Posts Tagged ‘ girl ’

Computer problems and Writing success

After a week long struggle, my computer has bitten the electronic biscuit as it no longer registers the existence of the hard drive. Thankfully, most my important data is backed up on the external drive I asked for at Christmas. Feeling slightly psychic!

Included in those files, is a story I sent away to Almond Press  a couple of months ago. It is now in the top three of 178 stories submitted to them and one of the fifteen due to be included in their collection. I shall update once it’s all done and am looking forward to the publication of the judge’s comments! Those should be a good eye-opener into the process and how well I and others really faired.

So, some good news to balance the negative – Karma!! And remember kids…always back up your data – stories especially – even if it’s just by email. You never know when your hard drive will go poof.

What a start to 2013!

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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!

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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.

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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.

Character: My Credentials.

Or something like that…

I have a little success story to report! I have won the October competition run by The Literary Consultancy on their facebook page to describe a character in three sentences based on the Diderot painting above.

I have received an analysis of my entry by Rebecca Swift and my writing is showcased in a post atop their facebook page . I’m very thankful for the recognition.

For those interested, this is what I wrote:

“Peteris was the shy, shuffling type that walked through squares with his eyes to the cobbles but, once home, sat dreaming through dark windows. He was a stable, dependable chap that was often called upon to fix watches, sketch portraits or thread a woman-friend’s needle. He never spoke an unneeded word.”

Please tell me what you think and maybe try your hand at the premise of the competition. I’d love to see what you come up with!

“Hello, Sir. Nice day, isn’t it?” *Character*

Character is a tricky thing to get right. If you get it spot on, it should be seamless, natural.

Dialogue is often the biggest facilitator of character.

Perhaps the first sentence is a little like this guy?

The title to this post, for instance, would imply a formal individual – the sentence uses formal language and is essentially small talk. It also leans toward implying a man over a woman – the speech is to the point. The pause before “Sir” indicated by the comma suggests something else: anger or the idea they are not quite happy deferring to the listener. It’s amazing how much you can give away casually in speech. Try reading things aloud, with punctuation, to spot things.

A girl may be more likely to phrase the sentence this way: “Hello Sir! Don’t you think it’s a lovely day?”

How about this one for a woman?

Both of these sentences are obviously high class when looking at word choice. This one seems more feminine because the world gets more layers of feeling than “good” “bad” and “crap”. Also, the exclamation point indicates an excitement or happiness about a very banal subject that most men don’t seem to have. She also asks for more validation than a man would with “don’t you think”. I’ve never heard a man phrase it that way.

Now, a lower class male may instead say: “Good day, ain’t it, eh Sir?”

Or this one for a worker?

The sentence structure here has dissolved. It’s less proper and there also seems to be no problem with the address of “Sir”.

However, there are other ways to impart character than dialogue. Narration and actions laced through it are also great ways but they are often done badly.

Many starting out writers will overload readers with information. (The colour of their shirt, eyes, hair, skin, shoes, necklace). Most of this is unnecessary: a big dollop of information all at once is normally never good. Information needs to be dispensed slowly throughout a piece of writing. The appearance of a character beyond small amounts of info (well dressed, shabby, ruffled, sporty etc) isn’t needed and is no substitute for character. Even the things I have mentioned here can be shown in setting. For instance, they may have a messy house with cheap goods littered about and no TV or they could have a treadmill and weights by the window.

If you show character well enough, a reader should be able to fill in the blanks – just give them the stuff that is unchangable, necessary or central to the plot and only if  you don’t show it elsewhere. Always, always, wonder if it is worth showing in other ways, too.

Good narrative manages this balancing act well. For example:

Thomas sat straight up in the wing back chair, a ruffle of hair over one eye. He jerked it free and took a large sip of red wine, savouring the taste before the swallow.

This is much better than, for instance:

Thomas sat in a wing back chair, old and patterned like wallpaper – the repetitive kind. He had dark mahogany, curly hair and often moved it to the side before drinking more wine. His ice blue eyes and porcelain skin made a great contrast to the drink.

This has much less character and implies less about the man. It tells us more about him, yes, but these facts aren’t all necessary. It’s pretty clunky, too. In a story, this would slow down the plot and bring a reader to a halt. Keep that story moving!

Hopefully this has given you a bit of an insight into how I do character. Please let me know what you think!

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

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