Tag Archives: character

Oh, you are a cancerian too (gulp!)

29 Jul

During my break from blogging, I celebrated my 30th birthday. It is official, I am now a grown up.

Last year following my birthday I wrote a post about horoscopes and chorizo. Being that time again, I feel it is time to embark on this pondering, especially in light of new acquaintances.

Bear with me, this is related to writing and character development, which just shows how much the ‘writer’ in me has matured in the past year.

In the past year I have had a close friend (lets call her Bobo)  that like me is a cancerian. It is safe to say we are a bit of an odd team in terms of where we are in life, as well as in age. The fact that Bobo shares the same star sign has never really risen to the surface, her birthday is in June, mine in July, we are just good mates.

My son started school last year. For any of you that have ever had to face the school playground you will be aware of the various groups that gravitate towards each other (watch out on my special post on the witches coven). As it goes, there were a few of us that mingled around the edges eventually clinging onto each other. Oh my, of that crowd, the three standards, myself, mum A and mum B (names protected for safety reasons) all share a July birthday, all cancerians.

What a nice coincidence. It means we can all go out and celebrate our birthdays together. Makes it more special I think.

Character traits have shown through over time and more and more I have found myself intrigued by how similar we are. Not in the ooh we like shoes type of way, but more of an oh, that is how I would react. I can identify with hopes and dreams, disappointment and rejection. It’s good to have friends that are like you…or is it?

I realised very quickly at this point that Bobo is also the same as Mum A and Mum B. At work, two colleagues of mine hinted at a weakness. As I sat there listening all I could think was, ‘oh, you are such a cancerian’. Both colleagues are cancerian.

Safe to say I freaked. all my life I have only had one friend that was also a cancerian, and we separated ways at the age of 15. Sure kids at school had June/July birthdays, but I was very rarely drawn to them.

Why was I freaked? I thought I was unique. An anomaly in the way I thought and acted. At times I genuinely thought I must have something wrong with me, no self-help book would ever work for me…nope I am normal. I am a typical cancerian, and these people, they are too. What this means however is a desire in me to run and hide. If they think the way I do, that is too much for me to handle.

What does this have to do with writing you ask. Well, my love for character bibles and the such has just taken an unexpected twist. When I started reading about cancerians, I realised I had my start for every character bible. Cheating? Not really. I was always told to give my characters a month of birth, I never understood why. Now it has become clearer.

How does this make me a more matured writer? Simply it shows I am studying other peoples traits and analysing them. Trying to understand what makes them tick. What part of them makes them break the norm, be unrational, remain calm in stressful situations. Developing characters is much more than knowing they have a lisp and blonde hair.

Obviously there are cynics that do not believe in this. That is fine. As I have said before, I am not a great one for following this, I certainly wouldn’t at this time be able to say ‘oh you are a typical…’ as I have heard others do. I do however, believe after these past few weeks that there is something behind these signs. I know nothing of the history, and honestly, I do not have an interest to learn. All I know is of the seven of us that I refer to, we are all typical of the cancerian sign. For now, for me, that is enough.

Oh and a word of warning, if you are a cancerian, and you see me running, it’s because I am afraid,  after all, I know what you’re thinking.

***So I dont know what you are actually thinking, but I know how you will react***

Advertisements

Me and Mr G…and Voodoo Dolls

25 Apr

In the past year I have been in the privileged position to work closely with a writer whilst he wrote his entire first novel.

From the first chapter, i provided feedback on plot, characterisation, language, continuity…proofreading. Not your typical way of doing things, but that is what we did. Last month, I received the final installment of this first draft. Much to both mine and the writers surprise, the word count exceeded 137,000 words.

Why am I telling you this?

Well obviously once this novel has gone through the full editing procedure it will be the bestseller of our time. It will rival the sales of Harry Potter, its series will be found in libraries in hundreds of years, hailed as a classic.

No not quite (although it is quite brilliant). This journey I have been part of has taught me a lot about dedication, commitment, and being in the real world as a writer.

You see, me and my writer friend, lets call him Mr G (ha) started our ‘writing careers’ at the same time. Where as I have embraced blogging and networking, Mr G has continued with his commitments away from writing, held down a part time job, and has just been accepted on a post graduate degree programme in creative writing.  Mr G does not have a family to care for, the need to work full time, the desire to have a career today as the years are passing by quickly. Other than wanting to write, mine and Mr G’s lives are very different.

So, what I did find surprising then, was that Mr G, with what to me seems like an eternity of time, did not write to a daily word count, did not measure his success on how much was achieved in an overall time scale, did not, well did not have any rules.

Mr G would take a couple of months off, then he would churn out multiple chapters on a daily basis. Mr G in September told me that he had to continue, he had got so far after all, and then didn’t produce anything until January. Mr G did not beat himself up.

Whats my point? Well, I have been pondering this whole blogging malarkey. I know, FACT, I don’t write like I should as I write my blog post when I get time. I also know, FACT, it is blogging that spurs me on. remember No Way Out, well nothing kills me more than knowing I haven’t written the next installment, eventually the guilt becomes such that I find some drive.

This is not a post of oh I have no motivation, oh I will write soon, whats the world coming to, not at all. This post is about embracing the diversity of our own approaches, to do things our way. We shouldn’t feel guilty for not writing. We should feel smug if we manage to churn out 5,000 words in one day. We should just feel how we feel, and not allow the pressures of the blogging community/twitter etc to make us feel we are doing something wrong. we should be pleased for fellow writers when they achieve something, not secretly stab pins in the makeshift dolls we have sat on the shelf above our computers….oh just me?!

(If you were the blogger last week chatting about writing goals give me the heads up – I wanted to include a link but can’t find you!!!)

No Way Out – the Second Installment

13 Apr

Unedited first draft. Please offer your thoughts within the comments. First installment can be found here. remember this is your project as much as mine so we are looking for a) further plot developments b) inaccuracies c) HONEST opinions and anything else you want to add. If you haven’t been involved to date, check out the page above with a full list of related posts.

‘Take a seat,’ Charles commanded as Steve shut the door  behind him, before even reaching the round back chair, deliberately chosen to be uncomfortable and uninviting Charles said ‘I won’t dance with my words. We have to let you go.’

Steve finally sat, stunned. Surely Charles was having him on.

‘You may as well as clear your desk immediately. Your contacts have been transferred already. If you speak with Sharon, she has all your documents.’ Charles turned to his computer and began typing.

Steve tried to find his voice, ‘But..’

Sighing Charles turned to Steve. ‘Don’t make this harder than it has to be. Your sales record does not make you invincible. Our staff have to give 100%. Shut the door on your way out.’

Steve did just that. As he walked across the sales floor, he was reminded of the scene from Jerry Maguire. Tempted to ask who was him? But he already knew the answer. It was obvious. All of these people, the ones that had shared his champagne, frequented lunches with, they all smirked and turned away. It was laughable. He didn’t feel anything except pity. Pity for these people that worked for a company that didn’t care, and in turn had become soulless themselves. He knew their greed. He knew nothing mattered accept that next sale. He also knew they wouldn’t get it. There had only ever been one reason for his success, one reason why he stood above the rest, quite simply, he gave a damn.

Steve grabbed his jacket and keys, and left the office. No hugs, no farewells, and no regrets. They had done him a favour. It was obvious he and Poppy were entering a new stage, and what better way than to enter it without the trash of the past.

***

Steve ran down the stairs scooping Michael from the floor he ran from the house. Mindful of how sensitive Michael is, Steve bundled him into the car, with promises of a surprise.

‘What surprise Daddy?’ Michael beamed, the features on his face highlighted by a rosy glow.

Thinking on his feet Steve responded cheerily, ‘How does a play in the park followed by the nugget shop or pizza sound?’ Michael cheered and began to chat incessantly. Steve, as hard as he tried he could not listen, the images of the past few minutes crashed like a cannon ball around his head.

Pausing in traffic, Michael’s voice broke his thoughts ‘…and what about the shower Daddy? Didi the man fix it?’

‘What?’

‘Mummy said the man was fixing the shower. Did he do it?’

Steve swerved the car into the parking space. Snapping his seat belt he turned to Michael’ we’re here. Last one to the swings is a monkey.’

Sitting on the bench, Steve watched Michael play with two other children. He thanked his lucky stars that this was the case. He hated to admit it, but right now was not the time for him to be with Michael. He didn’t have the capacity to be a caring loving father, broken husband and recent redundee all at once. His luck couldn’t get any worse. But this wasnt his fault. He didn’t do all of this. It was her. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t rationale her behaviour.

It had taken him what now felt like a lifetime to realise what was happening before his eyes. Thinking rationally, he was sure it was barely seconds, but he wouldn’t stand in court and swear on it. The ruffled bed, the strewn clothes, the stranger with his wife before his eyes. When she turned, and realised he was stood there, on the threshold of the bedroom, she had smiled, a slow smirk of a smile, it hit him hard, it was the second time that day he had seen that look on the lips of those he was meant to be connected to.

The words had stuck in his throat, the emotions strangling him. He had connected with her eyes. They wasn’t cold, or filled with hate. No love no compassion, just empty. Needless to say he had never seen such blankness in her, or anyone else for that matter. It was like the life was gone.

Maybe that was it. Maybe the loss of their child had taken everything from her. Maybe there was more to her grief than what had been on show. It was often said that you hide the most from those you hold most dear. But, the smirk, the very deliberate smirk, she knew what she was doing. The whys where’s and how longs were questioned to be answered later. For now, all he knew for certain was that she felt no remorse for what she had done.

****

Poppy sat on the bed, wrapped in her dressing gown, knees hugged to her chest. The silence in the house was just that, silent. Outside the clouds moved across, the dusk beginning to settle around the house like the dusk did every night. There was no comfort in the darkening skies, just as there was nothing to hear in the silence. The world was, at least within the house, just nothing.

Knowing steve would return soon, had to return soon, did not drive Poppy to move. The voice that still gave a damn told her she should at least get dressed , remake the bed, but the naughty voice, the one that she had indulged for too many months now told her to forget it, what was done is done, and finally so.

She could already predict the conversations that were soon to take place, both to her face and behind her back. It will be the shock of what she had done, how her and steve had always been such a strong couple, think of Michael.

Well it was Michael she was thinking of. If it hadn’t happened now, it would have happened later. If left they would have argued and Michael would have witnessed that. He would have heard the awful words, the terrible accusations, felt the tension. As for those that would argue she should have tried, well she had. But it was quite simple, if you didn’t love someone, then no matter how hard you try, you cannot wave tinkerbells magic wand and be in wonderland. There may be such a thing as happily ever after, but it would never be with her and Steve. Cheating may have been cowardice, but it will certainly provide the opportunity to escape.

Looking around the room, Poppy critiqued it. From the cream and brown walls, to the thick pile carpet, to the intricately wove bedding, Poppy knew she was surrounded by luxury that very few could afford. It was a risk she had taken, but she knew these things, as much as she adored them, were not enough.  She remembered, she had practically begged Steve for the hardwood shutters at the window, the thought of not having them , not having the perfect home had just been too much for her to handle. How shallow she had been. And yet, she had been online, she had spoken to women in unhappy marriages, and all they wanted was just what she had, just what she was leaving. She didn’t think any less of these women, she couldn’t even begin to imagine what life would have been like had her and Steve been hard up, but what she did know, even without money worries, steve was not enough.

Standing, Poppy walked across the room, and swung open her wardrobe door. Stepping inside she saw the plaque that still made her laugh out loud, ‘All men are idiots. Better to be married to an idiot with money than without’. This time however, she wasn’t laughing from the memory of the purchase, or at the saying men are idiots but just the irony that she was married to an idiot with money.

Needless to say Steve hated the plaque, he wasn’t too fond of the ‘what if the hokey cokey is all its all about?’ plaq either, but they were her guilty pleasure, and they could be found in her wardrobe only. Her little sanctuary. As much as she loved her house, and frankly, who couldn’t, sometimes she wished she could be brave enough to throw some colour or quirkiness in. Conformity was where she had been at since being with Steve, but today was the first day that was going to change all that. She could feel it, like a bubble of recklessness fizzing around her insides, it escaped in the form of laughter, freedom, her mouth salivated, her eyes glinted with mischievousness, this was it, the time had finally come, feeling breathless Poppy danced to the music in her head, pausing to chew her lip, suppressing the scream of excitement.

Writing What You Know?

10 Apr

Write what you know – Natasha McNeely spoke about this on her blog titled ‘Life Experiences: Why Not add Them To Your Book’.

Read the post, Natasha is very clever and has an idea to get you used to writing about, well, what you know.

I love writing about what I know, and for many writers that I have spoken with, we have in common a love for music for bringing past feelings back to the fore of our minds, to really encapsulate those emotions.

What if though, we need to write about something we have not experienced? How do we create those emotions, how can we make that scene not just real in our minds, but that it translates to the page also.

Obviously the first thing we need to do is research the particular topic. An example would be I was writing a YA novel with an autistic protagonist, not only did I need to have an understanding of autism, but for this piece, it involved a young offenders institute. I needed to know how such a place would affect a teenage boy with autism, reactions for both the protagonist, and those around him.

I have two full notebooks filled with information on this subject. It wasn’t enough though, my writing was limited as it was imagining an emotion, I couldn’t feel it, I couldn’t see it, it was just…bland.

This can be overcome by following step two, speaking with someone who has been in a similar situation.

There was one problem however, I neither knew a teenage boy with autism, or even just a teenage boy who had been in a young offenders. This particular piece has been put to one side. I may pick it up again one day, I like to think when I am a well-known author and people believe in my writing skills enough for me to ask them about such personal issues. as it stands, I’m just Ellie, wannabe writer but probably just a dreamer.

That doesn’t mean to say I havent employed these techniques elsewhere. Now I will share with you how you can steal those memories, those emotions, and make them your own.

I was writing a novel (unfinished, sigh) that involved a chase across Europe. I have visited many places, but to make the novel more authentic, I needed more experiences – I couldn’t afford to travel around for a while, so hijacking memories was my only option.

Fortunately for me, some friends of mine had found themselves stranded in Europe at the time of the Icelandic volcanic ash. On a mission to get home, they flew short flights, and took train journeys, spending each night in a different hostel.

Sitting down, I asked them to walk me through each hostel. From standing outside right through to the small little details such as the cracks on the wall. I wanted to know about staff, other visitors, the little tidbits of conversation overheard when walking by. It sounds simple, but this task can be somewhat tiresome. Some people just can’t get around to the idea of sharing every detail, thinking that, ‘it was tatty but friendly, oh and the walls were orange’ is enough information for you, but eventually they give you so much you couldn’t possibly include it all. Once you have gone through this process once, they are always eager to share, how many people truly want to hear another’s experience down to the finest detail? They get as much from this process as you, the writer does.

One word of warning, if they offer to show you photos, do NOT accept. It will completely ruin the process, that place you have just imagined will be stripped back to reality and the haze will be gone. Keep the haze, the haze is good.

Character Development Cheat

28 Feb

When I started blogging, I would write posts on writer’s block, provide handy little tips on overcoming it to get you going. I even provided one during the early days of a cuppa.

Wow, so many people have so many ideas on what will work, but it really is each to their own. A bit of assistance along the way however can be helpful.

When I was writing this post, I got thinking that some may be a little alarmed that I had started with something so real for my characters and developed it. am I wrong to do this? Absolutely not.

We all, whether we like to admit it or not steal from those we know. A flick of the hair, a particular phrase, if it catches our imagination, into the pot it goes. some of us eavesdrop on the bus, some seem to be watching the world go by whilst in reality are mentally noting the small childs limp, the too tight jeans…

Some call it people watching, some make up a whole world for the people around them, creating each persons story. It’s not just writers, the teenage girl may note her peers latest outfit to recreate it, whilst the small boy dreams of the day he will be allowed to ride his bike to the shop alone.

I remember a task that we were set during a children’s writing session in university. it was simple, describe someone you know from the ground up. Have you ever tried this? It is simply the most intriguing exercise you can do.

I was unsure at first. How can describing someone in this way be beneficial? I opted to describe someone who I spend a lot of time with, not sure what I would end up with. I began with the shoes, tatty, too tight laces and faded. By the time I had reached the knees, I was no longer describing the person I began with. My imagination had started working without purpose, I didn’t know what I wanted to end with, I just started adding little details, simple rips and repairs…

I was left with a slightly eccentric, tramp like character that just begged for more questions to be asked. Why were the clothes tatty? Who was his family? Did he even have one? Was this a lifestyle choice? Was there a significant event in his past? Yes I knew the answers to these questions for the original person, but those answers no longer fitted what I had on the page. In short, I had a whole new character that just needed the story completing around him.

How do you develop your characters? Where do you start? Have any of your characters ever been identified by close friends and family?

Knowing What You Want, But Not How To Achieve It

26 Feb

In my last post I talked about being scared of taking the leap into the unknown, in that instance it was turning No Way out into chick lit.

Today I want to share with you news about the other project I mentioned in my rant ‘I don’t have writers block.’

This is a project that also involves taking a leap into the unknown, unlike No Way Out, rather than being unsure I am really excited, desperate to start, but I know deep down I need help.

It has developed from a suggestion of what could be done, into a serious idea. I have six characters that are possibly more developed than any other character I have ever started with before. I can only assume that it is because f my laid back attitude to it.

I fear I am talking in riddles so let me explain.

As a temp I was provided with a spare desk and basically left to get on with the task at hand. this spare desk was within the offices of the senior staffs PAs. using the most basic explanation, I was suddenly thrown into a world I just did not know existed.

Now I have seen and heard stuff that i probably shouldn’t have. I have experienced shocking attitudes, mainly from those not based within this area that have made assumptions about my role. But, and this is the most important thing, none of that will feature in my work. It is important however, as what I have seen and heard has helped me develop my characters.

Classic one liners, snippets of personality, little foibles all have been noted and now I have my magic six.

It hasn’t been easy. I was told, hey you could make a great script out of that, and I thought yes, I can, but how do you take reality and make it into something worth watching. the simple answer was time.

The first thing that worried me was that I would unintentionally reflect a particular member of staff, maybe I would take too much of them. I am confident now this will not happen. The first thing I did was just take the first impression and turn that into a caricature. I then left it. I then added quirky images to these caricatures and they developed further. By then taking snippets of conversations, irritations, removing the unimportant, I ended up with characters that are not reflective of the original people. by recognising the strengths and weaknesses, I then added several more characters that would act as antagonists to the protagonists.

I didn’t have a story when I started. I still don’t, not really. However, I do have a basis for how the characters will interact, I know how the story will be told. I know I have a television comedy series, I know it will be surreal. But I have never written a series script, or a comedy for that matter.

So what should I do? Simple. Look at successful comedy and you will see for most, it has been written by two or more writers. Now all I need to do is find someone who is willing to work closely with me.

Whose Point of View?

12 Feb

When I am thinking about No Way Out, in terms of its development in how it is told, I have phrases (yes they are already bubbling under the surface) that would not fit into traditional dialogue. So if working this into a script, how do I get around this?

Traditionally if we are writing a novel, we have the freedom to explore the thoughts and mind processes of our protagonist. Should we wish, we can make them completely open, no secrets, no lies, a soul laid bare.

I entered 'soul laid bare' in google images and this is what I got. i thought it was quite emotive.

When scripting, we are to determine the thoughts either through the dialogue, a verabl expression or action, but there is always the chance they are holding something back from the audience, just as we ourselves may choose to edit our conversation. It is the classic sting in the tale, what is the narrator not telling?

I have two paths I am considering right now in terms of how I write this script. One allows for me to explore the depth of what the reader knows, the other is more traditional in its approach.

Option A

I like the fact that the short story was told in reverse. Taking that, I am thinking that Steves story is told from the hospital bed, where he is in a coma. We can return to the hospital bed from time to time, where we will see visits primarily from Michael (the son) and Becky (the cashier). These will interrupt the flow of the story just enough to allow it to take a sharp turn in what part is being told rather than being about the visit.  Steve will be the narrator of his own story in a kind of Shawshank Redemption style (though obviously not with that finesse – I may be good (ha ha) but not that good!

Option B

The alternative is to tell the story from Poppys (wife) point of view. I think this potentially could take us on a completely different journey and have our expectations and emotions turned on their heads in relation to what we would feel with option A. This story would start from Poppy having the miscarriage, and would not necessarilly require a narrator. We wouldnt know Steves thought proceses, just the devastation of his actions to those that ‘love’ him.

To make a definitive decision, I need to confirm the key plotlines that are to feature. This may sound a little strange, after all, we already have the story, we are just making a short long. No we are not.

I could just take the story and fill in the blanks, but I dont think that would be much fun. I have already drawn the conclusion that for me, if writing is a slog, that is how the story reads. Hence why we are mixing this up, playing around considering various angles. So…

I am going to write a synopsis. Now I am not very good at these, and as I haven’t fully decided which perspective this story is to be told from, it could potentially be too long and unbearable to be worthwhile. I am thinking that I should write several. Obviously they would be the same in many aspects, but likewise they will be very different.

Before I begin however, I would really appreciate your thoughts. Have you ever been in this position before? You know, questioned the perspective of the story? Have you any tips for getting round this?