Writing retreat, of which more anon, seems already a long time ago.
…the memory of a stolen kiss in a dark alleyway, teased him.
Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks…
A staple of any writer’s toolkit and the one we love most, is our notebook. The picture shows but a modest selection from my immodest collection (no, numbers will not be revealed, but suffice it to say the completed ones can be considered as a useful addition to the attic insulation).
The big, plain A4 was in my goody bag at the recent, and excellent, Scotswrite conference of the Society of Authors in Scotland. I love these for jobs like editing and critiquing. I also still find it easy and therapeutic to write long-hand when the pc isn’t available or there’s a wee glitch to be sorted. Something about seeing the words appear and then the crossings-out makes it all very real. The two wee ones are from another goody bag – Romantic Novelists’ Association – and as meet-up swag. Thank you ladies, Annie Burrows and Christine London. The next size up were brought to the launch of Bella’s Betrothal by fellow Capital Writer, Jane Riddell – the elegant black and silver, and bought by me in the V&A – who doesn’t like shoes?
The medium sized ones comprise one for note-taking and, the dark one, for recording everything I send out and how the work fares. Some of the pages have lovely red £ signs indicating a sale or licence fee (I have plays, folks).
So, how many do you have? Did you start out sewing together pages to make a book, aged 6? Doesn’t the simple sight of a notebook prompt you to get started?
This month Rhobin has asked us to think: What characters in other author’s books have not left your mind? Have you written a character who wouldn’t leave you? Why do you think this happens?
Being a prolific reader over a long time period makes the choice here very hard. I know I’ve always enjoyed the anti-hero. I wrote the thesis for my sixth year studies’ certificate about anti-heroes from the characters in Grimms’ Fairytales to James Bond. so, at that vulnerable, romantic and sentimental stage in life, they’re all there – the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Saint, James Bond and the strapping men on horseback sweeping all before them in the novels of Georgette Heyer. They have the best wardrobes, the best dialogue and they do GOOD without being in the least WORTHY.
As I grew older, the reading didn’t diminish much so the choice is even wider. I think I’ve mentioned the book before, but it’s worth re-visiting – DON’T PLAY GAMES by Emma Darcy is a M&B published in 1985. It has a heroine, Kate Andrews and hero, Alex Dalton. So much, so M&B, but this book because of the characters and their story has stayed with me. I have the copy on the desk in front of me. Kate is a redheaded (is that a giveaway?) feisty, but loyal character, and Alex is , because this is classic M&B, an anti-hero of the billionaire world.
A more recent set of characters to stay with me are the women, goodies and baddies, from Katharine Stockett’s wonderful book, The Help. It is so beautifully realised and again the dialogue is first-rate. Reading it in an internal Southern States’ accent had me in the room.
The character ‘wot I wrote’ that stayed with me was Mariah’s sister-in-law, Lady Daisy. I had to rein in the writing while working on the scenes she appeared in in Mariah’s Marriage. In due course, she got her own book, Daisy’s Dilemma and a worthwhile choice she proved to be.
Others have written about their memorable characters and you can find them here:
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com
Country mouse made another expedition to the Big City this week. Starting at my favourite London Hotel (that’s my secret) to check out the distances from and to the wonderful new venue for the Romantic Novelist Association’s Winter Party, One Birdcage Walk, involved a walk along Sloane Street from Sloane Square underground station. Now I know I could have caught the No 22, but I also know, I can make it on foot.
Then out to meet the London mouse in Catherine Street – Ha! She now knows how abysmal are my map reading skills. We now know that her smart phone can log onto my (decidedly non-smart) phone and track my movements. She followed my progress out of Covent Garden to Russell Street and along into Catherine. How very scary is that? Excellent meal in Loch Fyne Restaurant after the pre-theatre rush.
Hence the shoes looking much as I felt. They had more to come as, for the first time since the Bholgatty Island Palace Hotel incident, I left the premises with the keys. Had to go back. Have you any idea how far they’ve made the distances between bus stops in London? No? A lot.
Edinburgh Writers’ Club, celebrating its 70th Anniversary this year, is a founding member club. So, I’m a member of both.
SAW has recently published the Schedule for its 2018 conference, again to held in the centrally situated, Westerwood Hotel, and you can view or download it here.
SIMON BRETT is the keynote speaker and the weekend features adjudications by experienced professionals like Shirley Blair, fiction editor of People’s Friend.
Hope to see you there, ANNE
This year, Edinburgh Writers’ Club celebrates its 70th Anniversary.
I am not a founder member.
I am a longstanding member having been in the club through at least 8 changes of venue, having been its President, having known and mourned many of its characters and having been honoured with Life Membership.
So, what does this month’s picture prompt me to write? This little tribute to a wonderful group for a start.
EWC gave me the confidence to write and to take that writing seriously. It provided me with a safe haven for trying out different genres and it was through the club’s yearly competitions that I discovered my small talent for dialogue and playwriting. Thereafter, I enjoyed a lot of fun in rehearsal rooms and a lot of anxiety sitting at the back of a darkened theatre waiting to hear what the audience thought. When the frustrations of funding for staging became overwhelming, it was through EWC that I exploited suggestions and connections to find another berth in historical romance.
Along the way, I’ve written almost every other type of text – except perhaps haiku, I don’t believe I’ve ever tried syllable counted poems – and seen a lot of work published or performed. Thank you EWC. I look forward to our opening party and the challenges of the upcoming year.
So, is there a hobby club or professional organisation to which you owe a debt of gratitude? Tell us about it or direct us to your own blog to let us see it.
I recently took a tour of Edinburgh’s High Street secret gardens. It was led by Jean Bareham of Green Yonder Tours and was full of little gems like the table above. Several of the gardens are community gardens and this was one such. The pots down the centre are growing herbs for the kitchens of those involved.
So, historical writers, writers of The Little Table of Culinary Delights, non-fiction garden writers…What does it prompt for you?
There’re are one or two tips I’d like to share with you. Any similarity to the marvellous advice sent out by RNA conference organising supremo, Jan Jones, is entirely intentional. Are tips copyright? I first posted this blog on 7th July 2014 and it still seems relevant.
Tip One Do not bring extra reading material. Goody bags are awaiting your arrival and they contain reading material. Also, there is a pop-up book shop on site.
Tip Two There are tenners and fivers in circulation or available from your bank. Get hold of some. The bar staff will be very pleased to see you.
Tip Three Yes, dressing-up on Saturday night is fun. the original of this one was made with insect wings. The copy uses plastic fingernails. Wouldn’t put either in the wash though.
Tip Four Do bring extra coffee, tea-bags and fresh milk. (Jan Jones, see above.) When it comes to food, I miss cheese and fresh fruit that isn’t a rock hard apple, too.
Tip Five Remember the quiet person in the corner is probably a really important editor, agent or author, but they still want to be loved for themselves. Do spare a moment to talk to them.
Tip Six A small paper fan is really useful for creating a breeze in an overheated room. (thanks to Melanie Hilton).
Tip Seven Do keep to your ten minutes in ten minute slots at 1-2-1s Saying it once with feeling and commitment is good.
Tip Eight Think up a few pertinent questions to ask if the speaker invites them. It’s a horrible experience as a chairwoman looking at a sea of silent faces. Chances are if you want to know then others will appreciate the answer, too.
Tip Nine Never mind the photo opps, You can never have too many pairs of comfortable shoes. Slip-on and offs are particularly good as the days pass.
Tip Ten Relax. Enjoy the moment(s). Go home. Apply lessons learned. Write best-seller.
Till next year…
http://goo.gl/pASdjp Mariah’s Marriage amazon US
“Oh, Mariah, let us not quarrel. We will be married within the month. At least your papa’s house contains plenty of books. You may practise throwing them.” anne stenhouse
http://goo.gl/NxYxj5 Mariah’s Marriage UK
http://goo.gl/PKptQg Bella’s Betrothal US
…a solitary figure ahead among some gorse and shrubs. Charles thought she made a beautiful picture in her riding habit with the exquisite hat Jenny Menzies wished to inherit. He thought the girl might get it sooner rather than later if he followed his instincts. At that precise moment, he wanted to shake Bella hard. Then he would lock her in the castle in Strath Menzies and hold her forever. anne stenhouse
http://goo.gl/5RBzIm Bella’s Betrothal UK
Three years ago an enterprising local lady set up the Scottish Women’s Institute, Bruntsfield Branch, here in Edinburgh. I was invited to join by a fellow writer and have been to several interesting meetings, gone on outings and made a paper maché cup.
At the Royal Highland Show this year, I visited the crafts tent where I was told by an SWI lady steward that a Bruntsfield member made one of the baskets in the above picture. So here is that picture. Although I’m unable to tell you which basket is the relevant one, I’m very proud to know one of our number is skilled enough and confident enough to display her lovely work. The baskets were all lovely so it’s immaterial which one is hers.
Why is this a writing prompt? Firstly because baskets are universal and ageless. From Moses’ basket among the rushes to contemporary waste bins, they’ve seen a lot of action. Secondly, as a writer, it’s so good to get out and experience the creative passion of others. I find it stimulating.
Given the number of books written with quilting as a theme or background, others do too.
Hullo again and welcome to June’s Round Robin which is about Characters. Robin, who sets up these posts, calls it a basic topic. It is a basic topic – but one might also refer to it as fundamental.
You can have the most wonderful plot in the history of fiction writing, but if you have to frogmarch your characters through it – it will not work.
So how do I go about developing them? I listen to their conversations. I used to write plays and for that I would put two characters in a room and listen in. Gradually, gradually, I begin to hear what they think needs saying. Fiction of course needs much more narrative and the conversations have to be embellished by surroundings. A pauper woman in Shoreditch is going to have different things to say about there being no food in the house, from a Duchess in Wiltshire.
Fiction writing also lacks a play producer, so it’s up to the writer to dress the characters. Perhaps that leads on to what the Duchess thinks about her dressmaker and the pauper about the rag-and-bone man.
I do spend time on it, but it is time during the writing process. I may know that my theme demands a type of heroine and a type of hero. As I explore what I want to tease out of the theme, I’m listening to the characters.
What inspires the process of creating a character? Well, getting the next action or twist right, is very important. When I was writing Mariah’s Marriage, Mariah’s response to the countess’s revelation that Toby wanted to marry her, wasn’t the response I’d thought to type. As I typed, the girl’s reaction crystallised and when I read it over, I realised that the character had spoken and I needed to re-think that part of the plot and what happened next. An altogether satisfactory place to arrive at.
The other participants are listed below and despite having a teen at hand to consult, I’ve no idea why they’re appearing in miniature font. Comments on that or on how you create characters will be most welcome,
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/blog/round-robin-for-june
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