Wednesday, 17 April 2013

If only I'd known....

This is a slightly embarrased post, the post of an author who spent 3 years writing a novel about the Comet airliner only to find that there was a Mark 1, basically the very aircraft I wrote about, just 30 miles down the raod from me in Cosford!

If I had known this (or taken the time to find out - a reminder not to be complacent about ones research, however much one thinks one knows) it would have made my job writing about it, its layout and operation, much easier. Anyway, this is her in all her glory at Cosford. Oh, and I've put the novel, 'Contrail', on Free on Kindle today in penance!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Message in a Bottle (or Waiting for Reviews)

I am getting to think that self-publishing novels is a bit like being marooned on a desert island and throwing notes in bottles into the ocean in the hope of getting a reply. Several times during the day I do the equivalent of going down to the beach looking for a response, a ship or another bottle sent back in return - I log onto Amazon and check for reviews!

Usually I'm disappointed and have to do the equivalent of kicking driftwood down the sand for the rest of the day but, hust occasionally, there is something, a few words - good or bad - that shows that there ARE still people out there and that they have spent a little of their time to write something about your book.

Those moments really make my week. So a big thanks to my first reviewers for Contrail and Touched

They made me smile!

Friday, 5 April 2013

Knowing your characters

It never ceases to amaze me how some writers do not seem to know their characters. I have seen it a few times recently; a writer who has written some very pretty descriptions and given their characters lines to say but, when asked why they are saying what they are saying or doing what they are doing, replies, 'well, I don't really know, I haven't thought of that.'

Maybe it's just me but I think that is a very odd way of working. I personally cannot give my characters dialogue or actions without knowing them first; I mean, how can I predict what they are going to do or say otherwise?

Okay, you might point out that these are my characters, my inventions and I SHOULD know but, to me, character use is much more than just giving someone names and leaving them to it.

Consider this: If you found yourself in a crisis, nothing major, just something like a burst pipe or the need for an emergency babysitter to look after the kids whilst you went and sorted something important out, who would you call? The chances are it would be a relative; mum, dad, brother or sister, or a good friend. Why? Because you know what they can and would do. Dad has done years of DIY, he can easily deal with a burst pipe; your best friend will not mind at all sitting with the kids, it's what friends are for.

What you wouldn't do in either situation is ask a total stranger off the street to do either of these things. Why? Because you do not know them; you don't know what they say, you don't know what skills they have, you certainly do not know if you can trust them.

Yet, if you don't spend time getting to know your character, their background, what they like, what their beliefs are, who they know, how do you write them believable lines or know how they will react in a crisis? You don't, they are strangers - and will act like strangers!

That doesn't mean that they will always be entirely predictable though - isn't that also the case in real life? Aren't the most memorable episodes in life the times when someone you know well does something completely out of character? When my fictional characters start to do that then I know that they are 'real' and believable. They create problems for me when they do this but it's great when they do!

I have what I call a 'magazine' test. Think of a time when you have been sat in a room full of strangers, perhaps in a doctor's waiting room. Imagine you have to buy a magazine for each of the people in the room, one that they would really enjoy reading, that would be in line with their interests. Could you do it successfully for each person in the room? I know I couldn't because I do not know them. I might get half of them right just by guesswork. But ask me what magazine I'd buy for my characters and I'd know straight away; Dan from Touched would enjoy a high end photography magazine full of equipment he wants but can't afford; Harriet from Contrail would read Cosmo if she was around today whilst for her brother Stafford, I would buy Flight International and Motorsport.

Try it, it's a great test! The thing is, and this is important, once we as writers know all this we don't need to tell our readers. I get convinced that a lot of the description some writers' put into their novels about their characters is as much for their benefit i.e. a desperate attempt to quickly get to know the character they are writing about, as it is for the readers. If you know your characters inside and out before writing about them their traits will come out far more naturally.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going out for a drink with my character Harry from Contrail. I just KNOW he is going to be fun to spend time with!

Monday, 1 April 2013

A note to the powers-that-be

1. Stop messing with the clocks. Choose a time you like and STICK WITH IT!

2. Please don't start British Summer Time when there is snow on the ground. It confuses people.

3. Losing an hour's sleep in Spring is NOT compensated by having an hour's lie-in in the Autumn.