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The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur

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The last few months I’ve been reading up on myth and legend. They’ve given me some great ideas for stories but not just as-is. In an altered format, they can create something original and (hopefully) brilliant.

I’ve learnt writers cannot be afraid to change things: this is our job. The world as it comes to us is not always suitable for a retelling – bits may need rearranging, adding, subtracting…but let’s not get into the realm of maths here: we’re creatives after all.

Also, do not be afraid to take a tale like Cinderella or Thumbelina and make it contemporary, change the sex of characters, or setting, or emphasis. If you make this decision in order to create a new story, don’t be afraid to leave it unique!

Put in new names, clothes, etc! Let it be new, let the inspiration, the myth or tale that spawned your story, disappear. It will still be an influence or a starting point but your reader doesn’t necessarily need to know it was for you to have a great story.

As a last little tip to those who want to go further and learn more while they’re at it: unpick the myth. Find the meaning of the names, the places and their significance. Find where or how the myth started, whether it is based on fact or legend or religion.

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I’ve found in my exploration of the King Arthur legends that Arthur was not historical at all but a myth which is first mentioned in welsh poetry. The discovery of these early mentions created a whole new vision of Arthur – a man of the Otherworld, fae, faerie, enchantresses, giants and the supernatural. He is still a hero fighting off bad forces for Britain but these are supernatural rather than historical forces.

Based on this research, I actually have a novel idea in the brewing stages. A novel where Arthur is a crime fighter of the supernatural world, once he is awaken. I’ve bought books on the Celts and Arthur in order for other titbits of Celtic religion and myth to inspire me in this project.

So, I know it sounds kind of boring…but research can be fun! The Arthur research was a mix of documentary-like reading  and old, bard-like tales of the unbeatable warrior.

Some of these old texts are very accessible and actually very enjoyable! I laughed aloud at a few and *may* have found the original inspiration for The Hulk!

Hope this helps those stuck with writer’s block. Anything on the page in a first draft is the first step!

And, as always, feel free to follow me on twitter.

My publications to date: About Holly Ice

My new Amazon profile: Holly Ice

When I was little I was a vampire and got free sweets. I never thought of death.

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This is me with the scariest eyes I could find. If you want to know how to do the make up then scroll down over the historical bits (if you don’t like them) until you see more pics of yours truly!

We’ve all been that age when, once a year, our parents dress us up in adorable little outfits and take us down the street to collect free food. Once we’re a bit older we may even be let out without an adult escort.

What started off this family tradition? What is the history of Halloween?

Simply put, death. Humanity has been struggling with the concept of death for what seems like eternity. Different cultures and time periods have accepted it with varying degrees of success.

In Britain, for example, 31st October marks Halloween. It’s a festival for spooky outfits, pumpkins and scary tales of ghosts or monsters. But it’s also a day for free sweets (nom!)

However, Halloween was originally “Samhain” and was the start of Gaelic preparations for winter. The Celts must have had some very bad luck around autumn as this is also when much chaos, illness and crop failure was blamed on a thin line between the living and the dead.

Perhaps it was easier for them to explain these catastrophes, and death, through spiritual happenings rather than natural problems. There was no science then, after all. (Though I do acknowledge, and agree, that the spiritual explanation is much more fun).

It is possible that the festival has gained a much livelier, happier air because people in today’s world tend to ignore or put death off in order to function. Many people simply don’t face up to death on a regular basis in the modern world.

Alternatively, it could have become a bit of fun simply because the disasters attributed to the dead are now attributed to the weather or pests, even earthquakes.

However, the old tradition of facing the dead once a year is popular in other countries, too. For example, Mexico has long been known to celebrate The Day of the Dead.
To outsiders they seem to mock death – skull have smiles, are decorated in colourful ways…today sugar skulls are often eaten with the name of a dead relative on them.

Skulls in these countries were historically taken as trophies after battles, skirmishes and wars. They symbolised death and rebirth and kept their significance in later years. After all, aesthetically, the face is what a person is remembered for.

The lighter take on death in Mexico perhaps reflects their beliefs. It is believed that life isn’t the important part of living. The afterlife is the continuation of life and is like waking up after the dream. Therefore, death has a much more positive impact on their lives than in Britain where death is an ending, not a beginning.
Instead, it is a celebration of life, an acceptance of death and a view towards a better future.

I believe that both of these traditions are a way of explaining and dealing with the unexplained as well as gaining closure or positivity from death. The original Samhain and Day of the Dead show the opposite viewpoints on death (positive and negative).

Looking into the history of both has not just encouraged me to explain away their beliefs with scientific, modern solutions but also made me think.

What would it mean for the world if the dead really can communicate? What happens in a world where ghosts can interact with us? Where vampires are real?

These celebrations tap into that inner child in all of us that loves all these ideas and deeply wishes them real.

(A great, non-scary, family friendly movie to demonstrate this would be Halloweentown  ).

To end on a positive note – I hope you all enjoy your halloween – you’re never too old to dress up!

Like I have done! Here’s the first pic. I start by putting some dark black/grey eye shadow around my eyes and some black crayon-y eye-liner in the inner parts to make them less fleshy. Cheers!

Then I paint all my face white apart from the bit around the eyes.

Now I do the bit around the eyes a dark reddy-purple. Messed it up a little bit – not so neat! No true make up artist here!

Next I start outlining with these embellishments. Then colour them in blue, then add silver bits. I also added the nose – outlined an ace of spades and then filled it in. Simple.

  

Now even more outlining on the forehead! And some more blue and silver. 

Then I colour in my lips a terrific bright red and finish up with the black lines around the mouth and colouring in the heart.  The finished shots are the last two from the front and profile.

Here’s a full length shot. Ignore the mess please :).

A rainbow me too because rainbows are awesome 🙂

These were my tools

Any questions? Did you like what I did? Do you have better pictures to show me? Did you even enjoy/like halloween? Be sure to let me know – comment below or message me on twitter.
That’s all for now.

Thanks for reading!

My twitter: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

I don’t have an editor…but I don’t need one.

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Have you ever wanted to say that? To be good enough at editing yourself that your work is almost press ready?

To be honest, very few of us are likely to get there but last night I stumbled upon a programme through an obscure list of comments in the back end of the internet.

This programme scans your work – yes, even whole novels – for repetition, clichés, repeated phrases, overused words, dialogue tags – even adverbs. As we’ve been told, adverbs are the bane of existence. For those that don’t know what they are, there’s a big list of  a few below.Image

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Then, if you double click on the offenders, it takes you to each places in the text they appear, just like ctrl+f. I believe you can save the data it finds. 

I think my favourite function is it watches overused words for you – even counts the amount of times they appear. It seems I use “down” “eyes” “nodded” and “smiled” far too often. I shall have to think of some new actions for agreement or for aversion of a subject. It’s kind of like the facebook app that analyses your posts and creates a picture of your most used words only more complex and on a larger scale. 

It’s free, too.

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Yes, Bart Simpson as well as, I’m sure, many big published authors have repeated some words many times in their novels. So what. You want to be better than them, right?

You want your book to be the best one yet, right?

I, for one, feel as if I’ve stumbled across the holy grail with this programme. I will no longer have to trawl through thousands of words and try to remember exactly what phrase I used earlier.

Of course, some phrases or clichés, words even, are stylistic choices that need to remain. Don’t let the machine control you – you are the one with a sentient brain!

With that little caveat out of the way – enjoy, and remember that it doesn’t edit for plot, character pitfalls or clunky phrasing. So you’re not completely get off the hook in terms of editing but it is, I believe, a big help.

Here it is: http://www.smart-edit.com/

*** I should also mention that the programme only works with RTF (rich text files) and .txt (notepad) files. I copied and pasted my novels into notepad and saved it before opening it in smart edit. I believe MS word also has a function to “save as” files as RTF.

Say thank you by following me on twitter, if you wish 🙂 https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

Or, even better, comment away beneath me with your disbelief/hatred for the programme.

For a bit of fun I’ve found another programme for you to look at too. It analyses sections of your writing and tells you which author you are most like. I’ve found the result changes between my blog writing and fiction so don’t take it as gospel!
http://iwl.me/

“Madness”: What/Who is it and is it REAL?

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So you’re asking – why is this on a writing blog? It’s inspiration – many ideas in psychology or philosophy have helped me start a story, come up with something out of the ether, so to speak.

Madness has been a big topic this fortnight, too, with even influential individuals such as Stephen Fry tweeting in order to try and reduce the “stigma” of madness with the tagline #proudtobemad. However, there is a serious side to this debate, too – madness isn’t really defined.

Some could say, it isn’t real.

Rosenhan (1973) creates an experiment to test the definitions of madness within american psychiatric hospitals for the clinically mad. He asked 8 completely healthy, mentally “normal” participants to enter different hospitals and say they heard the word “hollow” “thud” or “empty”.

On the basis of this, all the pseudo-patients were admitted with a variety of disorders. So, even the same symptoms can result in different diagnoses.

All participants were told to act completely normal after admittance and it was expected that they would all be released shortly on realisation of their sanity.

However, this didn’t happen. Instead, all pseudo-patients were watched through the stigma of their condition. Normal behaviours such as writing in a diary or queuing for food were noted down as obsessive writing disorder and other such “abnormal behaviours”.

Most patients weren’t released until months after they were admitted and, even then, they had to admit that they were mad before they were released – a mad person cannot be in denial, of course. On release, the participants were not given the all clear for madness either. Instead, they were labelled as “in remission”.

This, of course, shows how sticky the stigma of madness really is.

A later experiment by Rosenhan was also carried out where a hospital approached him suggesting they would be able to tell which patient was mad and which wasn’t. He agreed to send more pseudo-patients but he played a trick: he didn’t send anyone to the hospital.

The hospital over the weeks identified 41 of 193 patients they talked to as being potential pseudo-patients.

So with madness, there can be many false positives and false negatives and it is incredibly difficult to tell who is what and who isn’t. This is largely because much of the disorder manifests within a patient’s mind and the symptoms are likely to differ between patients with the same disorder.

I should point out that the documents used for diagnosis of madness and disorders have changed many times since this date but the point still stands: madness is a slippery subject.

In some cultures, it is mad to be homosexual. In Britain, many years ago, women were seen to “need” the doctor to induce orgasm in order to reduce “hysteria” (what these days is merely accepted as an emotional outlook on life).

So madness changes over time. It changes based on culture, age (children talk to imaginary friends – adults shouldn’t) and gender, even sexuality.

Madness is in fact defined as culturally abnormal behaviour.

Some people may like to boil a kettle 10 times before they pour their cuppa. Is this OCD or is it merely eccentric? At what point can we as a society feel justified in calling an individual mad? At what point is it acceptable to intrude on their lives and uproot them from their daily activities?

Is it not possible that although the “sane” are the “norm”, we are in fact not how humanity was supposed to be? Perhaps it is better from a survival instinct perspective to boil the kettle 10 times or count the cracks in the pavement.

Perhaps, the “insane” are enlightened and we are dysfunctional for not seeing their vision.

After all, many of the great men and women of the world were first called mad because they thought outside the box, ahead of their time. Or because they challenged deep rooted cultural ideas which, later, were not thought to be mad at all. (Think of the earth’s “flatness” here or the idea that the earth in fact circled the sun and not the other way around).

It’s useful then, if ever writing a story about the mad or the eccentric, or even thinking on how madness’ stigma effects society, to wonder whether madness is real or simply different.

Any questions, comments, debates etcetera, please feel free to write below.

Disclaimer(!): Of course, if an individual is ever worried about a behaviour they can’t control or an issue they are having trouble with, they must talk to a medical adviser and not use the information here as substitute. Some individuals can be a danger to themselves or others if not treated.

This is my twitter for those interested: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

The first picture was taken from here: http://brainbreaking.wordpress.com/tag/rosenhan/
This blog is a more in depth summary of the Rosenhan experiment. Feel free to visit it if you wish.

The second was found on a top ten of sex facts. If you wish, read about them below.
http://www.oddee.com/item_98314.aspx

Who are you, anyway? What do you do? What do you like?

Hello!

My name is Holly as any good name badge would tell you.

Image<—–That picture there is me.

I am: a writer.
So I write, yes, but I’m also an author. I’ve had two poems published so far and a short story. I want to build on these successes over time.

I do: many things.

Cop out, I know. I tend to read a lot, I scour the internet for pictures I like, I sometimes have a little bit of a draw but mainly I write, a lot. I also have a love for languages.

I like: similar things to what I do.
I read a lot on psychology and philosophical topics – I love to assess how these theories change (or ferment) my world views.

I also read about serial killers and other authors (more interesting things to some) because I like to learn how everyone’s mind ticks. The logic goes, this will help me write.

Art used to be one of my major passions. I drew more than I wrote but this seems to  have reversed. Writing is now my main passion and drawing the sidelined hobby.

Languages are one of my background loves. I’d like to think I’m somewhat of a linguist – I did an A level in japanese. This is due to going to a “good school” rather than any remarkable extra talent but it was fun.

Languages are the grammar, the logic, of how words work. The roots of language are almost the building blocks of imagination and common thought.

Or so I’d like to think.

Currently, I’m attempting to learn Latvian (very slowly and between writing and working).

I also like cats.

Hopefully this has given you an insight to my character.
Hopefully you don’t find me entirely uninteresting.

Holly

P.S. Here’s my little twitter page, in case you’re not bored of me yet: https://twitter.com/Holly_emma_Ice

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