Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Character Building

My fiction journey continues, I have my plot and storylines mapped out, I know where I am going. However, to make the journey worthwhile my travel companions need to be characters of interest, humour, allure - in a word, captivating. If I end up with a bore, someone one-dimensional with nothing to say of note, I in turn will become bored and we will never make it to our final destination. With this in mind I have become very choosy about the characters I take with me.

I decided to start with my characters' physical appearance - a pinched nose, full lips, glasses, tumbling wavy hair - their looks will help me determine their personality. Of course, there is quite a bit of input from my sub-conscious. Tucked away in the recesses of my mind are embryonic characters, with some of the mental and physical characteristics already in place; so, one influences the other. I decided that I need to be able to see them in more than my mind's eye. Not being able to create anything with a pencil and paper that resembles a human being (though if you need a new look alien, ask me to draw a child and you may have what you are looking for) I found a free photo-fit software to create them. I now have pictures of my main characters and when I need a little inspiration I look at the eyes of the character, and then see through them. 

Seeing through the eyes of the character requires more than their physicality, I need to know how they think and feel. In order that I do not contradict my characters later on, and to dig into their psyche, I have made a list of their likes and dislikes, their marital status, their education, their parents and so on. When I completed the 'checklist' I was more expansive than 'fave colour is blue'. Why is it blue? Does it evoke emotions in the character? Do they like a particular shade? 

Now I feel as if I know my characters, inside and out. They are not going to spring a surprise on me by suddenly reacting against type when in a certain situation (well I certainly hope not). Every day I look at their faces and try to see them through the eyes of the other characters and vice versa. One of my characters is physically beautiful, I have developed a crush on her...I am not the only one.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

Some Book Reviews

The Masters looms ever closer and I am having to read like a madwoman (not in the attic) to ensure I have the set book list completed before the course starts.

Here are some of the review of the books I have read so far:

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


With my Masters looming I am rapidly reading my way through the set book list, and this is one of them. I first read Jane Eyre when a teenager and was irritated by the stubbornness of Jane (much as I was by Elizabeth Bennett in 'Pride & Prejudice'), possibly because they too closely resembled the person I saw in the mirror on a daily basis.
A generation later I am able to look on Jane in a more favourable light. I can understand her qualms, her reasons for behaving in such a manner, and I respect her for them. Jane's character is well-developed, believable and likeable. Bronte's prose skips along at a suitable pace, I did not find myself wallowing in overly descriptive passages. There were of course descriptive passages but they were seamlessly incorporated into the plot, not a lengthy distraction as could be found with other Victorian writers (Dickens particularly).
If you read 'Jane Eyre' as a teenager, I suggest you read it again. I have read it filtered through adult eyes and experiences and found it to be much more enjoyable second time around.



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Antigone (Translations from Greek Drama)Antigone by Sophocles

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Nobody does tragedy like the Ancient Greeks. Love, honour, kingship and religion form the basis for the tale of a headstrong girl and her king, her brother and her lover (and the last 3 are not all the same person albeit that she is the daughter of Oedipus!).

This edition, suitable for students of all levels, is a modern translation with side by side commentaries to help the reader overcome any gaps in the mythology or classical history knowledge. The language is contemporary and there are pointers to help the reader consider hhow the play could be performed.

It really is a student version, but if you want an introduction to the Ancient Greek plays then this is a good place to start.



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And a sneaky one that isn't on the list!!

History of a Pleasure SeekerHistory of a Pleasure Seeker by Richard Mason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


When you consider the current furore (summer 2012) around the appallingly badly written 50 Shades of Grey, it was a pleasure to read a book that contains a modicum of the erotic yet is so well written.

It is a book of love, desire, money, ambition and class divides. Mason brings the Amsterdam of 1907 to life through the tale of Piet Barol, the aforementioned 'pleasure seeker'. The sex is written in such a way that it does not stand out, screaming 'sexy part', but blends into the whole narrative.
It is a fast-paced book, with developed characters, humour and rich in period detail.
I recommend this read highly.



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Thursday, 12 July 2012

Novel Beginnings

I am putting my most intrepid foot forward and am about to step into a world I have only read about - I am going to write a novel. To date my writing has been of the non-fiction variety, charting my travels from one European city to the next. Now I am preparing for my biggest adventure yet - to the centre of the land of make-believe.

It is a journey much travelled. Millions have made their way in and many have returned with gems of literature that are almost priceless to those who have enjoyed them. Some have taken a wrong turn or two, meandered aimlessly from metaphor to adverb, but still emerged with shiny pebbles that enhance a reader's collection. And some, some remain, unsure of their whereabouts, stuck between a rock and a dodgy plot device, always looking for the perfect diamond, not realising that the rough, ugly stone they hold could be polished to brilliance with the help of a skilled editor.

I hope that my foray into the fictional interior is not too fraught with unexpected pitfalls: no quicksand patches of plot that threaten to swamp me, suck my anticipated denouement beneath the sludge of obviousness and mediocrity; that no echoing caverns entice my characters in so their voices are heard only faintly, and monotonously, as they disappear into the darkness. Of course, I do not expect an easy trip no matter how detailed my road-map; I have to cross the shifting sands of language, that cover and uncover seemingly at will towers of Babel. I dream of emerging with a priceless gem, but I am realistic enough to know that a shiny pebble would be a  souvenir worthy of returning with.

My luggage is packed. I will try to keep to the weight limit, not cram in too much, so that I can close it with ease without a plethora of adverbs and adjectives spilling forth. No embarrassing scenes at check-in as I have to discard some unruly paragraphs. I am ready. My journey starts now.



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