibis and plain and simply, know them.
For instance (and without giving much of the plot away), one suspect (not the murderer) my detective is interviewing next is having an affair with the beneficiary of the victim's estate. She seems suspicious because she's secretive about the affair. Boring! Been done. But, I have to make her interesting somehow. So, I began to think more about her background. Why did she marry? Why did she start having the affair? Why did she name her pet Mongoose Bubbles? I make her seem blond and flighty at first but she's not. I make it seem like her marriage is down the toilet but I have moments where it's clear to the reader she cares about her husband even though he's addicted to online gambling.

I have to continue talking with her, find out more about her but I believe that if I can get to know each character better, I can find the book interesting to write and interesting to read.  Writer's block - gone!

What do you do if you find your writing boring?

I found Margot's blog Confessions of a Mystery Novelist really interesting today. She wrote about variety in the mystery writing genre. Check it out!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

My First Draft

What makes a great novel? A complex, dynamic, seamless piece of work. A theme, a mood, and a style of writing that lasts the whole story.

However, one thing I've noticed when I edit my first draft is, because I write over a period of time, the writing takes on various moods. Mainly because I'm a moody person. One second I'm happy, the next I'm yelling. My husband has a saying: 'Wait ten minutes and her mood will change to grim.'

Well, actually, he doesn't say that, and if he does, it's not to my face. And rarely do I yell. More likely, I'll probably ignore you.

Kidding aside, you will notice that after watching a romantic movie, you'll be more likely to write romantic lines into your scene...even if it's a mystery novel. Or, if you've had a fight with your kids or spouce or mother-in-law, you'll tend to be more testy with your writing.

Also, even if you have an outline or a way you think the novel is headed, as you write, you discover new links and connections and you learn more about the characters as you go along.

If you like improving your writing skills as you write, you will find the ending in better form than when you started. That's why if writers want a solid, uniform piece of work, writers need to edit.

Does anyone else notice that their mood affects their writing?

Monday, 29 March 2010

Review: One Last Breath by Stephen Booth

One Last Breath
Genre: Psychological Suspense Mystery

How I read it: Kindle for PC

What attracted me to the book: This series of books has been on my list for awhile. I first came across the series in a book store in Saskatoon, SK, Canada and have been wishing for the books ever since. I finally bought my first book on Kindle. Finally.

What it worth the money? I didn't pay much for it on amazon, so I guess so. It's exactly what I've come to expect from my British mystery writers and haven't been disappointed with this one.

Who should read this book: If you're into books by Val McDermid or Ian Rankin, you may like this book

Summary (from amazon): British author Booth's fifth crime novel (after Blind to the Bones) is as dark and winding as the labyrinth of caves below its Derbyshire setting. In 1990, Det. Constable Ben Cooper's father arrests Mansell Quinn for the brutal murder of his lover. Thirteen years later, Quinn disappears upon his release from prison, his ex-wife is immediately slain, and another murder soon follows. Convinced they're facing a revenge spree, the police mount a manhunt, probing physical clues and the messy web of relationships that Quinn has not quite left behind. The deeper Cooper and his colleagues probe, the more convinced Cooper becomes that Quinn was innocent of the original crime, a belief that deepens his sense that as the son of the arresting officer, he's personally at risk. Though the pace and focus falter slightly toward the end, this is intelligent, suspenseful reading that should continue to build Booth's U.S. audience. A master of psychological suspense, Booth hauntingly evokes the ambiguities of place and the enduring complexity of human relationships.

My thoughts:This book scared me at times because of the many scenes in the cave. I'm terribly claustrophobic. Even now, just the thought of some of the scenes sends shivers down my spine. In the book, there is a very haunting story told - it's not true (or so I hope...) but, it will stay with me for months.

Now, about the main characters.s: Detective Constable Ben Cooper and Detective Sergeant Diane Fry. Though, I related more to Cooper than Fry, I wanted to love Fry. I wanted Cooper and Fry to fall in love, I wanted them to express that love but I closed the book not quite understanding Diane. That could be an annoying point for some but I think it has to be that way or the series might not go on.

The plot, I think, was the weakest point. I think the writer tried to focus on two cases in the book and both didn't seem to resolve well enough for me. We think we know what happened but you're left with doubts. The first chapter opened in such a thrilling manor, I guess I was expecting that momentum to last to the last page. Not saying that the story didn't have great moment - it did - but I wanted more from the end.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character(s): Not sure I could say yes to this. Not quite sure when the main character found out if ever... oh dear, I've said too much.

Bottom Line: Though I love Val McDermid more, I think I will give this author another read. Visit the author's blog: here



Sunday, 28 March 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday - Sonnet 12

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

I have been doing a sonnet a week for twelve weeks. When I started, I knew nothing of Shakespeare. When it came to Shakespeare, I considered it beyond my comprehension. Throughout high school , when my teachers would say to me, this is how this line is to be understood, I thought they were ridiculous to assume to know the poetry. How wrong I was. After about ten weeks of trying to decipher the sonnets, I can truly say, I'm beginning to understand the writer.  

Here's the twelfth sonnet and from what I understand, Shakespeare talks about time and clocks. Fitting then it should be the 12th sonnet(12 hours on a clock), don't you think?

1. When I add up the years that have gone by (count the chimes a clock makes - more chimes the bells make as time passes)
2. And see youth turn old;
3. When I behold the violet(spring) past prime(turn old and die),
4. And the dark hair of youth, turned white with age;
5. When lofty trees I see barren of leaves (fall and winter...time again past),
6. A tree that used to cover the herd in shade,
7. And summer's green (wheat or barley in the summer) all tied up in bails(harvest - which happens in the fall),
8. Put on the bier (cart drawn by a horse) with white and bristly beard (see picture - wheat has a beard called an awn when ready for harvesting) Note: The horse and cart also used to carry coffins.
9. Then I think about what will happen to your beauty,
10. Eventually time, will make your beauty fade and die,
11. Just like all things sweet and beautiful
12. that die and become replaced by other things sweet and beautiful;
13. There is nothing that can fight against time's weapon
14. Except for children to continue to fight against time when you die.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination - Where do you Write?

Rudyard Kipling

Rudyard Kipling spent the second half of his life at Bateman's, his solid Jacobean home in the Weald which had been "untouched and unfaked" by Victorian "improvers". Each morning he went to his study to write or to pace up and down on his Indian rugs while he worked out the rhythms of his verses.

As he was short, he had his English walnut chair placed on blocks so that he could sit comfortably at his French walnut table. Around the blotter are cherished objects, a pewter ink pot, a tin box for pins, a lacquered canoe-shaped pen tray for the ink brushes he used to obliterate redundant words.

After lunch Kipling tramped across his fields, slashing at nettles with a walking stick, before returning to his study and sprawling on the oak day bed with a book. He described himself as a "hasty and gluttonous reader", and the bookcases (opposite and to the left of the windows) still contain the works of favourite authors such as Jane Austen and Walter Scott.

But intruders were usually discouraged by Carrie, Kipling's bossy and restrictive wife, whose portrait hangs above the fireplace. It was painted by another of the writer's cousins, Philip Burne-Jones, son of the pre-Raphaelite artist.

In a previous home, the house they built in Vermont, Carrie had installed her desk in an ante-room outside her husband's study. His room at Bateman's was not so physically protected, but the portrait is a reminder of her determination to keep him at work and under her control. Her attitude was mistaken as well as unnecessary. As PG Wodehouse observed, Kipling's work "depended on messing around and talking to people", but his wife "kept him rigidly excluded from the world". The study, beamed and beautiful as it is, was a bit of a prison.

Philip Hensher

I don't have a writing room, and don't want one. I've never written successfully at a desk - whenever anyone tries to give me a desk, it always fills up immediately with old bits of paper, and, after a week or two, I go back to writing on the end of the dining table, clearing it all up before dinner. Or, more often, just on the arm of the sofa.

This is the tatty old sofa in my sitting room in Topsham, in Devon, where I wrote most of my last novel, The Northern Clemency. I write in a hardbacked A4 notebook, usually with a rollerball pen or just an old black biro - text on the right-hand page, corrections and additions and aides-memoires on the left. You don't need a plug or a battery or anything like that, and if your pen runs out, then another one only costs 25p or something.

There are no disturbances - I don't have a phone there, or a computer, or a television. Nothing but a radio, really. I like to have a few pleasant objects around me, without ever really wanting to aspire to the Room Beautiful. There are some of Charlotte Jones's lovely ceramics, some Darfur amulets and an 18th-century Rajput miniature. That hanging on the back wall is a batik rendering of the Bengali delta, where my partner Zaved comes from - he's not that bothered about it as an object, but I can look at it for hours. The carpet he acquired in Afghanistan during the Taliban time - there's a terrifying stain on it, which I always tell visitors is blood, but I think it might really be red wine after some NGO party. Is it Baluchi? I can never remember these things.

I just find it easier to sit and stare and think, then reach for the pad and start writing in a setting like this, which is just like a space for living in. I know perfectly well that if I ever found myself with a grand study with a view over the trees - if I ever started retiring to my study after breakfast to perform my daily 1,000 words - that would be the end of it. A sofa, a notebook, and the promise to yourself that in a couple of hours you can put Radio 4 on - that's just the ticket.

Jane Austen

Not long before her death, Jane Austen described her writing as being done with a fine brush on a "little bit (not two inches wide) of ivory". Her novels are not miniatures, but she did work on a surface not so much bigger than those two imagined inches of ivory. This fragile 12-sided piece of walnut on a single tripod must be the smallest table ever used by a writer, and it is where she established herself as a writer after a long period of silence. Her early novels had been written upstairs in her father's Hampshire rectory, and remained unpublished when the family moved to Bath in 1800, where writing became almost impossible for her. Only in 1809, when she returned to Hampshire and settled in the cottage on the Chawton estate of her brother Edward, could she devote herself to her work again.

Chawton Cottage was a household of ladies - Mrs Austen, her daughters and their friend Martha Lloyd - all taking part in the work of the house and garden. But Jane was allowed private time. Having no room of her own, she established herself near the little-used front door, and here "she wrote upon small sheets of paper which could easily be put away, or covered with a piece of blotting paper". A creaking swing door gave her warning when anyone was coming, and she refused to have the creak remedied.

From this table the revised manuscripts of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice went to London to be published in 1811 and 1813. From this table too came Mansfield Park, Emma and Persuasion. Here she noted down the encouraging comments of neighbours - Mrs Bramston of Oakley Hall, who thought S&S and P&P "downright nonsense", and "dear Mrs Digweed" who volunteered that "if she had not known the author, she could hardly have got through Emma".

Austen died in 1817, and after Cassandra's death in 1845 the table was given to a manservant. Today, back in its old home, it speaks to every visitor of the modesty of genius.

Michael Morpurgo

I used to write longhand at a table in any room, anywhere so long as it was quiet. But I found that the more intensely I wrote, as the grip tightened on the pen, the smaller the writing became and the more my wrist and arm and shoulder began to ache.

One evening I asked my neighbour and friend Ted Hughes how he wrote. He said he'd had some trouble and now wrote standing up at a lectern. What's good enough for Ted Hughes, I thought ... so I tried it, but my feet hurt.

I was reading a biography of my great hero-writer Robert Louis Stevenson and discovered a photograph of him towards the end of his life, lying on his bed in Samoa, propped up on a pile of pillows, a writing book resting on his drawn-up knees. So that's how you write Treasure Island, I thought. I went up to my bedroom, piled up all the pillows I could find and began to write. Everything was supported and relaxed. It was wonderful for dreaming up a tale, weaving it inside my head, wonderful for scribbling in an exercise book. (I still don't use a word processor. I did try. I lost five chapters seven or eight years ago, probably the best chapters I ever wrote. They're still floating around up there in the ether.)

For many years, I wrote on our bed in the house. But there were complaints about ink on the sheets, dirty feet on the bed, and we felt we should try to create somewhere else, a storyteller's house. Clare, my wife designed it - it's based on the Anglo-Saxon chapel of St Peter-Ad-Murum at Bradwell-juxta-Mare in Essex, where I grew up, but it has a Devon thatched roof, a Japanese garden and an uninterrupted view of the countryside, looking towards Dartmoor.

So there I have made my writing bed. With flowers in the window - these a gift for our 46th wedding anniversary last weekend - and with Clare sitting at the computer, trying to make sense of my scribbly script as she types it up, it has become a perfect writer's hideaway.

Louis de Bernières

Anyone who works at home needs a refuge from the rest of the household, as far from the house as possible, and definitely without a phone. Mine is in one corner of the garden, overlooking a vegetable patch and young orchard, and I feel great happiness in it. I am hassled only by the cat - a catflap would reduce the inconvenience.

I installed a solar panel behind the shed, which supplies two enormous 12-volt batteries wired in parallel. The lights run off the 12 volts, but I have a magic box that converts it to 220 for my laptop and my little low-fi, with another that stops the current from reversing and discharging into the panel. I did this all myself, and was amazed at how much I remembered from physics classes at school with Mr Milner. Heating is by gas bottle and caravan heater - I got all my gadgetry from a caravan park near Great Yarmouth. I have to empty earwigs out of the lights and fittings, and spiders thrive even though I completely sealed the building with silicon bathroom sealant. Out of sight are a camping stove for brewing up tea, a music stand, a box full of croquet mallets and hoops, a CD rack and a bookshelf for reference books.

The clock is for reminding me how little time there is before lunch. The chair, inherited from my grandfather, has had my backside in it as I wrote all my novels. It is so comfortable that the cushion is superfluous. The table is from a junk shop. I like to write to music, hence the low-fi and CDs. I make notes and write poetry in longhand, in notebooks. The paraphernalia on the table concern a play I was writing about Handel, except for the dried-up daisies, which are the remains of a daisy chain that my son Robin made for me when he was three.

It is nice to look up and see the pheasants strutting about outside, but the best thing about the shed is its absolutely quintessential smell of sheds.

Source: Writer's Rooms

Recently, I won the Silver Lining Award and I have to give it to other worthy bloggers. It's so difficult to find bloggers without these awards but anyone who commented on my post yesterday that doesn't have the award, gets one. Here goes:

1) Jaydee Morgan
2)Carol at Under the Tiki Hut
3)I don't know if Laura accepts awards but Women of Mystery
4)Audrey at holes in my brain
5) Multicoloured Imagery
6) Confessions of a Mystery Novelist
7) Talli Roland
8) Journaling Woman

Also, Harley from Labotomy of a Writer gave me the sunshine award. She's a new blogger and I'm sure would love your support. Check her blog out!

And, Nicole from One Significant Moment at a Time gave me the Creative Writer Award. Thank you and be sure to check out her blog, everyone.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Why won't that character shut up!?

As I stated yesterday, I thought I would blog on a couple of complicated voices often found in dialog.

Stutterers / Lisps -Currently, I'm writing a mystery where one of the suspects stutters. In fact, I'm reading a mystery where one of the suspects stutters. So, I guess it's common to add stutterers to novels. However, do not get carried away. A person in real life may stutter over almost every word but your dialog doesn't need to.
What can you do?
Perhaps write one or two words in the speech as stuttered. Or, write correctly and add a tag: he stuttered.

People with accents/dialects - Have you ever read 'The Grapes of Wrath'? (See below) After reading that book in high school, for a month I spoke with a Southern accent.

Often writers tend to get carried away with writing in dialect. Can you imagine reading this for a whole novel? "Ah reckon ah don' haff ta go dowan tuh th' rivuh tuhday, 'cawse we gots awl th' feeush we gwine need." Yikes!
What can writers do? Well, if you're insistent on writing in the dialect, only use select and common words such as 'ya' for 'you' or 'an' for 'and'. Or, write in proper English but add 'she said in a strong Russian accent' somewhere. Most people know what a British or Russian or Southern accent sounds like, they don't need phonetic spelling.

Thank you, Charmaine from Wagging Tales
for your award. The Silver Lining Award.

Tomorrow, I will give it to three others...

Hmmm, also, if you're following me and for some reason I am not following your blog, let me know. I will correct that error immediately.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Listening to the Voices

One of the blog posts I read this morning was about characters. She asked her blog readers how they go about making each character have a distinctive voice. It made me think - long and hard - until I remembered something I read somewhere  - learn to eavesdrop!

In the modern world of technology, the next time you get asked to a party (and it may be sooner than me because of my cheesy salsa incident) take along a voice recorder. Discreetly place your cellphone (mobile) or other listening device on the table amongst the chatty Cathys and press the record button. At the end of the night, go home and listen to the recording.

Write down each person's name and their dialog. It will surprise you (or maybe not) that you will recognize each individual just by the sound of their voice. You will also notice that each person has their own speech pattern and special phrases.

That's distinctive voice.

Now, just because people have distinctive voice doesn't mean we want to write like we speak. Why? Because most of our conversation (I would say at least 50%) is filled with babble and small talk. Whereas dialog in a book should 6 elements:
  • 1)It should always move the story forward
  • 2)It should make sense to the reader
  • 3)It should end. Who wants to read an hour's worth of conversation?
  • 4)It should have a point.
  • 5)It should tell us more about the character
  • 6)It should be interesting and meaningful
Tomorrow I'm going to show some distinctive voice traits and how to write them so they don't irritate the reader. Enjoy the rest of your day! See you later...

 Picture Source: here

Great post about descriptions at Random acts of Writing.

Elizabeth at Mystery Writing is Murder lists six really important questions you should ask about your plot.

Rayna, uses a great example to show how important it is to know your readers.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

I would like to introduce you to...

How often have you read a novel where, when a new character is introduced, all time and plot freezes and we need to read a paragraph or two into the life of this new character?

It happens so much in novels that I'm sure many writers believe this is the only way to introduce their characters. True? I hope not because that sort of writing drives me mad.

That being said, when introducing your characters to the reader, try to do it like you would in real life.

1) A person you meet for the first time will NOT approach and hand you a list of his or her main characteristics. "Hello, my name is Gary. I'm six-two, smart, witty, handsome, a Christian Scientist, my mother's a truck driver, my father tap dances for exercise, I only graduated high school, and recently I had my wisdom teeth extracted."

2) A person will NOT stand there for five minutes while you inspect and measure them for height, hair color, eye color and style of dress.

So, don't do this to your characters.

What can you do instead? Do what happens in real life, we get to know people gradually and through what they do and say.

Do this:
1) Write down the character's name on a sheet of paper.
2) Write down five things you think are interesting about the character.
a) 2 physical characteristics
b) 2 personality traits
c) 1 thing about his past or social role
3) Now, write five scenes where you SHOW instead of DESCRIBE (TELL) the characteristic through either dialog or narrative. For example, lets say Sarah dresses for looks rather than practically. How can  you show and not tell this?
When Mark left the room, Sarah reached down and slipped off her four-inch heel.
'Agh,' she said as she separated her crushed toes.
What about through dialog?
Mark turned around and placed his hands on his hips. 'Sarah, will you hurry? We're going to miss my brother's float.'
'It's these stupid shoes,' she replied.
'I told you to wear your trainers. Why would you wear four-inch heels to a parade?'
Source: The Writer's Way
Picture source: St. Johns Booksellers

Here are some great blog posts I've read today:

Emotional Challenge from Fairway Fiction

Charmaine at Wagging Tales talks about Premise.

Karen from Coming Down the Mountain...Interviewed with e-publishing author Simon Kewin and it was interesting...check it out.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Writing: Creating your Elizabeth Bennett, an award, and an apology

Characters vs. Real People - And why I prefer to read about those in my head...
1) Characters are honest. People lie. No real person will tell another that he stinks ... not if he wants friends anyway. However, because we can enter a character's head, we know what they're thinking even if it's not politically correct. Even if a character may not be aware of his own feelings, we know what's on his mind. That's why characters often stick in our heads more than real people. Do we really get to know humans?

2) Characters lead exciting lives. People are, for the most part, boring. People spend most of their lives doing boring, mundane things - such as showering, picking up dog poo, sleeping, eating, and hating their in-laws. Good writers prevent their characters from doing these mundane things in books. They live in a world of relationships and emotions... even when their picking their noses they are exploring the meaning of life.
3) Characters are not burdened with diversions from the plot. Humans live a life that often have no plot whatsoever. Characters don't have to live through a weekly grocery or school run or don't have to balance their checkbooks. Humans die at an arbitrary point with many unresolved issues. Characters end their story at significant points and often their stories are resolved.
Basically, characters get to skip over all the boring bits. Because characters are often the most exciting personages we know, readers want to believe they are real.

How can we make our characters more real?

1. Know yourself to know your character.
Shallow people can only make shallow characters. Because (as we ascertained above) people lie, the only person who will honestly express their feelings with us is - our self. There is no good writing without self examination and brutal honesty. We can find within ourselves the different aspects of life and feelings to construct our characters with. We can even write about what we don't know because somewhere in our world we can link it to knowledge of ourselves.

2. Let your characters develop on their own.
Don't force them. Characters, like humans, will open themselves up to you over time. They will become more and more real to you and you can then show them to the reader.

What do you think? Have your characters started to express themselves over time? Did you find out new things about them as time progressed?

Talli Roland, also a coffee lover, gave me the Sugar Doll award. (Pictured above) Thank you so much! You should check out her blog... here's why: 1) She's from London 2) She drinks coffee 3) And, oh, she has an awesome blog about writing and a few days ago she wrote about how to play your blog...

Now, I'm suppose to give this award away... here's my picks: (I chose those without the award and those with fewer followers - go check out their hard work!)

1) Wandeca at Wandeca Reads - she's a fellow Canadian
2) Marce at Tea Time with Marce - she loves Earl Grey Tea...also my favorite tea.
3) My pal from India, Rayna at Coffee Rings Everywhere
4) Elspeth at It's a Mystery
5) All my fellow writers at Journey in Ink
6) Anne Rooney at Stroppy Author's guide to publishing - She has written hundreds of books.
7) Margot at Confessions of A Mystery Novelist

Also, I want to take a moment to apologize to my characters... you know who you are. I can feel you tapping on my shoulder and whispering in my ear to keep writing. I hear you. I've just been too busy to really listen. I know some of you have been sulking and not talking to me - which I have to say hasn't really been helping me. So I'm telling you this now - I'm here again, tell me your story. Talk to me.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Review: The Killings at Badger's Drift by Caroline Graham

G'day, everyone. I'm back from vacation and I can't say how happy I am about that fact. Enjoy my latest Monday book review!

Buy the book!
Genre: Cozyish mystery - I say this because there are some gruesome scenes.

How I read it: I own the book.

What attracted me to the book: I love watching the series on TV.

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 who loves a clever whodunit.

Summary (from amazon): The British author makes her debut here in an uncommonly appealing mystery, set in a tranquil village, Badger's Drift. Learned Chief Inspector Barnaby and callow Sergeant Troy go to work when importunate, elderly Miss Bellringer insists that her friend, Emily Simpson, did not die of a heart attack as her doctor claimed, but was murdered. An autopsy proves Miss Bellringer right; Emily had imbibed a Socratic mix of wine and hemlock. Spreading alarm throughout the community, an unseen murderer strikes again, leaving sly Mrs. Rainbird's bloody corpse to be found by her son, the local undertaker. As Barnaby and Troy investigate, they turn up evidence of another crime years earlier, and several suspects. Among them are the doctor's promiscuous wife, a young woman whose brother objects to her marriage to a rich widower and a Lady Chatterley-type gamekeeper. Diligent detecting brings the chief and his bumbling assistant to a sensational expose. Graham makes the characters humanly believable in her witty and tragic novel, a real winner.

My thoughts: I just realized that Edward Martin talked about Midsomer on his blog today too. I read this book a long time ago and wanted to re-read it because of the 2010 challenge. I'm glad I did. I own quite a few of Graham's books, some with Inspector Barnaby as the main character, some not.

Perhaps because this is her first book, she doesn't fill it with massive amounts of description. She keeps the book to the point and only adds the exciting bits. I loved all the off-the-wall characters. I actually like to read first books from authors, before the publishing world really sinks their claws into the writers and demands word count and formula. I felt the way about Elizabeth George's first book as well. Since then, both authors have produced longer books with more filler.

I think once you read this book, you will not forget the premise. I give a warning however...some of the themes in his cozy mystery are not suitable for younger adults.

Did I figure out who the murderer was before the main character(s): I suspected something but how it was done exactly eluded me.

Bottom Line: She writes wonderful books. She's an easy read. A great series to start and start here.


An Extra: Here's a pic from my garden.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday - Sonnet 11

As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow'st
In one of thine, from that which thou departest;
And that fresh blood which youngly thou bestow'st,
Thou mayst call thine when thou from youth convertest.
Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase;
Without this folly, age, and cold decay:
If all were minded so, the times should cease
And threescore year would make the world away.
Let those whom nature hath not made for store,
Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish:
Look whom she best endow'd, she gave the more;
Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty cherish:
She carv'd thee for her seal, and meant thereby,
Thou shouldst print more, not let that copy die.

1. As fast as you age is how fast
2. your children that come after you shall age;
3. And the children that you bring to this world,
4. You may call your when your youthfulness is gone.
5. In your children, wisdom, beauty, and increase to your family will continue;
6. But, without producing children, you are only left with folly, age, and then death.
7. If everyone thought this way, life on earth would cease
8. in thirty years as the last person died.
9. Let those who do not have fine qualities,
10. those who are harsh, ugly, and rude die without adding to the world.
11. But those who have a lot to give, those with many fine qualities,
12. qualities that you should value.
13. Nature gave you these qualities so that
14. you should make more copies of you in the form of children.

Pic source:

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

Well, my book is written--let it go. But if it were only to write over again there wouldn't be so many things left out. They burn in me; and they keep multiplying; but now they can't ever be said. And besides, they would require a library--and a pen warmed up in hell.
~ Mark Twain

I love my stories... well of course I do. If I didn't, I would not have written them. Anyway, when reading this quote, it struck a note with me. I've written one book to completion. That doesn't mean a first draft, that means many drafts to publication. 

However, the story still plays over and over for me in my mind. I know all the details of the story, even though I never included many in the final draft, and when re-reading the novel, I often think of the parts I've excluded. I often wish I would have included this or that... added a section here or there. But, it's too late now.

Have you ever felt that way? After publication, have you ever looked back at your work and wished you'd included something more?

Friday, 19 March 2010

The History of Words

Can you make word history? Can you stretch the boundaries of word use?
One thing I love about the English language is that it is constantly evolving. Remember when gay used to mean happy? Or when wicked used to a bad thing?

English has evolved from many languages: Latin, Spanish, French, Greek and it's still evolving. Proof? Google (both a registered verb and noun) it.

So, for those who love words and the wonder of language, here's a fun exercise.

1) Find a good dictionary. One with etymology (that means word origins) in it. if you don't own paper anymore.

2) Look up the following words: gossip, adultery, kangaroo, music, television, orange, sandwich, marathon, husband, lunatic.

3) Look up ten other words that you have recently used in your writing.

4) Write a story that reveals something about the origin and roots of some of these words while still using them in a modern sense.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Creativity and the Writer - Part 2

Yesterday, we discussed how to be creative with words and using the shapes and sounds of words to challenge the reader. Today, we will discuss:

1) The atmosphere of words - words carry and atmosphere with them. For example, we can use the word 'walk' or the word 'stroll' or the word 'perambulate' and though they mean similar things, they have a different effect. Walk is boring... stroll is modern whereas perambulate gives a grander more old-fashioned feeling. Effect.

In your novel what you write can change the effect. For example, if a single character ends a letter with 'Your sincerely,' you get a different effect than if he later writes 'hugs and kisses,' or ' Warmest regards.' The character can use language to get across a different message. Ah, the English language is grand, is it not?

2) The rhythm of words - this is important because it can make or break a novel.

For example, I used to study computer languages and examined many books written on the subject. Why did I pick one book over the other? Often, thanks to the modern amazon invention of 'look inside the book', it was because of the read. PHP could be a very boring or difficult subject to read about or it could be made interesting... what's the difference? Usually the writer. I good writer will learn the rhythm of words.

Why so important? Look at history. The first literature we've had as humans were often written to percussion... to rhythm. We remember lyrics better than chunks of prose. Rhythm affects our mode and pace and our relationships with others. We could write sentences that are five or six pages long but we would lose readers fast - we need rhythm to match what were reading.

When reading a fast action scene, we want  to read like were running, like we have adrenaline running through us. We make our sentences shorter.

When reading of love, we slow down, savor the words, whisper the words to ourselves. We want them to talk to eternity about love and will listen to long flowing flowery sentences.

Try to use these two devices to your advantage when writing.

Source: The Writer's Way

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Creativity and the Writer - Part 1

People are creative. Kinda cliche, isn't it? If everyone is creative then it's not that unique, is it? If you put twenty people in a room and tell them to take a picture of an object, you will get twenty different pictures from different viewpoints.

How can we take our picture and make people stare at it? Make people prefer that picture to the others, find it more interesting than others? If you can do this, you can be a great writer.

What can help? Work with what we have at our disposal - words. Over the next three days, I will discuss how to use words to be more creative. The first two ways:

1) The shape of words - humans recognize words by their shape not their phonetic value. So, short simple sentences are often read by the shape of the sentence not the individual words. What can creative writers do? Challenge the reader, slow them down. Make them pay attention to the words you choose.

2) The sound of words - we may read by shape but we are aware of how words sound more than how they look. That's why when you read, we often 'hear' the words as we read them. We know 'cough' and 'plough' do not rhyme event though they have the same shape. Use sounds to write creatively.
For example, 
a) Onomatopoeia - words that sound like the noises they make.
b) Assonance - repetition of sounds within a piece of writing. "Do you like blue?"

What ways do you like to use words?

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I won!

I'm brain dead after my trip so I will post something writing related tomorrow. In the meantime, I'm excited because my second short story was chosen as a winner in a contest and will be published in a collection of short stories.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. DallowayGenre: Literary Classic
How I read it: I own the book

What attracted me to the book: Have you looked at the cover? It's brilliant. I love the 1920s fashion.

What it worth the money? It cost me full price, this book. Would I spend the money just to have the cover? No. Well, maybe. The cover is awesome! Would I buy a plainly-covered book just to read the story? No. Buy it from a used book store. I wouldn't suggest taking it out from the library for the reasons listed below in my 'thoughts' section.

Who should read this book: This book is NOT for everyone...(remember how I said that about Jane Eyre? Well, I mean it for this book.)
a) you have a brain (and I don't mean one that understands Teletubbies. No wait, bad example. Who on this earth understands Teletubbies? Okay, different example... if you can recite 20 numbers after 3.14 on PI, you just might be capable of understanding this book and maybe rocket science. This book is harder than brain surgery... Nah, I joke. Almost.)
b) you like challenges and wake up every morning wondering why the sky is blue.

Summary (from amazon): This brilliant novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman's life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway's preparations for a party she is to give that evening,Woolf ultimately managed to reveal much more; for it is the feeling behind these daily events that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness and makes it so memorable.

Why is it such a difficult read? It's the POV really. Woolf writes in a highly poetic, highly mobile third-person narrator, not merely "expressing" the character's thoughts but "mirroring" how the character perceives him or herself as seen by others. Often you will wonder who's talking or acting from one paragraph to the next. Also, she loves long sentences and even longer paragraphs.

My thoughts: This book is considered one of the most important and revolutionary artworks of the 20th century. And I agree. For that reason - and the fact I believe literary classics should be read no matter what their difficultly level is  - you should read it. 

In my opinion, this was Virginia Woolf's way of understanding the world. When I read that she committed suicide, I began to understand the novel more. In this book she took men and women from all walks of life - rich, poor, sad, apparently happy, those who did a great deal with their life and those who didn't - and examined one day of their life. 

Is the nun who sacrificed marriage more happy than the woman who married for love? Is life worth living? I believe perhaps she was trying to find the answers herself.

Although a tough read, I will not leave you stranded. Here's how you should read it:
a) plan to spend many months on this novel (you will not be able to read it in one sitting) Besides, this isn't a book that should be gobbled down with tea but digested with dentures.
b) read it alone without distractions and read it aloud. I think that's the most important ...
like poetry, read this book aloud.


Sunday, 14 March 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 10

For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thy self art so unprovident.
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lov'st is most evident:
For thou art so possessed with murderous hate,
That 'gainst thy self thou stick'st not to conspire,
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O! change thy thought, that I may change my mind:
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love?
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind,
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove:
Make thee another self for love of me,
That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

This is a continuation of Sonnet 9 in a sense...
1) Shame on you that you don't love any
2) Because really you are not looking towards your own future.
3) Though you are loved by many,
4) It is clear that you don't love any.
5) You have such a desire not to have children
6) It is only against yourself that you are ruining
7) You will ruin that family line
8) But it should be most important to keep it going.
9) Change your attitude so that I will change my view of you.
10) Will hate win out rather than love?
11) Be as you profess to be: gracious and kind.
12) Or at least be kind to yourself.
13) Make offspring, if not for yourself, do it for me.
14) That beauty (both in attitude and in offspring) may continue in you.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Saturday's Writing Quotation Examination

From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.
~ George Orwell

Orwell's motto was, "Writers write." But by that he meant that writers actually put words on paper rather than wasting their time talking about writing or daydreaming about writing or telling themselves that they're going to write at some vague future point.

And I agree.

But why? Why do writer's write when it really is one of the hardest professions to do?

I like to think it's because I have to. Some days when I'm going through a slump and I've received criticism from a source - any source - I want to stop writing. But, deep down I know I can't. Eventually my stories would eat a hole in my soul until the stories came out.

And really, the lands, the people, the worlds I've created beat whatever world I'm often faced with in reality.

Why do you write?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Humility and the Writer

Humility for the writer can be good and bad.

Good humility: What is good humility? If you've ever read a great book, with great writing, great plot, and great characters, and when you've put it down, thought, 'I wish I could write as good as that author.' That's good humility. As long as you then went on and fed your ambition, used that humility to good use. Never think you're God's gift to writers. Never think editing will no longer apply to you. Never think you've learned all that you could learn. Never stop writing.

Bad humility: This is when you become too humble. This is when you read these great classics and think, 'I could never write like them, my life is too boring, I can't think of anything original to write about.' Stop it! Maybe we were taught not to show off or not to think we are special but remember, many of the classics (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Old Man and The Sea) are tales, not of kings and queens but of ordinary heroes or heroines living ordinary lives feeling ordinary feelings.

Would we like Bridget Jones as much if she wasn't so ordinary?

Remember, readers want to recognize the characters and their emotions. It is the writing not the writer's experience that really matters.

How can you acquire good humility? Read. Read and study great writing. Be humbled by it, strive to be the best writer you can be. Never be satisfied with where you are as a writer but where you could be with more time and more effort.

Source: The Writer's Way

Great post today about the writing process at Mystery Writing is Murder. Elizabeth has a guest author.

Another great post from Women of Mystery about readers.

Please note, I will be away for the weekend. I will post my Saturday Writing Quotation Examination and my Sunday Shakespeare's Sonnet if I can find internet. But, I will be back Monday. If I haven't read or commented on your blog, well, now you know why. Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Action in the white space - Part III

The Smash Cut

The last thing I will mention about writing in the white space is something the movie/TV business calls - The Smash Cut.

What does this mean?

According to Wikipedia:
It is technique in film where one scene abruptly cuts to another without transition, usually meant to startle the audience. To this end, the smash cut usually occurs at a crucial moment in a scene where a cut would not be expected. To heighten the impact of the cut, a disparity in the type of scene on either side of the cut is often present, going from a fast-paced frenzied scene to a tranquil one, or going from a tense scene to a pleasant one, for example. Sometimes it is also used to transition from the more peaceful scene.

An example of a clichéd smash cut is in a murder scene; a knife is raised, and thrust down, with a smash cut to a more peaceful locale (a birthday party, for example) right when impact is expected.

Smash cutting can also be used to comedic effect; for example, directly after a prediction is made, cutting to the future showing the prediction to have been horribly wrong.

Writers can use this technique to... and should. Why? Because it can save many words writing the transitional explanation of how we got from one scene to another.

Take for example a subplot where one of your minor characters is in love and someone proposes to her. The next scene, the major characters are dancing at a wedding. We assume that the minor character said yes but we don't need all the filler of how the engagement and wedding planning went, especially if it's not vital the plot.

Picture Source: here

Great blog post today by Stephen at Breakthrough Blogs on the seven C's of writing a great mystery. Check it out!

Also, another funny post by Elspeth Antonelli from It's a mystery about 5 questions not to ask a writer.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Action in the white space - Part II

This pic has nothing to do with the article.
Yesterday was part part two of communicating a point without actually writing it. Writing between the lines...or not. Here are a few more devices the writer can employ to engage the reader:

1) First, instead of narrating actions or emotions, let the other characters do it. Let them describe, let them notice emotions.
"Are you leaving, Jayne?"
"Ah, Patricia, you scared me."
"That’s ridiculous. How could my coming out of Peter’s room scare you?"
"I never heard you come into the kitchen. Never mind."
"Are you going out, Jayne? You’ve changed your clothes."
"Yeah, thinking about it. Your hair’s wet. Did you you and Peter shower... together?"
2) Do, don't tell. If you have chances in the book, use interactive narrative devices instead of talking to the reader.

Here is an example:  Rather than a character counting to three, the narrator does...thus, the reader counts along with the character.
One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three.
He plugged his ears. Any second now. She should see the snake.
She should be screaming by now.
Source: Brainstormer

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Action in the white space - Part I

Over the course of the week, I'm going to be discussing writing in the white space. It's communicating a point without actually writing it. Writing between the lines...or not.

Sometimes as writers we worry that if we don't describe absolutely everything, our readers will be left confused but give your reader some credit. If your chapter started, "John scooped macaroni and cheese from the glass pan and plopped it on his plate", we as readers will assume it's dinner time (when) and that he's at home (where) not a restaurant and that he's not lactose intolerant...we gather a lot by action and the author didn't have to step in at all.

What are a few ways we can write action in the white space?

1) Show the outcome rather than describe the action...

"I won't let you hurt me again, John," she said.
He stepped closer. "What are you gonna do about it? You don't control me, I control you." He jabbed his finger into her chest.
"I have a gun, John, I do. Please, step back... step back, I say. I'm begging you, step back."
"Ha, you don't know how to use that gun, little girl. You don't even know --"
He looked down to his chest. The red spot grew on his paisley shirt.

So, I didn't describe the action of pulling the trigger but I described the result of the action. The reader will figure out she did know how to pull the trigger.

2) Let the reader settle disputes on his own or allow them to open Pandora's box ...

Although it is important to tie up many loose ends, not all of them need to be. I like watching the television show Bones. It's clear to me that Booth and Brennan feel a connection but they don't always agree. Booth is strong Catholic and Brennan... well, I don't know what she believes but it's closer to agnostic. On the show, they constantly debate the validity of their respective religions but the writers of the show never state what they feel is right or wrong. The viewers can make their own decisions.

A writer can do the same thing. We can write about controversial issues but it doesn't mean we have to answer all the universal questions. Let's say your book is about politics, your character is living in the United States and it's almost voting time. The writer gives the reader both sides of the debate - democrat or republican - the character debates internally, but at the end of the novel the character enters the voting booth and the story ends. Each reader can decide for themselves how the character voted.

Or, one character may be pregnant...she has many choices: keep the baby, abort, adopt or other. Throughout the book, the character debates but in the end, the reader does not know what happened. The reader can choose for themselves.

Not every box has to be opened, not every letter has to be read, not every answer has to be given.

Source: Brainstormer

Great link: Patricia Stoltey at her blog listed Self-Editing steps... these are great links so check it out.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Genre: Literary Classic
How I read it: I own the book

What attracted me to the book: It's a classic. If you haven't read it... what are you waiting for?
What it worth the money? Is the sky blue?

Who should read this book: This book is not for everyone...
do not read if you 
a) don't have a brain 
b) don't live on planet earth 
c) don't know what a car is 
d) have never ate a carrot.

Summary (from amazon): Part fairytale, part Gothic horror, part love story, Jane Eyre remains one of the most compelling novels ever written. After running away from her unloving and cruel aunt, the orphaned Jane endures a harsh existence at an Evangelical school, where she at least finds some friends and kindness. When she comes of age, she takes a position as governess to the children of the moody, Byronic Mr. Rochester. As time passes, she begins to fall deeply in love with her magnetic employer...but soon realizes that both he and his dark and shadowy mansion hide a terrible secret.

My thoughts: I don't really want to talk about Jane Eyre (the book) as much as I want to talk about Jane Eyre (the character). In many ways I related to Jane Eyre and mostly because she was a thinker. She thought through her options before she decided. I doubt Jane made a rash decision.

For instance: In the beginning of the book, Jane Eyre was asked: (Notice how she thoughtfully debated the question)
“Would you like to go to school?”
Again I reflected: I scarcely knew what school was: Bessie sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel and precise: John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but John Reed’s tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie’s accounts of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these same young ladies were, I thought, equally attractive.  She boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed; of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was moved to emulation as I listened.  Besides, school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.
“I should indeed like to go to school,” was the audible conclusion of my musings.

 Example 2 - When Jane had decided to leave Mr. R after the revelation, she decided to leave in the dead of night to avoid further confrontations:
It was yet night, but July nights are short: soon after midnight, dawn comes.  “It cannot be too early to commence the task I have to fulfil,” thought I.  I rose: I was dressed; for I had taken off nothing but my shoes. [...]
I would have got past Mr. Rochester’s chamber without a pause; but my heart momentarily stopping its beat at that threshold, my foot was forced to stop also.  No sleep was there: the inmate was walking restlessly from wall to wall; and again and again he sighed while I listened. [...]
That kind master, who could not sleep now, was waiting with impatience for day.  He would send for me in the morning; I should be gone.  He would have me sought for: vainly.  He would feel himself forsaken; his love rejected: he would suffer; perhaps grow desperate.  I thought of this too. 

Jane Eyre in all her troubles show strength of character that many would have faltered under. I think of her as truly a strong woman.

Side note: I found a website where the story is summed up in a minute or less. Do not go to the link if you have never read the book... it's funny but has spoilers.


Sunday, 7 March 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 9

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
That thou consum'st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind:
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits
That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.

If one reads through this poem, by now, you should recognize that it's also about procreating.

1) Are you afraid to make a widow cry?
2) That you waste away in singleness?
3) Ah! If you happen to die without children,
4) The world will mourn as if it were your wife;
5) It will be your widow and weep.
6) Because you left no children behind,
7) Rather than leave your widow
8) a child that she could keep her husband's form and image in mind.
9) Whatever you spend in the world, money and things,
10) Will just circulate and the world can enjoy it for many years...
11) But beauty will come to an end
12) And if you don't create more beautiful creatures, eventually it will be gone forever.
13) You have no love towards others
14) If you keep all chances of producing an heir to yourself.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Saturday's Writng Quotation Examination

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end... but not necessarily in that order.  ~Jean Luc Godard

Books often start at the end and working their way to... the second ending. End...beginning...middle... end.

Why? What does that mean?

Well, basically, you need an exciting end at the beginning to get your reader reading. And you need an exciting end at the end to get your reader buying your next book. So, how does a writer have two endings?

Here's an example, the main character is found dead at the beginning of the book... it's shocking and the reader wants to know what happens. The beginning and middle discuss the event and reasons why and the ending describes the event.

Look at the movie/book - The English Patient... The MC is in a hospital. What!? Why? Well, then the movie goes on to relate what happens.

One of the best examples of the ending starting first is a movie entitled Vantage Point. The president is shot at the beginning and the rest of the movie gives different POVs as to what happened.

This is why I love writing, we have the freedom to break the rules.

What does this quote mean to you?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Dialog: Distinctive Voice - the three Vs

Here are the three Vs (hey, that rhymes) of distinctive voice as taken from Brainstormers by James V. Smith:

1) Vocabulary - Each character should have their own vocabulary or pet phrases that separates them from the others

2) Verbosity - You should determine the length of each character's thoughts and speeches. You may not get some characters to shut up while others need prompting to say two words. Stereotypically (so it shouldn't be used much) grandmothers, women or old people go on and on while young teenage boys talk in grunts.

3) Velocity - The pace and rhythm of a characters speech  and be altered. It's in how you arrange words, sentences and ideas. One could speak without pausing for breath (maybe take out some of the commas) or one can pause often (maybe use more '...') or one could stutter (st-st-stut-tter)

Here is a good example of distinctive voices (take from Emma by Jane Austen - a conversation between Emma and Mrs. Bates):

"My mother's deafness is very trifling you see--just nothing at all.
By only raising my voice, and saying any thing two or three times over,
she is sure to hear; but then she is used to my voice. But it is very
remarkable that she should always hear Jane better than she does me.
Jane speaks so distinct! However, she will not find her grandmama
at all deafer than she was two years ago; which is saying a great
deal at my mother's time of life--and it really is full two years,
you know, since she was here. We never were so long without seeing
her before, and as I was telling Mrs. Cole, we shall hardly know
how to make enough of her now."

"Are you expecting Miss Fairfax here soon?"

"Oh yes; next week."

"Indeed!--that must be a very great pleasure."

"Thank you. You are very kind. Yes, next week. Every body is
so surprized; and every body says the same obliging things. I am
sure she will be as happy to see her friends at Highbury, as they
can be to see her. Yes, Friday or Saturday; she cannot say which,
because Colonel Campbell will be wanting the carriage himself one
of those days. So very good of them to send her the whole way!
But they always do, you know. Oh yes, Friday or Saturday next.
That is what she writes about. That is the reason of her writing out
of rule, as we call it; for, in the common course, we should not have
heard from her before next Tuesday or Wednesday."

"Yes, so I imagined. I was afraid there could be little chance
of my hearing any thing of Miss Fairfax to-day."

"So obliging of you! No, we should not have heard, if it had not
been for this particular circumstance, of her being to come here
so soon. My mother is so delighted!--for she is to be three months
with us at least. Three months, she says so, positively, as I
am going to have the pleasure of reading to you. The case is,
you see, that the Campbells are going to Ireland. Mrs. Dixon has
persuaded her father and mother to come over and see her directly.
They had not intended to go over till the summer, but she is so
impatient to see them again--for till she married, last October,
she was never away from them so much as a week, which must make
it very strange to be in different kingdoms, I was going to say,
but however different countries, and so she wrote a very urgent letter
to her mother--or her father, I declare I do not know which it was,
but we shall see presently in Jane's letter--wrote in Mr. Dixon's
name as well as her own, to press their coming over directly,
and they would give them the meeting in Dublin, and take them back
to their country seat, Baly-craig, a beautiful place, I fancy.
Jane has heard a great deal of its beauty; from Mr. Dixon, I mean--
I do not know that she ever heard about it from any body else;
but it was very natural, you know, that he should like to speak
of his own place while he was paying his addresses--and as Jane used
to be very often walking out with them--for Colonel and Mrs. Campbell
were very particular about their daughter's not walking out
often with only Mr. Dixon, for which I do not at all blame them;
of course she heard every thing he might be telling Miss Campbell
about his own home in Ireland; and I think she wrote us word
that he had shewn them some drawings of the place, views that he
had taken himself. He is a most amiable, charming young man,
I believe. Jane was quite longing to go to Ireland, from his account
of things."

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Writing Dialog: Bring it on!

In my opinion, when writing fiction, there should always be conflict in dialog.

'Nice day, isn't it?'
'Oh, it sure is. The sun is a beautiful shade of yellow. Copperish, don't you think?'
'Copper would be a wonderful way to describe it. Do you know what this is?'
'No, what is it?'
It's conversation that's boring. There's no conflict, there's no point, the story isn't going anywhere.. 

How can we make our dialog sizzle?

1) Be aggressive, threaten - ('Go ahead, make my day.')
2) Be passively aggressive -submissive characters wreak havoc on dominant ones. (“No, dearest, I don’t mind picking up your socks and putting them in the wash for you,” Susan said, as she threw them in with a red shirt.)

3) Provocation - one character can taunt or dare another. ("Ron," he said. "You have to confront her now. If you don't she won't stop calling you.")

4) Use undercurrents - The words and actions or expressions do not match. (He slammed his glass down on the table. "I would love to go to Bermuda with you.")

5) Be ambiguous - Is there conflict? Isn't there? 

6) Subliminal conflict - While the two characters are engaged in innocent banter, disaster is waiting for them around the corner.

7) Word choices - there are fighting words. ("Want me to kick your butt?")

8) Sentence & Paragraph length - Shorter, abrupt sentences and paragraphs are more confrontational.

9) Repetition - Repeating key phrases add emphasis. "When I talk, you listen and you listen good."

10) Use imperatives. And in case you don't know what that means it's commands. Sit. Lie. Die. Buy. Pie. No, that last one's not really one. But I could sure use some...

And don't think that because you write sappy love stories or children's fiction that you can't have dialog with conflict... take a novel entitled The Three Billy-Goats Gruff:
"Who's that tripping over my bridge?" roared the troll .
"Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff , and I'm going up to the hillside to make myself fat," said the billy goat, with such a small voice.
"Now, I'm coming to gobble you up," said the troll.
"Oh, no! pray don't take me. I'm too little, that I am," said the billy goat. "Wait a bit till the second Billy Goat Gruff comes. He's much bigger."
"Well, be off with you," said the troll.

Pic source: here
Source: Brainstormer