Question? Leave a message!




WHAT IS CREATIVE WRITING

how to improve creative writing skills in English | download pdf free
If you want to know how... Handbook for Writers of English Punctuation, common practice and usage Practical Research Methods Up-to-dateways to master research in six stages Writing Your Life Story How to record and present your memories for future generationsto enjoy Touch Typing in 10 Hours Gain avaluable skill that will last a lifetime Quick Solutions to Common Errors in English An A–Z guide to spelling, punctuation and grammar howtobooks Please send forafree copyof the latest catalogue: How To Books Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1RX, United Kingdom infohowtobooks.co.uk www.howtobooks.co.ukhowtobooksPublished by How To Content A division of How To Books Ltd Spring Hill House, Spring Hill Road, Begbroke, Oxford OX5 1RX. United Kingdom. Tel: (01865) 375794. Fax: (01865) 379162. email: infohowtobooks.co.uk www.howtobooks.co.uk All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or stored in an information retrieval system (other than for purposes of review) without the express permission of the publisher in writing. The right of Ade` le Ramet to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. © Copyright 2007 Ade` le Ramet First published 1997 Second edition 1999 Third edition 2001 Fourth edition 2003 Fifth edition 2004 Sixth edition 2006 Seventh edition 2007 First published in electronic form 2007 British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN 978 1 84803 222 4 Cover design by Baseline Arts Ltd, Oxford Produced for How To Books by Deer Park Productions, Tavistock Typeset by PDQ Typesetting, Newcastle- under-Lyme, Staffs NOTE: The material contained in this book is set out in good faith for general guidance and no liability can be accepted for loss or expense incurred as a result of relying in particular circumstances on statements made in the book. Laws and regulations are complex and liable to change, and readers should check the current position with the relevant authorities before making personal arrangements. Contents List of illustrations ix Preface xi Acknowledgements xii 1 Getting started 1 Making time towrite 1 Where do you get your ideas? 3 Writing aurallyand visually 5 Drawing on yourown experiences 6 Looking back into your past 7 Read, read, read 9 Checklist 11 Assignment 11 2 Writing non-fiction 12 Writing about what you know 12 Case study 12 Letting off steam 12 Changing work into leisure 14 Relating your life-story 18 Telling travellers’ tales 23 Case study 27 Finding funny moments 28 Following whereyour ideas lead you 29 Checklist 29 Assignment 30 3 Creating fictional characters 31 Basing characters on real people 31 Case study 35 Visualising backgrounds 36 Involving yourself in yourcharacters’ lives 38 Changing the character 41 Relating to yourcharacter 44 Case study 45 vvi /CREATIVE WRITING How would you react if theyapproached you? 46 Creating conflict 48 Checklist 50 Assignment 50 4 Setting and atmosphere 52 Getting afeel of place and time 52 Visiting locations 55 Case study 57 Case study 61 Imagining what it would be like to be there 62 Wearing different clothes and costumes 63 Checklist 66 Assignment 66 5 Showing not telling 68 Reacting and interacting with people and surroundings 68 Feeling the heat 70 Shivering against the cold 72 Case study 73 Revealing emotions 74 Expressing feelings 75 Case study 77 Moving yourcharacters around the room 78 Speeding and slowing the pacewith vocabulary 78 Flashing back and forth in time 80 Checklist 83 Assignment 84 6 Writing realistic dialogue 85 Developing a good ear 85 Acting out a situation 87 Losing your temper 92 Falling in love 93 Creating realistic accents and dialects 94 Case study 94 Swearing and slang 96 Case study 97 Checklist 98 Assignment 98CONTENTS / vii 7 Finding true love 100 Writing a romance 100 Finding flaws attractive 101 Overcoming insurmountable obstacles 102 Driving fast cars and wearing fancy clothes 105 Enjoying sexand food 106 Heightening all the senses 107 Bringing the hero and heroine together 108 Historical settings 108 Checklist 110 Assignment 110 8 Haunting, thrilling and killing 111 Introducing a note of suspense 111 Confronting the fears within 112 Case study 113 Contrasting normality with terror 115 Writing a murder mystery 116 Case study 118 Choosing a murder weapon 118 Plotting and planning 120 Twisting the tale 123 Looking to the future 125 Checklist 128 Assignment 128 9 Writing forchildren 129 Thinking back to yourchildhood 129 Looking at life through achild’s eyes 130 Case study 132 Playing around with ideas 134 Writing foreducational markets 135 Case study 138 Anthropomorphising animals 139 Writing about children 141 Writing picture books 142 Checklist 144 Assignment 145viii / CREATIVE WRITING 10 Sending your work to a publisher 146 Seeing your work in print 146 Playwriting for your local drama group 147 Writing forestablished TV characters 148 Entering competitions 149 Vanity publishing 150 Self-publishing 151 Writing a synopsis 156 Presenting your manuscript 157 Approaching an editor 161 Copyrighting and syndication 162 Keeping records 164 Finding support from other writers 165 Glossary 169 Answersto assignments 172 Useful addresses 173 Useful websites 175 Online dictionaries 175 Further reading 176 Index 179Listofillustrations 1. Analysis sheet 10 2. Framework forarticle 17 3. Suggested format for potted history 34 4. First background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 39 5. Second background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 42 6. Map of fictional location 59 7. Plan of obstacles to romance 104 8. Outline forcrime novel 122 9. Twist clue format 124 10. Sample outline for non-fiction book 154 11. Sample chase-up letter 155 12. Sample covering letter 160 13. Sample front sheet 160 14. Suggested headings forexpenditure record 166 15. Suggested headings for income record 166 ixThis page intentionally left blank Preface WHATISCREATIVEWRITING? When I first wrote this book, the term ‘creativewriter’ con- juredupanimageoftheartisticamateur.Fewofthestudents whojoinedmyclasseshadanyideawhatcreativewritingwas or understood the workings of the publishing industry. Things have changed dramatically in the intervening years andnow,wheneachnewcoursebegins,Ifindthatmostofmy students are extremely knowledgeable about the business of writing.Theywillhaveseenwritingcompetitionsfeaturedon television,heardaboutwritinginitiativesonradio.Theywill havereadaboutuniversitydegreecoursesincreativewriting, joined book clubs or discovered the wealth of information available on writers’ websites on the Internet. So, what is creative writing? Chambers Dictionary defines creativeas‘Havingthepowertocreate,thatcreates,showing, pertainingto,imagination,originality’andwritingas‘Theact ofonewhowrites,thatwhichiswritten,literaryproductionor composition’. Therefore, the term ‘creative writing’ may be defined as: Having the power to create an imaginative, original literary production or composition andcanbeappliedtoaverybroadspectrumofwritinggenres. In this book we will be looking at: X waysofdrawingonpersonalexperienceinordertowrite non-fictionarticlesonawidevarietyoftopicsinanumber of different styles xixii / CREATIVE WRITING X fiction writing and the world of genre fiction – science, romance, horror and crime X writingforchildrenwhichrequiresspecialisedskillsthat, once mastered, bring enormous satisfaction to both the writer and the reader X the impact of the Internet on the creativewriterand the benefits of Information Computer Technology. Finally,therewillbeadviceandguidanceonhowtoturnyour writingintoamarketablecommodityfor,eventhoughmany peoplesetouttowritepurelyfortheirownpleasure,thereis littledoubtthatnothingcancomparetothethrillofhaving workacceptedforpublicationandreadingitfromaprinted page. AUTHOR’SNOTE I would like to thank authors Patricia Burns, Martina Cole, Jonathan Gash, Michael Green, Susan Moody, Margaret NashandRuthRendell,agentsCaroleBlakeofBlakeFried- mann,PetersFraser&Dunlop,editorRichardBellofWriters News, Harcourt Education Ltd. and Lonely Planet for their invaluable contributions to this book. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The Art of Coarse Sailing, Michael Green, Arrow Books. Cinnamon Alley,PatriciaBurns,CenturyArrow. Hush-a-Bye, Susan Moody, Hodder & Stoughton. The Judas Pair, Jonathan Gash, Collins/Viking Penguin. Some Lie and Some Die, Ruth Rendell, Arrow Books. The Ladykiller, Martina Cole, Hodder Headline. Ade`le Ramet1 GettingStarted MAKINGTIMETOWRITE Oneofthefirst rulestorememberisthatwriterswrite.You shouldwritesomethingeveryday,evenifallyoudowiththe finished piece is tear it up and throw it away. Writing something, anything, every day will enable you to buildupthedisciplineandcommitmentrequiredtoensure that you can produce a complete manuscript in whatever genre you choose. Givingyourselfpermissiontowrite Duetoacommonmisconceptionthatunlessyouareapub- lished novelist, you cannot be considered a ‘real’ writer, novice authors often find it difficult to convince either their nearest and dearest or, indeed, themselves that their desire to write should be taken seriously. However, even the most famous authors had to start some- where, so don’t be put off byoutside pressures. Be assured that your writing is more important than: X mowing the lawn X washing the dishes X cleaning, dusting, gardening 12 / CREATIVE WRITING oranyothersimilaractivitythatwillkeepyoufromyourpen and paper. Lockingthedoor OnesuccessfulMills&Boonauthorstatesthat,onceshehad madeuphermindtobecomeanovelist,sheturnedoneroom ofherhouseintoastudy,lockedthedoorandforbadeanyone to enter whilst she was working. You may not feel you have to go quite this far but it is important to set aside both a space in your home where you can work and make a regular time to write. Makingtime Lackoftimeis,perhaps,themostcommonlyusedexcusefor notputtingpentopaper.Thiscanbejustifiedwithanumber of perfectly credible explanations: X You have a demanding full-time job. X You have a large family. X You have to get those seedlings planted. X You have too many other commitments. X You’re too tired. Perhaps all these excuses can be rolled into one simple explanation: X You don’t think you’re good enough. Buildingconfidence Lackofconfidenceisamajorstumblingblockforthewould- bewriter. There is no easy way round this but if you really wanttowrite,theonlyoptionistogetonanddoit.Takingthe following steps can help:GETTING STARTED / 3 X Set aside acorner in your home solely for your writing. X Keep a notebook in which to jot down ideas. X Select a suitable time to write each day and stick to it. X Giveyourselfatimelimitforwriting,say,anhouradayto begin with. X Writesomethingeverydayandevenifyouthinkit’ster- rible, retain it until the next day. X Beginbyre-readingwhatyouwroteyesterday;atthevery least it will encourage you to rewrite. At best, it will be much better than you thought and spur you on towrite more. X Buy a good dictionary and thesaurus. X Manuscripts intended for publication must be typewrit- ten so, if possible, use a personal computer (PC). The more professional your writing looks, the more profes- sional you will feel. WHEREDOYOUGET YOURIDEAS? Having made the decision towrite, the next step is finding something to write about. Watchingtheworldgoby Watch how people behave in everyday situations, jotting down ideas in your notebook as they occur to you. The next time you go to the supermarket, for example, observe the behaviour of the other customers. Take a few secondstochattothecheckoutgirlortheassistantwhopacks yourshopping.Listennotonlytothewordstheysaybutto how they say them.4 / CREATIVE WRITING Ifyoucommutetowork,useyourjourneytimetostudyyour fellow travellers. Try to imagine what sort of homes they come from and how they might lead their lives. Whatever situationyoufindyourselfinduringyourdailylife,observe the people around you. Notonlyshouldyouwatchbutyoumustalsolisten.Writers are terrible eavesdroppers and will shamelessly listen in on themostprivateconversations.Youcanpickupsomewon- derfulsnippetsthatwilleffortlesslyturnthemselvesintoideas for all sorts of things, from brief letters to your favourite magazine,factualarticlesexplainingtheapparentlyinexplic- able, to lengthy works of fiction. Keepinganeyeonthemedia Perhaps the richest sources of ideas are newspapers, tele- vision and radio. Keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual stories and quirky programmes tucked away between the major items. All kinds of things can capture your imagination. For example, a BBC Radio 4 programme about the poten- tiallydulltopicofmakingawillinspiredmetowriteashort story for Bella magazine’s ‘Mini Mystery’ page. The pro- grammehighlightedthelegalpitfallsfacingpeoplewhowish tomakeunusualwillsandtheideacapturedmyimagination. Having gleaned the necessary technical legal information, I soon had the protagonist, beneficiaryand terms of thewill clearlyformedinmymind.Fromthere,itwasashortstepto writingthestory,sending itofftomyeditorandseeing itin print.GETTING STARTED / 5 Sourcesofideas Ideasareallaroundyou,ifonlyyoucantrainyourselftofind them. Listed below are just a few possible sources: X airports X beaches X buses, coaches, planes and trains X cafe´sandrestaurants X clubs X doctors’/dentists’ surgeries X hairdressers X school playgrounds X shops X stations. Thelistisendlessbutasageneralrule,ideasaretobefound anywhere a number of people gather in one place. WRITINGAURALLYANDVISUALLY Having developed your watching and listening skills, it can nevertheless be quite difficult to set them down on paper. More often than not, a phrase that sounded wonderful in your head looks dull and lifeless when it hits the page. Laterinthebook,wewillbelookingatwaysofbringingyour writing to life and obtaining that vital ingredient, reader identification. You will learn how to stimulate the reader’s sensessothattheyidentifywiththepeoplebeingportrayed, see and hear the sights and sounds you are attempting to convey.6 / CREATIVE WRITING Longdescriptivepassages,nomatterhowbeautifullywrit- ten,canbeverydullwithoutdialogue,actionorinteraction to liven them up. People enjoy reading about people, so eventhemostfactualnon-fictionarticlecanbeenrichedby the inclusion of a brief interview with an acknowledged expertoracommentfromsomeoneinvolvedinthefeatured topic. For fiction, too, there is no better way to convey setting, atmosphere,sights,soundsandscentsthanthroughthereac- tions of your characters. Whatevergenreyouchoose,besureyouknowthetruemean- ing of each word you use, consulting your dictionary and thesaurus whenever you are unsure about the spelling or context of a word or phrase. DRAWINGONYOUROWNEXPERIENCES Oneofthefirstrulesawould-bewriterlearnsisto‘writeabout whatyouknow’. If,however,thisruleistakentooliterally,few writers wouldever gaintherequisiteknowledgetowrite an historicalromance,murdermysteryorsciencefictionnovel. Far more practical is the advice from bestselling author Martina Cole to ‘Write about what you know and if you don’t know – find out’. You don’t need to have lived in a previous century, be a murdererortravelinspacetowritegenrefiction.Thorough researchintothebackgroundagainstwhichyourstoryisset shouldprovideyouwiththefactualinformationyourequire.GETTING STARTED / 7 Expert knowledge is invaluable, of course. Years spent in industry or in the legal, nursing or teaching profession; seeing active service in the armed forces; bringing up a familyonalowfixedincome; workinglongshiftsonafactory assemblyline;runningandperhapslosingyourownbusiness –anyoneoftheseandsimilarexperiencesoffersawealthof informationonwhichyoucandraw,butfactualaccuracyis onlyone aspect of writing. You also have to find a way to breathelifeintothecharactersfeaturedinyour articlesand storiesandthiscomesfromyourexperienceofpersonalrela- tionships, both good and bad. Fromourearliestmemoriesofchildhoodthroughourschool- daystoadultfriendships,romanticattachments,experiences atworkandinourdomesticlives,everythingthatwent into forming our character has a part to play in our writing. LOOKINGBACKINTOYOURPAST There is little doubt that anyonewith achequered past will haveplentytowriteaboutbutmanyofusfeelwehavedone very little in our lives worth committing to paper. On closer inspection, however, this is very rarely the case. Takeyourselfrightbacktoyourearliestmemories.Howdid you feel when: X you were told off for being naughty? X youwerepickedonbyotherchildren? X you missed out on a treat? X your parents argued? X you got detention at school? X you had to have treatment in hospital?8 / CREATIVE WRITING X a family trauma made you realise that nothing at home would be the same again? Thesearejustafewexperiencesmanychildrenshare,buttry goingupanotchinageandseeifyoucanrecallhowyoufelt when: X you left home X started your first day at work X travelled abroad on your own X got your first cheque book X bought your own car. Seeking readeridentification By now, you may be wondering how such very ordinary, everyday experiences can possibly be relevant to creative writing. Surely writing is all about escapism, original ideas, unusual situations, not about opening a ‘Young Saver’ bank account? Ofcourse,you’reright.Originalityisavitalingredientinany pieceofwriting,factorfiction,butthensoisrealism.Without realism, you cannot have reader identification and it is this element that brings your work vividly to life. Observingeverydaylife Michael Green, professional journalist and authorof many humorous non-fiction books, offers the following excellent advice to would-be writers: ‘Observe everyday lifewith awriter’s eye. There liesyour material. Carry a notebook and jot down any ideas that come or incidents you can see.’GETTING STARTED / 9 READ,READ,READ Whatever your writing interest may be, fiction or non- fiction, literary novels or specialist articles, you should read anything and everything in your chosen genre. Readingwithawriter’seye This book is designed to help you understand how to read withawriter’seye,takingthetimetoanalysehowanauthor managestograbyourattentionandholditsothatyoukeep on reading through to the end. Your notebook will become a valuable source of reference. Failure to write ideas down can result in you losing them altogether.Committingthemtopaperhelpscommitthemto memory and stimulate new writing projects. UsethequestionnaireinFigure1toanalysepublishedexam- plesofyourparticularwritinginterest.Whetheryouintendto write non-fiction articles, short stories or novels, you will discover that the same basic principles apply. Asyourcriticalfacultiesdevelop,youmayfindyourreading enjoyment is spoilt by the way technical points you were previously unaware of suddenly become glaringly obvious. Gradually,however,asyournew-foundunderstandinghelps you to appreciate the skills being employed, the sheer plea- sureofreadingsomethingthatisbothbeautifullywrittenand well-constructed will return and increase. By the time this stage is reached, your own writing will be showing a marked improvement.Thefollowingquestionsaredesignedtoprovideaninsightintothe techniquesemployedbypublishedauthorsofbothfactand¢ction tocatchandholdtheirreaders’attention. Yes No 1. Wasthe¢rstsentenceshorterthantheothers intheopeningparagraph? && 2. Wasthe¢rstparagraphshorterthanthesecond?&& 3. Didthe¢rstparagraphtellyouwhatthearticle/ storywasabout? && 4. Whatwasitaboutthearticle/storythatmade youreadon? (a)Youwantedtoknowhowtoperforma speci¢ctask && (b)Youfoundthetopicfascinating && (c)Youdiscoveredsomethingyoudidn’tknow before && (d)Youhadtoknowwhathappenednext && (e)Youwantedto¢ndouthowitallended && 5. Wasthemiddleinformative/entertaining? && 6. Wasitsetoutinalogicalorder? && 7. Dideachsection/sceneleadyouontoread thenext? && 8. Didyoufeelcompelledtokeepreading? && 9. Ifcharacterswereincluded,couldyourelate tothem? && 10. Didtheendbringthewholethingtoalogical conclusion? && 11. Wastheendingsatisfactory? && 12. Wereallthequestionsanswered/looseends tiedup? && 13. Didtheauthordeliverwhattheypromised? && 14. Didyouenjoyreadingit? && 15. Wouldyoureadmorebythisauthor? && Answerstotheabovequestionsshouldmostlybe‘Yes’. Fig. 1. Analysis sheet. 10GETTING STARTED / 11 CHECKLIST 1. Do you read extensively? 2. Have you set aside a time to write each day? 3. Do you keep a notebook of ideas? 4. Doyouhaveagooddictionary,thesaurusandaccessto reference material? 5. Haveyouconsidered how theuse of computersimpacts on your own writing ambitions? 6. Are you writing about what you know? ASSIGNMENT Take your notebook and jot down 10 ideas for articles or stories.Bythetimeyouhavefinishedreadingthisbook,you should have developed at least one of those ideas into a workable outline.2 WritingNon-Fiction WRITINGABOUTWHATYOUKNOW Aswe saw in theprevious chapter,oneofthe first piecesof adviceanywould-bewriterlearnsistowriteaboutwhatyou know. This can be interpreted as anything from factual articles about a hobby, profession or skill to writing your life- story. You can be sure that everyone has experience in oneareaor anotherthatwillbeofinteresttosomeoneelse. CASESTUDY:VALEXPRESSESHEROPINIONS Val is a forceful lady in her mid-fifties. She writes clearly and expresses herself well on paper. She has written several articles complaining about a variety of goods and services which, although important to her, are neither topical nor of much interest to anyone else. She has tried to have her articles published in a number of women’s magazines but to date, they have all been rejected. LETTINGOFFSTEAM Fortheavidnewspaperandmagazinereader,thetemptation towrite a learned piece complaining about the state of the nation or the rising price of a pack of frozen peas can be overwhelming. 12WRITING NON-FICTION / 13 It istempting to try to emulate controversial comment col- umnsinthehopethatadiscerningeditorwillbekeentogive prideofplacetoourwordsofwisdom.Sadly,thisisrarelythe case. Commentcolumnsareusuallywrittenbystaffwriters,well- knownjournalistsorpoliticalanalysts.Thesearetheprofes- sionalsconsideredbythemediatobequalifiedtocomment on ‘life, the universe and everything’. However, as the infamous ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ discovered, there is an outlet for the man or woman in the streettovoicetheiropinionandthat isthroughthereaders’ letters page. Sendingletterstoeditors The letters page in any publication is an excellent way of letting off steam in print. It can also be a way of earning small amounts of cash or gifts for your writing. Ifyouliketheideaofmakingyourvoiceheard,youstanda betterchanceofhavingaletterpublishedifyoufollowafew simple rules: X Write clearly and neatlyor, if possible, type your letter. X Address it to the correct person. X Keep it brief and to the point. X Make it as topical as possible. X Write about something relevant to the publication’s readership.14 / CREATIVE WRITING X A brief word of praise for the publication always helps. X Invite comments or advice from other readers. X Neversendthesamelettertomorethanonemagazineat the same time. These pages operate on the assumption that all letters are from regular readers of their publica- tion. CHANGINGWORKINTOLEISURE Thereareliterallyhundredsofmagazinetitleslistedintrade directories, a large proportion of which potentially offer opportunities for non-fiction writers. Knowingyoursubject Justafewofthecategoriesintowhichthesemagazinesfallare listed below: X animals and pets X arts and entertainment X business and finance X computers X general interest X hobbies X home X motoring X music X sports X trade and professional X transport X women’s interests.WRITING NON-FICTION / 15 Even more opportunities for would-be columnists can be found in local interest publications, parish magazines, local newspapers, club magazines etc. Becominga‘stringer’ If you regularly write to the letters page of a newspaperor countymagazineaboutitemsofimportancetotheresidents in your area, you may be contacted and asked if you will become a ‘stringer’. This involves keeping an eye out for snippets of news and views on local issues and phoning them in to the editor. Manyregularcolumnistsinspecialistmagazinesbegintheir writing careers in this way before graduating to their own regular column. Experts who can express themselves clearly and be relied upon to produce manuscripts on demand are few and far between. Specialist magazines and small local newspapers can offer a wonderful opportunity to pursue your writing interest by sharing information with other readers. Constructinganarticle Writingaboutsomethingyouenjoycanbeareallabourof love. If you have the ability to impart your enthusiasm and expertise to a like-minded reader, your pleasure will be increased immeasurably by seeing your words on the pages of your favourite magazine. Constructingareadablearticleis,however,notaseasyasit looks.Firstyoumuststudyyourchosenmagazineandfamil- iariseyourselfwiththelengthandstyleoftheirarticles.Your16 / CREATIVE WRITING opening sentence should give aclear indication of what the articleisaboutandonceyoubeginwriting,keeptothepoint and don’t get sidetracked. If,forexample,youarearecognisedconnoisseurofrealales andyouwanttoexplainhowtoassessaprize-winningpint, youmightopenthearticlewithsomethingalongthefollowing lines: With the growth in popularity of real ale, brewers are becoming highly competitive. Brewing a prize-winning pint takes skill and dedication but by following a few basic guidelines, you can find yourself up therewith the front runners. Anyone reading the article would be in no doubt as to its contentandhavingcaughttheirattention,younowholditby taking them step by step through the promised guidelines. Yourclosingparagraphshouldbringthearticleneatlyback to the beginning, finishing with something like: Follow these few principles and before long, your ale will takeitsplaceonthelistofhome-produced,award-winning real ales. You could add to this a list of competitions and national events open to real ale brewers and drinkers but very little more would be needed other than some captioned photo- graphs to illustrate the piece.WRITING NON-FICTION / 17 Asimpleframeworkofanarticleissetout inFigure2.The main constituents are: X a good, attention-grabbing introduction X amiddle,arrangedinalogicalorder,which keepsto the subject and delivers the information promised in the introduction X anendingwhichroundsthearticleoff,bringingitlogically back to the beginning. INTRODUCTION Introduce the subject, go straight to the point, e.g.: (Beginning) ‘With the growth in popularity of real ale....’ CONTENT (Middle) Keep to the point of the article, dealing with each relevant item in a logical order, e.g.: X How to assess the quality, i.e. ‘Points to look for...’ X Tips for brewing your own prize-win- ning ales. X List of quality brews. X Where to find good ales. Round off article by bringing it back to END the beginning, e.g. ‘Follow the basic principles and before long, your ale will take its place on the list of home- produced award-winning real ales.’ Fig. 2. Framework for article.18 / CREATIVE WRITING Ideally,youropeningsentenceshouldbeshorterthanallthe rest and should grab the reader’s attention by immediately tellingthemwhatthearticleisabout.Themoretechnicalthe magazine, the more factual your article should be. Illustrations in the form of colour slides, photographs or diagrams are always useful. These should be sensibly cap- tioned,sothatitisclearwhatsectionofthetexttheyrelate to, something like: Ajudgesamplesmylatestbrew. Expandingyouridea From one article ideacan spring several more. Perhapsyou could follow up the first article with an interview with a brewerandthisinturnmightleadtoavisittoabeerfestival andyetanotherarticleaboutthat.Beforelong,youcouldfind yourselfbecomingaregularcontributortoawholerangeof magazines. RELATINGYOURLIFE-STORY Onepopularnon-fictiontopiccreativewritersliketoembark upon is their autobiography. Almost everyone has a tale to tell, many of which are fas- cinating,evenvergingontheunbelievable.Thosewhohave lived through some prettyamazing experiences understand- ably want towrite them down, both for theirown personal satisfaction and to provide a written record for future generations. Examiningyourmotivation Beforeyoubegintowriteyourlife-story,however,itisworthWRITING NON-FICTION / 19 examiningexactlywhatyourmotivesare,soaskyourselfthe following questions: 1. Do I have a fascinating tale to tell? 2. Is my story unique? 3. DoIneedtoconfrontmypastinordertomoveoninmy life? 4. Do I wish to leave my family a record of my life? 5. Do I want to give hope to others? 6. Do I want to have my autobiography published? Beingfamous Iftheanswertoquestion6is‘yes’thenextquestionhastobe ‘AmIfamous?’Unfortunately,ifyou’renot,thenthechances of having your book accepted by a publisher are very slim indeed. Thefactisthatthemajorityofautobiographicalbooksbeing publishedatthemomentfeaturecelebritiescurrentlyinthe news, be they supermodels in their early twenties, sporting personalities, leading politicians or famous names from the world of film and television. Comparedtoyours,theirlivesmayhavebeenextremelydull beforetheywerepropelledintothepubliceyebutit’sthehere andnowthatmattersandintoday’sthrowawaymedia,fame is everything. Informingthepublic Many successful autobiographies do more than tell the author’s life-story. They also provide a documentary20 / CREATIVE WRITING recordofhistoricalincidentsandprocedureswhichmayhave been hidden from the public eye. Anautobiographywhichperformsanyoneofthefollowing functions might well be of interest to an appropriate publisher. X Describes a practicewhich has been concealed from the public, e.g. sending orphanage children to Australia. X Details the author’s recovery from a potentially life- threatening illness or condition. X Is an account of the author’s experiences as a hostage, either political or during a crime. X Tells the story of a kidnap or hijack victim. X Gives information about aturning point in the author’s lifetowhichotherscanrelate,e.g.nursingadisabledchild. X Details the sequence of events which led to the author setting up an international charitable organisation. Providingafamilyrecord For many creative writers, the sole motivation for writing their autobiographyistoprovideafamilyrecordforfuture generations. Awritten record will be enhanced by the inclusion of cap- tioned family photographs and thanks to the growth of desktop publishing, on payment of a relatively small amount, you can have your family history professionally printedandbound.Thiswillensurethatalltheinformation is kept together and is presented in an attractive, user- friendly way.WRITING NON-FICTION / 21 Shop around in the writing press to obtain several quotes fromreputablesourcesbutdon’tbetemptedtostrayintothe realmsofvanitypublishing.Theseorganisations,purporting to offer a publishing service to authors, can charge several hundred or even thousands of pounds for a volume which would cost a reputable printer a fraction of the price to produce. Wewillbelookingatvanitypublishinglaterinthebook but if you are in any doubt about the authenticity of a publisher, remember the writer’s golden rule: YOUNEVERPAYPUBLISHERS–THEYPAYYOU For adetailedlistingofreputablebookandmagazinepub- lishers,seeTheWritersandArtistsYearbook(publishedbyA &CBlack). Contributingtonationalarchives One increasingly popular method of recording your life experiences has evolved through the rapid growth of inter- activemediasuchastheInternet,digitaltelevisionanddigital radio programmes. There are regular appeals, locally, nationally and on the web for contributions to historical initiatives not only for television and radio programmes butalsoforexhibitionsandarchivestobeheldinmuseums, universities and community centres. OnerecentprojectofthistypewastheBBC’s‘People’sWar’, whichranthroughout2005.ThroughpublicityonBBCtele- vision, radio and the BBC website, members of the public wereinvitedtosendaccountsoftheirSecondWorldWar22 / CREATIVE WRITING experiencesforanhistoricalarchivetobemadeaccessiblefor future generations. Although the BBC is no longer taking contributions,toseethesortofstorytheywerelookingfor, you can access the archive on www.bbc.co.uk/dna.ww2/. Whilst there is no payment forcontributions, such projects offer an excellent opportunity to see your life experiences become part of a valuable historical record for posterity. Fictionalisingthetruth Researchingandwritingyourautobiographycanprovether- apeutic in more ways than one. For many, it is a way of exorcising traumatic events, con- frontingtheir feelingsand workingtheir way through bitter experiences. It can also provide a wealth of material for a fictional novel. Whilstapublisher isunlikelytoconsiderthetruestoryofa so-called‘ordinary’person,fictionalisingyourextraordinary life offers a more viable route to seeing your work in print. Changingthenames Ifyoudodecidetoturnyourautobiographyintoaworkof fiction, the names of your characters and their locations should be fictional too. Youmayalsoneedtoalterthefactsinordertomakethe wholethingmorebelievable.Eventhoughasequenceof events actually happened, it can appear to be extremely unlikely.Ifthisistrueofyourlife-storybearinmindthat, whilst truth is often stranger than fiction, for the pur- poses of publication, fiction has to make sense.WRITING NON-FICTION / 23 TELLINGTRAVELLERS’TALES Formanyofus,travelwriting involveskeepingadiaryand photographalbumasapleasurablereminderofourholidays toenjoyduringlongwinter eveningsathome.Writingarti- clesaboutyourtravelswithaviewtopublicationneedsavery different approach. Passingoninformation The majority of travel features are written by professional staff writers or compiled by travel editors. Somemagazinesincludesmallsnippetsofinformationabout specialist breaks. These are usually confined to details of familyfundays,singlesoreconomybreaksandthesesections offer the best publishing opportunity for new writers. Wishingyouweren’t here Oneofthebiggestproblemsfacingthewould-betravelwriter isunderstandingtherequirementsofthetravelindustryand thetouristpolicyofthecountrytheywill,bytheirarticle,be promoting. Agoodtravelarticleshouldnotbeablowbyblowaccountof yourparticularholiday,noryourreactionstothepeopleyou met and the placesyou visited. Nor is it an opportunity for youtorelateyourtaleofwoeabouttheappallingjourneyyou suffered in order to reach a half-built hotel, miles from the nearest beach. Takingafreetrip Magazines use travel articles to inform their readers about holidayswhichwillbestsuitthem,sosomeofthepointsthat should be included are:24 / CREATIVE WRITING X where to stay X whether the location is suitable for families X the safety of the beaches X facilities available X whether it is noisy or quiet X what sort of nightlife it offers X what the food is like, cost and availability X places to visit and their accessibility in relation to the resort X how to get there – a choice of methods is useful X thecostoftravelandaccommodation–again,aselection should be given. Whilst professional travel writers receive ‘free’ trips from tourist boards and travel companies, these are in return for guaranteed coverage in well-known publications, so thewritermustbeabletofulfilthefollowingcriteria: X they must be prepared to follow a set itinerary X publicationforarticlesmustbeguaranteedinatleastone reputable magazine X any articles must include the features specified by the sponsoring company X articles must be published to coincide with specific publicity drives.WRITING NON-FICTION / 25 Withoutsomekindofatrackrecordasafreelancearticle writer,it isunlikelythatyouwouldbeinvitedbyanytravel company to take a free trip. Travellinglight Travelbooks are a verydifferent kettle offish. They range fromguidebooksproducedbytouristboardstoexcitingtales of daring-do. Theintrepidtravellerwhocrossesdeserts,scalesmountains andshootsrapidsequippedwithlittlemorethanachangeof underwear, a toothbrush and a blunt penknife will clearly have a fascinating tale to tell. It is,however,worthbearing inmindthat,moreoftenthan not, our canny explorer already has a publishing contract signedandsealedbeforethetoeofhisorherwalkingboothits the floor of the departure lounge at Heathrow airport. Guidingandinforming Forwould-betravelwriters,keentomasterwhatisahighly specialisedskill,travelguidessuchastheLonelyPlanetseries canbeanexcellentplacetobegin.Aimedattheindependent, adventuroustraveller,thesepracticalguidesoffertheirread- ers clear, down-to-earth information to support them with their journeys around the globe. Atthetimeofwriting,LonelyPlanetarelookingforauthors whocanmeetthefollowingcriteriasetout intheguidelines on their website:26 /CREATIVE WRITING ‘Bare necessities O Professional writing experience. O Specialised knowledge of a city, country or region. O Abilitytowritevibrantly,withauthorityandattitude. O Excellent research and organisational skills. O On-the-road experience using Lonely Planet guides. O ‘Toolsofthetrade’,egcomputerhardwareandsoft- ware. O Ability to work independently. It’s a bonus if you also have: O Travel writing experience. O Written or spoken foreign language skills (this is essential for some destinations). O Specificareasofexpertise,suchasart,music,wildlife, othercultures,food,languages,outdooractivitiesand other travel-related pursuits. Submitting an application to be an author Before submitting, do your homework. Tell exactly what you can offer Lonely Planet. Tell about your travel experience. Are you interested in a certain part of the world, or a particular Lonely Planet series? Do you have an idea for a brand new book or series? Do you want to write a new guidebook or updateanexistingone?Newauthorsaregenerallygiven asmallprojectfortheirfirstcontractandthentakeon bigger assignments from there.’ You will need to send a CV and details of your published worktotheaddresslistedonpage173attheendofthisbook sobeforesubmittinganything,youwouldbewelladvisedtoWRITING NON-FICTION / 27 check out the information on the Lonely Planet website at www.lonelyplanet.com/about.Scrolldownthepageto‘Work for Us’ and click on the link ‘Become an Author’. Playingsafe Between the two ends of the scale, the standard guidebook andtheone-offadventure,thereisanincrediblywiderange of topics for the seasoned traveller to write about. Listed below are just a few suggestions: X handy hints on packing X travelling throughout pregnancy and with a baby X value family fun days out X holidays on a budget X backpackers’ guides to a range of countries (series) X travelling alone X locations off the beaten track X travelling across continents by train/bicycle/car/motor- bike etc. Withalittleimaginationandalotofexperience,settingdown your travelling tales on paper could lead to endless oppor- tunities, not least of which is to provide a realistic, atmospheric and exciting background for a fictional novel. CASESTUDY:LENTAKESLIFEINHISSTRIDE Len lived and worked in Spain for several years up to his retirement, when he decided to return to the UK. He is easy-going with a ready wit28 /CREATIVE WRITING and likes to try his hand at most forms of writing. He keeps a close eye on local issues and his witty, topical letters to the local newspaper are regularly printed. He is currently enjoying writing a series of humorous articles about his experiences living and working abroad. FINDINGFUNNYMOMENTS Asenseofhumourisoneofthemostusefulassetsanywriter can possess. Seeingthefunnyside Ifyouareoneofthosefortunatebeingswhohasthecapacity toseethefunnysideofeventhemostdifficultsituations,your writing will benefit a thousandfold. Havingfunwithyourhobby Michael Green is one author who has made a successful career out of the humorous aspect of his hobbies. His Coarse series is required reading for every weekend sailor, rugby player, golfer and amateur actor. Withaninnateabilitytohomeinonthewaytheaverage person will go through hell and high water in the name of their favourite leisure activity, Michael’s books keep you laughing from the very first line, as the opening to The Art of Coarse Sailing demonstrates. EveryyearIswearIwon’tspendmyholidaysailingagain. Considering I say this annually, it’s surprising how much sailingI’vemanagedtodo.EachtimeIreturnbruised,bat- teredandsuffering fromincipientscurvy,withagreatdent worninmybuttocksandIsay,‘Thatwasterrificfunbutnext yearI’mgoingtodosomethingrestful’.Andsomehowtwelve months later I’m banging the same dent in the same placeWRITING NON-FICTION / 29 withtheedgeofacockpitcoamingorcrawlingonhandsand knees in some stinking bilge. (The Art of Coarse Sailing, Michael Green, Arrow Books) Michael has a gift for highlighting the romantic ideal and contrastingitwiththelessthanpleasantreality.Moreimpor- tantly, he has a real enthusiasm for and knowledge of his subjects. His Coarse books are not simply amusing accounts of his adventures, they are genuinely informative and packed with colourful characters who embellish and add to his misfortunes. FOLLOWINGWHEREYOURIDEASLEADYOU Writing non-fictionisausefulmethodofgettingyourideas down on paper. It also helps you to understand the impor- tanceofaccurateresearchandisawayoftrainingyoutowork methodically and to a set routine. Tryingsomething new Havingidentifiedjustafewofthetopicsyourpastexperience willequipyoutowriteabout,thenextstepistositdownand do it. CHECKLIST 1. Canyouputinformationoverclearlyandconcisely,ina way that is easy for your reader to understand? 2. Do you have something new and original to say? 3. Do you want to leave something for your family to remember you by?30 / CREATIVE WRITING 4. Couldyourtrue-lifeexperiencesprovidethebasisfor an exciting fictional novel? 5. Wouldwritingaboutyourexperiencesbeboththerapeu- tic for you and useful for others? 6. Are you sure you have the expertise and discipline required to write for specialist markets? ASSIGNMENT Pickatopicalitemoflocalimportance,preferablyonewhich matters to you personallyand write a letter about it to the editorofyourlocalnewspaper.Keeptheletterbriefandtothe pointandifyoucan,typeit.Remember,forthebestchanceof publication,yourlettershouldbejustcontroversialenoughto invite further comment.3 CreatingFictionalCharacters BASINGCHARACTERSONREALPEOPLE Wheninterviewingauthorspluggingtheirlatestbook,oneof the most frequent questions asked by the presenter is ‘Are yourcharactersbasedonrealpeople?’Theanswerinvariably given is ‘Not exactly’. Inordertobeconvincing,fictionalcharactersmustringtrue. Thereadershouldbeabletorelatetothemandidentifywith them,butthedescriptionneedsonlytobesufficienttoproject a recognisable image. After all, asthe average reader is unlikely to have met her, there is little point in faithfully producing an accurately detailed word-picture of Great-Aunt Edna. Worse still, if Edna had something of a reputation in her day, you could end up causing offence and even leaving yourself open to a possible lawsuit if you get your facts wrong. Mixingandmatching Thebestwayofavoidingthisistocomeupwithacomposite impression of Aunty which will satisfy interested relatives that she was the inspiration for your character, but is far enough removed to keep you out of the law courts. 3132 /CREATIVE WRITING Aswithanautobiographicalaccount,mixingandmatching enhances your characters and surprisingly, often helps to make them more believable. Stereotypingandcliche¤ s Stereotypescanbeveryusefulinfiction.Usedwithcaution, theyoffer aninstantlyrecognisableframework on which to base your character. However, writers who attempt to portray their own racist, sexistorsociallystereotypicalimagesinvariablycauseoffence andtheseviewsdonothingtoimprovetheircharacterisation. Portrayingamulticulturalsociety Chapter1highlightedtheimportanceofwritingaboutwhat youknow,withtheprovisothatyoushouldnotlimityourself purelytoyourownpersonalexperience.Researchplaysavital roleinprovidingbackgroundinformationbutresearchalone isunlikelytoadequatelyequipyouwiththeinsightrequired to create characters from social, sexual, religious or ethnic groups of whom you have only a fleeting knowledge. Whenyouconsiderthat,forsomeauthors,simplyattempting towritefromtheviewpointofamemberoftheoppositesex canbeextremelydaunting,straying intounfamiliarcultures and societies can be a recipe for disaster. This is a highly sensitive aspect of writing, which should be treated with a great deal of respect. Writingasaninsider Conversely, inside knowledge is one of the greatest writing strengths you possess. The more you can draw on a back- groundandcultureyouknowinsideoutforyoursettingsandCREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 33 characters,themorevividlyrealisticyourstorieswillbecome. Wewillbelookingatpoliticalcorrectnessinthechapteron children’swritingbutalwaysbearinmindthatwithoutdepth ofpersonality,yourcharacterswillbecliche´dandcardboard. It is essential, therefore, when building characters, that you canempathisewiththemthroughyourownin-depthknowl- edge of their way of life. Givingthemapast Justlikerealpeople,fictionalcharactersdon’tsimplyappear fully-grown. They have parents, backgrounds, siblings and experiencesthatshapetheirpersonalitiesandinfluencetheir current behaviour. As soon as a suitable character comes into your head, be sure that you know what sort of person they are. Write a pottedhistoryorCV,asillustratedinthesuggestedformat inFigure3,whichwillgiveyouaninsight intotheirmoti- vation for behaving as they do. Testingforrealism Whilststereotypingcanbeausefulmethodofcharacter- isation, be aware that different people have different perceptions. If you belong to a writers’ circle or class, the following group exercise is a useful one: 1. Writeaselectionofjobtitlessuchasteacher,plumber,TV presenter, sculptor, nurse etc, on pieces of paper then distribute them among the group, allocating the same jobtitletotwomembersatatime,e.g.ifthereare8group members, 2 will have teacher, 2 plumber and so on.NAME: ........................................................... AGE:.............................................................. APPEARANCE:.................................................. (hair,eyecolour,height,weight,buildetc.) MARITALSTATUS:............................................... CURRENTHOME: ............................................... OCCUPATION:.................................................... PARENTS:........................................................ (aliveordead?) SIBLINGS:........................................................ (names,ages,maritalstatusetc.) CHILDHOOD:.................................................... (happy,sad,traumaticetc.) EDUCATION:..................................................... QUALIFICATIONS:............................................... RELATIONSHIPS:................................................ (pastandpresent) PERSONALITY:.................................................. SPECIALSKILLS:................................................ STRENGTHS:.................................................... WEAKNESSES:.................................................. ANYOTHERRELEVANTINFORMATION:....................... .................................................................... Fig. 3. Suggested format for potted history. 34CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 35 2. Ask each member towrite their own description of the character the job title conjures up. 3. Now ask each member to read their description out in turn for the rest of the group to guess the job of the character being described. Despite the fact that some of the group members will have been asked towrite about the same character, the descrip- tions will probably be very different. Each image will, nevertheless, be an identifiable stereotype. CASESTUDY:BILLTAKESAPRACTICALAPPROACH Bill is a businessman in his late forties who travels extensively as part of his job both in the UK and abroad. The father of teenage children, he has had quite a chequered career, serving in the armed forces for a time and then as a prison officer. His past and present occupations have meant that he has learned how to relate to a wide variety of people on vastly different levels from all sectors of society. Consequently, he has developed the ability to predict how people are likely to react in stressful situations. He is currently writing a novel set against a background of the prison service which contains sufficient conflict and realism to make it compelling reading. Seeingyourcharactersincontext Having established that different people have different per- ceptions, another dimension to characterisation is the context in which your characters are set. UsingaTVPresenterfromtheabovelistasanexample,there are a varietyof options open tous, depending on the style, tone and genre of the novel. The character could be a:36 / CREATIVE WRITING X young, attractive ex-sportsman/woman, activity game- show host X young anchor-man/woman for regional/national news programme X investigative journalist for consumer programme X ageing newsreader, concerned about fading looks X ex-actor-turned-magazine-columnist, presenting after- noon magazine-style programme X ex-pop-singer-turned-children’s TV presenter X ex-politician-turned-political interviewer/commentator. The title ‘TV Presenter’ clearly has a very wide interpreta- tion.Thecharactercanbemaleorfemale,youngor ageing. Theonethingallofthesecharactershaveincommonisthat they work in a high-profile, fast-moving industry in which theirstatusandjobsecurityismeasuredagainsttheirposi- tion in the viewing ratings. Fittingintothestoryline Havingdeterminedtheage,sexandpersonalityofyourchar- acter, he or she must now be placed into the context of the story you are writing. VISUALISINGBACKGROUNDS Whether it is a thriller, romance, lifestyle or detective story,yourcharacterhastobehaveinarealisticandbeliev- ableway.Inordertodothis,theymustbeseentobethesort ofpersonwhowouldoptforthecourseofactionyouhave in mind for them.CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 37 Inhernovel,Hush-a-Bye,authorSusanMoodydrawsvivid word-picturesofhercharacters,allthewhilegivinghintsthat theirupbringingandbackgroundswillhaveaprofoundinflu- ence on how they will react in the future. InthefollowingdescriptionofHarriet,thecentralcharacter, thereisaclearimplicationthatpartsofherchildhoodwhich she feels made little impact on her will prove to have been highlyinfluentialinherreactiontothesituationsinwhichshe eventually finds herself: Harriet’smotherhaddiedwhenshewasababy.Thefact of being an orphan had not, Harriet believed, affected her, apart from imbuing her with a spurious kind of glamour both in her own eyes and those of her school- friends.Mostofthesepossessedtherequisitenumberof parents; in other respects their lives and Harriet’s were almost identical, their houses similar, the strictures placed upon them by adults the same. Growing up in a leafy, well-heeled London suburb, the loss of a parent by death was almost the only evidence any of them had seen of the misfortunes which could befall unluckier souls than themselves. Harriet’sfatherisaremote,undemonstrativefigureandthe influence of her relatively loveless early years is an integral partofthedevelopmentofhercharacter,particularlywhen, quite late in the book, her own baby is kidnapped. Talkingtoeachother One of the most effective methods of characterisation is through the use of dialogue. How a character speaks will38 / CREATIVE WRITING tell you an enormous amount about their attitude and personality. We’llbelookingatthetechniquesinvolvedinwritingrealistic dialogueinalaterchapterbutfornow,weneedtothinkabout our feelings towards the characters we create. INVOLVINGYOURSELFINYOURCHARACTERS’LIVES Wehaveseenhowimportantitistocreatebackgroundsfor ourcharacters in order to give substance to them. We have also seen how their upbringing and backgrounds form the basis of the motivation for their actions. Establishingmotivation Knowing the struggle your character may have had to achievethestatustheyhaveattained,youwillinstinctively knowhowtheywillreactiftheylearnthateverythingthey haveworked for is to be taken away. ReturningtoourTVPresenter,wecanselectayounganchor- woman for a regional news programme and devise both background and motivation for her. Using a chart format,Figure4detailsanunhappychildhoodanddifficulty insustainingrelationshipswhichsuggeststhefollowingstory- line for 26-year-old Sally Blake: Motivationforyounganchor-womanforregionalnews programme Atalentscoutfromanationalnewsnetworkhasbeenfollowing Sally’sprogressandoffersherajobintheirstudio.Sheintends totakeitwhentheoffer iswithdrawn.Mark,her influential lover,doesn’twanttoloseheroneitherapersonalorprofes- sional level and has pulled stringsto block the job offer.NAME SallyBlake AGE 26 HAIR Blonde,neatly-styled,shoulder-length EYES Blue,brightandsmiling BUILD Slim,elegant MOUTH Sensitive,quitewidewithfairlyfulllips showingwhite,eventeeth MARITAL STATUS Single CURRENTHOME Functional£atnearTVstudio PARENTS BethandJames.DivorcedwhenSallywas four.Fatherdiedrecently,wasarespected investigativereporter.Hadlittlecontactwith hisdaughter.Mother model,afterdivorce marriedfashionphotographer,movedto France.SentSallytoboardingschoolinUK whensisterwasborn SIBLINGS Eighteen-year-oldhalf-sister,Sophie,amodel STEPFATHER Claude,haslittleinterestineitherSallyor Sophie.Absorbedinhiswork,heenjoyshis glamorousjetsettinglifestyle.Hasfrequent a¡airswithyoungwomen CHILDHOOD HappyuntildivorceandSophie’ssubsequent birth EDUCATION Hatedboardingschoolandduringholidays, foughtwithSophie,whowaseducatedat homeinFrance QUALIFICATIONS LanguageDegree,1stclasshonoursfrom redbrickuniversity BOYFRIENDS Firstrealboyfriendwasanactivistinthe studentunion,lefthertomoveinwitha dramastudent.Severalshort-term relationshipssince.CurrentlyseeingMark,a marriedchiefexecutiveinherTVcompany. SPECIALSKILLS Speaks£uentFrench STRENGTHS Ambitious,level-headedinacrisis WEAKNESSES Scaredofformingpermanentrelationships RELEVANT Sallyishardworking,conscientiousandvery INFORMATION ambitious.Scarredbyherunhappychildhood andmorerecently,bythelossofherfather, whomsheemulates,sheis determinedtostop atnothingtoreachthetopofherprofession Fig. 4. First background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme. 3940 / CREATIVE WRITING BasedonwhatwealreadyknowaboutSally’scharacter,itis unlikelythatshewillgiveupwithoutafightorthatthereis anyfutureinherrelationshipwithMark.Shehasneverput familyorfriendsbeforeherownneeds.Sheisalonerwhowas forcedtotake controlof herownlife froma veryearlyage and is not going to be pushed around by someone who is trying to manipulate her for his own ends. Herreaction Armed with the information about Sally’s background and character,dependingonthestyleofthebook,shecouldreact in one of a number of ways. She could: 1. blackmail Mark intousing his influence to reinstate the job offer 2. devise a plan to murder Mark 3. confront Mark, fight with, and accidentally kill him 4. consult a lawyer and take Mark to court ´ 5. compile an expose of the TV industry 6. secretly conduct an in-depth investigation into corrup- tion in Mark’s company 7. setMarkuptotaketheblameforrunningalibellousnews story. Sally’sreactionisdeterminedbyhertoughbackground.The product of a less than perfect marriage, she has an absent father andamotherwhotransfersher affectionstohernew husband and baby with little thought to her daughter’s feelings.CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 41 To her stepfather, she is an encumbrance, shipped off to boarding school to make way for her baby sister. It is not surprising that, as soon as she leaves university, Sally findsherselfaflat inEngland andrarelyreturnstoFrance. She has been forced to become totally self-reliant and will takewhateveractionshedeemsnecessarytoachieveheraims. CHANGINGTHECHARACTER However,if Sally’supbringing had beendifferent,herreac- tionswouldchangeaccordingly.Takingthesamescenario,a fewalterationshereandtherewillproduceatotallydifferent result. Rebuildingthebackground Keepingthesameframework,allweneedtodoismakeafew adjustments to the attitudes of Sally’s parents, change her schoolingandherrelationshipwithhersisterandwehavea whole new set of possibilities. We’ll still have the parents divorcing when she’s four years old and her mother remarrying, but thistime their attitude towardsthe child will be far more positive, as shown in the alterations to the chart in Figure 5. Motivation Withthisbackground,wenowhaveawholenewsetofreac- tions.WhenSally’sfatherdies,herfamilyissupportiveand caring. Her stepfather knows he cannot take her father’s place but he is there if she needs him. Storyline Withasupportivefamilyandahappierdisposition,SallywillNAME SallyBlake AGE 26 HAIR Blonde,neatly-styled,shoulder-length EYES Blue,brightandsmiling BUILD Slim,elegant MOUTH Sensitive,quitewidewithfairlyfulllips showingwhite,eventeeth MARITALSTATUS Single CURRENTHOME Functional£atnearTVstudio PARENTS BethandJames.DivorcedwhenSallywas four.Fatherdiedrecently,wasarespected investigativereporter.SawSallywheneverhe wasonleave.Mother model,afterdivorce marriedfashionphotographer,movedto France.SentSallytoboardingschoolinUK whensisterwasborn SIBLINGS Eighteen-year-oldhalf-sister,Sophie,amodel. Irresponsibleandfun-loving STEPFATHER Claude,goodfamilyman.FondofSallybut feelsalittleintimidatedbyherdeterminationto succeedandisawarethatsheidolisedher father CHILDHOOD Happy.VeryprotectiveofSophie,whomshe looksoutforwhenthingsgowrong,asthey oftendo EDUCATION LovedboardingschoolinEnglandbutlooked forwardtoholidaysspentinFranceorin Londonwithfatherwheneverhewasaround QUALIFICATIONS LanguageDegree,1stclasshonoursfrom redbrickuniversity BOYFRIENDS HasbeenrefusingMark,amarriedchief executiveinherownTVcompany,forsome time.IsadmiredfromafarbyNick,a cameraman SPECIALSKILLS Speaks£uentFrench STRENGTHS Ambitiousbutputsfriendsandfamilybefore career WEAKNESSES Alittletootrustinginherrelationships RELEVANT Sallyishardworking,conscientiousand INFORMATION ambitious.AlthoughshelovesherFrenchfamily, shedecidedtoliveandworkintheUKtobenear herfather.Whenhedies,sheisleftfeeling vulnerableandfrightenedofthepowerfulMark Fig. 5. Second background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme. 42CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 43 belessaggressive,soweneedtoaddanextradimensiontothe storyline to trigger a reaction. We can utilise her half-sister Sophie who, whilst staying with Sally, falls in with a bad crowd, in which the powerful Mark plays a leading role. Herreaction Whilst shewould no longerconsider violence, points 4 to 6 abovewouldalmostcertainlyfitintothenewscenario.Sally might: X consult a lawyer and take Mark to court X compile an expose´ of the TV industry X secretlyconductanin-depthinvestigationintocorruption in Mark’s company. The‘new’Sallywouldn’tgoitalone,shewouldseekhelpfrom avarietyofsources: 1. The lawyer, with whom she becomes romantically involved. 2. Thelovelorncameraman,whoriskshislivelihoodtohelp with her investigations. 3. Her stepfather, whose contacts in the media help her to rescue Sophie and put Mark behind bars. 4. Herfather’spapers–hewasinvestigatingMark’sactiv- ities just before he died. 5. Her mother, for support as a friend and confidante.44 / CREATIVE WRITING RELATINGTOYOURCHARACTER Whicheverscenarioyouchoose,bearinmindthatifyoudon’t care about your character, neither will anyone else. The ‘old’ Sally (Figure 4) may be ruthless but it’s not her fault.Ashercreator,it isyourtasktoconveyherinnermost thoughts and feelings to the reader so that they will under- stand the reasons behind her behaviour. InordertotrulyrelatetoSally,youneedtoputyourselfinher place and imagine how you would feel if: X when you were four years old, you saw your father leave home, never to return X after your father left, you felt utterly alone and abandoned X you were brought up by a selfish, spiteful mother X without warning, your mother married a womaniser whom you hardly knew and who clearly disliked you X you were taken away to live in a foreign country X youwereconfrontedwithababysisterthenimmediately packed off to boarding school X your father died suddenly, severing the only link with memories of a happier time. You would have to be particularly hard-hearted not to relate to at least one of the above circumstances. Adding this kind of depth to a character brings realism and is a major factor in obtaining that vital ingredient, reader identification.CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 45 Caringwhathappens InoursecondcharacterisationofSally(Figure5),herback- groundgivesuslittlecauseforconcern.Despiteherparents’ divorce, she had a happy childhood so we need to rely on Sally’s charismatic personality to gain the desired effect. Onceagain,youhavetoputyourselfinherplace.Youhave everything going for you, happy family, comfortable home and excellent job prospects. Imagine how you would feel if, within an incredibly short timespan: X your father, whom you adored and emulated, died unexpectedly X a situation with which you were coping (i.e. Mark’s unwanted advances) suddenly spiralled out of your control X you discovered that your beloved younger sister was in moralorphysicaldanger X youfeltyouwerefallinginloveatatimewheneverything in your life was being turned upside down. Inoursecondscenario,everythingseemstobehappeningto Sallyatonceandastheauthor,youshouldberightinthere with her, concerned for her, urging her to make the right decisionswhich,initially,sheisunlikelytodo,aswe’llshortly discover in the following section dealing with conflict. CASESTUDY:JUNEMAKESEVERYTHINGALLRIGHT June is a cheerful person in her mid-twenties. The mother of two small children, she has an optimistic outlook on life and this is reflected in her46 / CREATIVE WRITING characterisation. Unfortunately, this tendency always to look on the bright side means that her characters often lack depth and realism. She also finds it difficult to bring conflict into her stories, as she likes to make their lives run as smoothly as possible. Until she can overcome her desire to have everyone living happily ever after, her stories will continue to be dull and lifeless. HOWWOULDYOUREACTIFTHEYAPPROACHEDYOU? Without realistic characters, a fictional story is flat and lifeless. People read about people, so the characters you createshouldnotonlyberealistic,theyshouldalsoprovoke a reaction from your reader. Runningaway Every character in a work of fiction should be there for a purpose.Charactersshouldneverbeusedinordertosetthe scene or create a backcloth. If you’ve placed them in a scene, they have to perform a functionandwiththisinmind,youshouldeitherbeattracted orrepelledbythem.Iftheyonlyhaveasmallroletoplay,you maysimplyfindtheminterestingorintriguingbutyoushould never be indifferent. When creating fictional characters, therefore, imagine how youpersonallywouldreactifyoumetthemonadarknight. Would you: X Run away? X Stop to offer assistance? X Fall in love? X Be rooted to the spot in terror?CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 47 X Befilledwithloathing? X Attack them? X Avoid making eye contact? X Nod a brief greeting and move swiftly on? Onemethodofconveyingexactlywhatsortofreactionyour characterwouldprovokeisthroughinteractionwithanother character. Interactingwithoneanother In the following extract from the psychological thriller LadykillerbyMartinaCole,adescriptionofserialkiller GeorgeMarkhamisgiventhroughtheeyesofJosephine Denham, a colleague at work: ‘Mr Markham, have you five minutes to spare?’ The voice of Josephine Denham broke into his thoughts. He turned in his seat to see her standing in the doorway, smiling at him. ‘Of course, Mrs Denham.’ His voice was soft and polite. Josephine Denham turned and walked back to her office. George Markham gave her the creeps and she did not know why. He was always polite. Chillingly polite. He never took days off for no reason, he always kept himself to himself, never took long lunches or tried to engage her in banter, like some of the other male employees. All in all he was a model worker. Yet she had to admit to herself there was something about hissoft,pudgybodyandwaterygreyeyesthatgaveher the willies. She sat at her desk and observed the little man in front of her. ‘Please, take a seat.’48 / CREATIVE WRITING ShewatchedGeorgetake thematerial of histrousers between histhumb and forefinger and pull it up before sittingdown.Even thisactionirritatedher. Shesawhis funny little smile that showed his teeth and felt even more annoyed. Provokingareaction The author leaves us in no doubt that George is most unsavouryandatnotimedowefeeltheslightestbitofsym- pathy for him. Josephine has, we are sure, every right to dislikehim.Thisimpressionisreinforcedafewlinesfurther onwhenweseehisreactionasJosephinetellshimheistobe made redundant. George felt an urge to leap from his chair and slap the supercilious bitch with her painted face, her dyed blonde hair, her fat, wobbling breasts. The dirty stinking slut The dirty whore Whilst there is no doubt that George’s vitriolic reaction is appalling,thereisstillroomforahintofjustification.Anyone whohasexperiencedredundancymustbeabletorelatetothe feelingsoffrustrationandhelplessnesswellingupinsidehim. Atthesametime,Josephine’suneaseinhispresenceisvery well-foundedasitisalltooclearthatanywomanunfortunate enoughtofindherselfalonewithGeorgeMarkhamisinvery grave danger. CREATINGCONFLICT In order to understand the importance of conflict in a fictional tale, imagine the following scenario: A beautiful, titled young lady is about to celebrate herCREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 49 eighteenth birthday. Her wealthy, happily married parents throw a party for her at their stately home. Her adored older brother telephones to let her know that he is bringing his best friend and partner in his successful law firm to the party. The best friend is the handsome heir to a fortune and a vast estate in the country. Their eyes meet, they fall instantly in love to the great delight of their families. They marry, have two children, a girl and a boy and live happily ever after. Bynow,youareeithershruggingandmuttering‘Sowhat?’or you’redriftingofftosleep.Eitherway,itisunlikelythatyou foundtheabovestorylineexactlyrivetingbecausethesimple fact of the matter is that nothing has gone wrong. Throwingobstaclesinthepath Conflict is all about obstructing the course of: X true love X solving a mystery X obtaining revenge X tracking someone down X reaching a goal. It is a sad fact of human nature that no one wants to read aboutanythingthatiseasilygained.Yourtaskasanauthoris to throw as many obstacles as possible in the path of your characterstoensurethatwehavetokeeponreadingifweare to discover whether they manage to achieve their aims.50 / CREATIVE WRITING CHECKLIST 1. Areyousurethatyouandyourreaderswillrelatetothe characters you have created? 2. Doyouknowhowyourcharacterswillreactunderpres- sure, at rest, at home and in the workplace? 3. Isyourknowledge of thebackgroundsyou havecreated up to date and accurate? 4. Do you care what happens to your characters? 5. Areyousurethereissufficientconflicttokeepyourreader turning the page? 6. Have you avoided stereotypical, cliche´d characters by realistically basing their development and behaviour on their background and upbringing? ASSIGNMENT To help you understand how to build a character from a stereotype, try this rapid response exercise. Picture in your mind’s eye a wealthy businessman, then answer the questions below using the first answer that comes into your head: 1. How old is he? 2. What colour are his hair and eyes? 3. How tall and what sort of build is he? 4. Is he nice or nasty? 5. What is his office like? 6. Where is it situated?CREATING FICTIONAL CHARACTERS / 51 7. Is he married? 8.Ifyes,doeshehaveamistress? 9. What is his home like and where is it situated? 10. Does he have any children? 11.Ifyes,howmany,whatsexandhowoldarethey? 12. Where is he now, at this moment? 13. What is he doing? 14. What will he do next? NB: By now, you should be forming a storyline around his character.4 SettingandAtmosphere GETTINGAFEEL OFPLACEANDTIME Wheneverandwhereveryourstoryisset,athoroughknowl- edgeoftheperiodandlocationaboutwhichyouarewritingis vital. Usingallfivesenses Youneed touseall the five senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, if you are to convey a feeling of time and place. In the following extract from Susan Moody’s novel Husha- Bye,hercentralcharacter,Harriet,isstayingwithhergrand- parents.Openingwiththesenseofsmellandcontinuingthis as an overriding theme throughout the passage, the author skilfullybringsallHarriet’ssensesintoplaytopaintavivid picture of the house and its occupants. ThehouseinCornwallsmelleddifferentfromtheonein London: shinier, cleaner. Harriet’s grandmother spent her time arranging flowers picked from her garden, polishing the furniture, filling the days with small routines, doing what she had done yesterday and what she would do again tomorrow. The lavender-scented sheets on their beds were starched and made of linen; there were starched napkins at meals too, with monograms in one corner. She did things in due 52SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 53 season; made marmalade, collected windfalls, stirred Christmas puddings, cut the stalks of lavender and sewed the scented grains into sachets of lace and ribbon. Things were done at prescribed times; milk drunk at eleven, awalk at three, the radio switched on at 5.54 for the weather forecast before the six o’clock news. Movingbackandforthintime Theabovepassagedoesmorethansettheatmosphere,italso conveys an impression of time. Harriet’sgrandmotherisnotamoderncareerwoman.Sheis the epitome of respectability, comfortable with her role as wifeandhomemaker.Shelivesanorderedlifeinthecountry and heroutlook is rooted in a strong sense of dutyand the values of a previous generation. Remove her from this setting and place her in achrome and glass apartment in the centre of a bustling cityand shewillappearold-fashionedandvulnerable.Pulledout ofherowntime,shewillbelikeafishoutofwaterandthe atmosphere will become completely different. Settingovercharacters Theimportanceanauthorgivestoastory’ssettingdepends not onlyon the style of writing but also on the genre. In a romance,forexample,thebackgroundhasamajorinfluence onthebehaviourofthecharacters. Listedbelowarejustafew examples of settings taken from romantic novels:54 / CREATIVE WRITING X a Caribbean cruise ship X a tropical island X an Italian vineyard X a lake in the Canadian Rockies X an antiques shop and cottage in the country. In each case, the setting is described in sensuous detail, the scents of fruits and flowers, crystal clear lakes, whispering breezes and rolling hills. Thepaceofthestoryisalwaysslowenoughtoallowthereader tosavourthesights,soundsandflavoursbutfast enoughto maintain the impetus. Makingwarnotlove Action novels such as war stories use similar techniques to conjureupthefeelofbattle.Shatteredbodiesandflattened buildings,deafeningshellfire,screamsofterror,thestenchof deathallaround.Once-bustlingtownsarereducedtopilesof rubble and twisted metal, the surrounding landscape becomesamassofcraterslitteredwithburned-outvehicles. Thistime,thepaceisveryfast,pullingthereaderthroughthe horrificsights,soundsandsmellsasquicklyaspossibletothe comparative safety of the next chapter. Keepingthebackgroundoutoftheforeground As a general rule, the setting should never be allowed to dominate the storyline. It is relatively easy to get carried away but try to avoid using more than ten lines of pure description in one block or your story will lose pace and fail to hold a reader’s attention.SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 55 Lettingyourcharacterssetthescene The most effective way to describe a scene is to let your characters do it for you through interaction with their sur- roundings. This will improve the pace of your writing and conveyafeeling of setting, atmosphere and insight into the character in one fell swoop. For example, study the following two passages and decide which you feel is most atmospheric: Passage A Itwasthemiddleofwinter.Theroomwasicycoldand hiding in one corner was a child, a little girl. The man stood in the room for a moment but could not see her concealed in the dark shadows. He turned and strode away. Passage B No warmth from the thin winter sun had managed to penetrate the icy coldness of the room. The child huddled, shivering in one corner, willing the shadowy dimnessto conceal her. She held her breath asthe man stoodmotionless,listeningforwhatseemedaneternity, before he turned and strode impatiently away. VISITINGLOCATIONS There are pitfalls in setting your stories in real locations, particularly if you choose an area you moved away from and have not visited for many years. Toillustratethis,thefollowingisjustasmallsampleofrecent changes in my own neighbourhood.56 / CREATIVE WRITING X Thelocalhighstreethasbeendecimatedbytheopeningof an out-of-town shopping complex. X Amultiplexcinemaisbeingconstructedonthesiteofthe former technical college. X A series of mini-roundabouts has been built. X Several roads have changed their use from two-way to one-way streets. X A complex system of zebra crossings and pedestrian refuges has been constructed. Changingthelandscape Alloverthecountry,roadsarebeingwidened,housing,trad- ing and industrial estates are being built, supermarkets are springingup,golfcoursesandthemeparksarechangingthe appearance of the landscape. Conversely, many town and city centres have acquired a neglected, derelict look as unsuccessful businesses close and once-thriving factories stand empty, the surrounding areas overgrown with weeds and littered with glass from smashed windows. Soakinguptheatmosphere It’snotallgloomanddoomofcourse.Muchofthecountry- sidehasremainedunchangedforgenerationsandlargetracts oflandonoldindustrialsiteshavebeenreclaimedandland- scaped by environmentalists. Ifyouintendtosetyourstoryinyourownlocality,you’ll be up-to-date with any changes and have few problemsSETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 57 establishingarealisticatmosphere.If,however,youwish to set your story in the areawhereyou grew up or lived someyearsago,itiswellworthrevisitingthelocationin ordertoestablishwhether itstillretainstheatmosphere youwishtoconvey. CASESTUDY:IVYLOOKSBACK Ivy was brought up in a rural village but has lived most of her adult life in the city. Prompted by nostalgia, she decides to set her contemporary novel in the area where she spent her childhood and describes the surrounding countryside in meticulous detail. Fortunately, she decides to visit her old home before she completes the novel, to discover an out of town shopping complex now covers the farmland where most of the present day action of her story takes place. Strikingabalance Anotherproblemwithusingawell-knownlocationisthatof strikingthebalancebetweeninstantrecognitionanddistract- ing realism. The following passage detailsthe progress of a character through the City of London. LeavingtheBankofEngland,Barnabymadehiswayto St Paul’s Cathedral. He followed the route from Threadneedle Street to Cheapside, passing St Mildred’s and Grocer’s Hall Courts, Old Jewry, Ironmonger Lane and King Street on his right and Bucklersbury, Queen Street, Bow Lane and Bread Street on his left. Whilstthefamousnamesmentionedprovideanunmistak- ableLondonsetting,there isverylittleatmosphere inthis passage. There is the added difficulty, too, that anyone58 / CREATIVE WRITING familiarwiththeareamaywellbegintowonderiftheroute androadnamesarecorrect.Atbest,thiswilldistractthem fromthestorylineandatworst,theymayputthestorydown while they go off and search for their London A to Z. Drawingmaps Aswithanyotherwritingtechnique,inthehandsofaskilled author, the use of this kind of detailed information can become integral to the tone and pace of the book and many writers can and do use it to great effect. The attention to detail award-winning novelist RuthRen- dellpaystotheroutestakenbyherprotagonists,emphasises ratherthandetractsfromtheatmosphereofhernovels.She sometimestakesthisonestagefurtherbydrawingamapor street plan of a location, as illustrated in Figure 6. Taken from an Inspector Wexford novel entitled Some Lie and Some Die (Arrow Books), the map depicts the location for a pop festival in an area just outside the fictional town of Kingsmarkham and not only helps the reader get their bearings but also adds realism to the story. Creatingthefeelofaplace Forsomenovels,thesettingisintegraltotheplot.Untilits demolition,theareasurroundingtheBerlinWallwasacen- tral feature in scores of spy novels and the same is true of famous landmarks such as the: X Eiffel Tower X Empire State Building X Houses of Parliament X KremlinFig.6.MapoffictionallocationfromRuthRendell’sInspectorWexford novelSomeLieandSomeDie(ArrowBooks),depictingthelocationfora popfestival inanarea just outside the fictional townofKingsmarkham. 5960 / CREATIVE WRITING X St Mark’s Square X Statue of Liberty X Taj Mahal. Basingyoursettingonafamiliarlocation In order to avoid the distracting ‘street map’ scenario, an effective alternative is to throw in one or two well-known evocative names. This encourages the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks, as demonstrated by the following rewrite of the previous Cityof London example: Leaving the Bank of England, Barnaby made his way from Threadneedle Street towards St Paul’s, feeling a flickerofexcitementashereadoffthehistoricnamesof the roads he passed. Old Jewry, Bow Lane, Bread Street, Cheapside. Barnaby recited them to himself as he tried, in vain, to block out the intrusive din of the modern-day traffic. Makingupyourownlocation Makingupyourownlocationallowsyoutodesigntheland- scapetosuityourownpurposes,particularlyifitisbasedon an area with which you are very familiar. Italso allowsyou to deal with any unforeseen hazards con- structed in your absence by the town planning department. Theoddnewroadlayout,housingorindustrialestatecanbe happilydiscardedifitobstructsyourprotagonist’sprogress ordetractsfromtheplannedstorylineandifyouneedtoget from A to B in a hurry, you can simply build yourself an imaginary road.SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 61 CASESTUDY:RACHELDEMOLISHESANOFFICEBLOCK Rachel has the perfect location in mind for the fictional city setting of her historical novel. There is now an office block on the site but, with the aid of some careful research, she unearths sufficient information about the houses which once stood there to create a vividly realistic impression of the layout of city streets at the time in which her story is set. Based on her investigations, she is able to devise her own street map for reference, adapting it to suit the storyline wherever necessary. Travellingtoexoticplaces Aswehaveseen,romanticnovelsare bynomeanstheonly books which use foreign and exotic settings. Political thril- lers, adventure novels, crime stories can all be set against exotic backgrounds and where science fiction and fantasy are concerned, the universe is your oyster. However,relianceonacombinationoftravelguides,tourist brochures and memories of a seven-day package holiday to Benidorm is, on its own, unlikely to provideyou with suffi- cientdetailtocreatearealisticallyatmosphericbackground. Ifyouaresettingyourstoryinaforeigncountry,yourwriting willbefarmoreeffectiveifyouarethoroughlyfamiliarwith the area, its climate, people and politics. This is fine if your story has a contemporary, earthbound settingbutforhistoricalorfuturistictales,researchandedu- cated guesswork are vital ingredients in the creation of the required atmosphere.62 /CREATIVE WRITING IMAGININGWHATITWOULDBELIKETOBETHERE Assumingthatyou’vedoneyourresearchandhavesufficient information towrite a detailed description of your charac- ter’s surroundings, try the following test: Picture yourself sitting in an armchair in your living room. It is around 7.30 pm in the middle of winter and you are reading a book. You have a drink beside you. Now imagine exactly the same scene in a previous centuryandthenatapointofyourchoosing inthefuture. For all three scenes, answer the questions listed below: 1. What material has been used to make the chair you are sitting on? 2. What method of lighting are you using? 3. Is the room heated and if so how? 4. Istheroomcarpeted?Ifnot,whatsortoffloorcovering does it have? 5. How is the room decorated? 6. What is the title of the book you are reading? 7. What are you drinking? 8. Is it in a glass, cup, goblet, other? If not glass orchina, what is it made of? 9. What are you wearing? 10. Are you warm enough? By comparing how comfortable you normally feel in theSETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 63 givensituationwithhowyouimagineitwouldhavefelt in thepastandhowitmightfeelinthefuture,youcanbringa great deal of realism to your writing. Livingthepart Oneadvantagehistoricalsettingshaveoverfuturisticonesis that lifestyles, costume, homes, furnishing and utensils of previous generations are very well documented. Research material is available in the form of books, paintings, antiques, published letters, historic buildings, museums, newspapers and for more recent history, photographs and films. Makinganeducatedguess Forhistoricalsettings,wehavesufficientinformationtoima- gine how our characters related to their surroundings. The only disadvantage is that, if you get it wrong, someone is bound to notice. Incontrast,storiesset inthefutureoffermoreleewaytolet theauthor’simaginationrunriotbutthedesigns,materials and lifestyles depicted must be based on current scientific knowledge. WEARINGDIFFERENTCLOTHESANDCOSTUMES Thecostumesyourcharactersweardomuchmorethanjust set the scene. Among other things, they: X set the period X set the age, nationality and occupation of a character X give an insight into the character’s personality X convey a sense of occasion X evoke reader identification.64 / CREATIVE WRITING Tohelpyou relatetothewayacharacterwouldmoveand respondinvarioussituations,imaginehowyoureactwhen youarewearingclothesdesignedfor aspecificpurpose.If youhaveeverwornoneormoreofthefollowingoutfits,for example,howdidyoufeelandhowdidyoumovearoundthe room? X A full-length evening dress X top hat and tails X a wedding dress and veil X a dinner jacket and dress shirt X a business suit X old jeans and tee shirt X overalls X luxurious silk underwear X thermal underwear X wellington boots X nothing at all. Actingthepart Take top hat and tails from the above list. They have a seemingly magical effect on their wearer so that men not exactlyrenownedfortheirsartorialelegancesuddenlyfind themselvesholdingtheirshouldersbackandtheirstomachs in. Perched at a jaunty angle on their heads, the top hat provides the perfect finishing touch, conveying both style and breeding. Thesameistrueofthefull-lengthballgown.Ladieswho usually dress for comfort in tee shirts and jeans can find themselves transformed into Cinderella look-alikes at the drop of a neckline. Exchange the squashy trainer for theSETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 65 satinslipperandyouhaveapictureofeleganceandfemininity in not only her looks but also her demeanour and actions. Conformingorcontrasting Thefactthattheclothesyourheroiswearinghavehimlook- ingeveryinchthegentlemanandyourheroine’sattireimplies style and breeding is a major factor in characterisation. Whilst the tall, handsome, immaculately turned-out chap may fulfil the role of every woman’s answer to her dreams, he could also be any one of the following: X a confidence trickster without a penny to his name X a fashion-conscious young dandy, interested only in his own appearance X a charming rogue, who overspends on clothes, wining, dining and gambling X a man of action, uncomfortably restricted by his formal clothes. Thewayhewearshisclothes,hisbearing,attitudeandbeha- viour will all give a clue to his personality. Does he, for example, constantly rub his finger round his shirt collar, indicating discomfort? Or is he unable to pass a mirror without stopping to check the condition of his silk pocket handkerchief? Heroines,too,revealagreatdealfromthewaytheycopewith their clothes. Dressed in skin-tight evening gown and drip- ping with diamonds, our heroine could be:66 / CREATIVE WRITING X a confidence trickster without a penny to her name X a vain gold-digger, determined to trap a rich husband X a shy, sporty-type restricted and uncomfortable in these clothes. Likehermalecounterpart,ourheroinemaybesophisticated andelegantbutifshehasdifficultywalking inhertightskirt ormodestyhasherconstantlypullingupthetopofherdress, itwillbeclearthatsheislessthancomfortablewiththeimage sheisexpectedtoproject. CHECKLIST 1. Are you thoroughly familiar with the location you are using? 2. Doyouhaveanaccuratemapoftheareafortheperiodin which your story is set? 3. Haveyoucalculateddistancesandtraveltimesdepending on the modes of transport available at the time? 4. Does your dialogue accurately reflect the historical period, location and social status you wish to convey? 5. Are you confident you know how it feels to live in your chosen period? 6. Arethecostumesaccurateanddoyouknowhowitfeelsto wear them? ASSIGNMENT Select one of the following castles and describe it as seen through the eyes of a visitor:SETTING AND ATMOSPHERE / 67 X a Disney-style theme park fantasy X a stately home, open to the public X a highland fortress X aruin X an urban castle X abouncycastle. (NB: This exercise works well in pairs within a group. The descriptionisgivenbyonepairandtheothershavetoguess what sort of castle is being described.)5 ShowingNotTelling REACTINGANDINTERACTINGWITHPEOPLEAND SURROUNDINGS Aswesawinthepreviouschapter,oneofthemost effective ways to convey personality, age, setting and atmosphere is through the reactions of your characters. Thisinvolvesshowingwhatishappeningthroughacombina- tionofaction,reactionanddialogueratherthannarratingor telling the story to the reader. Telling Writers tend to be avid readers, often with a background steeped in classic works of literature, many of which are writteninthenarrativevoice.Oneexampleofthistechnique isEmilyBronte¨’sclassicnovelWutheringHeights,wherethe sequence of events is related in story form by one minor character to another. It is perfectly understandable that well-read writers should seek to emulate this approach but in a modern context, the techniqueisverydated.Itslowsthepaceconsiderablyandby the time the scene is set, both you and the reader may well have forgotten what the story was about in the first place. Movingwiththetimes It is atestament to the skill of ourclassic authorsthat their 68SHOWING NOT TELLING / 69 stories continue to be enjoyed today. One reason for this is that, despite the ‘Let me tell you a story...’ quality of the writing,manyclassictalescontainfarmoreactionandinter- actionthanyoumaythink.Itisthenarrativestylethatcreates themisleading impressionofaleisurelypace,nottheactual content of the story. Showing Incontrasttousingastaticcharacterto‘tell’thetale,showing whatishappeningthroughtheactionsandreactionsofyour charactersbringspace,movementandlifetoastory,asyou can see by comparing the following examples: Example A (telling) Theweatherwasverycold.Luckily,Susanhadputonher heavyovercoat,theonewiththehood,soshewasableto keep reasonably warm. Walking along the road, she no- ticedthattherewerenoleavesonthetrees,asuresignof winter. The windows of the houses on either side of the pavementwereblankanddark. Susanthoughtitmadethe street feel gloomy and oppressive. Example B (showing) Susanpulledherheavyovercoataroundhertokeepoutthe icy cold. Offering silent thanks for the warm, fur-lined hood,shehurrieddownthedesertedstreet.Leaflesstrees wavedmenacinglyinthebitterwindassheanxiouslysur- veyed the blank windows of the houses lining the bare pavements.Theoppressivegloomofhersurroundingssent a shudderof fear through Susan’s slender frame.70 / CREATIVE WRITING Doinganddescribing By comparing the two passages above you can see that in ExampleA,Susanisalmoststatic.Thereaderistoldthatthe weatheriscold,thatSusaniswearingaheavy,hoodedover- coat, that the street was gloomy and the atmosphere oppressive. In Example B, however, Susan is reacting to her surround- ings.She‘pulls’herheavyovercoataroundher,‘offerssilent thanks’ for its warmth and ‘hurries’ down the street. The trees,too,aremoving.Theyare‘wavingmenacingly’causing hertobecomeanxious.Thereismoredescriptiontoo,asthe ‘oppressive gloom’ sends a ‘shudder of fear’ through her. Performingactions Through the use of verbs and adverbs, yourcharacters will performactionsthatdemonstrateclearlytheirreactiontothe situation in which they find themselves. Thisisafarmoreeconomicalmethodofwritingdescription thanthenarrativestyle.Infact,ExampleAis70wordslong, whilstexampleB,withalltheextrainformationaboutSusan’s build,hercoatandherframeofmindetc.,amountstoonly64. FEELINGTHEHEAT Having established that our characters must react to the conditions around them, we have to think about how they will behave in a variety of circumstances. Hottingup In the following passage from Jonathan Gash’s novel, The Judas Pair (Arrow Books), antiques dealer and amateur sleuthLovejoyfindshimselfinmortaldanger,whenthevil- lain sets fire to the thatched roof of his cottage.SHOWING NOT TELLING / 71 Then I smelled smoke. The shushing sound wasthe pooled noise of a million crackles. My thatched roof had been fired, probably by means of a lighted arrow. Atthispoint,Lovejoypanicsbuthissenseofself-preservation swingsintoactionandhemakesarapidanalysisofhissitua- tion: Ihadtothink.Smokewasbeginningtodrift inominous columns vertically downwards. Reflected firelight from each window showed me more of the living-room than I’d seen for some time. I was going to choke to death before finally the flames got me. The beams would set alight,thewallswouldcatchfireandthefirewouldextend downwards until the entire cottage was ablaze. Lovejoy realises that his only hope is to bury himself in a priest’sholeundertheflagstonefloorbutheisunpreparedfor the conditions he encounters: Theairenteringmylungswasalreadysearinglyhot.From above my head came frantic gushing sounds, creakings andoccasionalponderouscrasheswhichterrifiedmemore than anything. Thewalls would be burning nowand the beamswouldbetumblingthroughtheliving-roomceiling. Twice I heard loud reports asthe glass windows went. It mustbeaninferno.Iwaswornoutanddyingfromheat. Toocleverbyfar,I’dgotmyselfinthereverseoftheusual position. I was safe from smoke and being cooked in an oven. If only I could bring air in.72 / CREATIVE WRITING I forced myself to think as the blaze above my head reached a crescendo. What could make air move? Allthroughthepassage,Lovejoyisreactingtohissurround- ings and the rising temperature. He is faced with a race against time and in order to convey this, the author flicks back and forth between the raging inferno above Lovejoy’s headandtheextremeheatofhisconfinedconditionsinthe priest’s hole under the floor. This keeps the pace moving extremely quickly, pulling the reader along so that they, too, can feel the heat, smell the smoke and sense the terror Lovejoy is experiencing. SHIVERINGAGAINSTTHECOLD Aswehavealreadyseeninsomeoftheexamplesused,our characters’reactionstotemperaturewillbereflectedintheir behaviour. Coolingdown There is a variety of ways to convey the impression that a character is feeling the cold. They may: X shiver X pull their coat more tightly around them X carefully select warm clothing to wear X flap their arms X stamp their feet X huddle together for warmth X feel sleepy, risking death if they close their eyes X keep moving to increase their circulation.SHOWING NOT TELLING / 73 CASESTUDY:GARYINCLUDESEVERYDETAIL Gary is extremely keen to write action novels and once he starts to write, the words tumble onto the page. His story ideas are exciting and imaginative but his tendency to include large tracts of background information and longwinded description produce static characters, lacking realism. Sadly, the superfluous information in his stories makes them over-complicated and confusing to read. Weatheringthestorm Whetherhot,cold,wetordry,onethingyouhavetoremem- ber is not to overdo climatic conditions. The following passage illustrates this point: Ithadbeenraininghardfordays.Waterstreamedfromthe guttersofeveryroof,pouringdownwindows,alongpave- ments, running in fast moving rivulets along each road. Underneath the streets, torrents of water gushed and gurgled beneath the feet of the people hurrying along the shiny, wet pavements, pushing and shoving one an- otherintheirhastetogetoutoftherain.Steelgreystorm cloudsgatheredoverhead,meetingoneanotherheadonin preparation for yet another downpour. It was very, very wet. (85 words) Feedingintheinformation Onemethodofavoidingthiskindofover-emphasisistofeed the information to the reader in snippets. If it is raining heavily, then have your character run for shelter,orstrugglefor afewsecondswithanuncooperative74 / CREATIVE WRITING umbrella. An impression conveyed with a few well-chosen verbs,adverbsandadjectiveswillbefarmoreeffectivethan wordy description, hammering home a point made early in the first sentence. Economy with words not only improvesthe qualityof your writing,italsomakesyourworkamoreattractiveproposi- tion for prospective publishers. Bearing this in mind, try rewriting the above passage in a more effective and subtle way.Youwillfindthat,bycuttingoutanysuperfluousinfor- mationandincludingacharactertoreacttotheconditions, thepiecewillbefarmoreevocativeandprobablyalotshorter. (Asuggestedrewriteoftheaboveexercisecanbefoundatthe back of the book.) REVEALINGEMOTIONS We all have emotions which reveal themselves through our writingandtherearecertaincircumstancestowhichwereact more strongly than others. Whilst ourcharactersneed not be based onourselves oron ournearestanddearest,ourownemotionswillbereflectedin their reactions and behaviour. Standingupforyourself Youmay,forexample,havebeenbulliedinthepastbysome- one in a position of power, a teacher, employer, parent or spouse.Asaresultofthisexperience,bullyingbehaviour in anyoneyou encounter will evoke some verystrong feelings. Thesecanandshouldbeharnessedandusedtogreateffectby your characters.SHOWING NOT TELLING / 75 Ifyoufeelstronglyaboutsomething,sowillyourcharacters butunlessyoubelieveimplicitlythattheywillreactinacertain way, then your portrayal will be unrealistic. EXPRESSINGFEELINGS Allowyourcharacterstodothetalkingforyou.Whilst it is importantthatyourcharactersreactasthey,notyou,wouldin agivensituation,you’llbeamazedathowoftenyourattitudes and opinions are reflected in their actions. Thinkingpositively Thereisnoreasonwhyemotionsshouldbenegative.Positive attitudeswork everybitaswellasnegativeonesandenthu- siasm always comes over in an author’s work. It may be a lifestyle, an ideal, a sport or a certain type of person but whatever your passion, you can convey it very effectively through the character you write about and add realistic backgrounds to your stories at the same time. WritingasIdoforthewomen’smagazinemarket,mychar- acters’ attitudes and opinions reflect myown but must also relate to the readership of the magazine. The extract below, from a short story entitled ‘Wishing’, illustrates the frustration an intelligent, hardworking busi- nesswoman feels when trapped in a marriage with a dominant husband. She has found what she considers to be her dream home but her husband controls the finances and hasto be persuaded that the property is a good invest- ment before he will consider parting with her hard-earned cash.76 / CREATIVE WRITING Watching Martin pace round the outsideof the building, Lisacouldalmostseethefiguresbeingcalculatedwithinhis brain. She sighed, wondering why his head for business had everattractedhertohim.Ayoungaccountantwhoknewa goodthingwhenhesawit,Martinhadseizedtheoppor- tunity to show the inexperienced fashion student how to market the hand-made knitwear she was producing. In the eighteen years since they’d married, the home- basedoperationhadgrownintoathriving,designerlabel company. She squared her shoulders, determined to fight off the familiarknotofdisappointmentthatMartin’sattitudewas causing in her stomach. Throughout the story, Martin’s reaction to everything Lisa showshimiscoldanddisinterested.Determinednottolose herdream,Lisaexploresthegroundsandisdelightedtofinda wishing well, completewith thatched roof, concealed in the neglected garden. She intendsto breed sheep on the land in order to produce woolforhergarmentsandisevenmorepleasedwhenthe house agent assures her that the well is real and the water pure. Unfortunately,Martinfailstoseethepotentialoftheprop- erty,eitherromanticorfinancial,andinalastditchattempt to persuade him otherwise, Lisa lures him towards the wishing well. The story’s ending was, for me, more than satisfactory in dealing with the injustice of Lisa’s situation:SHOWING NOT TELLING / 77 AsuddenthoughtcausedLisatofrown.Assheopenedthe cardoorandreachedforthemobilephone,shewondered whetherthewellmightbepolluted.AdmittedlyMrPeters hadinsistedthatthewaterwaspurebutthingswerealittle different now. No. Lisa shook her head firmly. Nothing could go wrong. Especially as she’d made a wish. Which is what youalwaysdid,wasn’tit?Justbeforeyouthrewsomething into a wishing well. (Bella, 1993) ItisnotonlythesenseofawrongrightedthatvindicatesLisa intheappallingcrimeshehascommittedbutalsoheralmost childlike innocence in chasing an elusive dream. She and I had absolutely nothing in common in looks, age and, thankfully, our choice of husband but I couldn’t help feelingsorryforherandwantinghertohaveherwishandit wasthis element that brought hercharacter alive and made the story work for me. CASESTUDY:STEVETRIESOUTHISCLIMBINGSKILLS Steve’s hobby is climbing and he bases his plot development on situations he has encountered as a member of a climbing team. By combining his experiences of climbing different types of terrain, in a variety of weather conditions with his knowledge of teamwork in potentially dangerous situations, he is able to bring his characters vividly to life. As a result, his adventure stories are fast-paced and exciting.78 / CREATIVE WRITING MOVINGYOURCHARACTERSAROUNDTHEROOM Aswesawinthesectiondealingwithreactionandinterac- tion, static characters are dull and lifeless. If you are to breatheanylifeintothem,theymustbeseentomoveabout. Inordertowriteeffectivelyaboutasituation,itisnotenough just tovisualise the characters, the author must also have a clearpictureoftheirsurroundings.Thelayoutofaroom,for example, the length of a road, the interior of a car. Mindingthefurniture Evenwhenallthecharactersareseated,theystillnodtheir heads, shift position, wave a hand expressively. They may stand up, pace the carpet or make their way into another room.Inordertoconveythiseffectively,youneedtoknow the layout of not only the room but also the building and how they can get to where they want to go. Youalsoneed toknowwhere thefurniture isplaced,how theymanoeuvrearounditandhowfastorslowlytheymove. SPEEDINGANDSLOWINGTHEPACEWITHVOCABULARY Throughout anystory, anauthorhastoincreaseandslow the pace in order to gain the maximum effect. This is achieved by a combination of emotive vocabulary and the length of the words and sentences used. Shorteningandlengtheningthesentence As a general rule, short words and sentences denote: X anger X urgency X fear X pain.SHOWING NOT TELLING / 79 Longer words and sentences denote: X romance X contentment X relaxation X confidence. Youcanalsouselonger,slowersentencestohelpbuildten- sionasinthefollowingextractfromMartinaCole’ssuspense novel The Ladykiller: ItwasSaturdayandGeorgewasaloneinthehouse.After carefullywashingupthebreakfastthingsandputtingthem away,hemadehimselfapotoftea.Whileitbrewedonthe kitchentablehewalkeddowntohisshedandbroughtback his scrapbooks. Atfirstsight,thissceneportraysacontentedmanrelaxingin hishomeonaSaturdaymorning.Bythisstageinthebook, however,thereaderispainfullyawareofthehorrific images that George’s ‘scrapbooks’ contain. Nowcomparethelengthsofboththewordsandthesentences intheaboveextractwiththefollowingpassagefromthesame book: Thetwosmallboyswalkedfast.Driving rainwaspelting into their faces. The smaller of the two had red-rimmed eyesandhadobviouslybeencrying.Alargeclapofthun- derboomedoverhead,followedbyaflashoflightningthat lit up the sky. (The Ladykiller, Martina Cole, Hodder Headline)80 / CREATIVE WRITING Thepaceofthesecondpassageismuchfasterthanthefirst.In both cases the reader is in no doubt that something very unpleasant is about to happen but in the first example, thecharacteriscontentandthisisreflectedinthevocabulary used. In the second extract, the characters are clearly unhappyandthevocabularyisshort,sharpandthreatening. FLASHINGBACK ANDFORTHINTIME Flashbackisoneofthemostusefultoolsawritercanuse.It: X providesaninsightintoyourcharacters’personalitiesand pasts X gives background information X describes the characters and adds substance to the plot X moves the story forward X offers hints or ‘signposts’ that history is about to repeat itself. Flashinginformation Whilstthelengthofaflashbackvariesconsiderablyfromone shortphrasetoacompletechapter,thetechniqueworksbest ifyousimply‘flash’toasignificantincidentinthepast,then bringyourcharacterstraightbacktothepresentassoonas you have imparted the relevant information. For example, if the reader is to understand why our TV presenter, Sally Blake, behaves in a certain way, we need to give them a few hints about the background to the story. The flashbacks in the following scene are marked in italics:SHOWING NOT TELLING / 81 ‘I’m sorry Mark,’ Sally fought back the tears which threatenedtooverwhelmherresolve,‘It’sover.I’mleaving you. I shouldn’t have believed your lies about leaving your wife and children.’ Huggingherkneestoherchin,sherockedchildishlyto andfroforcomfort,waitinginvainforhisresponse,‘Did you hear what I said?’ ‘Oh, yes, I heard you.’ Sallyfeltthehairsonthebackofherneckstandonend as she unclasped her legs and lifted her head to meet his furiousgaze.Thelasttimehe’dusedthattone,theviolence thathadfollowedhadlandedher inhospital.Furtively,she slid sideways across the bed, increasing the distance between them. Flashbacks should provide a series of revelations about the characters which give just enough information to keep the reader wanting to know more but at the same time, reveal something the reader didn’t know before. In the above example, the first flashback informs us that Markisamarriedman,thesecondthatheisviolent.From thesetwosnippetsofinformation,weknowthebackground totheirrelationshipandcanpredictanegativereactionto Sally’s desire to end it. Keyphrases Listed below are some key phrases designed to lead you smoothly into flashback: X That summer had been almost perfect. X There had been a time when things were different. X As a child, he had been nervous and shy.82 /CREATIVE WRITING Fillingawholechapter Whilstitispossibletowritewholechaptersinflashback,this canbecounter-productive.Asalways,inthehandsofaskilled author, lengthy flashback of this type can be very effective. However,forittoworkwell,thecontentmustbecompletely riveting and integral to the main plot. Even then, it can sometimesbedifficulttopullthereaderbacktothepresent. Itisusuallybettertosticktobrief,rapidflashestokeepyour story moving smoothly and at a good pace. Movingforwardintime It can be surprisingly difficult to move your characters for- ward from one place and time to the next. Forexample,whengettingthemfromworktohome,unlessit isvitaltotheplot,thereisnopointinhavingthemwalkoutof the building, get into their car and giving a blow by blow account of the drive home. Nor is there any need, once they are home, to follow their progressthrougheatingtheireveningmeal,goingtobed,then gettingupinthemorning,leavingthehouseanddrivingback to work again. How,therefore,doyougetyourcharactersfromAtoBand from one day to the next without slowing the pace? Stoppingandstarting Thesolutionisrelativelyeasy.Yousimplystopattheendof one piece of action and start up again at the next. For example:SHOWING NOT TELLING / 83 She picked up her handbag and walked briskly to the door, ‘Seeyou tomorrow then,’ she nodded curtly in my direction, ‘I’ll see myself out.’ She arrived promptly at nine the next morning. Onceagain,therearekeyphrasesthatarehelpfulinmoving the action forward. X It wasn’t until much later that... X Itwastobeyears,notdays,beforetheywouldmeetagain. X Less than an hour had passed before... CHECKLIST 1. Areyouconfidentthatyourcharacters’actionsandatti- tudesareclearlyconveyedthroughtheirreactionstotheir surroundings? 2. Doyourcharactersinteractrealisticallywithoneanother through a combination of dialogue and action? 3. Would cutting the amount of description and narrative improve the pace of your story? 4. Do you know how their past governs their present behaviour? 5. Do they fight for their principles? 6. Areyouusingsentencelengthandemotivevocabularyto varythepaceandstyleofyourstory? 7. Are your flashbacks short and effective? 8. Does each scene move smoothly into the next?84 / CREATIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENT Write a scene in which awife istrying to conceal a murder weapon immediately after killing her husband. The scene should contain the following information: X thewife’sappearance,includingheight,hairstyle,ageand build X thetimeofday X the season X the room she is in X how the room is furnished X why she killed him.6 WritingRealisticDialogue DEVELOPINGAGOODEAR Dialogue is the bearer of information, plot and character- isation.Itperformsanumberofvitalfunctionsforthefiction writer: X delineates character X moves the story forward X creates conflict, tension and suspense X explains what happened in the past X conveys emotion X conveys the thoughts of the characters. Perhapsmostimportantlyofall,dialoguebetweenyourchar- acters brings them to life in a way that no other writing technique can. Hearingthemspeak Untilacharacterspeaks,alltheirthoughtsandemotionsare portrayed through someone else’s eyes, i.e. the narrator’s. Thethingsacharactersaysandthewaytheysaythemgivesa much clearer insight into their character and allows the reader to make up their own mind as to what sort of person they might be. 8586 / CREATIVE WRITING Realisticdialoguegivesimmediatecharacterisationinaway thatnarrativesimplycannotdo.Asaquicktest,readthrough the following phrases and see who you think is speaking: 1. ‘For goodness’ sake get your hair out of your eyes and stand up straight when I’m talking to you.’ 2. ‘I can spare you five minutes but keep it brief.’ 3. ‘Hold my hand while we cross the road.’ 4. ‘Good morning, how may I help you?’ Notonlydowehaveaninstantideaofthepersonspeaking butwecanalsomakeaneducatedguessabouttheirappear- ance and their expression. Forno.1,forexample,theimageisimmediatelyofsomeone inauthority,aparentorteacher,andtheirexpressionisstern, their demeanour impatient. Bycontrast,exampleno.4isprobablysmilingandismaking anefforttobepoliteandfriendly.Heorsheisalmostcertainly dressed smartly in order to make a good impression on a potential customer. Sounding realistic If you were towrite acompletely realistic piece of dialogue between two young women, it might sound something like this: ‘Hi How’s it going?’ ‘OK. How’s things with you?’ ‘Oh, you know, OK but I, er...’WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 87 ‘Yeah, I know but you can’t, well, um, you know.’ ‘Yeah,Iknowbutanyway,didyouwatch‘Soapsuds’last night? Wasn’t it awful?’ ‘Thepits.She’dneverhavedonethatinreallife.Imean, erm, well, it’s so...’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ Interrupting,‘umming’and‘aahing’ In real life, most people sprinkle their conversations with ‘ums’ and ‘aahs’. They also tend to interrupt the person speakingtothem,sothatsentencesarecutshortinmid-flow. Iffictionwritersweretoincludethissortofdialogueintheir stories,noonewouldreadpastthefirstpieceofconversation. In fiction, each character must have their say in their own instantly recognisable voice. Inordertoproducerealisticdialogue,therefore,youhaveto developagoodearforlisteningtohowthepeoplearoundyou speakandanabilitytotransfertheir‘voices’ontothepagein an acceptable way. ACTINGOUTASITUATION Onemethodofdevelopingrealisticvoicesforyourcharacters is to act out the situation you wish to portray. Recordingthespeeches Youcandothisbyimagining itinyourheadorbyspeaking the words out loud to hear how they sound. Youmayprefertorecordallthedialoguesoyoucanplayit backatyourleisureandensurethateachcharacterhastheir own distinctive way of speaking.88 / CREATIVE WRITING Usethemethodwhichworksbestforyoubutmakesurethat if one character says, ‘Hello, how are you?’, the response is ‘I’mfine,howareyou?’andnotsomethingentirelyunrelated. Communicatingwitheachother Rememberthatthepurposeofwritingdialogueistogetyour characters communicating with each other, not talking directly to the reader. The technique of having one character saying something, whilsttheothertalkseithertothemselvesortotheaudience about something completely different is best left to script- writers who have the advantage of the visual and aural dimensions to explain what is going on. Havingaconversation One useful method of bringing your dialogue to life is to choosethepairyoumoststronglyidentifywithfromthelist below and write a confrontational conversation between them: X dissatisfied customer/unhelpful shop assistant X unreasonable traffic warden/irate motorist X disinterested hospital receptionist/frantic patient X officious train guard/exasperated commuter X harassed shopper/pushy elderly lady X angry homeowner/selfish neighbour. If,bynow,youareinaflamingtemper,calmyourselfdown byreadingwhatyouhavewritten.Thedialogueshouldbe wonderfully realistic and vibrant.WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 89 Puttingthespeechincontext The vocabulary yourcharacters use conveys more than just personality,italsogivesanideaoftheirage,socialstatusand relationship to one another. Read the two examples below and see if you can tell who the characters might be: Example A ‘You’re not going out tonight. I won’t let you.’ ‘You can’t stop me, I’m old enough to do as I like.’ ‘You’renotsooldthatIcan’tgiveyouacliproundtheear.’ ‘But I’ve got to go, everyone’s going.’ Example B ‘You’re not going out tonight. I won’t let you.’ ‘You can’t stop me, I’ll do as I like.’ ‘If you go I’ll kill myself.’ ‘Don’t be a fool.’ Alteringthevocabulary ThecharactersspeakinginExampleAaremostlikelytobea parent and child, probably a teenager. InExample B, we have an entirelydifferent situation. Here thecharactersareclearlylovers,headingtowardsabreak-up in their relationship. In essence, it is the same conversation but the things the characters say, the vocabulary they use, the way they speak, are quite different. Hesaid,shesaid Takealookatthefollowingpassagesanddecidewhichyou think works best:90 / CREATIVE WRITING Passage A ‘You know I hate fish,’ he said, ‘Yet every week without fail,youinsistontryingtomakemeeatit,’hecomplained, throwing down his knife and fork in disgust. Passage B ‘YouknowIhatefish.’Hethrewhisknifeandforkdownin disgust.‘Yeteveryweekwithoutfail,youinsistontryingto make me eat it.’ Infact,bothpassagesworkperfectlywellbutinPassageA, the words ‘he said’ and ‘he complained’ are completely superfluous. Combiningactionanddialogue Aswesawinthepreviouschapter,charactersarenotstatic. They move from place to place, wave their hands around, shrug their shoulders and stamp their feet. Theirfacialexpressionschange,theyhaveendearingorirri- tating mannerisms and their body language can tell you almost as much about them astheway theyactuallyspeak. A combination of action and dialogue, as demonstrated in Passage B above, will bring far more realism and life to the characters than a string of ‘he/she said’s. Standingalone For short passages, good dialoguewill stand alonewithout anyactionatallasyoucanseefromthefollowingconversa- tion between a customer and a shop assistant:WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 91 ‘I bought this toaster yesterday and it doesn’t work properly.’ ‘I see. What’s the problem?’ ‘It burns the toast.’ ‘I see. What would you like us to do about it?’ ‘Givemeareplacementofcourse.’ ‘I’llhavetogetclearancefromthemanagerbutshe’sat lunch right now.’ ‘OK. I’ll wait.’ There is no problem understanding the situation. We can easilytellwhichoneisspeakingandthedialogueflowsper- fectly well. Withinthecontextofastorywherewearefamiliarwiththe charactersandtheplot,ashortconversationlikethiskeeps theactionmovingveryeffectively.Itshouldnot,however,be sustained for too long for a number of reasons: X unless we know the characters beforehand, we have no idea what they look like X it is more difficult to assess the mood of the characters X nomatterhowdistinctivethevoices,theconversationwill eventually become confusing X alongblockofunbrokendialoguesoonbecomesboring. Bringinginsomeaction Action serves as the descriptive element within dialogue as you can see from the following rewrite:92 / CREATIVE WRITING ‘I bought this toaster yesterday and it doesn’t work properly.’Colinplacedtheboxpurposefullyonthecoun- ter. ‘I see. What’s the problem?’ ‘Itburnsthetoast.’Irritably,hepulledthetoasteroutof its box. ‘I see.’ Sliding it towards her, the girl turned the dial through its settings in a vain attempt to detect the fault, beforesmilinghelpfullyupatColin,‘Whatwouldyoulike us to do about it?’ Colin sighed impatiently. ‘Give me a replacement of course.’ Thegirlfrowned.‘I’llhavetogetclearancefromthe manager,’ she chewed nervously at her lip, ‘but she’s at lunch right now.’ ‘OK.’Colinsnatchedupthetoasterandstuffeditintoits box. ‘I’ll wait.’ Fromtheiractions,wecanseethatthegirlisanxioustoplease buthasnoideahowtodealwiththesituation.Colin,onthe otherhand,isirritableandnotabouttobepalmedoffbyan inexperienced youngster. LOSINGYOURTEMPER Inthemiddleofdomesticargumentswiththeirlovedones,it is not unknown for authors to stop dead in mid-insult and reach for their trusty notepad and pen. Fightingtalk Akeenwriterwillneverletagoodpieceofdialogueescape, no matter when or where they stumble across it. If their partner happens to hurl a particularly juicy phrase atWRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 93 themintheheatofbattle,theyknowthey’llonlyregretitif they don’t stop and write it down. Weallfindourselvesinconfrontationalsituationsfromtime totimeandthemoreyoucanidentifywiththerolesofyour characters and relate to their feelings and frustrations the more realistic their arguments will sound. Basingyourcharacters’dialogueonyourowndomesticdis- putes may seem heartless and insensitive but for the true creative writer, there’s no sense in wasting good material. FALLINGINLOVE Conflict is a vital element in any work of fiction, so the dialogue between two characters falling in love should be as volatile as arguments between warring partners. Whisperingsweetnothings Whilsttenderpillow-talkhasitsplace,alltheconcerns,heart- ache, soul-searching and nerves that are part and parcel of forminganewrelationshipmustbereflectedinthedialogue. Ifevery conversation is dripping with sugarysweet declara- tions of love, it will not only sound unrealistic but also be utterlyboring.Inorder toconvey heightenedsexualattrac- tion between two characters, there must be an element of tension in the dialogue. InnovelistPatriciaBurns’FirstWorldWarsaga,Cinnamon Alley, heroine Poppy Powers meets and falls for American serviceman, Scott Warrender. To complicate matters, she is already being ardently pursued by veteran Joe Chaplin.94 / CREATIVE WRITING The following short extract leaves the reader in no doubt about her feelings towards the two men: Then Scott gave her a brief hug and let her go. ‘I guess I better let you get back to work. But I’ll be watchingyou,mind.I’llbewatchingeverymoveyoumake.’ When Joe said things like that it irritated her. From Scott, it made her feel cared for and secure. (Cinnamon Alley, Patricia Burns, Arrow Books) CREATINGREALISTICACCENTSANDDIALECTS Sofar,alltheconversationswehavelookedathavebeenin standard English but this isn’t always the case. Ifyourstoryhasaregionalorforeigninfluence,partofthe characterisation may hinge on the protagonist having an instantly recognisable accent and this has to be conveyed to the reader. CASESTUDY:ELIZABETHUSESPERFECTENGLISH Elizabeth is a retired English language teacher. After a lifetime of correcting her pupils’ grammar, she finds it impossible to ignore the rules and allow her characters to speak naturally to one another. As a result, she is unable to develop clearly identifiable ‘voices’ for her characters and their dialogue is stilted and unrealistic. Avoidingtheapostrophe Let’s take a well-known quotation by Robert Burns: Wee, sleekit, cow’rin tim’rous beastie, O’ what a panic’s in thy breastie. (To a Mouse)WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 95 To anyone familiar with the quote, deciphering it on the printed page is relatively easy but for many, a long tract of unfamiliar words littered with apostrophes is a highly unattractive, not to say unreadable, proposition. Listeningtotherhythm Ratherthantrytoreproduceanaccentphoneticallybyspel- lingthewordsdifferentlyordroppingtheoddletterhereand there and replacing it with an apostrophe, listen to the rhythm of speech. You can achieve far more realism by turning the order of words around in a sentence and sparingly throwing in the odd colloquialism. IncontrasttoherScottishnamesake,contemporarynovelist PatriciaBurnseffectivelyconveysScottWarrender’sAmer- ican accent through the subtle use of phraseology and in Poppy’s reaction to the things he says, as shown in the following extract: Poppy tucked her hand inside his elbow. ‘You’llhavetotellmewhichwaytogo.Isitfar?Ihope so.’ ‘Iusuallygetthefirstworkmen’stram,’Poppytoldhim, before she could stop herself. ‘Tohellwiththat–beggingyourpardon–we’llfinda cab. Are you tired?’ Generallyshewaswornoutattheendofanightspenton herfeet,wantingonlytocrawlintobedandsleepthesleep ofthedead.Buttonightshecouldhaverunallthewayto Scotland and back. ‘No, not a bit. I’m fine.’96 / CREATIVE WRITING ‘You’re tougher than me, then. When I was waiting tables I was washed out by the time I finished.’ ‘You? Awaiter? But you’re an officer.’ ‘Don’tmeanathing,honey.Myfolkskeepahardware store in upstate Pennsylvania. I worked my way through college.’ ‘Oh’–Itwaslikeaforeignlanguage,butshedidgetthe gistofit. (Cinnamon Alley, Patricia Burns, Arrow Books) NotonlydoestheauthorclearlyconveytheAmericanliltin ScottWarrender’sspeech,shealsoeffectivelyconjuresupthe period wartime feel in Poppy’s responses and reactions. There is a sense, too, of the characters circling round one another inawaythat istypicalwhenthereismutualattrac- tion. Keen to get to know each other better, each one is anxious to sustain the moment and worried that they might say the wrong thing and miss the opportunity of a lifetime. SWEARINGANDSLANG Whetherornotawriterdecidestouseexpletivesdependsnot only on the style and content of the story but also on the author’sownsensibilities.Youmayfeelswearing isaninte- gralpartofyourcharacter’spersonalityandwithoutit,their dialogue would lack realism. Used sparingly, swear words can add impact and pace to dialogue but gratuitous use of obscenities is offensive and unnecessary. Where a scene is violent or a character is depicted as being extremely angry, upset or frustrated,WRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 97 the occasional expletive will add realism and power to the scene. Too many obscenities will, however, have a diluting effect and the full impact will be lost. CASESTUDY:BRENDAACTSOUTEACHSITUATION Brenda is a mother of four. Her children’s ages range from 18 to 30. She is a keen amateur actress and member of her local drama society. She has a good ear for language and her family keeps her abreast of the latest slang phrases. Her interest in thriller writing means that she uses tough, uncompromising characters who have colourful vocabularies. She is not afraid to use expletives or slang in the right context. As a result, her writing is vibrant and realistic. Usingslang Slang dates very quickly so that a contemporary piece of fiction, liberally sprinkled with buzz words from up-to- the-minute speech, will appear quaint and odd in a few years’ time. Slangis,however,aninvaluablemethodofconveyingperiod. For example, can you date the following phrases? 1. She thinks she’s the cat’s pyjamas. 2. Right-on man – that’s groovy. 3. You’re doing my head in. (Answers at back of book.) The characters’ ages playa large part in the use of slang. Differentgenerationshavetheirownslanglanguagesandas we have seen, the most effective method of conveying a different language is through the use of the odd word98 / CREATIVE WRITING hereandthere,ratherthantryingtoreproduceit inlarge, indecipherable chunks. Writing dialogue is not so much a matter of reproducing exactly how people speak to one another in real life. It is more about setting down on the page a representation of speech which helpsthewriterconvey character, period and plot in a realistic way. CHECKLIST 1. Do your characters each have their own distinctive ‘voice’? 2. Can you tell who is speaking towhom by the dialogue alone? 3. Haveyouusedacombinationofdialogueandactionthat moves the story forward? 4. Does the dialogue sound natural and realistic? 5. Is the use of expletives and/or slang necessary for the purposes of characterisation and authenticity? 6. Have you relied too heavily on changing spellings or inserting apostrophes in place of dropped letters, rather than using the rhythms of speech to effectively convey dialects and accents? ASSIGNMENT If you belong to awriting group, there is a simple exercise which demonstrates how a conversation develops. Going clockwise round acircle, the first person begins with the phrase, ‘I’m sorry,you can’thave thecartonight’, thenWRITING REALISTIC DIALOGUE / 99 turns to the next person for a response, which is usually, ‘Whynot?’Continueinthismanner,makingarulethatthe dialogue must be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Theendresultwillusuallybeacompromisebetweenthetwo characters who have evolved. (Nine times out of ten, the dialoguedevelopsintoanargumentbetweenfatherandson.)7 FindingTrueLove WRITINGAROMANCE Aromanceisthestoryofamanandawomanwhomeetand fallinloveagainstalltheodds.Theingredientsforastandard romance are: X attractive central characters X a beginning, middle and happy ending X an element of suspense X obstacles designed to keep the hero and heroine apart X a satisfactory conclusion, culminating in the promise of marriage. Romantic fiction istrue escapism and great fun towrite as yousteepyourselfinavisionofwhatlifecouldbelikeifonly all your dreams could come true. Mostbutnotallromanticfictioniswrittenbywomen.Thisis becauseitiscentredaroundaparticularlyfeminine,idealised perceptionofwhatalovingrelationshipshouldbe.Themale heroisstrong,yetgentle.Acaring,nurturingcreature,who puts the needs and desires of the heroine before his own. 100FINDINGTRUELOVE/ 101 Believewhatyouwrite Atongue-in-cheekapproachtoromanticfictionsimplywon’t work.Inordertowriteconvincingly,youmustbelieveinyour charactersandbepreparedtofallhelplesslyinlovewiththe hero. This doesn’t mean you can’t bring humour into the story. Providingyouarelaughingwithandnotatyourcharacters, you can make them and their situation as amusing asyou wish. At the end of the day, however, you have to care whether or not your characters proclaim their love for one another and achieve the happyending that is an inte- gral part of every romantic story. FINDINGFLAWSATTRACTIVE Bearing inmindthatattractivecharactersarecentraltothe romantic theme, we need to explore the idiosyncrasies of sexual attraction. Beautyintheeyeofthebeholder Itistemptingtodepictyourheroineasexquisitelybeautiful– shining hair, immaculate complexion and a figure any woman would die for. Equally,youmightinitiallyportrayyourheroasapictureof masculinity. Tall and handsome, with a head of thick, lux- uriant hair and of muscular, athletic build. They both look and sound wonderful, have warm, caring dispositions and to all intents and purposes, are perfect. Tooperfect.Weordinarymortalsknowwehaven’tachance withpeoplelikethis.Theywouldneverfallforlittleoldus, soinordertomakeyourromanticcharactersappearmore102 / CREATIVE WRITING believableand,moreimportantly,attainable,itisnecessary to give them a flaw. Fallingfortheflaw Theflawmaybephysical,perhapstheheroineisalittletoo short,theherojustaninchorsotootall.Whateveryoufeelit takes to make them a bit more human than if they were perfectly proportioned. However,aphysicalflaw,whilstuseful,onlyofferspartof thepicture.Aroundedcharacterwillalsohaveanemotional hang-up. Perhaps they are stubborn, proud, impetuous or absent-minded.Thesearethesortofcharacteristicsthatwill atfirstexasperateandsubsequentlyattractonetotheother. OVERCOMINGINSURMOUNTABLEOBSTACLES InChapter3,wesawhowimportantitistoincludeconflict inastory.Thescenarioillustratingthepointhadabeautiful youngwomanmeetingandmarryingthemanofherdreams and living happily ever after. Whilstthisformulaisthebasisforaromanticstory,onits own without any conflict, it offers no sustainable plot. Preventingthecharactersfromsucceeding Havingcreatedyour almostperfectcharactersandsetthem against a suitably romantic background, it would be very pleasant to simply sit back and let nature take its course. Sadly, that’s the last thing a romantic writer can do. The author’staskistocomeupwithdeviouswaystopreventthe heroandheroinefromgettingtogetheruntilthelastpossible moment. As we have already formed a picture of television news- reader Sally Blake, we can use her as a heroine for our romance.TakingthefirstCV,wheresheistheproductofFINDINGTRUELOVE/ 103 a broken marriage, with a disinterested stepfather and a spoilthalf-sister,weknowthatsheisscaredof formingper- manent relationships. However, we also know that she is ambitious so, for the purposes of our story, we will need to sabotage: 1. any attempt on her part to form a lasting relationship with the hero 2. any exciting new career prospects. Gettingtoknowthehero Beforewecandeviseaplanofobstaclestotheirlove,weneed to get to know the hero. Like Sally, Nick will have one or two endearing personal quirks.Perhapsherubsthebumponhisbrokennosewhen he’sconcentratingorthecornerofhismouthtwitcheswhen he is amused. He has probably been hurt byawoman in the past and his attractiontoSallywillbeinspiteofadeterminationnotto repeattheexperience.Itwillbethesetraitswhichwillmake him irresistible to our heroine. Jumpingtothewrongconclusion By drafting a plan of obstacles to the couple’s romance, as showninFigure7,wecanseeataglancehowtheywillfitinto the storyline. Oneofthemost effectiveobstaclesistheromanticheroand heroine’s unerring talent for jumping to the wrong conclu- sion, as shown in Frame 5.104 1. 2. 3. Sally’srelationshipwithmarriedMarkis Nickasksherout.Sherefuses.Marko¡ers Sheislevel-headedinacrisis. rocky. herpromotiononconditionthatshe ShetellsMarksheneedstimetothink. SallytellsMarktheyare¢nished. continuestheira¡air. ShebumpsintoNickassheleavesthe ShemeetsNick,anewcameraman. building. Hesensessomethingiswrong. Theygoforadrink. 4. 5. 6. Despiteherproblems,Sally¢ndsherself ThefollowingafternoonSallyoverhearsNick Sally¢ghtswithNick,refusingtolistentohis fallingforNick. deepinconversationwithMark. explanation. Hetakesherhomeandstaysthenight. Shemistakenlybelievestheyareconspiring Sheresignsandwalksout. HepersuadeshertostanduptoMark. againsther. Athome,thephoneringsconstantlybutshe ignoresit. 7. 8. 9. Jobandromanceprospectsgone,Sallygoes NickarrivesinFrance. Everythingiswonderful.Sallyisinloveand tostaywithhermotherinFrance. Astudioislookingforan‘anchor’forthe planstoreturntotheUKandtakeupthenew SophieisspitefulandSallymiserable. mainnews. job. Thiswaswhathe’dbeendiscussingwith ThensheseesNickgoingintoSophie’sroom. Mark,tryingtopersuadehimtoletSallygo. 10. 11. 12. NickdeniesbeinginSophie’sroombutinthe Hurtandangry,Sallyreturnsimmediatelyto At¢rst,sheresistshisattemptstotalktoher middleofaromanticmealwithSally,Sophie theUKandthrowsherselfintohernewjob. untilSophiearrivesandconfessesthatNick burstsinscreaming. ShemanagestobreaktheholdMarkhas washelpingherkickherdrughabit.Finally, Nickbustlesheroutsideandintohiscarand overherbutshecan’tgetoverNick. SallyrealisesshecantrustNickandthey theydriveo¡. Then,sheseeshiminthestudio. confesstheirlove. Fig.7.Planofobstaclestoromance(basedonFigure4).SallyendsaffairwithMarkandfallsinlovewithNick.Heremotionalbackground prevents her from embarking on a new relationship. Finally, Nick wins her over and they achieve the requisite happy ending.FINDINGTRUELOVE/ 105 Sally’s immediate reaction when she discovers Mark and Nick in conversation is to assume they are plotting against her.ItneveroccurstoherthatNickmightbetryingtohelp herbutifitdid,shewouldthoroughlyresenthisinterference. Either way, he cannot win. ThenextmisunderstandingoccursinFrame10,withNick’s attentiontoSophie.Itisherfearoflosinghimtoherspiteful step-sisterthatpromptsSally’sill-judgedbehaviour.Mean- while, it is acombination of pride and integrityon Nick’s part which governs his reactions. Remember that, however many obstacles we throw in her path,Sallymusthaveovercomethembytheendofthebook. DRIVINGFASTCARSANDWEARINGFANCYCLOTHES Romanceandglamourgohandinhandandifyouintendto writeromanticfiction,youneedglamoroussettingsforyour stories. Our story is set around the fast-moving background of a televisionnewsstation.However,theworldsofhighfashion, fastcars,thoroughbredhorsesandsportingchampionsalso feature heavily in this kind of novel. No one wants to read aboutthelovelifeofagaragemechanicandasecretary.Not, that is,unlessthegaragemechanicdesignsandbuildsrevo- lutionary racing cars or the secretary works for a high- powered executive of an international industrial giant. Followinghighfashion Clothesareparticularlyimportantandalwayssetoffahero’s physique or a heroine’s figure to perfection.106 / CREATIVE WRITING Eventhepoorestheroineseemstobeabletolayherhandson at least one pure silk designer evening gown, whilst old, worn jeans and an open-necked work shirt enhance our hero’s hard-man image as much as the cultured side of hisnatureisimprovedbyhisappearanceinanimmaculate tuxedo. Keepingupwiththetimes Inlinewiththeglamour/powerimage,today’sromanticher- oinemaywellbeinhermidtolatetwentiesandrunningher ownbusiness.Shemaydriveapowerfulcar,pilotaplane,sail ayachtorbeanexperthorsewomanandwillnotappreciate being treated as if she’s a rare and fragile flower. ENJOYINGSEXANDFOOD The only rule relating to the inclusion of sex in a romantic storyisthatitmustbeintegraltothestorylineandportrayed withinthecontextofalovescene.Gratuitoussex,particularly if linked with violence, is totally unacceptable. Practisingsafesex Some romantic writers always include explicit sex scenes, others never do. It is entirely up to you to decide whether or not you are comfortable writing about sex. All sexual encounters between the hero and heroine are immensely pleasurable and safe sex is practised. This is all part of the caring, nurturing role which is the essence ofthetrueromantichero. Eatinganddrinkingsensuously Eating is almost as important as sex in a romantic story. Mealsaredescribedingreatdetailandrangefromplainbut wholesome simple fare to delicately presented gourmet dishes.FINDINGTRUELOVE/ 107 For example, a romantic ploughman’s lunch for twowould consistofafresh,Frenchloaf,deliciouslycrustyontheout- side,thesoft,whitemiddlethicklyspreadwithcreamybutter. The cheesewill be firm and mature, served with a generous helpingoftangy,home-madechutney.Thewholethingwill be washed down with a named wine, a fruity red or light, refreshing white. Listedbelowisaselectionofkeywordsfordescribingfood and drink: cool piquant crisp refreshing crunchy smooth crusty succulent fresh tangy frothy velvety melting HEIGHTENINGALLTHESENSES As we have seen in previous chapters, in order to bring fic- tionalcharacterstolife,itisimportanttobringallfivesenses into play. Inromanticfiction,thesesensesareheightenedformaximum stimulation. Cars go faster, food tastes better, clothes feel silkier and voices are softer and warmer. Thingslookbetter,too.Carsgleam,mealsarefeastsforthe eyes,garmentsclinginalltherightplaces,hairandeyesshine and flash, skin and muscles are soft or hard to the touch.108 / CREATIVE WRITING BRINGINGTHEHEROANDHEROINETOGETHER Withallthesesensationstolookforwardto,it’snotsurpris- ing that romance is such a popular form of fiction. All that remains now is to bring our hero and heroine together. Inaromance,whenheroandheroinemeet,theirfirstemo- tion should be any one of the following: X anger X dislike X suspicion X distrust X intimidation X embarrassment X fear X caution X irritation X reluctant attraction. Whatitshouldneverbeis‘love’.Thatwouldbetooeasyand as we know, without conflict, there is no story. HISTORICALSETTINGS The advantage of a contemporary romance is that you are writing about today’s characters and can set them against backgroundswithwhichyouarefamiliar.AswesawinChap- ter4,itisimportanttohaveaccurateknowledgeofalocation whether it isasmallprovincialtownor anexoticSouthSea island. Background information must also be accurate. Knowledge of the television industry would, therefore, be essential for anyone writing Sally and Nick’s story and for historical romances, accuracy is equally important.FINDINGTRUELOVE/ 109 Researchingtheperiod Foranhistoricalstorytoworkeffectively,therightmonarch must be on the throne and costumes, furnishings, vehicles, dialogue, attitudes and behaviour must all reflect the right period. Romantic etiquette through the ages is a complex area. In ordertowritebelievablehistoricalfiction,itisessentialthat theauthorunderstandsandisthoroughlyconversantwiththe conventions and rules of the period. Employingthelanguageoffans,forexample,isonemethod bywhichaheroinecouldembarkonaromanticliaisonwitha potential suitor. Like every other language, however, you have to know it to speak it. Youalsoneedtoknowwhowouldbedeemedanunsuitable marriagepartner andwhowouldbeconsideredanexcellent catch accordingtothe conventions of thetime.Methods of overcomingparentalopposition,schemesforbetteringthem- selves or plans for eloping must all be workable within the context of the historical setting you have chosen. Attendingbanquets Eatinganddrinkingwasjustasimportantinthepast,ifnot moreso.Forthehistoricalnovelist,it isvitalthatyouknow what food was served and how it was cooked. Financealsorearsitsuglyheadas,whilsttheheroandheroine willcarenothingformonetarygain,financialstatuswillhave enormous implications on any potential marriage plans.110 / CREATIVE WRITING In romantic fiction, the background is as important as the plotandaccuracy providesan idealbalancefortheescapist taleyoulongtotell. CHECKLIST 1. Would you fall in love with your hero? 2. Doesyourheroinepossessqualitiesthatareattractiveto both men and women readers? 3. Doyoucarewhetherornoteverythingworksouttheway your characters want it to? 4. Does your story have an upbeat ending? 5. Isthebackgroundinformationuptodate? 6. Do your characters react to one another and their sur- roundings through the five senses of touch, taste, sight, sound and smell? 7. Issexportrayedwithinthecontextofalovingrelationship? ASSIGNMENT Selectoneofthefollowingpairsandwritethesceneoftheir first meeting, conveying their reactionsthrough a combina- tion of dialogue and action: X A male lawyer whose brilliance in court led to a miscar- riage of justice against the young woman’s father. X A female hospital administrator, charged with cutting costs, and a male paediatrician. X Aminorlady-in-waitingatQueenElizabethI’scourtand a Spanish courtier.8 Haunting,ThrillingandKilling INTRODUCINGANOTEOFSUSPENSE Forsomewriters,thethrillofthechasehaslittletodowith love.Theirpreferenceisforghostandhorrorstoriesandthe opportunity theyoffer to take their writing to the limits of their imagination. Explainingtheinexplicable Ghoststakemanyformsandappear innovelsinarangeof guises and moods. They may be: X friendly X hostile X sad X happy X mischievous X malevolent X humorous X helpful X obstructive X manipulative X powerful X possessive X terrifying X comforting. 111112 / CREATIVE WRITING Inadditiontoallthosequalities,theformtheytakecouldbe: X a restless spirit X a contented resident X a poltergeist X a messenger from the past, present or future. Some ghosts assume clearly visible human form, others are opaqueandsomearesimplyashapelesspresencebuttheone thingtheyusuallyhaveincommonistheabilitytomaterialise and disappear at will. Diggingupthepast Ghostlycharactersarenodifferentfromanyotherprotago- nists and should be treated accordingly. Youneedtodigdeepintotheirpastsothattheirbackground offers an excellent reason for their current existence. Their past will also explain their attitude to the mortals they encounter. Forthemortalcharacters,whethertheghostisfrighteningor friendly,theinitialmeetingmusthaveanelementofsuspense – a creaking floorboard, sudden icy draught, a slamming door or window. CONFRONTINGTHEFEARSWITHIN Whilstnoteveryhorrorstoryfeaturesaghost,thetwogenres often overlap as both set out to frighten the reader.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 113 CASESTUDY:BOBLOVESTOSHOCK Bob is a mature English Literature student. His special interest is horror and his writing is colourful and imaginative. Unfortunately, he is inclined to let his imagination run away with him, filling his stories with so much blood and gore that the shock effect he strives for is lost. Until he can tone down the imagery by taking a more subtle approach, he will fail to achieve his full potential as a horror writer. Horrorstoriesexploitourfearsandshockusintofacingthe thing we believe to be lurking in the shadows. If you are frightened of spiders, for example, it’s bad enough if you see one crawling up your arm. Imagine how much worse it would be if you were locked in a dark room with dozens of them running around you. You might not be able to see them but you’d certainly know they were there. Infact,theyneednotbethereatall,yousimplyhavetobelieve theyareandyourimaginationwilldotherestforyou.Before long,you’llstarttofeelthemcrawlingupyourlegsandover your body. Confrontingyourworstnightmare Horrorfictionisbasedontheprincipleofconfrontationwith yourworstnightmareandcommonphobiasareusedtogreat effect in both ghost and horror stories. The prospect of spending the night in a haunted house, for example,mercilesslyexploitsournaturalfearsofthedarkand isolation.Amongthespookysensationsandincidentsguar- anteed to scare us silly are:114 / CREATIVE WRITING X being cut-off from the outside world X lack of warmth and light X no visible escape route X having supporting characters mysteriously disappearing one by one. Losingcontrol Theunderlyingthemeofthescenariosfeaturedaboveisthat of powerlessness. Once a character is trapped in a situation, they must rely heavilyontheirwitsforsurvivalandifthey’vehadthosewits frightenedoutofthem,wewon’tholdoutmuchhopefortheir chances. Lossofcontrolorfree-willisanotherverypowerfulthemein ghost and horror stories and includes: X beingunderattackfrommonsters,e.g.werewolves,vam- pires, zombies etc. X being trapped alone with your worst nightmare X havingyourmindand/or actionscontrolledbysomeone evil X being unable to find an escape route, i.e. every road you takeleadsbacktowhereyoustarted X beingunabletodistinguishbetweenrealityandfalsehood, i.e. are you insane? X being the onlyone to recognise the growing danger, i.e. being quite alone.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 115 CONTRASTINGNORMALITYWITHTERROR Contrastingfearoftheunknownwithabackgroundoffamil- iarity produces an immensely strong feeling of terror and suspense. Creatinganelementofdoubt Picture a scene of contented domesticity. A housewife is tackling the routine chores when the phone rings. Just as she is about to pick up the receiver, it stops. Nothing parti- cularlyunusualhere,justawrongnumber.Unless,ofcourse, the same thing happens continually throughout the day. Bythetimeherhusbandreturnshomefromwork,ourhouse- wifeisabundleofnerves.Hemanagestocalmher,puttingit down to phone engineers working on the line. That evening theyarewatching TV when thewife hears a noise outside. Husband investigates but can see nothing. Thecatstrollsinthroughtheopendoorandtheylaughthe incident off. Inbedthatnight,thewifeiswokenbythephoneringing.Her husbandstirsbutdoesn’twakensoshemakesherwaydown- stairstoansweritbutwhenshepicksupthereceiver,theline isdead.Shereturnstothebedroomandclimbingbackinto bed,snugglesclosetoherhusbandbutsomethingdoesn’tfeel right.Shetriesinvaintorousehimanddiscoversheisdead, his face a contorted mask of fear. Providinganexplanation Lull the reader into a false sense of security by providing credibleexplanationswhenthestrangeeventsbeginsothat, when the terror is revealed, it scares them as much as the central character.116 / CREATIVE WRITING Justwhenyouthoughtitwasallover Depending on the style of the story you are writing, it is sometimes possible to add even more impact to the tale byrevivingthemonsterjustlongenoughforonelastattack. The central character has fought and vanquished his foe and is feeling justifiablyeuphoric. Nothing can harm him now,thetown/city/worldissavedandlifeisrapidlyreturn- ing to normal. Just when you thought it was all over, however, whatever grisly being is left after our hero has finished with it hauls itself painfully back from the dead and makes one last, usually unsuccessful, lunge towards him. Layingthefoundationforasequel Alternatively,asyouapproachtheendofyournovel,youmay already be thinking about a sequel. Ifso,ithelpstogiveahintthatthemeansaretheretorecreate theterror.Aflickeroflifeinatwitchinglimb,anunnoticed podoregg,anindicationthattheconditionswhichgaverise to theterrorcouldbereproducedif certainconditions were recreated. WRITINGAMURDERMYSTERY Whilstmurdersfrequentlytakeplaceinbothghostandhorror stories, we can derive comfort from the fact that the perpe- trators are products of the author’s vivid imagination. Themortalmurdererisaverydifferentkettleoffishasheor she may be based on a real person or event.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 117 Avoidingtruestories Allwritersexploit informationgleanedfromthemediabut care must be taken to protect innocent victims of true-life crime.Thediscoveryofamurdervictim’sremainsoranold newspaper cutting might trigger your imagination but for thefamiliesofthoseinvolved,itisatraumafromwhichthey willneverfullyrecover.Byallmeansusetrue-lifecasesasa frameworkforyourstoriesbutthebackground,characters and plot should be your own fictional creation. Employinganamateurdetective Fortoday’scrimewriter,thegiftedamateurdetectiveinthe styleofAgathaChristie’sMissMarpleisathingofthepast. Nowadaystheamateurisusuallysomeonewhohappenedto be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Having stumbled across a crime, they become entangled in the events which followandareforcedtosolvethemysteryinordertoextricate themselves from the situation. The attitude of the professional policeman in all of this is either one of outright hostility or downright suspicion. Indeed, our unwilling sleuths could well find themselves on the run from the law and unable to convince anyone of their innocence. Consultingaspecialist Novels featuring amateur detectives are usually set against specialistbackgroundsreflectingareasoftheirauthors’own expertise.EllisPeters’medievalmonk,BrotherCadfael,for exampleandJonathanGash’sroguishantiquesdealerLove- joy are just two such successful fictional sleuths.118 / CREATIVE WRITING Inthistypeofnovel,thefascinatingbackgroundsgiveriseto sub-plots and back stories which are as gripping to the readerasthecrimebeingsolved.Ifanewspecialistamateur sleuthistobreakintothisovercrowdedfieldoffiction,their background must be completely different from any other detective series currently on the bookshelves. Relyingontheprofessionals ‘Policeprocedurals’,whereaprofessionalpoliceofficersolves the crime,feature up-to-the-minute police methodsandthe latestadvancesinforensicscience.Accuracyisvitalandthe detectiveneedstobeafairlycolourfuloreccentriccharacter. CASESTUDY:SUEENJOYSAGOODMURDER Sue is a great fan of murder mysteries and her clerical job at the local police station has given her an excellent insight into police procedures. Drawing on the knowledge she has gained through her work, she is in the process of creating a female Detective Inspector and is currently planning a murder mystery novel featuring a back story dealing with sexual harassment within the police force. CHOOSINGAMURDERWEAPON Thechoiceofmurderweaponshouldberealistic,bearing in mindthatthecauseofdeathcouldbeanyoneofthefollowing: X a blow from a blunt instrument X stabbing with a knife or sharp implement X poisoning X shooting X drowning X strangulation X suffocation.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 119 Killingeffectively Whicheverweaponandmethodyouselect,youmustbesure that itwillworkandknowwhat effectsitwillhaveonyour victim.Forexample,ifyouintendtostab,shootorphysically attackyourvictim,couldyouanswerthefollowingquestions? X How much blood will there be? X What shape will the wound be? X Howmuchforcewillbeneededfortheblowtobeeffective? X How long will the victim take to die? Poisoningthevictim Poisoning the victim’s food is a favourite method but here again, it is imperative that you know a few basic facts: X Is the poison easily detectable? X Does it have a distinctive taste/odour? X What quantities are you likely to need? X Is it readily available and obtainable? X What symptoms will the victim display? X How long will the victim take to die? Killingbyaccident Occasionally a victim is killed by accident. They may fall down rickety steps and break their necks, have something heavyfallonthemorbelockedinthecellarofanempty house. Under these circumstances, they tend to be victims of their ownevilplans,havinghatchedtheplotandfallenintotheir own trap. Occasionally, however, they are innocent, their death leading to untold problems for the character who was instrumental in causing it in the first place.120 / CREATIVE WRITING Whenplanningamurder, beabsolutelysure ofyour facts andremember,thesimplertheplan,themorelikelyitisto succeed. PLOTTINGANDPLANNING A plot is simply what happens in a storyand plot develop- ment depends a great deal on your characterisation. Your characters’ reactions to a given situation will have a strong influenceonyourplot.Inafamilysaga,forexample, thestorywillbecentredaroundonecharacter’srelationship withtheirfamilyandthepeopletheyencounter astheirtale unfolds. Incontrast,crimenovelsarecentredaroundthesolutionof the crime so that, whilst it is essential to have a strong pro- tagonist,thebookmustbecarefullyplottedinordertokeep uptheinterest.Beforeyoubegintowritethebook,youmust be very clear where all the twist and turns, clues and red herrings will occur. Youshouldalsotakenoteofthefollowingadvicefromcrime- writerSusanMoody:‘Youmustplayfairwiththereader.No twin brothers produced in the last chapter. Share the clues with the reader, your job is to hide them as skilfullyasyou can.’ Planningyournovel Nomatterwhatthegenre,youshouldalwaysdraftoutaplan oroutlinewhichtakestheworkthroughfromitsbeginningto its logical end.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 121 Thishelpsyoutoplotboththemainthemeandanysub-plots or‘backstories’withinaflexibleframework.Aswesawwith the plan of obstacles to Sally’s romance in Chapter 7, far more is going on than just her love affair with Nick. Eachstageoftheplotmustbesetoutwithintheframeofa chapter-by-chapter outline, so that you can see at a glance exactlywhereandwheneachincidentoccurs. Using the plotline from Chapter 3 where Sallyaccidentally killsMark,Figure8showsthedraftplanofacrimenovel.As youcansee,thedetailisverysketchy.Atthisstagetheback story, or sub-plot, has been omitted but therewill be room within each frame to slot in details of Nick and Sally’s romance from our original plan. Anoutlineshouldberegardedasaflexibletool,whichmaybe alteredandshapedtosuitthecircumstances.Youhavetobe comfortablewiththeideaofchangingitround,takingsome bits out and moving others to more logical places. Devisingastoryboard Putting itoncomputergivesyouthefreedomtoalter itat will althoughitdoeshelpiftheplanisinconstantviewin storyboard or chart form while you are working. Some authors use wipe-clean boards or self-adhesive notelets whichcanbemovedaroundanddiscardedwhennecessary, whilst others prefer a large sheet of white paper, drafting theplanoutinpencil,colourcoding,erasingorcrossingout items where necessary. Whichevermethodyouselect,onceyouhaveaplantowhich you can work, it is much easier to slot in the plot changes122 Chap1 Chap2 Chap3 Sallyreturnsto£atto¢ndMarkinfoultemper. Sally¢ghtsMarko¡andheleaves.Laterinbed Insu⁄cientevidencetoholdSally.Ino⁄ce, Shesaystheira¡airisover,hasmetNick.Ends iswokenbyphone.It’sNick.Markhasattacked papersredrugsstoryshewasworkingonare withMark’sattempttorapeher. him.Hecomesover.Lovescene.Doorbellrings. missing.Shehearsnoise,seesNickri£ing Police.Markisdead,killedbyblowfrom throughMark’sdeskand¢nding¢le.Confronts paperweightfromSally’so⁄cedesk. him,hisstoryislame,distractshim.Endswith hergrabbing¢leandrunning. Chap4 Chap5 Chap6 SallyonChannelTunneltrain.Thinksshesees Atmother’shouseinFrance.Claudebehaving SallyconfrontsNick.DidhemurderMark?He Nickbutitisalookalike.Relaxes,studies¢le, strangely.Sophielookspaleandill.Sally swearshisinnocence.Sayshewasworkingon ¢ndlinkswithbothMarkandNick.Endswith discoversClaudesearchingherthings.They drugscaseforrivalnewsstation.Lovescene. herleavingtrainunawaresheisbeingfollowed. argue.ShedecidestoreturntoUK.Endswith EndswithSallywakingto¢ndNick,Sophie herseeingNickingardenwithSophie. and¢lehavealldisappeared. Chap7 Chap8 Chap9 SallyreturnstoUKandstudio.Checks Sallyinlockedroom.Hearsscu¥eoutside. Sophiesu¡eringwithdrawal.Dooropens,itis computer,¢ndscontactaddressindrugscase. Sophiehighondrugspushedin,doorlocked. Claude,followedSophie.Rescuesgirlsbut Breaksinbutiscaptured.Recognisesmajor Sophieconfessessheisa‘mule’(carrier)forthe insistsunsafetogotopolice.Theyreturnto drugsbaron.EndswithNickarriving,revealed drugsbaron.Sheisterri¢edofsomeone.Ends Sally’s£at.Endswithherdiscoveringit asgangmember. withfailedescapeattempt. ransacked. Chap10 Chap11 Chap12 SallybegsClaudetocallpolice.Herefuses.She Nickagitated.GrabsSally,shegrappleswith WhichmancanSallytrust?Sheappearsto triestocallanambulanceforSophiebuthesays him,managestoescape,runsstraightinto chooseClaudebuthegiveshimselfawayby hewillgetadoctor.EndswithSophietryingto Claudewhobringsherbackinside.He tellingherhowMarkwaskilled(couldn’tknow warnSallyaboutsomethingbutbeforeshecan confrontsNick,bothmenaccuseeachother. this).Fight.Nicksavesthem revealsheis namenames,Nickarrives. detectiveworkingundercover.Endswith promiseofromance. Fig. 8. Outline for crime novel.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 123 whenandwheretheyoccurandbuildupavisualpictureof the completed novel. Avoidingerrors Anothergreatadvantageofproducingavisualaidlikethisis that errors in the storyline can be detected at a glance. If,forexample,youhaveacharacterwhowaskilledinChap- ter3unaccountablyturningupinChapter5,youcanremedy this before you get too far into the book. Awrittenplanallowsyoutoseewhereeachcharacterisat anygivenmomentandtocalculatehowtomovethemfrom and to each location. It also prevents you forgetting any minor characters along the way. TWISTINGTHETALE Everycrimestorycontainsanelementofsuspense,provided by the twists and turns in the plot. Layingafalsetrail Twistingthetaleinvolveslayingafalsetrailinsuchawaythat any surprise ending is a feasible one. The clues must be double-edged, so that whilst carefully steering the reader in thewrong direction, on closer examination they actually lead to the right one. Forexample,inourstoryaboutSallyBlake,theminuteNick meets Sophie, he appears to be following Route (a) in the chartinFigure9,ditchingSallyinfavourofhersisterwhen, infact,heisactuallyfollowingRoute(b).Asbothroutesare equally valid, neither Sally nor the reader will feel cheated when the truth is revealed.124 /CREATIVE WRITING Nickappearstobevery (a) He finds her sexually attractive interestedinSophie (b) He recognises that she is a drug addict Whenquestionedby (a)Hewantstoditchherforhersister Sally,Nickisevasive (b)Hewantstoprotectherfromthetruth Nickiscageyabouthis (a)Heisavillain past (b)Heisadetectiveworkingundercover NickandSophie (a)Theyhaveruno¡together disappeartogether (b)Nickhastakenhertoaclinictokick herdrughabit Fig. 9. Twist clue format. The reader should be deliberately led to believe that the first answers, Route (a) are correct. However, the second answers are equally valid and Route (b) is, in fact, the correct one. Inatwiststory,thereadershouldbekeptguessingrighttothe end. For detailed information on how towrite twist-in-tale short stories, see my book in How To Books’ guides series entitled Writing for Magazines. Planting redherrings Redherrings,unliketwistsinthetale,aresimplyfalsetrails whicharedesignedtoleadyoudownaproverbialblindalley. Eachsuspectisfurnishedinturnwithanalibiandthereisan element of challenge involved whereby the reader is being invited tounravel the mystery. Forexample,SallyisinitiallytheobviouschoiceforMark’s murderer but can be eliminated by a helpfully detailed pathologist’s report.HAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 125 Thisleavesuswiththestandardmurdermysteryquestion:‘if she didn’t kill him, who did?’ Nick, our next most obvious suspect,isreleasedbythepolice,leavingusfreetosendthe readeroffonanumberoffalsetrailsbeforetheresolutionof the mystery in the final chapter. LOOKINGTOTHEFUTURE Futuristicstoriesareenduringlypopularandthescience fiction writer can choose to write any of the following types of story, providing theyare set against a scientific background: X aromance X adventure story X political thriller X psychological thriller X murder mystery X horror story. Explainingtheinexplicable Unlike fantasy, which features magical creatures such as goblins and gremlins within parallel worlds and time zones,sciencefictionexplorestheconceptsandimplications of space and time travel, scientific developments and theo- retical possibilities. Thepremiseyouuseneednotbeprovenscientificfactbutit musthaveafactualbasisanditmustbetheoreticallypos- sible.Withintheseconstraints,thesciencefictionwritercan approach the genre from a variety of angles:126 / CREATIVE WRITING X exploringtheinfluenceoftechnologicalchangefromboth negative and positive angles X voicing concerns for the future of the planet X exploringthepossibledamagingeffectofnewtechnology when taken to the edges of theoretical probability X using technological advances to provide a futuristic set- ting for an adventure story or political novel. Recognisinganalien Aliens, like ghosts, can be hostile or friendly, depending on thetoneofthestory.Manyarehumanoidbutiftheyare,they alwayshaveonestrangecharacteristicbywhichtheycanbe identified. Of those that aren’t humanoid, hostile aliens tend to be slimyorscaly,whilstfriendlyonesareusuallycuddlyand/ or furry. However, watch out for aliens disguised as earth creatures. These may take the form of insects or small mammals, only revealing their true identity under certain traumatic conditions. AsallaliensfunctiondifferentlyfromEarthlings,oneeffec- tive method of introducing humour is to give your alien a slightlyirritatingquirkorhabitwhichmayormaynotbethe same as any special powers or abilities it may possess. Travellingintimeandspace Traveltothepastoftenaimstopreventacatastropheinthe future or tackles political issues such as what might have happened if historical events had taken a different turn. TraveltothefuturetendstoexplorethehumanpotentialforHAUNTING, THRILLING AND KILLING / 127 self-destruction,theeffectsofover-mechanisation,pollution and nuclear warfare. Discovering newworlds Wenowknowsomuchaboutourownsolarsystemthat,if youwishtowriteaboutinter-planetarytravel,youneedto go much further afield. Duetothevastdistancesinvolved,youhavetofindwaysof preventingyourcharactersfromdyingofoldagebeforethey reachtheirdestinationandthereisanumberofmethodsyou can use: X suspended animation X deep freezing X ‘warp’ speed drives for your spaceship X ‘hyperspace’ – a dimension where distance is reduced to zero X a ‘generation’ starship, i.e. a moving, living colony in space. Losingsightofthestory Sciencefictionhassomuchtoofferthewriterinthewayof technological background, exotic settings and political themes that it is all too easy to lose sight of the characters and plot. Inordertoensurethatthesettingdoesnotswampthestory, followthesamerulesthatapplytoeveryotherformoffiction writing:well-drawn,believablecharactersandastorythatis carefully planned and plotted from beginning to end.128 / CREATIVE WRITING CHECKLIST 1. Have you written a chapter-by-chapter plan of your novel? 2. Have you charted the plot developments? 3. Haveyouthoroughlyresearchedthebackgroundtoyour story? 4. Ifyourstoryisbasedontrueevents,haveyoufictionalised the characters sufficiently? 5. Isyourstorylinecredibleandwithintheboundsofprob- ability? 6. Haveyourevealedjustenoughofthestoryforthereader tousetheirimaginationtofullyinvolvethemselvesinthe plot developments? ASSIGNMENT A teenage girl is babysitting for acouple new to the neigh- bourhood. She hears a noise upstairs, investigates but can findnothingamiss,thetwochildrenaged3and9aresound asleep. Continue this storyline, including the following points: X otherunusualeventswhichoccurthroughouttheevening X an apparently innocent explanation of the noise X a more sinister explanation of the noise X the discovery of something relevant to the noise X theimplicationstothegirlandthefamilyofthisincident.9 WritingforChildren THINKINGBACKTOYOURCHILDHOOD For many novice writers, the desire to write for children springs from their enjoyment in making up stories for their own offspring. Tellingbedtimestories Despitetheinfluenceoftelevisionandcomputers,bedtimein acomfortinglylargenumberof familiesisstillsynonymous with storytime. Parents still enjoy reading to their children, as they were readtowhentheyweresmallandwilljumpatthechanceto digouttheiroldfavouritesandintroducethemtoabrand new audience. Sometimes,however,thestoriesneedalittlealteration.Per- haps the vocabulary is too difficult or the story rather frightening. We may feel a few changes are in order and before long, we are making up our own stories, replacing the leading characters with ourselves and our children. Entertainingthefamily Bothchildandparentgainagreatdealfromthisexercise.The childrenenjoybeingpartofanightlyadventureandparents have fun letting their imagination run riot. 129130 / CREATIVE WRITING There may well come a point when an admiring relative or friend urgesyou towrite these stories down and turn them into a book and if this isyour intention, bear in mind that: X familystoriesusuallyincludelotsoflittlepersonalasides and ‘in’ jokes X thestoriesoftenfeatureincidentswhichareamusingonly because they happened to family members X telling stories to your own children is enjoyable because they understand and relate to your sense of humour. Consequently,theverythingsaboutyourstorieswhichappeal toyourownchildrenmayholdlittleornointerestforanyone outside your circle of family and friends. Broadeningyourhorizons If you intend to write work of a publishable standard for children, you must considerably broaden your horizons. Beginbyexploringyourattitudetochildreningeneral.Ifyou lovethem allunreservedly,believingthemtobedelightfully angeliccreatures,children’swriting isprobablynotforyou. LOOKINGATLIFETHROUGHACHILD’SEYES In order towrite effectively forchildren, you need to think andreactastheydo.Tohelpyoulookatlifethroughtheeyes of a child, consider how a tiny baby functions within its environment. Under normal circumstances, a baby cries for the following reasons: X hunger X discomfortWRITING FOR CHILDREN / 131 X pain X tiredness. Welearnhowtostopthebabycryingthroughacombination of instinct, trial and error. Manipulatingadults Atthesametime,thebabyalsousestrialanderrortomanip- ulate the adults who pander to its every need. Itlearnsveryquicklyhowtostimulatethedesiredresponse in its parents and understands all toowell how to react in ordertoavoidcertainsituations.Ata veryyoungage,the babywillbecapableofquitecomplexbehaviourguaranteed to drive its parentsto distraction. It is at this point that the baby begins to form the very accurate opinion that adultsarehighly irrational creatures. Thinking rationally Childrenarerefreshinglydirectintheirthoughtsandactions. Incontrast,adultbehaviourcanappearextremelyirrational. For example,thepersonwhopraisesyoufordrawingapic- tureonablanksheetofpaperwill,fornoreasonimmediately obvioustotheaveragetoddler,punishyouseverelyfordraw- ing a similar picture on a blank wall. By the time the child is walking and talking, it knows that everything it does has a certain risk factor attached to it. When attempting something new, it runs a 50/50 chance of either being praised or getting into trouble.132 / CREATIVE WRITING Pokingfunatauthority Onceachildhasbeguntoprogressthroughtheschoolsystem, itwillbegintorelatemuchmoretoslapstickhumour,as demonstratedbytheenduringpopularityofcomicssuchas The Dandyand The Beano (published by D. C. Thomson). Childrenadorestorieswhichpokefunatauthority,anaspect oftheirnaturewhichRoaldDahl,consideredbysometobe the greatest children’s author of our time, shamelessly exploited. CASESTUDY:VICENTERTAINSHISGRANDSON Vic is a retired journalist. His column ran in the local press for over twenty years but now he has time on his hands, he would like to try his hand at writing for children. He used to make up stories for his own children and enjoys retelling them now to his seven-year-old grandson but recently noticed the child’s attention wandering. When questioned, the boy confessed that he found the stories old-fashioned and said he would rather be playing computer games. Understandinghowitfeels Ifyouintendtowriteforchildren,youmustbeabletorelate to their anti-authoritarian emotions. There will be many significant incidents in your childhood that you have carried with you into your adult life. Try to remember exactly how you felt when they happened, what emotions you experienced and how long it took you to get over them.WRITING FOR CHILDREN / 133 It issurprisingjusthowmuchstayswithusintoadulthood, especiallyifwehavebeenatthereceivingendofparticularly spiteful or thoughtless behaviour. Beingsmallandpowerless Theoneemotionthatissharedbyallchildrenisthefeelingof powerlessness in the face of adult supremacy. Lookingatlifethroughachild’seyesgivesyouaverydifferent perspectivefromthatofagrown-up.Adultscancomeandgo astheyplease,buywhattheylike,eatwhattheylike,doand say what they like and more importantly, they are big and powerful. Achild,ontheotherhand,issmallandpowerless,subjectto the whims and wishes of pretty well anyone bigger than themselves. It is surely no coincidence that, as we saw in the previous chapter, the concept of being powerless is a recurring theme in horror stories. Relatingtotherightagegroup Beforeyouattempttowritestoriesforchildren,decidewhich agegroupyourelatetobest.Childrenareasvariedintheir tastesandinterestsasadultsbutwhilstthereisnolimitonthe themes you can explore, vocabulary and style is a very dif- ferentmatter.AsMargaretNash,authorofmanychildren’s books, including the popular ‘Class 1’ series, explains: Plots have to move much faster for children than adults and each chapter should include some particular interest as well as some form and progression.134 / CREATIVE WRITING Readwithawriter’seyebookswrittenfortheagegroupof your choice and in order to establish the vocabulary and concepts you should be using, study National Curriculum reading schemes. Ifyoucan,offeryourservicestothelocalschoolasavolunteer helper and read stories to the children. During these story sessions,assesstheirreactionsbynotingthefollowingpoints: X How soon do they begin to fidget? X Whichstoriesholdtheirattentionandwhichdotheyfind boring? X What type of story do they enjoy the most? X Which stories stimulate reactions and why? PLAYINGAROUNDWITHIDEAS Takeagoodlookatthelatestchildren’sbooks,particularly thosewhicharerecommendedfor usewithintheNational Curriculum.Youwillfindthattheydealwithastaggering variety of topics, ranging from serious lifestyle issues to fantasy adventures. Whenwritingforveryyoungchildren,youneedtousesimple, basic concepts and familiar situations. As their social skills develop,humourplaysamuchlargerpartandincludesslap- stick, puns, one-line jokes and wisecracking characters. Once the child approaches teenage, the range of topics matches that of adult material, the main difference being the fast-paced style, vocabulary and attitude. The teenage novel is a rapidly expanding market for authors who havetheabilitytoidentifywiththisdifficultstageofachild’s development.WRITING FOR CHILDREN / 135 WRITINGFOREDUCATIONALMARKETS Writingforchildreninvolvesbothentertainingandeducating the reader and for non-fiction writers, there is a varietyof opportunity to do just that. Readingcomicsandmagazines Glancingthroughthewealthofcomicsandmagazinesonthe newsagents’ shelves, you will find something for all age groups and interests. Newspapers and magazines occasion- allyfeaturepagesforchildrenandmaytakenature,craftor activity articles. Whilstmanycomics,especiallythosedesignedforpre-school children, are produced by the makers of television pro- grammes, toys and computer games, there is still scope in thismarketforauthorswhocanwritetotherequiredformat. Moreover, there are many junior versions of national clubs and societies producing theirown magazines, both in print and online. Writers who demonstrate that they have the abilitytowriteaboutaparticularspecialismwiththeclarity requiredforayoung readershipcanfindthemselvesingreat demand. Educatingyoung readers Bothnon-fictionandstorybooksforchildrenofferenormous scopetoteachyoung readersabouttheworldaroundthem. The following is just a taste of what can be covered: X conservation and ecological issues X engineering X geography X history X information technology136 / CREATIVE WRITING X manufacturing X science. Bearinginmindtheexpertiserequired,theeducationalbook market can be quite difficult to break into. HarcourtEducationalPublishers,theUK’sleadingpublisher ofeducationalmaterials,admitsthatveryfewofthehundreds of unsolicited manuscripts they receive each year are accepted.Almostallofthematerialtheypublishisspecially commissioned from experienced educational authors. However,ifyoureallythinkyouhavesomethingworthlook- ing at, Harcourt has this advice for first-time authors: X familiariseyourselfwiththepublisher’scatalogue–it’sno good sending your best poetry collection to a publisher that specialises in non-fiction X itmaybeworthtalkingtothepublisherinadvance,tofind out their needs and current projects and see if what you propose fits in with their plans X makesureyoupitchyourwritingattherightlevelforthe intended reader – remember that most educational pub- lishersproducematerialforchildrentoreadthemselves, not for adults to read to them X thinkcarefullyabouttheageandinterestlevelsofyour reader,andchoosethecontentofyourwritingaccordingly X demonstrate any experience you have of working with children, particularly if you have used the materials youwanttopublishWRITING FOR CHILDREN / 137 X this maysound obvious, but to get noticed, you need an original idea (The ‘orphan becomes heroic wizard’ plot line has been taken) ‘Thebiggestproblemwithmostoftheproposalswereceiveis thatthewriterhasnotthoughtproperlyaboutthereader,’says oneofHarcourt’sPrimaryLiteracyPublishers.‘Adultstend tomakeassumptionsaboutwhatchildrenliketoreadabout, andtheyusuallyplumpforthe‘‘cutesy’’topicsforveryyoung children–bunnies,bears,familiesofelvesatthebottomofthe garden.Ifthestoryisover1,000wordslong,theaveragereader willbeabout7or8yearsold–andunlikelytobeinterestedin theadventuresofBarney theBunny. Our other problem is that we publish mostly large, and carefullystructuredreadingschemes.Individualstorysub- missions,orideasforasmallseriesofbooks,veryrarelyfit intoourportfolio.Butweareopentogoodideasandjust occasionallyastorycomesinthatdemonstratesrealtalent– it’s really pleasing when that happens.’ Beingpoliticallycorrect Politicalcorrectnessisanincreasingfeatureofallwalksoflife and as with all good intentions, the basic idea behind the principle is sound. In its best form, political correctness addresses, among other things, the attitudes and concepts which give rise to: X racism X sexism X prejudice against people with disabilities138 / CREATIVE WRITING X theconceptthatatwo-parentfamilywith2.4childrenis superior to any other X class prejudice. CASESTUDY:BENTRIESANEXPERIMENT Ben is a science teacher at a large comprehensive school. Utilising his knowledge of school systems and the National Curriculum, he devises a plot in which a group of children working on a class project make an amazing scientific discovery. They show their teacher who promptly takes all the credit and the children have to combine forces to prove to the school’s head that they are the true inventors of the formula. The vocabulary is correctly pitched and as they are based on Ben’s own pupils, the characters are very realistic. Whatarelittleboys/girlsmadeof? Until relatively recently, most traditional children’s fiction depictedboysastheleaders,solvingmysteries,forminggangs and generally running the show. Girls were grudgingly allowed to tag along in order to provide refreshments and be rescued whenever necessary. Anystrong-willedgirlswhounderstoodanythingmechanical orwereinanywaysportywerelabelled‘tomboys’andnever quite fitted in with the rest of the group. Schoolstorieshavealwaysbeenandstillareimmenselypop- ular but the school featured was invariably the boarding variety and very definitely upper middle class. Changingtimes Timeshavechangedandthankfully,attitudeshavemovedon. Black,AsianandforeigncharactersarenolongerportrayedWRITING FOR CHILDREN / 139 ascaricatures,whilsttoughgirlsandsensitiveboysareper- fectly acceptable. Today’s publishers acknowledge that not every child comes fromatwo-parentfamilyandthatgoodnessanddecencyare not necessarily commensurate with a white, middle-class background. Theinfluencethesepositivechangesinattitudehavehadon children’s fiction should not be under-estimated. Reflectingtoday’slifestylesandvalues Modernchildren’sfictionreflectstoday’slifestylesandvalues in a fast-moving, multicultural society. Inanageofinteractivecomputersandtheinformationsuper- highway, youngsters have never been sowell-informed. The children’s author of today keeps abreast of the latest tech- nogical developments, is up-to-date with current school systems and relates to modern attitudes and concepts. ANTHROPOMORPHISINGANIMALS Atfirstglance,‘anthropomorphising’orhumanisinganimal characterswouldappeartobetheidealwaytocaptureand hold a child’s attention. Changeallthecharactersinyourstorytocuddlyanimals, dresstheminpicturesqueclothes,placetheminacountry settingandyoucanforgetallaboutmoderntechnology,the kids will love them to bits.140 / CREATIVE WRITING Assumingaparentalrole Anthropomorphised animals do, it is true, have instant appeal but they also perform a variety of other functions. They can be: X adults who behave like children X children with capabilities far exceeding their actual age X naughty to make a moral point X a metaphor for their human counterpart. Havingyouranimalplayingthepartofasillyadultoffersthe young readertheopportunitytofeelsuperiorandadoptthe parent role. The naughty animal can get into all sorts of scrapes from which it has to be rescued, making a moral point in the process. Youranimalcharactermay,however,beachild.Inthiscase, itusuallyhasskills,commonsenseandabilitiesfarbeyondits true age but because it is an animal, this appears perfectly acceptable. Animalcharacterscanalsobeusedtoportrayfrighteningor threatening concepts. The most familiar examples are, per- haps, the themes used in traditional folk tales such as the threelittlepigsandthebigbadwolf.Themoralmessagesare always there but are more palatablewhen delivered by ani- mals rather than people. Appealingtoolderchildren Thereisnoagelimitforanthropomorphisedanimals.Books like Watership Downaimedatyoungteenstoadultshavea very powerful effect. The animal society they portray is a metaphor for its human counterpart and as such, complexWRITING FOR CHILDREN / 141 issues can be dealt with in a way which will be readily absorbed by younger readers. WRITINGABOUTCHILDREN Attitudesinchildren’spublishinghavechangeddramatically over recent years. Although animal stories continue to be popular,themajorityofchildren’sbookstodayhaveachild as their central character. Solvingaproblem In the same way that conflict is an essential ingredient in adult fiction, giving your central character a problem to solve is the main concept behind any children’s story. Thebasicformulawhichcanbeappliedtochildren’sfiction is: character – problem – solution bearing inmindthatthechildcentralcharactermustbethe one to find the solution to the problem. It is tempting to produceakindlyadulttosavethedaybutthiswoulddefeat theobjectoftheexercise. Providingtheproblem Asageneralrule,adultsinchildren’sstoriestendtobeoneor a combination of the following: X stupid X self-absorbed X eccentric X unhelpful X downright nasty.142 / CREATIVE WRITING Theirmainfunctionisusuallytoperformtasksthatcannot be handled by the child characters, like operating heavy machinery or signing legal documents, to provide the humour or to be rescued as necessary. The adult character may also provide the problem to be overcome but is rarely of much practical use. Children need to be able to relate to the characters in their stories andallowinganadulttotakecontrolistantamounttoselling- out to the enemy. WRITINGPICTUREBOOKS Picture books present a whole new set of challenges. The pictures may perform a varietyof functions, depending on the type of book. They can: X tell the entire story without any text at all X provide an interactive dimension X provide an educational element X add to the tone (humorous, frightening, exciting etc.) X complement the story. Inpicturebooksfortheveryyoung,itshouldbepossiblefor thechildtounderstandwhat ishappeningpurelyfromthe pictures alone. Moving up in age, the illustrations should complement the storyline,addingdepthanddimensiontothestoryandhelp- ing to bring the characters alive. Findinganillustrator Itisnotagoodideatodrawthepicturesyourselfunlessyouare atrainedillustrator.Iftheideaforyourpicturebookisstrong enough, a publisher will find a suitable illustrator for you.WRITING FOR CHILDREN / 143 Because the illustrations are so important, this may take some time, possibly years rather than months. Due to the skillandtimeinvolvedinillustration,theartistoftenreceives a higher payment than the author. Ontheplusside,picturebooksaresoexpensivetoproduce that if your manuscript is accepted, you can be sure of the publisher’s commitment to you and your work. Creatinganinteractivedimension Onetypeofbookforchildrenthatyoucannotmissasyouscan thebookshelvesforideasistheinteractivebook.Thesecomein awiderangeofshapesandsizes,aimedatanequallywideage andabilityrange.Intheirsimplestform,thestoriesarevery basicanddesignedsothat,whenpagesarepressed,thepic- tures will make the appropriate sound. For slightly older children,thebooksinvitethechildtofindsymbolsscattered throughoutthepages,thenpressamatchingsymbolonabarat theside.Thisisdesignedtohelppromotethechild’sabilityto identify shapes as well as sounds. From there, the sounds become more complex, often issuing instructions to assist the child in completing more demanding tasks. Wholereadingschemesarenowbeingproducedusingthis kindoftechnologyandinordertofullyengagetheiryoung readersintheactivitieswithinthebooks,thestorieshaveto be visually stimulating. Familiar characters are ideal for this purpose and at the time of writing, the books are mainly either adaptations of well-known stories by very well-established children’s author/illustrators or feature familiar cartoon characters from the world of television and film.144 / CREATIVE WRITING Achievingqualitythroughtechnology Oneof thedrawbacksofmany interactivebooksisthatthe story can be sacrificed in favourof the technology. Finding authorswhopossesstheskillstowritecaptivatingstorieswith the required visual dimension can prove problematic. Thegrowthofthisfieldofchildren’swritinghasledthemajor publishing houses to begin seeking new authors for their interactive ranges. This is the first step towards opening uparelativelyclosedareaofwriting,soifyouhaveaback- groundinITandtheabilitytowritevisuallyandinnovatively forchildren,youmayfindthattheinteractivebookisagood place to begin. CHECKLIST 1. Haveyouchosenanagegroupthatyouidentifywithand areconfidentwillrelatetotheattitudesandbehaviourof the characters in your stories? 2. Isyourvocabularydesignedtobuildontheliteracyskills of your target age group in away that links in with the National Curriculum and publishers’ current reading schemes? 3. Is your story told from a child’s perspective? 4. Does your story reflect contemporary society? 5. Haveyouvisitedbookshops,libraries,schoolsetc.tofind outwhatbooksarepopularwith today’syoung reader? 6. Do yourchild characters solve the problem themselves?WRITING FOR CHILDREN / 145 ASSIGNMENT We have all experienced similar incidents to those listed below: X your sibling got a present and you didn’t X you got a present and your sibling didn’t X you won a prize X a childhood illness caused you to miss a treat X you fell over and hurt yourself and everyone laughed X a much-loved pet died X youwerehauledoutofyourdeskatschoolandtoldoffin front of the whole class for something you didn’t do. Thinkbacktoyourchildhoodandwritedowntheemotions you felt when such incidents occurred.10 SendingYourWork toaPublisher SEEINGYOURWORKINPRINT SurveysconductedbyboththeWorkers’EducationalAsso- ciationandadulteducationauthoritieshaveshownthatover 90percentofstudentsenroloncreativewritingcourseswith the intention of learning how to write for publication. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of the publishing world can, for some, come as a terribly cruel shock. Meetingthepublisher’srequirements Creativityis,ofcourse,a vitalingredientbut eventhemost giftedwriterwillfailintheirbidtoachievepublicationifthey areunabletofulfilcertaincriteria.Forexample,themajority ofmainstreamnewspaperandmagazineeditorsexpecttobe abletocontactyouviabothfaxandemailandthenon-fiction articles and features you write for them to: X be computer-produced in double-line spacing X bewrittentothespecifiedlength X cover previously-agreed subject matter X have a beginning, middle and an end X arrive by an agreed deadline. 146SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 147 Fictionformagazinesshouldbetypewritten,preferablyona PC,indouble-linespacingononesideonlyofA4whitepaper. Onacceptance,youmaywellbeaskedtore-submitthestory via e-mail or possibly on disk. Creativewriterswhoarepreparedtocomplywiththesecri- teriastandamuchgreaterchanceoffindingmarketsfortheir work than those who never consider the practical require- ments of writing for publication. Findingtherightmarket The following magazines usually welcome good, reliable contributors: X club X company ‘in-house’ X religious X school X special interest. Usefulmarketinformation,adviceonwritingtechniquesand newsofdevelopmentsinthepublishingworldcanbefoundin a number of writing magazines and on the Internet. Sub- scriptionaddressesand websitesarelistedattheendofthe book. PLAYWRITINGFORYOURLOCALDRAMAGROUP Itisnotoriouslydifficultfornewplaywrightstogettheirwork performed in the legitimate theatre but if you are lucky enough to have a repertory theatre in your locality, keep an eye out for schemes designed to encourage newauthors.148 / CREATIVE WRITING Regional Arts Councils occasionally sponsor competitions anddramaprojectsandoneortwoleadingplaywrightsrun schemesforyoungwriters.Itisworthkeepinganeyeonlocal websites and newspapers for scriptwriting projects in your area. Workingwithyourlocaldramagroup Oneway you may be able to seeyour plays performed is by contacting your local amateur dramatic company. Published plays are subject to performing rights payments andthisisanexpensemanyamateurgroupscanill-afford. Having a tame author who can keep them supplied with imaginative scripts is, therefore, a huge asset and provides the would-be playwright with a valuable training ground. WRITINGFORESTABLISHEDTVCHARACTERS If it is your intention towrite scripts for television, oppor- tunitiesareopeningupforpeopletowriteepisodesofprime- time soaps and drama series. More often than not, these programmes are team-written and production companies are always on the lookout for fresh talent to come up with new and innovative ideas. Inordertostandachanceofbeingsuccessful,yourdialogue mustberightforthecharactersthatappearweekinandweek out on these shows. Therefore, it is vital to choose a pro- grammeyouenjoyandarepreparedtowatchformonthsin ordertofullyappreciatehowthecharactersinteractwithone another. Goingoveroldground The ongoing challenge for programme makers is finding exciting and original storylines and where a long-runningSENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 149 soap is concerned, almost everything and anything has already been done. For a script to be considered, you need to be sure that it not only develops existing storylines but also has something fresh to offer a loyal audience. Oneusefulmethodistokeepabreastoftopicalissuesthatcan bewovenintoyourscripts.Thesecouldbeanythingfromthe imminentmarriageofamemberoftheRoyalFamilytothe latest educational or health initiative arising from headline storiesinthemedia.Makesureyouknowthetimeframefrom havingthescriptacceptedtoseeingitperformedonair.There isnopointincludingsomethingthatwillbeoldnewsbythe time the episode will be screened. Appealsforwriters,detailsofcompetitionsandinformation onhowtowriteforanumberofseriesandsoapscanbefound on the websites of several terrestrial television channels (listed on page 175). Some useful websites for scriptwriters arealsolistedonpage175. ENTERINGCOMPETITIONS Competitions offer enormous opportunities for writers in every field of writing but perhaps most particularly in the women’s magazinemarketwhere,for manywinners, they can be the first step towards a career as a novelist. Competitions are regularly listed in the writing press and often levy a legitimate entry fee of up to £10, but be aware that some advertisements, particularly in national newspapers, can be misleading.150 / CREATIVE WRITING Payingforprizes Poetsfinditespeciallydifficulttofindapublishingoutletfor theirwork,soitisnotsurprisingthattheycanfallvictimto unscrupulous advertisers. Theprizeispublicationinananthologywhichtheso-called ‘winners’are invited to purchase for anything from around £12upwards.Knowingthatfewwriterscanresisttheoppor- tunitytoseetheirworkinprint,thecompetitionorganisers canbesureofreceivingatleastoneifnotmoreordersfrom each entrant. The book, if it ever materialises, is generally poorly produced and contains few poems of any literary merit. The writers’ magazine Writers’ News has mounted a cam- paign against these competitions and refuses to feature advertisements for them. According to editor Richard Bell, competition winners should expect to receive a com- plimentarycopyofanyanthologycontainingtheirworkorif thisisnotpossible,itshouldatleastbeavailableinthelibrary. Selectingthesensibleoption Thereare,however,plentyofreputablebodiesrunningcom- petitionswhich,dependingontherules,conditionsandthe prizeonoffer,mayopenusefuldoorsforthewinningauthor. VANITYPUBLISHING Despiteallthewarningsregularlygiveninthewritingpress, noviceauthorsarestillpersuadedtopartwithmoneyinorder to see their work published in book form. Payingforpublication Thepriceforthisdubiousprivilegemaystartatfourfigures andcanescalatebeyondyourwildestimagination.HorrorSENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 151 storiesincludetalesofpeoplesellingtheirhomesandevery- thingtheyowninordertopayforsomethingthatis,asfaras the commercial book world is concerned, completely worthless. Ifyouaredrivenbycountlessrejectionsfromlegitimatepub- lishinghousestoinvestigatetheworldofthevanitypublisher, be aware that: 1. their income is derived from being paid to produce a book; once this part of the bargain is fulfilled, they have no need to waste any expenditure on marketing 2. vanity publishers are under no obligation to distribute the book and rarely have distribution outlets 3. booksproducedbyvanitypublishersusuallylookunpro- fessionalandareeasilyidentifiedbybookretailerswho will have little interest in ordering them 4. thepublishedbooksarelegallythepropertyofthepub- lisher;anypaymentsyoumakearepurelytocoverthecost of production 5. remember the golden rule publishers pay you. SELF-PUBLISHING Self-publishing differs from vanity publishing in that the author sets up and controls the publication and marketing of their book. This involves paying a printer, finding retail outlets and handlingallthedistributionandpublicity.Itis,therefore, imperativethatbeforeyouembarkontheexpenseofpub- lishing your own book, you are quite sure that there is a market for it.152 / CREATIVE WRITING Findingagapinthemarket Themajorityofsuccessfulself-publishedbooksarenon-fic- tion and invariably fill a gap in the market. Forexample,yourbusinessmayinvolvetravellingaroundthe countrybutasyouworkforyourself,yourbudgetmaybevery tight.PerhapsyouhavebuiltupapersonaldirectoryofB&B establishmentsofferingexceptionallygoodvalueformoney. Somanyofyourcolleaguesasktoborrowyourdirectorythat you realise it has potential as a saleable commodity. You obtain quotes from local printers and choose the one which will give you the best result at a realistic price. Theadventofdesk-toppublishinghashelpedtobringpro- ductioncostsdown,sothismaynotbetooprohibitive,but distributioncanstillbeaproblem.Retailoutletsareunenthu- siastic about taking self-published books, so you should consider setting up a mail order operation. Advertise in theappropriatetradepressandontheInternetandproviding you do not expect the project to make you either rich or famous, it can prove to be a verysatisfying exercise. Sellingyouridea Beforeyou embark on the expense of publishing yourown non-fictionbook,however,it isworthtryingaprofessional publishing house. Publishingmadeeasy Itisworthnotingthatthecombinationofdesk-toppublish- ingandtheInternethasbroughtaboutamajorchangetothe image of self-publishing. Rather than copewith organising the production and mar- keting of your book yourself, you may be tempted by theSENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 153 many advertisements for self-publishing companies in the writing press and on the Internet. In addition to publishing, the services on offer range from critiquing, editing, design and publicity to marketing and Internet sales through their own online bookshops. Some evenofferadviceonarrangingbooklaunchesandbookshop signings and guarantee you distribution through online bookstores such as amazon.com. Book lists and resume´s of their existing authors may be readily available on their websites, together with submission guidelines for would-be authors. However,ifyouareconsidering‘self-publishing’yourmanu- script through one of these companies, it is imperative that you check theircredentials carefully to ensure that theyare not simply vanity publishers in an updated, online form. Ifyourideaisgoodenoughandyouareconvincedthatthere isamarketnicheforit,thenyourfirststepshouldalwaysbeto contact a suitable publisher. Market research is essential in ordertohelpyoufamiliariseyourselfwiththestructureand lengthofsimilarbooks.Trytofindaseriesintowhichyour topic will fit, then write achapter-by-chapteroutline along the lines illustrated in Figure 10. When you are sure that you have sufficient material to sell youridea,makealistofsuitablepublishersandtelephoneor writeaninitialenquiryletteraskingiftheywouldbeprepared to consider your proposal.TheSalesman’sB&BDirectory INTRODUCTION CHAP1:CHEAPANDCHEERFULACCOMMODATION Under»25pernight O¡-roadparking Neartowncentre Closetomotorway CHAP2:THREESTARANDOVER Ensuiterooms FullEnglishbreakfast Specialdeals Extrafacilities CHAP3:LONG-HAULSTOPOVERS Lesser-knownroutes Farmhouses Warmwelcomes Value formoney CHAPTER4ONWARDS:continueinthisformatuntilthelast chapterwhich,forthistypeofbook,wouldbealongthe followinglines: COSTSANDRECORD-KEEPING Comparisonofcostsandservices Expenses,record-keeping,taximplications Maps Usefuladdresses Glossary Index Fig. 10. Sample outline for non-fiction book. 154ADDRESS,Tel/Fax/Email date.......... ASmith Publisher LondonW1 DearMrSmith FollowingourtelephoneconversationinJanuarythisyear,as requestedIsubmittedanoutlineforTHESALESMAN’SB&B DIRECTORY. ItisnowthreemonthssinceIheardfromyouandIwouldbe gratefulifyoucouldletmeknowwhetheryouareinterestedin publishingthebook.Ifnot,Iwouldappreciateitsprompt returnsothatImaysubmititelsewhere. Thankingyouinanticipation. Yourssincerely AWriter Fig. 11. Sample chase-up letter. 155156 / CREATIVE WRITING Iftheideaisstrongenough,youwillbeaskedtosubmityour written outlinebased on thepublisher’s house style.Repu- tablepublisherswillusuallyrespondquitequickly,probably within 4–6 weeks. Any longer than three months and you shouldchasethemupandifnecessary,requestthattheoutline bereturnedto you (see Figure 11). WRITINGASYNOPSIS Asynopsisofanovelisaresume´ ofthebook’sstory.Leading literary agent, Blake Friedmann, issues clear guidelines to authorsonhowtowriteatreatmentorsynopsis.Theyrecom- mend that it is broken down into four sections: 1. Introduction – a brief selling statement about the book. 2. Character biographies – short biographies of all of the major characters. 3. Statementofintent–whyyouwantedtowritethenovel and whether it is based on a factual event. 4. Synopsis or treatment – a step-by-step storyline of the novel. Theguidelinesexplainthatthesynopsisconveystheemotion, not just the plot, by making it clear what motivates your characters and the impact of events on them. Whilstalloftheaboveinformationshouldbeincluded,it is imperative that you keep your synopsis as brief as possible. Remember,itspurposeistocaptureapublisher’sattention and hold it right through to the end.SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 157 Givingawaytheending One recurring error that irritates publishers and agents beyond belief is the synopsis which promises wonderful things but finishes with something like: ‘If you want to know what happens next, you’ll have to read the book’ Sadly,theywon’t.They’llprobablyjustheaveasighandsend your manuscript back in the next available post. Yoursynopsisisyoursalespitchandshouldcontainallyour manuscript’s strongest points, including details of a satis- factory ending. PRESENTINGYOURMANUSCRIPT Thereisnoabsoluteruleaboutwhatyoushouldsendtoeither abookpublisheroranagentbutunlessstatedotherwise,itis generally a synopsis and three chapters. Submittinguser-friendlymanuscripts One of the first questions students on my creative writing courses ask is ‘Do I have to type my manuscript?’ Handwrittenmanuscriptsarealmostalwaysreturnedunread so, if you want to be published, your manuscript must be typewritten in double-line spacing on one side only of A4- sized white paper. Theequipmentyouuseisamatterofpersonalpreferencebut if you intend writing for mainstream magazines or newspa- personaregular,professionalbasis,thenbeinguser-friendly takes on a whole new meaning.158 / CREATIVE WRITING Unless otherwise stated, fiction manuscripts should still be submittedonA4whitepaperasabove.However,onceashort story has been accepted for publication in a mainstream publication, you will probably be asked to re-submit it via email. Bearing in mind that this acceptance could well bethefirstofmany,theinitialoutlayfor aPCwillprovean excellent investment. Technophobicarticlewriters,ontheotherhand,canfacereal problemsasmagazinesandnewspaperstendtolooktoelec- troniccommunicationfortheirtopicalfeatures.Ratherthan postingacompletedmanuscript,would-becontributorsare usuallyadvisedtosubmittheiridea,togetherwithaworking outline, via fax or email. Whilstthereisstillplentyofopportunityinthehugerange of smaller, specialised publications, ambitious article and shortstorywriterscannotaffordtoburytheirheadsinthe sand and ignore the impact of the Internet on the main- stream publishing industry. For more information on writing for the mainstream market, see my book Writing for Magazines. Removingstaplesandpins Neverusestaplesorpinstofastenthepagesofyourfiction manuscript.Oneofthequickestwaystoannoyaneditoristo wound their fingers on spiteful fasteners. Another sure-fire irritant is the clear plastic folder, whose slipperysurface canbealmost guaranteedtosendapileof manuscriptscrashingtothefloorthe minute anyonewalks past the editorial desk.SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 159 Thinkingahead Everyeditor,publisher andagenthasa‘slushpile’,apileof unsolicited submissions which have to be read. In order to ensure that your manuscript finds it way fairly quickly to the top of the pile, here are a few simple tips: 1. Include a brief covering letter and front sheet with each manuscript as shown in Figures 12 and 13. 2. Number each page consecutively. 3. Head each page with your name and the title of the manuscript. 4. Finish each page with ‘m/f...’ or ‘cont/d.’ to indicate more is to come. 5. End the final sheet with the word ‘End’ or a line of asterisks. 6. Manuscripts should be posted, unfolded in a large envelope. 7. Placebookmanuscriptsunboundinacardfolderorbox. 8.Neverfastenyourmanuscriptwithpinsorstaples. 9. Always attach sufficient postage to cover the full cost of returning your manuscript. 10. Attachareturnenvelopefortheeditor’sreplybutdonot insist on having rejectedarticles, featuresor shortstory manuscriptsreturnedtoyou.Editorswillappreciatethe fact that you are content to run off furthercopies from your PC.ADDRESS,Tel/Fax/Email date.......... ASmith FictionEditor TheMagazine LondonW1 DearMrSmith Please¢ndenclosedashortstoryofapproximately1,000words entitled‘Acceptance’whichIhopeyouwill¢ndsuitablefor publicationinTheMagazine. Ihaveenclosedreturnpostageforyourconvenienceandlook forwardtohearingfromyouinduecourse. Yourssincerely AWriter Fig. 12. Sample covering letter. REAL NAME, ADDRESS, Tel/Fax/Email ACCEPTANCE A short story of approximately 1,000 words by AWriter (or pseudonym) Fig. 13. Sample front sheet. 160SENDING YOURWORKTOA PUBLISHER/ 161 APPROACHINGANEDITOR Oneofthemostfrequentdisappointmentsfornewwritersis having their manuscript returned with a standard rejection letter. The rejection itself is disappointing enough but authors, keen to know where theyare going wrong, long for afew pearls of wisdom from the publishing establishment. Givingencouragement Editorsare simplytoobusytowrite personallytoeveryone who sends them a manuscript but if your work shows pro- mise,somewilltakethetimetoscribbleafewbriefwordsof encouragement. Somehavetwostandardletters,oneanoutrightrejection,the other rejectingthepiecebutasking toseeanythingelseyou write.Ifyoureceivethesecondtype,sendsomethingelseoff without delay – your toe is in the door. Occasionally, an editor will phone you, either to accept the pieceoraskifyoucanalteritslightly.Ifyouwanttoseeyour workinprint,agreetoanychangestheysuggest.Youmaynot likeamendingyourworkbutitwillbeworthitinthelongrun. Itisnogoodexpectingbusyeditorstoteachyouyourcraft. Itisuptoyoutodeveloptheabilitytoassessyourownwork and approach the right market, so before you submit a manuscript: X researchthemarketthoroughlytoestablishthepublishers likely to be interested in your manuscript162 / CREATIVE WRITING X findoutiftheeditorprefersinitialapproachestobeinthe form of enquiry letters or is prepared to consider com- pleted manuscripts X establish the name of the person to whom you should address your manuscript X allowsixtoeightweeksbeforeyouwriteachase-upletter (Figure 11) X take any editorial advice you are offered and act on it. Multiplesubmissions Until recently, sending your manuscript simultaneously to morethanonepublisherwasfrowneduponbytheindustry. Now, however, publishers recognise that having to wait months for an answer can be frustrating and are prepared to tolerate authors making multiple submissions providing this is stated in the covering letter. Lookingatitfromthepublishers’pointofview,bysubmit- tingyourmanuscripttothem,youareoffering itforsale.If, whentheyagreetobuyit,youtellthemyou’vejustsolditto someoneelse,theywillbejustifiablyannoyedthatyouhave wastedtheirtime.Thisisnotagoodwaytowinfriendsinthe publishing industry. COPYRIGHTINGANDSYNDICATION Assoonasyoucommityourworktopaper,itbecomesyour copyright.Youmaythenofferforsaleanynumberofrightsin that work for publication purposes, e.g.: X First British Serial Rights (FBSR)SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 163 X foreign rights, i.e. French, German, American etc. X specific rights for a set period X all rights for all purposes. Signingawayyourcopyright FBSRmeansthatthepurchaserhastherighttopublishthe manuscript once only in Britain. The same applies to first foreign rights butyou canalsosellsecond,third etc. rights. Broadcasting, film and, with the growth of the use of the Internet, electronic rights are also in demand. Themoretimesyousellamanuscript,themorecomplicated thecopyrightprocessbecomesbutthinkverycarefullybefore agreeingtosellyourworkonan‘Allrightsforallpurposes’ basis as you will be signing away all ownership of your manuscript. Copyrightisacomplexandspecialisedfieldandifyouareat allconcernedabouttherightsyouarebeingaskedtosell,you should consult an expert. Gettinganagent Carole Blake, joint managing director of leading literary agency, Blake Friedmann, states that the main advantage of having an agent is that the author has someone on their side who will give them honest criticism that will improve their career prospects. Blake Friedmann receives approximately 400 unsolicited manuscripts per month but, on average, takes on only three to six new authors a year. Like publishers, literary agencies specialise in specific publishing areas and once again,marketresearchisimperativebeforemakinganinitial164 / CREATIVE WRITING approach.Asageneralrule,agentsdonothandleshortstory andarticlewriters,whomaybebetterservedbyasyndication agency.Pleasenote,however,thatinthecurrentlyshrinking magazinefictionmarket,itisbecomingincreasinglydifficult tofindsyndicationagenciesthatrepresentshortstorywriters. Syndicatingyourwork Manywriterstrytheirluckabroadandareputablesyndica- tionagentcanlightentheloadconsiderably. Theywillsellyourmanuscripttoasmanymarketsaspossible allover theworld, keep a record ofsales and saveyou both legwork and heavy postage costs. Inreturn,ofcourse,theywilltakeapercentage,sobeforeyou handoveryourmanuscripts,makesurethetermsareagreed inadvanceandinwriting.Reputablesyndicationagenciesare listed in The Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook. KEEPINGRECORDS Fromthedayyousendyourfirstlettertoaneditor,youshould keeparecordofwhenandwhereyousentit,whetheritwas published and if so, how much you were paid. InformingtheInlandRevenue Once payments start coming in on a regular basis, it is imperative that you have a clear record of everything you earn from writing. Bearinmindthatallpaymentsfrompublishinghousesare put through their books so even if you don’t inform the Inland Revenue about your new source of income, your name will eventually come to their attention.SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 165 Offsettingyourcostsagainsttax Youcanoffsetthecostofmaterialssuchaspaper,inkcar- tridges, postage etc. against tax and, of course, capital expenditure such as PCs, desks and filing cabinets. Keepreceiptsofeverythingyoupurchaseandrecordallyour income and expenditure. Suggested formats for record- keeping are illustrated in Figures 14 and 15. ThereisanumberofusefulleafletsavailablefromtheInland Revenueandyourtaxinspectorwillbepreparedtoadviseyou oryoumayprefertoengageanaccountant.Shoparoundto establishhowmuchyouarelikelytobechargedandremem- ber,accountancycostscanbeoffsetagainsttaxandwillprove tobeaveryworthwhileexpensewhenyourworkreallybegins to take off. FINDINGSUPPORTFROMOTHERWRITERS Writing, we are constantly told, is a very lonelyoccupation eventhoughtheimagethispresentsisactuallyveryromantic. Thereyouare,justyou,yourPCandyourcharacters.You’ve locked the door, taken the phone off the hook and discon- nected the doorbell. There is nothing to prevent you from producingamasterpiece.Unfortunately,youcan’tthinkofa word to write. Confrontingwriters’block Itisarguablewhetherwriters’blockactuallyexistsorwhether it is simply brought about by the provision of perfect con- ditions in which to write.166 Internet/ Motor & Travel Use of home Capital Stationery Postage Telephone Subscriptions (Bus. prop. Sundries as office expend. (Bus. prop. only) only) Fig. 14 Suggested headings for expenditure record. TITLE FORMAT PUBLISHER AMOUNT £ DATE PAID Article (1,000 words) Brewer’s Monthly 50 12.7.0X Brewing Real Ale Interview – hop-picker (500 wds) "" 2.8.0X Hopping Holidays 25 Home Brew 100 11.10.0X Beer for the Connoisseur Article (1,500 words) Short Story (1,200) "" 75 21.12.0X One for the Road Fig. 15. Suggested headings for income record.SENDING YOUR WORK TO A PUBLISHER / 167 Likeourfictionalcharacters,wewillstrivetoovercomeany obstacle in order to fulfil our ambitions to see our work in print.Removethoseobstaclesandweimmediatelyyearnfor distraction. Welongtohavesomeonetotalkto,preferablyalike-minded personfromwhomwecangainsomepositivefeedback.We need other writers. Joiningawriters’circle Fortunately,helpisathandintheformofwriters’circlesand websites, conferences, seminars and courses. Yourlocallibraryshouldhavedetailsofwriters’activities in your area and writing organisations will be only too pleased to add your name to their mailing lists. Societies, associationsandwebsitesforwritersarelistedattheendof this book but for some excellent on-the-spot advice, here aresomewordsofwisdomfromestablishedwritingprofes- sionals: X ‘Ilookforastrongstorywithbelievable,interestingchar- actersthatIknowIwillbeabletointerestapublisherin. Mostirritatingaresloppywriting,authorarroganceand incorrect assumptions about the trade.’ (Carole Blake, agent) X ‘Don’t just sit there – get on with it’ (Patricia Burns, novelist) X ‘Ifyoudon’tenjoywhatyouarewriting,nooneelsewill.’ (Martina Cole, novelist)168 / CREATIVE WRITING X ‘Don’twaitfor inspirationtocome.Sitdownandwrite, howeverharditis.Theactofwriting itselfstimulatesthe creative flow.’ (Michael Green, humorist) X ‘Writeeveryday,evenifit’sonlyforanhouraday,keep onehoursacred.Donotwaitforinspiration,youmaywait in vain.’ (Susan Moody, crimewriter) X ‘Makewriting your top priorityafter familyand moral obligations,makingsureyouspendacertainamountof time each week either writing or thinking your story through, even if it means evening work. Read your work aloud and check for pace etc.’ (Margaret Nash, children’s writer) Formingyourowngroup Whilst family and friends can be wonderfully encouraging and supportive, feedback from other writers is invaluable. Ifallelsefailsandyoucanfindnothinginyourarea,whynot start your own writers’ group? You’d be amazed at the number of people who have a manuscript tucked away and would welcome the opportunity to share their love of creative writing.Glossary Anthropomorphisation. Giving animal characters human characteristics. Article.Afactualpiecewrittenforpublicationinamagazine or newspaper. Back story. Background storyline or sub-plot against which themainactionisplayedout. Cliche´.Stereotype. Conflict.Problemsandemotionsprovidingtheobstaclestobe overcome in a work of fiction. Copyright.Thelegalownershipofpublicationrightsinapiece of written work. Dialogue. Conversation between characters. Double-linespacing.Leavingablanklinebetweeneachtype- written line on a page. Fiction. A made-up story, not fact. Flashback.Amethodofrevealingbackgroundthroughsnip- pets of information. Genre. The literary category into which your work falls. In-housemagazine.Publicationsproducedbycompaniesfor theiremployeescontainingitemsofnewsaboutstaffand changes within the organisation. Interaction.Howcharactersreacttothepeople,settingsand objects around them. Letter to the editor. Letter intended for publication on a magazine or newspaper’s letters page. 169170 /CREATIVE WRITING Location. Where the story is set. Motivation. The reasons for a character’s behaviour and attitudes. Mule. Someone who carries concealed drugs through cus- toms for drug smugglers. Multiple submission. Sending the same manuscript simulta- neously to a number of different publishers. Narrative style.Usinganarratortotellthestory. Non-fiction.Fact. Outline. Flexible step-by-step plan of a manuscript. PC.Personalcomputer. Piece. An article intended for publication. Plot. The plan of events running through a story. Police procedural. A crime novel where the detective is a police officer. Political correctness. The requirement that attitudes and vocabulary in your manuscript are not offensive with regardtorace,sex,creedetc. Potted history. Brief resume´ of a character’s background. Protagonist.Themaincharacter. Reader identification. Characters and situations which are instantly recognisable to your intended readership. Redherring.Cluedeliberatelyimplicatingthewrongsuspect in a crime story. Self-publisher. An author who publishes and markets their own book. Short story. Awork of fiction of less than 10,000 words. Showing nottelling.Using interactionratherthannarration to depict the sequence of events in an article or story. Slushpile.Collectionofunsolicitedmanuscriptswaitingtobe read by an editor or agent.GLOSSARY / 171 Stereotype.Afixedimageofspecificgroupsbasedonage,sex, race, religion, social status etc. Stringer.Contributorofitemsofnewstoalocalnewspaper. Syndication. To offer manuscripts for simultaneous sale to publications worldwide. ´ Synopsis. A step-by-step resume of a book’s story. Unsolicited manuscript. A manuscript submitted unre- quested for a publisher or agent’s consideration. Vanitypublisher.Acompanywhichwillagreetopublishyour manuscript in return for payment.AnswerstoAssignments CHAPTER5 SUGGESTEDREWRITEOF‘SHOWING’NOT ‘TELLING’EXERCISE Original Ithadbeenraininghardfordays.Waterstreamedfromthe gutters of every roof, pouring down windows, along pave- ments, running in fast moving rivulets along each road. Underneaththestreets,torrentsofwatergushedandgurgled beneath the feet of the people hurrying along the shiny wet pavements,pushingandshovingoneanotherintheirhasteto getoutoftherain.Steelgreystormcloudsgatheredoverhead, meetingoneanotherheadoninpreparationforyetanother downpour.Itwasvery,verywet.(85words) Rewrite ItwasthethirdtimethisweekClairehasbeensoakedtothe skin on her way to work and she’d had enough. Why, she wondered,didheavyrainbringouttheworstinpeople?The waytheypushedandshoved,itwasasthoughtheybelieved they’ddissolveiftheygottoowet.Anxiously,Clairelowered herumbrellatopeerupatthesky.Moregreyclouds.Nota hope of a break in the weather. (77 words) CHAPTER6 DATETHESLANGEXPRESSIONS 1. 1920–30s. 2. 1960–70s. 3. 1980–90s. 172UsefulAddresses BlakeFriedmann,Literary,TV&FilmAgency,122Arling- tonRoad,LondonNW17HP.Tel:(020)72840408.Fax: (020) 7284 0442. Email: infoblakefriedmann.co.uk Website: www.blakefriedmann.co.uk The British Science Fiction Association Ltd (BSFA). Con- tact: Peter Wilkinson, 39 Glyn Avenue, New Barnet, Herts EN4 9PJ. Email: bsfaenterprise.net Website: www.bsfa.co.uk BritishSocietyofComedyWriters(BSCW),61ParryRoad, Ashmore Park, Wolverhampton WV11 2PS. President: Ken Rock. Tel/Fax: (01902) 722 729. Email: infobscw.co.uk Website: www.bscw.co.uk Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain, PO Box 6939 BirminghamB147LT.Contact:RebeccaTope,Member- ship Secretary. Email: infothecwa.co.uk Website: www.thecwa.co.uk Harcourt,HalleyCourt,FreepostPOBox1125,OxfordOX2 8YY. Tel: (01865) 888000. Fax: (01865) 314091. Email: enquiriesharcourt.co.uk Website: www.harcourt.co.uk Lonely Planet Publications, Publishing Administrator, Locked Bag 1, Footscray VIC 3011, Australia. Email: recruitingauthorslonelyplanet.com.au 173174 / CREATIVE WRITING NationalAssociationofWritersinEducation(NAWE),PO Box 1, Sheriff Hutton, York YO60 7YU. Tel: (01653) 618429. Email: infonawe.co.uk Websites: www.nawe.co.uk www.artscape.org.uk National Association of Writers’ Groups (NAWG) Secre- tary,40BurstallHill,Bridlington,E.YorksYO166GA. Tel: (01262) 609228. Email: nawgtesco.net Website: www.nawg.co.uk NationalUnionofJournalists(NUJ),308Gray’sInnRoad, London WC1X 8DP. Tel: (020) 7278 7916. Fax: (020) 7837 8143. Email: infonuj.org.uk Website: www.nuj.org.uk Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA), Contact: Hon. Membership Secretary, 65 Maryland Road, London E15 1JL. Website: www.rna-uk.org Society of Authors, 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB. Tel: (020) 7373 6642. Website: www.societyofauthors.net SocietyofWomenWriters&Journalists(SWWJ),Member- ship Secretary: Wendy Hughes, 27 Braycourt Avenue, Walton-on-Thames,SurreyKT122AZ(saeformember- ship details). Website: www.swwj.co.uk WomenWriters’Network,23ProspectRoad,LondonNW2 2JU. Tel: (020) 7994 5861. Website: www.womenwriters.org.uk Email: infowomenwriters.org.uk Workers’ Educational Association (WEA), 3rd Floor, 70 Clifton Street, London EC2A 4HB. Tel: (020) 7426 3450, Fax: (020) 7426 3451 Email: nationalwea.org.ukUSEFUL ADDRESSES / 175 Website: www.wea.org.uk Writernet and the Playwrights’ Network, Cabin V, Claren- don Buildings, 25 Horsell Road, London N5 1XL. Tel: (020) 7609 7474. Fax: (020) 7609 7557. Email: infowriternet.org.uk Website: www.writernet.org.uk Writers’GuildofGreatBritain,15BritanniaStreet,London WC1X9JN.Tel:(020)78330777.Fax:(020)78334777. Email: adminwritersguild.org.uk Website: www.writersguild.org.uk USEFULWEBSITES www.amazon.co.uk www.itv.com www.arts.org.uk www.lonelyplanet.com/about/ www.author-network.com www.mla.gov.uk www.bbc.co/writersroom www.nald.org/ www.bbc.co.uk/commissioning www.nationalarchives.gov.uk /newmedia/itv.shtml www.publishers.org.uk www.bfi.org.uk www.researchcentre.co.uk www.bl.uk www.scottishtv.co.uk www.booktrust.org.uk www.theshortstory.org.uk www.channel4.com www.wordpool.co.uk www.dcthomson.co.uk www.writers-circles.com www.ideasfactory.com www.writewords.org.uk ONLINEDICTIONARIES dictionary.cambridge.org www.dictionary.com/doctor www.m-w.com www.yourdictionary.comFurtherReading Aslib Directory of Information Sources in the UK. 501 Writers’ Questions Answered, Nancy Smith, Piatkus. The Chambers Dictionary. Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Directoryof Writers’ Circles, available from Oldacre, Hor- dernsParkRoad,Chapel-en-le-Frith,HighPeak,Derby- shire SK23 9SY. Tel: (01298) 812305. Email: oldacrebtinternet.com Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (PC/Mac) CD-Rom. FromPitchtoPublication,EverythingYouNeedToKnowTo Get Your Novel Published, published by Carole Blake, Macmillan. GettingthePoint:APanic-freeGuidetoEnglishPunctuation for Adults, Jenny Haddon and Elizabeth Hawksley, Floris Books. HowtoTurnYourHolidaysintoPopularFiction,KateNivi- son, Allison & Busby. How to Write Horror Fiction, William F. Nolan, Writer’s Digest. HowtoWriteShortShortStories,StellaWhitelaw,Allison& Busby. Concise Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Susan Ratcliffe, OUP. Research for Writers,AnnHoffman,A&CBlack. Roget’s Thesaurus,PenguinBooks. 176FURTHER READING / 177 The Bloomsbury Guide to Grammar, Gordon Jarvie. The Craft of Writing Articles, Gordon Wells, Allison & Busby. TheHutchinsonConciseEncyclopedia,CenturyHutchinson. The Wayto Write Novels, Paddy Kitchen, Elm Tree Books. The Writer’s Handbook,Macmillan. Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook,A&CBlack. Writers-circles.com Directory, Diana Hayden, 39 Lincoln Way, Harlington, Beds LU5 6NG. Tel: (01525) 873197. Email: dianawriters-circles.com Website: www.writers-circles.com TeachYourselfWritingforMagazines,RodLawton,Hodder Education. Writing for Radio, Rosemary Horstmann, A & C Black. WritingStepbyStep, Jean Saunders, Allison & Busby. Please note that online versions of most dictionaries and thesauruses are now readily available on the Internet. Check out the websites of major educational publishers and online bookshops for details of electronic versions. HowToBooksonSuccessfulWriting Awaken the Writer Within,CathyBirch(2nded.). The Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Novel,MarinaOliver. The Five-minute Writer, Margaret Geraghty. Handbook of Written English, John G. Taylor (2nd ed.). How to Write a Thriller,ScottMariani. Ideas for Children’s Writers, Pamela Cleaver. Times of Our Lives, Michael Oke. Write & Sell Your Novel, Marina Oliver (3rd ed.). Writers’ Guide to Copyright and Law, Helen Shay (3rd ed.).178 / CREATIVE WRITING Writers’ Guide to Getting Published, Chriss McCallum (5th ed.). Writing a Children’s Book, Pamela Cleaver (3rd ed.). Writing for Magazines,Ade`le Ramet (3rd ed.). Writing Your Life Story,MichaelOke. Magazinesforwriters TheNewWriter,POB60,Cranbrook,KentTN17 2ZR.Tel: (01580) 212626. Fax: (01580) 212041. Email: editorthenewwriter.com Website: www.thenewwriter.com Writers Forum, Writers International Ltd., PO Box 3229, Bournemouth BH1 1ZS. Tel: (01202) 589828. Fax: (01202) 587758. Email: editorialwriters-forum.com Website: www.writers-forum.com Writers’News&WritingMagazine,FifthFloor,31–32Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. Tel: (0113) 200 2929. Fax: (0113) 200 2928. Email: derek.hudsonwritersnews.co.uk Website: www.writersnews.co.ukIndex accent, 94, 95, 98 editors: agents, 156, 159, 163–4 approaching, 161 alien, 126 letters to, 13, 15, 28, 159, animals, 14, 139–41 162 anthropomorphising, 139–40 educational markets, 135–6 atmosphere, 6, 52–3, 57–8, 61, 68, 70 flashback, 80–3 autobiography, 18–20, 22 front sheet, 159–60 background, 27, 32–3, 34–42, ghosts, 111–14, 116, 126 45, 50, 53, 61, 68, 73, 75, 80–1, 102, 104–5, 108, historical, 20, 22, 61, 63, 66, 110, 139 108–9, 126 horror, 111–13, 116, 125, 133 characterisation, 32–3, 35, humour, 28, 101, 126, 132, 37, 45–6, 65, 85–6, 94 134, 142 children, 128–44 comics, 132, 135 ideas, 3–5, 8, 11, 18, 73, 134 competitions, 16, 149–50 illustrations, 18, 142–3 conflict, 45, 48–50, 85, 93, Inland Revenue, 164–5 102, 108, 141 interaction, 47, 55, 69, 78 copyright, 162–3 Internet, 21, 147, 152–3, 158 crime, 20, 61, 77, 117–18, 120–3 killing, 40, 84, 89, 111, 119, 121, 123, 125 detective, 36, 117–18 dialect, 94 letters: dialogue, 6, 37–8, 68, 83, 85– chase up, 155, 162 88, 90–4, 98–9, 109–10, covering, 160, 162 148 to editor, 13–15, 28, 159, 179180 / CREATIVE WRITING 162, 164 reader identification, 5, 8, 44, locations, 22, 24, 27, 52, 55– 63 7, 66, 108 realism, 8, 33, 44, 46, 57, 63, 73, 95 manuscript: record-keeping, 164–5 presentation, 157, 158–9 red herrings, 120, 124 submitting, 157–8, 161 rejection, 151, 161 unsolicited, 136, 159 research: maps, 58–60, 66 background, 6, 22, 29, 61– media, 4, 13, 19, 43, 117 3, 109, 128 motivation, 18, 20, 33, 38, 41 market, 153, 161, 163 murder, 6, 116–8, 125 rewrite, 3, 60, 74, 91 multiple submissions, 162 romance, 6, 36, 53, 79, 100– 8, 121, 125 non-fiction: article, 4, 6, 9–12, 15–18, science fiction, 61, 125–7 23–25, 135, 146 sex, 36, 51, 106, 110 book, 8, 152, 154 slang, 96–8 column, 13, 15, 132 slush pile, 159 stereotyping, 32–3, 50 openings, 16, 18, 28, 52 storyboard, 121 originality, 8 stringer, 15 outline, 11, 120–2, 153–6 suspense, 79, 85, 111–12, 115, 123 pace, 54–5, 68–9, 72, 76–8, syndication, 162, 164 80, 96, 134, 168 synopsis, 156–7 picture books, 142–3 planning, 118, 120 travel: playwriting, 147 time, 125 plotting, 105, 120 writing, 23–7 political correctness, 33, 137 twist-in-the-tale, 123–4 publishing: self, 151–3 vocabulary, 78, 80, 97, 129, vanity, 21, 150–1 133–4, 138, 144
Website URL
Comment