Posts Tagged ‘ character ’

Editing out the Chaff – While I Slept

14108984543z07r by hotblack on morguefile

 

A few days ago I had that magical moment I was looking for.

I found an editor for my fantasy novel While I Slept that’s good at what I’m bad at spotting: plot holes, character inconsistencies, unrealistic reactions…

 

That’s what I always view as a good editor-writer relationship – something complementary rather than complimentary, needlessly critical or hacking.

 

Every writer knows what they want for their manuscript and their style of writing. I didn’t want an editor that would slash away my voice and implant their own style, or someone who would make “improvements” that I viewed as deteriorations. A writer has to be careful whose advice to take with their writing. It is true what is said: not all suggestions are going to improve what you already have.

 

For now, I’m grinning like an idiot and really looking forward to finding out what my editor has got to say about the book as it stands. As someone on the other side of the planet (the USA), she has no reason to say my book is good if it isn’t and has no reason to be scared away from saying something critical.

 

In effect, she will be my first reader who is a complete stranger to myself and that’s exciting. I haven’t experimented in showing my writing to strangers since my early, early attempts at writing on www.fictionpress.com (I was on the site before it split into fan fiction and fiction).

 

I am also getting a brilliant editor at a fraction of the cost a lot of established websites will charge and this way I can ensure I am not getting a package deal but an individual deal, catering to my specific needs. I’m sure there are benefits to the larger companies and they will have a lot of experience but for a book of my length (around 97K words), I’d be looking at £500-£700 which, to me, feels like robbery.

 

I’m happy with my editor and the price we settled for, a fraction of the cost of larger companies but still a decent remuneration for the task at hand. I loved her sample edit and the suggestions she made were very insightful so I only see good things ahead for the edit, and the future of my novel.

 

My next blog post will be focusing a little more on my novel, letting you know a little more about what it’s all about as it has been a long time since I last did a sneak preview. Until then!

 

Holly Ice

1404341641ezt58 by ttronslien on morguefile

Advertisements

Simple Photographs – Inspiration & Character

When you see a photograph online on tumblr or deviantart or flickr etc what is your reaction to it? You may scroll up, view it again, but then what? I’ve found if I can’t look away from it more than once, the best thing to do is save it to my computer. Why? Because it interests me. Something in it has a spark I like looking at, that intrigues me, and that’s what I need in my writing, too.

It’s not just portraits that have this reaction for me but landscapes, too. I’ve done a similar post to this before but I’m going to really focus on character here and an exercise for getting stories off the ground from nowhere.

Here’s 3 portraits from my collection:

1f171e38879e18f184a16e4b2c34bae2_large

3_kerryport1

3_hannah-port1

My character exercise would be to look closely at each of these portraits. What drew me to them? Why did it? What personality traits are here? Where can I imagine them being and not being? Who might be their love interest, their age, they occupation?

Ex: Portrait one I see a young girl – twenties – who is acting shy but smiling, happy, probably a bubbly type who occasionally backs into herself. She has tattoos so perhaps has a good sense of self or an adventurous side. I could see her in a coffee shop, a bar, a skate park. Her smile holds sweetness, like she may be in love. What does this give me? Either a character or a love story.

Portrait two I see an older women – late twenties, early thirties – clothing style more vintage, perhaps eastern. Appears cultured but perhaps snobby. Is posed to paint but not really into it, or passionate with her work. Perfectly groomed, everything placed just so. Either married or chronically single. Perhaps an older time or a sophisticated elite. Seems european – Berlin, Paris, Moscow etc.

Portrait three is in a different century. Twenties or thirties. There is longing here and perhaps fear. A need to be connected with, to get help. A loneliness or a plight is implied. She is like a wilted flower – pale, innocent and yet with make up she seems to have seen some of the world and be worse for it. There is a sad story here.

These may not give me a whole story but, as you can see, they can give me a place to start or a character to begin brainstorming around. Sometimes I might never use any of these portraits for a story but they are there on my computer just in case their character comes back to me and works in a story or in case they speak to me with a story that must be written.

Hope this helps!

Holly Ice

Frustration – We Create Our Own Enemies

It’s when you sit and stare at the stupid blinking cursor that you know something is wrong. I had this the other day and the screen just didn’t help. Games helped my mood but, of course, not my writing. I’m looking at you, TERA.

In the end I got some inspiration late at night/early morning and wrote what I came up with down on paper. It helped a lot. Sometimes I find changing medium is the most useful thing you can do to force your mind to work.

I mean, this is my room before a night out:

DSC05493

It’s pretty much what my head looks like when I try to get ideas together in my head. Like the clothes into an outfit, sometimes things just don’t work. The tights are the wrong colour, the top too baggy, the trousers too hot, too tight.

It’s the same when I write. In the end, I give up and think of a first sentence, something that will (hopefully) draw people in. The story I’m writing at the moment begins ‘Planes are just like buses, after a while’.

Image

For me, this gave me the character, the voice, needed to blindly stumble through the next plot points. It works for me because I’ve found I just can’t make more than two/three decisions in my mind. It’s like playing chess more than three moves ahead. My mind blanks – there’s far too many things that can happen in that time. Characters are not obedient little puppets; they are your opponent, sat across from you and planning your downfall.

Little diabolical, but that’s how I see it. Each start to a story and each completed story is a victory for me against the character that doesn’t want to be written and that cursor.

Who ever said writers are pacifists? We hurt characters and give them problems. We are Gods of our worlds and hardly very kind ones. I suppose it’s no wonder they fight back.

The Writing Update

So, after all that, I’m glad to say I have one story freshly sent off to an anthology – Alchemy Press’ Urban Mythic

and another which I’ve started for their Astrologica collection. (There’s still two weeks to enter this – closes 14th April at midnight PST). It comprises stories based/inspired by the star signs with added fantasy elements. Check it out.

Definitely not all bad. Wish me luck!

And my twitter 🙂

Signing out,

Holly Ice

The Inspiration of Myth & “King” Arthur

31390883

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.

King-Arthur-Butler-L

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

Inspiration to Writing

I mentioned many days ago in my Pen’s Catalyst post that I have many folders of pictures on my computer. These are separated into “funny”, “animals”, “landscapes” and “people”. The two that are most useful for writing are, of course, people and landscapes. Before writing this I counted how many pictures I had in each of these folders. The landscape folder has 446 and the people folder has 116.

This discrepancy perhaps says it’s hard to find characters you like or interesting portrait shots. However, my landscape shots tend to have a lot of pictures within them that aren’t strictly landscapes, too. This ups the total.

Below is a sampling of my people folder.

As you can see, I seem to trend toward black and white photographs. I’ve always had a love for them so I’m not sure if this is just preference of the timeless and placeless quality of them.

The main point of having all these pictures in a folder is to inspire me. Sometimes I look through the pictures and don’t do anything. Sometimes I’m just fascinated by the colours and compositions. This may be the old artist in me or it may be the subconscious mind gearing up to a new idea. Who knows, who cares; the main thing is the pictures improve my mood and, sometimes, get me thinking, too.

  1. There are many ideas in these pictures. The first one for example: is it a girl or a boy? Are they running over rooftops or jumping over a wooden wall on the beach? Is it a war zone or an industrial area? Are they a thief of in costume? Playing a game or poor?
  2. The second picture shows my love for eccentric individuals. There’s so much you can ask about this guy and what he’s doing, where he’s going. He’s one big enigma caught in a photograph that I can play with in my mind like a riddle.
  3. The third picture is similar in this way. Only, here, it also gets me thinking about how I can use objects in different ways and create a new world with new values and preoccupations.
  4. The fourth picture is in colour, showing I do like colour after all! But, it also makes me think better of mankind. There is a contrast of one man saving food and material belongings and the other being, in my eyes, a winner, as he saves some beautiful little tabbies from the horrid water. News stories can often be great for these sorts of shots.
  5. The fifth picture is a bit weird. It did what a lot of pictures do in my folders: it caught my eye and wouldn’t let me forget about it. I always save these pictures. They somehow prevent me from scrolling on by. That’s good. You should save them to. What makes a wandering net surfer stop, will almost definitely make a reader pause in wonder, too.
  6. In the next picture I love the colour and bleakness of the landscape. It’s one of the shots that has blurred boundaries. It could easily have gone in either the people or the landscape folder. Sometimes I put pictures in both when they’re really blurred so I can always find them when it may be what I’m looking for. This picture tells a story in the still. Is she suicidal? Why? Is she playing with balance? Is she copying someone she’s seen before? Is she a ghost? What does her face look like? The questions just keep rolling.
  7. Now, this man in the city is also very interesting. His shoulders are hunched in. Is it cold? His expression is very ambiguous. Is he happy, crafty, miserable? The blackness of him in the landscape amplifies his character, too. He’s important in some way. It makes me yearn to create a world for him, a day and a story.
  8. The last guy is just like a song turned to a photo. He’s peddling an instrument home on a bike. It screams France to me. It’s also pretty surreal. There’s no discernible building anywhere near him. So many stories could be made from him or using him as a metaphor. Perhaps someone is taking something else ridiculously big home or riding into nothing?

Now here’s a sample of the pictures in my landscapes folder…

There are all sorts of pictures here from the surrealist art to the natural shot of a landscape. They are all useful to writing. Perhaps the bedroom tells you what a character is like, the sort of house they live in. Perhaps a beach starts a love story or a castle a failed siege? Landscapes can be used as much as objects and outfits to create a character, too. Perhaps your Charlotte has the temper of an ocean or is as flexible in ideas as sand. These pictures span a swath of ages and genres to me. They have many different associations and yet are all in the same folder.

My advice is to create a similar folder. You have been told, I’m sure, to have a notebook. This is your digital image inspiration book. Keep it fresh and keep adding to it.

For somewhere to get you started, this forum thread is where I get a lot of my pictures. (You don’t always have to do all the work! Sometimes people with similar taste have done some compiling for you!) INFP Forum Post  .

Now for the writing exercise!

  1. Grab a pen and notepad or a computer and blank document.
  2. Pick any pair of person and landscape and think about a short story or a poem including them both. The landscape doesn’t have to be the setting. It can inform their character. Similarly, the person doesn’t actually have to appear in the setting. Their qualities can be like a ghost in the landscape or the voice of the person describing the landscape. Give it a go!
  3. If you feel adventurous, feel free to add an extra person or landscape to the story. Maybe there’s a whole novel in there somewhere if someone can connect the dots!

Good luck and tell me what you get up to here or here!

What Your Shoes Say About YOU :)

This is a little writing technique similar to ones I’ve been taught. I’ll show you two full outfits and then we can assess the character of the people who may wear them. This is easy character creation but also gives new ideas for how to describe pre-existing characters.

This is a woman – unless you have transvestite or transsexual ideas for characters.
Now let’s think of adjectives for her; sassy, formal, well-turned-out, posh, snobby, moneyed, rich, spoilt, fashionable, workaholic, fitness freak, minimalist…
You get the idea. The clothes give you some associations to work from.

Here’s a very different outfit.

This to me would suggest insecurity because of the layers or a scene-ness. Perhaps a punkiness, casual, street sports, attitude, sassy-ness, talks back, stays up late, creativity, sexual, if not insecure than confident. Perhaps this is a bravado…

Try creating your own characters in this way – search google images or look on your favourite and most hated clothes sites. Or give these characters a go. View the outfits, form your own evaluations of their character and write a story with both of them in.

Let me know if anything is useful and share if you want to!

Fish or Beef? Family and Taste.

We all know family changes us. There’s the big nature/nurture argument to go with it. What if our ancestry, our genes, does too?

The three pictures of forests spread throughout this post, for example, show the diversity of life even within one snapshot of forest. Place effects story and lives so much. Don’t forget if your story is based in cold climates to make it snow in winter or in wet climates to have swampy areas etc. Think about how these climates affect lifestyles, too; do they swim, canoe, ski, snowboard, travel, hitch-hike, rock climb?

Place is more important than you think. I read a book last year: Who’s your city? by Richard Florida. The idea is that certain qualities in people such as creativeness, liberalism, traditional etc will draw people to certain areas where these qualities are popular and centralised. It makes for an interesting read and some videos can be found online that talk about it. I read it as a: where should I live? Where would I like?

These qualities, if in the wrong amounts for your character, can, of course, create a lot of great tension in a piece. It’s worth experimenting with!

Image

Many families don’t know much of their history, at least not beyond grandparents. This can be where you find out who you really are. I’m not plugging any ancestry sites – usually the best information is on site anyway – but perhaps there are some places you can get started.

Personally, I know my grandfather was Latvian. I’ve looked into their culture, their way of life, and realised a lot of it I’d picked up without ever going there. From an incredibly young age I’ve loved anything pickled and vinegary. I thought, and still do think, that it is sweet. In Latvia dishes like sauerkraut and verrry vinegary fish are common place.

I also love potatoes and prefer chicken to beef. I also absolutely love fish. A lot of these things are popular or usual in Latvia, too.

Image

Perhaps it would be useful to get into your own histories to find a story. I’m thinking of writing a novel based in Latvia so perhaps there is a whole story of injustice, love or adventure hiding in your past too, whatever origin you may have.

If not, at least this might give you ideas about how to portray characters from other cultures: often they’ll pick up some, if not all, of the likes and taste, even if they never lived there.

crime writing solutions

Offering guidance and advice to writers of crime fiction.

Sally Bosco

Author of Dark Fiction

Damaris Young

Creative writing blog

Simple Pleasures

Visual Poetry, Photography and Quotes

Book Hub, Inc.

The Total Book Experience

Lightning Droplets

Little flecks of inspiration and creativity

adoptingjames

Read our Mission. Find out how you can help us adopt James.