Sunday, 10 March 2013

Reflection on the Writing I Like Reading

As I'm now embarking on writing the narrative of Novel Number Two (the final main character's details has just slotted into place, so it's away we go!), I've been thinking about the how of transferring the story from my mind to the page; the style, language and tone. "Write what you know" is oft-touted advice but I prefer "Write what you like to read." After all, if you wouldn't be interested, intrigued and enthused in your own work, who would be?

So, in the spirit of sparking Novel Number Two narrative, what do I enjoy reading...and so should be writing?

*** Rounded (but not overlong or indulgent!) description, using imagery and a lyrical touch in the language – what I note in my Reading Journal as beautiful language and lines I love.
While a story must have more substance than just the words it drapes itself in, this expression is what draws and pleases me; what I respond to, especially in thinking about pieces being more than a mere genre entry or competently written. It’s the little bit extra, the cherry on the top...and I love it!

*** Linked closely to this is a real, authoritative sense of place, often realised through the expressive language. The details chosen, atmosphere rendered and mood developed transport me there; I become part of this world, an invisible visitor.

For me, this connection is essential; if it’s there, I invest in it. I appreciate this world in all its particular detail and sensory images; I turn on, not turn off.

*** But if the characterisation is not strong and rounded, I just. Don’t. Care. I won’t continue reading; I’ll forget all about the characters and find a picture or a photo of the place (or a likeness of it) instead!

So, characters must be real people; I must care about them, invest in them. Be surprised and impressed by them; sometimes even scared or worried by them...but more often than not, for them. They must evoke and then I will empathise...and keep reading; line after line, page after page, book after book.

Characters don’t have to be planned out to the nth degree, though; this has been a tough but liberating thing to learn. Through my papercrafting hobby, I’m discovering that an outfit or an ensemble or a photo conveying mood can tell me as much about character as a comprehensive list from which I’ll know the birthdates of their great-grandparents...but will I know them?

I respect Hemingway’s Iceberg characterisation theory – knowing everything about your character (and he means everything!) is to know the whole iceberg, but only the tip will make it into the novel, making that character authentic and real – but I’ve been prescribing to it for too long. Freeing myself up to a visual pic ‘n’ mix has helped me discover my next set of characters and unearth their personalities, quirks and (perhaps most importantly for the plot!) their paths.

*** If the characterisation and sense of place grounds me in the text, I actually don’t mind if little happens! I can drink plot-lite as  much as plot-full-sugar, but I need both to have rhythm and pace. It’s a hard effect to deconstruct and even harder to construct in the first place, but if a pieces lags or is repetitive, it drives me crazy! It pulls me out of the world, makes me doubt authorial control and makes me impatient and intolerant of what comes next.

That I’ve written work which lags and is bulky (certainly Novel Number One and perhaps some poetry) irks and irritates me – but it’s part of my writing learning curve and I’m ok with! I’m anxious that I might repeat these mistakes but I know that’s what rewriting is for. But first, I must get it on the page!

Other things I enjoy about a piece – humour, relation to the events, mystery and solving the puzzle, themes I like to explore, occurrence of fashion or objects/things I like – come after these Four Points. If I don’t have lyrical language, sense of place, rounded characterisation and rhythm and pace, I’m just not reading...or writing to my best ability, either.

So, now consideration has been made, I'd better get some words down on paper! Wish me luck...

~ ttfn ~

Wednesday, 6 March 2013


The Time Imps have done it again – dispensed with the other days in the week so it’s suddenly Wednesday! I’m not ready for this week’s What’s On Your Workdesk Wednesday as I haven’t finished looking at last week’s desks, but the Time Imps don’t do refunds so I’d better get on with thanking host Julia and start sharing my desk! doesn’t look any different to last week, though my Smash Book has moved from the poky writing desk to the top of the microwave (which is rarely used – no need to worry about smoke damage!). It’s still waiting for those final double-spreads to be crafted, but in the meantime I have been busy tap, tap, tapping...

Typewriters are a huge symbol to me of writing and the toil it takes, and, in this way, just looking at one is like a kick up the behind! I’ve been planning to make three typewriter canvases for my hallway (which I enter as I head to my scriptorium where the writing desk resides) since well before Christmas, and I’ve finally managed to do one! Here are my ingredients:

I matted a funky retro image of a woman typing onto card and cut it out, then printed my chosen phrase in two different fonts. Using my fab friend Zoe's That Special Touch Stone Wall mask, I stamped Antique Linen Distress ink straight onto the canvas, and took a chance spritzing water to react with the ink for a shabby chic effect (this was the first time I'd used this technique - thank you, Zoe, for teaching me!).

While that dried, I played around with the fonts, testing which looked better inked with either Antique Linen or, erm, tea bags! (Zoe hates me doing this, especially after her fab blending lessons, but I have to say it carried the colour better!). Making the most of the mask, I stencilled a brick outline around each word, cut them out and edged them with Walnut Stain.

Laying the words out on the wall-canvas, I took my time till I was happy with the placement, then used sticky squares to attach the typing image and the brick-words to achieve depth voila! The finished canvas:

It’s now up on the wall, awaiting the others for a writing inspiration party... I’ve thought and roughed out what I want to do with each one, but I’m learning to let ideas percolate and adapt and take on new guises, so who knows how they'll turn out...!

~ ttfn ~