Sunday, August 29, 2010
The film shows the assassination of a president from several people's point's of view and I think it is brilliantly done. It is almost like a text book lesson in writing a scene from different pov.
The next day on a walk we came upon the white tent in the middle of nowhere...both of us stopped because it was quite frankly incongruous in the setting. It was not on level ground, but it was properly staked and tied. My mind immediately thought of kids and adventure...while my husband's mind went off in a completely different direction - CIS.
What were your thought upon seeing the picture? What tale did it tell and who told it?
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I was having a look at Susanna Kearsley’s lovely website the other day and the beautiful photo of her eyes featured on the home page made me think about their importance to us writers. I don’t mean just in terms of needing our eyesight for all this writing and reading, but when it comes to creating characters. What our heroes and heroines look like is vitally important and in my opinion the eyes are crucial, especially for the hero.
Eyes obviously play a huge part when it comes to attraction and personally, if I don’t like someone’s eyes, I can’t find them attractive. The clichéd saying “the eyes are the windows to your soul” or something like that really is true, at least when it comes to falling in love.
I’m sure everyone has their own preference, whether it’s the steely blue gaze of a Paul Newman look-alike or the spaniel-brown eyes of George Clooney. I don’t really mind about the colour (although I do have a weakness for green!), as long as they’re surrounded by long dark eyelashes or stand out in some way. Twinkling with humour is good, or flirty and fun with a mischievous glint. I don’t mind them with make-up either, á la Duran Duran or Adam Ant. Just like girls, some guys’ looks really improve with a bit of cosmetic help and as far as I can see, the trend started by the New Romantics has never really gone away among rock bands. Well, why should it? Take Billie Joe Armstrong of the band Green Day for instance – without eye make-up he’s pretty ordinary, but put a bit of black round his huge green eyes and hey presto – he’s gorgeous!
What really does matter the most, I think, is the expression in them. It’s just as clichéd to say that eyes can “smoulder”, but some guys really have that down to a fine art, maybe even without trying. It’s hard to define, but you definitely know it when you see it! And it makes you go weak at the knees for sure.
One of my heroes came about because I was intrigued by the mischievous look in the eyes of a guy appearing in a music video. I was watching Call Me When You’re Sober by Evanescence and almost forgot to listen to the song when I noticed the ice blue gaze of “the Wolf” (the video is a take-off of the Little Red Riding Hood story with the wolf as a human). Judging by the comments he generated on the internet, I wasn’t alone.
So which part of a hero is most important to you? Do you agree with me or does something else do it for you? I’d love to know.
Please come back on Sunday, when Liz will be here with another great post.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Okay, so that's a bit of a broad question. We know that it's FICTION, I'm not talking about the strange propensity of all bomb diffusing to be successful with only one second on the clock, or the way the heroine/hero saves the day at the last moment, or even the serendipity of their meeting at all.(By the way, the superhuman, awesome writer Terry Pratchett uses this in his books as the it's-a-million-to-one-shot-but-it-might-just-work. Whoever heard of a last minute, desperate 876 to one shot coming off?)
No, what sparked this train of thought was the fact that on Saturday morning I was thinking I wanted a bit of a rest from social networking and being 'out there'. It happens once in a while, the constant urge to be connected fades and I just want to retreat for a few days and recharge my batteries. Noting serious, nothing sinister, but it made me wonder – why don't my characters feel the same way sometimes?
Then I realised that none of my characters (at least, at the moment) use Twitter, or share Farmville watering duties on Facebook, or blog, or even show withdrawal symptoms if they're separated from the BlackBerry.
I remember my first book's original draft showed nary a sign of a mobile phone, either. Okay, so they're essentially in hiding for most of the book, but still. The second... well, they're struggling to survive in the Sahara for a good part of the story, so I'll acquit them. But you don't find a secondary character googling seasonal weather in the Western Sahara or texting to hero to check he's remembered the passports.
In the book I'm working on at the moment, Google does crop up. There's plenty of mobiles, a netbook or two (and incidentally a death-ray and an earthquake machine, but that's beside the point), but still they're not tweeting requests for help with clues, or letting their family know what they ate for supper on Facebook. I can't say I've read many mainstream, popular books which include reference to the social networking sites, either.
Is it because technology, and social networking, moves so fast, and publishing so slow, that books are always a little behind the times? Or is it because we WANT fiction to be a little other-worldy – our world, but not quite our world.
Or am I just a closet luddite?
What do you think?
Don't forget to come back on Thursday, for Pia's next post.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Nearly every writing guide I own warns me that readers these days don't have the same patience readers used to have, and that to hold their attention we writers should cut to the chase, in the literal sense. We should start with a 'hook', in the midst of the action, and not waste time painting the scenery or - horror of horrors - describing the weather.
Which often makes me wonder just how many classic novels, ones I've read, re-read and loved, would even make it past an editor these days, with opening sentences like: 'When the east wind blows up Helford river the shining waters become troubled and disturbed, and the little waves beat angrily upon the sandy shores.'
And how's this for an opening paragraph? 'James Macfadden died in March 1905 when he was forty-seven years old; he was riding in the Driffield Point-to-Point. He left the bulk of his money to his son Douglas. The Macfaddens and the Dalhousies at that time lived in Perth, and Douglas was a school friend of Jock Dalhousie, who was a young man then, and had gone to London to become a junior partner in a firm of solicitors in Chancery Lane, Owen, Dalhousie, and Peters. I am now the senior partner, and Owen and Dalhousie and Peters have been dead for many years, but I never changed the name of the firm.'
I can all but hear a modern agent or editor screaming, 'Who CARES?', and yet, although that particular book goes on for several more pages in the same leisurely vein before anything actually happens to the narrator - before he first meets the young woman who will be the catalyst for all the story that follows - I love it all the same, and always have.
Most of my own books, admittedly, start rather slowly. Like a filmmaker who opens with a wide establishing shot and then comes closer, I like to let my readers see my heroines in context, maybe even get to know them just a little, before setting things in motion.
Not to say I don't like books that start with action - some writers are amazingly good at it, and some, like Dean Koontz, can work both weather and a strong hook into their opening sentences, as he does in Dragon Tears: 'Tuesday was a fine California day, full of sunshine and promise, until Harry Lyon had to shoot someone at lunch.'
I'm just saying that we all have different voices, and a storyteller's voice can sometimes draw me in as surely as a 'hook', no matter what the writing gurus of the moment say.
Are you the same? Or do you need to have your interest grabbed by that first sentence?
(By the way, bragging rights go to the first commenter who can correctly identify BOTH novels from which the 'slow' openings above are taken!)
Don't forget to come back on Sunday, when Anna will be posting.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
A Challenge ...write a scene set in Frenchman's Creek and post the results on your blog and leave a link in the comments...
Sunday, August 8, 2010
Don’t get me wrong – I love being the centre of attention in a small way (I’m a Leo so that comes with the territory) and don’t have any problems chatting to strangers. Speaking to a large audience, however, is a different matter. Then I’m far from confident and envy those people who can just stand up and keep a crowd enthralled. How do they do it?
I don’t ever feel that I have anything very interesting to say and I’m useless at being funny. At least intentionally. I once fell into a shop window in Oxford Street by mistake (I thought there was a glass partition protecting the dummies and leaned on it, except there wasn’t so I landed in a pile of fake snow) and that caused a great deal of amusement. In fact, my brother still laughs every time he even thinks about it. Sadly, I can’t perform such feats on command.
Some people seem to be born comedians and/or talkers and they’re never lost for words. Me, I’m the kind of person who always thinks of the witty repartee AFTER the conversation is finished. That’s why I became a writer, because then I have the time to think about it first! But that’s no good when you have to promote your book.
I’ve come a long way since that agent’s talk, but public speaking still gives me stage fright. I am learning though and in order to improve I even did a one-day course in public speaking, which was great. We learned that preparation is key – things like knowing your audience (what kind of people are they? what do they expect from you?), arriving early so the location doesn’t give you any nasty surprises, knowing your subject and being enthusiastic about it – this all helps. Always have three main messages that you want to get across and not lose sight of them. And it’s okay to be nervous, the adrenaline may even help.
I’m not sure I remembered any of those things during my recent attempt at public speaking as part of a panel at the RNA conference, but it went better than I thought so perhaps there’s still hope for me. At least I proved to myself that I can actually do it if I have to and practice makes perfect, right?
Anyone else a shy wallflower? And if so, how have you overcome that in order to do talks? I’d love to know.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Time, time, time.
It made me think. You see, time has always been a bit of a bugbear to me. Not in the another-year-another-wrinkle sense. No, I’ve been more preoccupied with finding – with MAKING – time for writing.
It’s not. It only takes a visitor, or a computer crash, or a domestic disaster, and suddenly it’s way past your bedtime, and the prospect of spending 30 minutes doing anything but sleeping is horrifying. So far, I’ve had to restart four times. But now I’m on day 14 and I think it’s going to stick…
What about you? What do you do to make time for things that matter to you, and how to you defend that time against those daily challenges?
Monday, August 2, 2010
I love conferences. Whoever first came up with the idea of combining travel, parties, and professional development, and tossing in a luncheon and a banquet and a really good excuse to buy new shoes, deserves a medal in my book. But there are conferences and conferences – the larger ones are wonderful, but privately I’m partial to the smaller ones, like Bloody Words in Canada, and the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, which was held this year in Greenwich.
They’re less dizzying, these conferences. More welcoming. And in that kind of atmosphere, amazing things can happen. Case in point: On my first day in Greenwich, I found Julie Cohen and Christina Courtenay, both fellow writers I had met before and liked and kept in touch with, and Liz Fenwick, whom I’d briefly met a year ago in London and whose blog I liked to follow. And before I knew it Liz was texting wake-up calls and taking me for breakfast at McDonalds where I met her good friend Biddy (also friends with Julie and Christina), and that evening everybody introduced me to their good friend Anna, and we all just got along so well that by the barbecue on Saturday, while we were sitting drinking wine (as one must, at these conferences) somebody said – and I confess it might have been myself – but someone said, ‘You know what we should do? We ought to start a group blog.’
And the others, who were also drinking wine, thought it a Very Good Idea.
So we’ve started one, and here it is.
Which goes to show you, many good and unexpected things can come from conferences. Has anything happened to you at a conference? Did you make a lifelong friend? Meet someone famous who really inspired you? Get lost in the hotel? We’d love to hear your story.