Round Robin – Plotting

Rhobin’s topic for September is about plotting. She wonders what, in designing our plots, we rely on most: personal experience, imagination or research.

This is a really difficult question to answer because its list of choices belies the delicate meshing of these three aspects of writing. They intertwine in a seamless fashion in my practice.

INMAGINATION – probably takes the lead, if I have to choose, because if you weren’t imagining, how would you progress to story? Say you’re on the bus and have to listen to a drunk setting the world to rights, by their way of thinking. It’ll be garbled non-sense, but it will have grains of their experience buried in the damaged psyche. So my writer’s brain is already at work. Did he say his mother had no time for him because she was an actress? Did she say her father had no time for her because she was female? On and on, over and over till the essence of story is distilled. That probably leads on to:

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE – so, discounting the inciting incident, be it drunk on bus, toddler having tantrum, stray deer in garden, I will consider what my wider experience of life can bring to the fledgling idea. In particular, I am influenced by place. Ocasionally, I experience a wash of feeling that alerts me to a theme long buried in my subconscious. I can only compare it to the hormonal reactions we all have when confronted by some circumstances. There’s a story here and it wants/needs to break free. This scene in the nether regions of a country house underpinned quite a few stories:

The Laundry

I can almost smell bleach just looking at it now. And that brings me rather neatly to:

RESEARCH – because memory is notoriously faulty, research is needed. I write historical romance, but I do not make up the history. I write contemporary magazine fiction, but I don’t know everything about anything, really. One of the things I find about research, particularly when working in the historical genre, is that often I don’t know what I need to know when I start writing. I will have read a lot around and in the area, studied maps of the time, looked at fashion plates, but there comes that moment of uncertainty. When were scissors invented? What year was the window tax?

Another thought provoking topic from Rhobin. Thank you Ma’am. Other writers give their take and you can read them from the links below.

Capital Writers will have a bit of news shortly. Come back soon to find it out.

Anne


Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1IK
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

Round Robin – Travel or Holidays in Fiction

This month Rhobin has asked us to post an extract from one of our novels dealing with either travel or holidays. I have chosen the second book I wrote for MuseItUp, Bella’s Betrothal. It opens in the midst of a journey Lady Isabella Wormsley has had to undertake with only her maid and some retainers to accompany her. A lady travelling alone is vulnerable, but some of them are no pushover…

Blurb for Bella’s Betrothal:

While she is travelling north to find sanctuary from the malicious gossip of the Ton, Lady Isabella Wormsley’s room in a Dalkeith inn is invaded by handsome Scottish Laird, Charles Lindsay. Charles has uncovered a plot to kidnap her, but Bella wonders if he isn’t a more dangerous threat, at least to her heart, than the villainous Graham Direlton he wrests her from. Bella settles into the household of her Aunt Hatty Menzies in Edinburgh’s nineteenth century George Square where Charles is a regular visitor. She has been exiled to the north by her unfeeling mama, but feels more betrayed by her papa to whom she has been close. Bella hopes the delivery of her young cousin’s baby will eventually demonstrate her own innocence in the scandal that drove her from home. Bella’s presence disrupts the lives of everyone connected to her. Direlton makes another attempt to kidnap her and in rescuing her a second time, Charles is compromised. Only a betrothal will save his business and Bella’s reputation. Mayhem, murder and long suppressed family secrets raise confusion and seemingly endless difficulties. Will the growing but unacknowledged love between Bella and her Scottish architect survive the evil Direlton engineers?

The stableyard was a cold and unattractive place at seven on a September morning. There was a light drizzle and the clouds kept the smoke from the town’s fires low over the surrounding streets. Lindsay’s retainer watched in silence as Bella’s coachman and groom strapped the overnight luggage into place. She was surprised to see her men defer to him. They had found fault and irritation with ostlers and grooms and inn landlords all the way north, but Macdonald calmed them. “Where is Mr. Lindsay, Lachie?” Bella asked when he handed her onto the step of the carriage. “I thought he regarded it as imperative I did not stir a foot without his supervision.” “And nor do I, ma’am,” Lindsay said before his steward could speak. He walked two riding horses across the yard. They were serviceable enough, but not the kind of prime bloodstock Bella was used to. “I wanted to keep the horses moving and Lachie is more at ease with the tack of a travelling coach than I.” She looked over her shoulder and the sight of Charles Lindsay in fresh linen and a magnificent heather-coloured riding coat lifted her spirits. He was clean shaven and despite his night-time wanderings, radiated energy and authority. This was how her morning departures should have been, Bella thought. One of her brothers or her cousin, Humphrey Plumpton, should have been in the yards of the wretched inns having dealt with payment and new horses and all the myriad irritations a traveller faced. “Are you unwell, my lady?” Lindsay asked. “No sir. Let us get off.” Bella spoke crossly and regretted it when Lindsay’s expression showed his displeasure at her rudeness, but there was nothing she could
do to retrieve the moment. Pride would not let her admit her family had cast her off without an escort. The pain of that betrayal was like an open wound. She settled into the carriage beside Sophie and let the girl tuck a thick blanket around her. Lindsay had mounted and leaned down from his saddle to speak through the open window. “We checked on Direlton’s men earlier, gave them water. They should be discovered when the grave-diggers reach that corner of the kirkyard later this morning,” he said, and Bella’s eyes widened. “You are surprised, ma’am, but I do not want any bodies laid to my door.” “Nor I, on my behalf,” she said, although truthfully if Aubrey Daunton had died after her cousins horse-whipped him, she would not have been moved to pray for his soul. “Was this all necessary, Mr. Lindsay? Could you not simply have offered me your escort?” “We will not agree, Lady Isabella, so let us not spoil the final stage of your journey by revisiting my actions and decisions. I see you have dressed in robust clothing. Thank you for taking that care.” He leaned away and the carriage lurched forward towards the pend. Bella lifted the window glass and sat back with her eyes closed. The wheels beneath her began to roll rhythmically and she allowed a long breath to escape. It was foolish to cherish his words of praise for her behaviour in dressing as he had instructed, but the closeness of his person as he spoke made her pulse run faster. Smethwick, her coachman, yelled his displeasure at some unfortunate, and Bella felt a smile tease the corners of her mouth. Her parents may have sent her into the world with scant care, but Smethwick and Grimes had been her rocks. And Sophie. She sensed the girl was falling into sleep. They had had little enough last night. * * * *
Bella roused from a troubled doze when Grimes’s harsh accents rent the air. “It’s Mr. Menzies hisself, Smethwick. He must ’ave took care to get hisself ’ere before us, think you?” The other man grunted in assent and began to slow the horses to a walk. Uncle Mack, Bella thought, instantly awake and horrified by the tears welling and spilling. How good it was to reach Edinburgh’s environs at last and have someone waiting for her. Someone sweet and familiar who would not crossquestion her or criticise. “Quickly, Sophie, unwrap me from this rug so that I may greet my uncle.” She pulled the thick folds away from her skirts and sat impatiently while her maid tucked stray hair into place beneath her bonnet. The once elegant head gear was much battered by its journey north and the last hour or two of chance sleep had left it unsalvageable. The girl splashed lavender water onto a handkerchief and dabbed it behind Bella’s ears and onto her wrists. “Thank you, Sophie,” Bella said as the carriage lurched to a halt and Smethwick called to his team. Within a minute the door opened and her uncle stood there. Bella burst into sobs. Great sobs wracked her slight frame and she couldn’t speak. “Calmly now, my dear, calmly,” Uncle Mack said. He hauled the step down and clambered into the vehicle. His weight caused it to rock, but Bella didn’t care. Warmth and love enveloped her every bit as surely as her uncle’s ample personage. Why had she had to travel hundreds of miles to find comfort? “Uncle, I’m sorry. I am so very sorry to be such a watering pot,” she managed between the sobs that shook her shoulders. Her uncle nodded to Sophie and took the girl’s place beside her. His arms came around her, and he gathered her to him like the lost child she was. “Now, my dear, here is James, who you can see has grown beyond anything
since you met him two years ago,” Uncle Mack said, and his words brought a gangly youth forward. The reins of two horses trailed from his left hand. “Why, James,” Bella said as she recognised her uncle and aunt’s eldest son.”You are so tall.” She scrabbled to find a handkerchief and mopped up the tears on her pale skin. “But I would have known you.” “Cousin Bella,” the boy said. A fiery blush swept over his youthful features. “It is so good to have you with us again. Faither, will I ride back and lead your horse? My mither is anxious to have our cousin safely at home.” “Truth to tell, Bella, I prefer to share your carriage, if you think the team will manage up the slope off the toll road?” Uncle Mack asked, but clearly had no doubt because he waved James on as he spoke. Smethwick soon started up the team and the little procession moved off. She lay against her uncle, content to feel the rise and fall of his chest and the tapping of his fingers on her shoulder as he prattled.

Buy Bella’s Betrothal Here

The authors below are also contributing this month and you might go on over to their sites to see how their characters travel or holiday, too.

 


Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1GK
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

 

Round Robin – How do you self-edit your work?

How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.

 

 

 

 

 

Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.

I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.

Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?

RULE No ONE:

Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.

RULE No TWO:

Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.

RULE No THREE:

Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.

In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.

As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth 

I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.

Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.

I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?

Anne


Skye Taylor

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman


Connie Vines

A.J. Maguire 


Dr. Bob Rich

Victoria Chatham


Helena Fairfax


Judith Copek


Rhobin L Courtright

 

 

 

Round Robin December – A Christmassy Thought or Two

This month Rhobin asked us to share a bit of writing, a short story, or a piece of Flash Fiction that encapsulates the spirit of the season. As it happens, happenstance, I have a Christmas story in Capital Christmas Stories, published yesterday and available here.

 

 

 

Capital Writers is a group of four Edinburgh based writers who work to support and encourage each other. Writing is a lonely business sometimes and it’s good to know there are friends like Kate, Jane and Jennifer, around.

My contribution to this little book is Christmas Witches and here’s a wee snippet:

Edinburgh 1819

Dropping down the hill from the closes and pends of the heaving Old Town to the braw wide streets of the New, was no easy task in the gathering gloom of Christmas Eve. Jeannie stayed by her side and Liza was grateful for the girl’s silent presence. Strathven’s mansion in Heriot Row would be ablaze with lights and full of his gathered kinsmen and their families. How would she gain access when the lady of the house had come to her secretly and was perhaps already lying-in.

We must go into the lanes around the back, Jeannie, and see if we can work out which entry is Lord Strathven’s.”

Aye, Mistress, the steward’s no going tae open the door tae jist anybuddy, is he?”

He is not, and nor should he. But we have an ally. We can ask for Mistress Gowans who was with Lady Margaret when she came visiting,” Liza said. The voices in her head were little calmed by her tisane and she longed for the support of another practitioner. She wondered if throwing Ragnall MacLeod out without hearing his arguments had been precipitate.

The mews behind Heriot Row were active. Grooms and their families bustled about in the narrow confines. Liza smelled the wood smoke and horse manure, the ordure running in the central gutter and the tang of blood. No doubt the maisters had brought meat from their estates to make a Christmas feast for the workers. Unheeded in their down-at-heel garb, the women moved forward.

So, is it Christmassy? You, the reader, must decide, but I, the writer, wanted a birth, the included and the marginal, the stable and the Grand House. For a limited period Capital Stories, our earlier volume, may be free to download.

In other news, I have a Biggy coming in January, check back for details.

Other Christmas Robins can be found below. Drop by for some wonderful reading. Season’s Greetings to you all, Anne

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1qI
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

Round Robin – Viewpoint

This month’s Round Robin question is about Viewpoint. How do we as writers tell the story, show the characters’ emotions and switch between them?

My normal mode is 3rd person character. That means, I am in one head at a time, but as the author. I don’t find 1st person easy to write. I enjoy reading author omniscient, but haven’t found it attractive enough to tempt me. I’ve never written anything in 2nd person where you might have used 1st, but are allowing a bit of outside observation and comment.

Generally, my novels will employ two central viewpoints. They will normally be the hero and the heroine. I enjoy pitting an attractive couple against one another and I like to see the same problem from two perspectives.

So, in Mariah’s Marriage, Mariah is determined to save Arabella from her brother’s violence, but Tobias is equally determined that doing so would put Mariah herself in danger.

London Girl

It’s a conflict of opinion. We, the reader, see Mariah enlist the help of her maid to outwit the considerable obstacles Tobias has placed in the way of her leaving the house. Eventually, we understand why Tobias has acted the way he has and, tension mounting, we’re in his head as the drama unfolds.

I think that’s why I find 1st person difficult. There just seems to be so much more needed by way of comment when that single voice has to keep filling us in. Things like ‘Of course, I didn’t know at the time, but Tobias thought I was dead.’ – are well enough, and often skilfully handled, but I prefer to be in Tobias’s head while he’s doing that thinking; while he’s doing that sufferring.

Maybe it’s because I used to write plays…

The serial I wrote for People’s Friend in 2016, A Traveller’s Life, had several voices. I enjoyed that a lot. It was liberating to leave the (self-) imposed discipline of two voices and allow one or two more to take centre stage. Again, the dramatist in me loved hearing what all these people thought. However, it’s not unbridled by any means. People’s Friend like their serials presented in ‘chapters’ so each one had a central Viewpoint. I was not head-hopping.

So, here’s the divide – what is head-hopping and why do some editors permit it?

Head-hopping is where the author allows everybody and his auntie to have their say – in one chapter, sometimes – I’ve seen it done – even in the same paragraph.

Personally, I find that way of writing too confusing for words. I want to know who I’m rooting for and whose story is the one being told. The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott is a modern tour de force and some of it tells the same story over. However, Scott uses different books to do this and that’s not a luxury offered to all.

I have a short historical story in a new anthology by Capital Writers, Capital Stories. It’s available for your kindle and a wee snip at 99p/$1.37.

There are other opinions on this fundamental writing skill and you’ll find some of them here:

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-1ag
Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax
http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Anne de Gruchy https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman
http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

Round Robin – What Makes a Memorable Character?

What Makes a Memorable Character? this is Rhobin’s December question.

Who are your memorable characters? This, for a person like me who cannot remember names, is a very difficult one to answer. I had hoped to start my post with a quick-fire list of the fictional characters who’ve stayed with me, but I’m going to have to look up some of the names. That makes me wonder whether it’s the character I remember or the characteristics. Rolling it all up, characteristics make the memorableness – is that a word? Spell checker doesn’t like it much.

So, the list:

Robin Hood, Anne of Green Gables, Scarlett O’Hara, the Snow Queen, The Saint, James Bond, Karen Brockman and anyone from the cast of NCIS.

These people exemplify the cloyingly good, the selfishly or evilly bad and the delightful mixture that stops you pigeon-holing them.

Robin Hood was on tv on a Thursday afternoon during my childhood. His adventures were unmissable and, as we had a bit of woodland behind the house, we could pretend. Sheer escapism as one learned later. Why wasn’t Richard back in England running his own country instead of despoiling someone else’s? I still have a faint scar on my thigh from crawling through long grass stalking something or other and crawling over a bit of glass!

Anne of Green Gables

It’s hard to find any reading lady of a certain age who doesn’t claim Anne as her favourite childhood book. She had red hair and a lively imagination – what wasn’t to like? Certainly her feistiness stayed with me over the years.

Scarlett O’Hara

Now, here we begin to have memorable characters who aren’t by any means role models or even likeable. She did, however, do her best in appalling circumstances and one admired – until the child died. I suppose there’re lots of ways of interpreting Mitchell’s intentions, but setting aside the ‘bad girls must be punished in the end’ philosophy, I cannot love a character whose selfishness endangered her children.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen kept me awake as a child. It was my first encounter with the power of evil and a much more realistic characterisation than the wicked step-mothers that panto reduced to – well, panto.

The Saint and James Bond I’ve mentioned before that I wrote a major sixth form essay on the anti-hero. These are the chaps to blame for that fascination: or maybe it was just Roger Moore’s raised eyebrow? I notice my own heroes often raise an eyebrow, too.

Karen Brockman

Karen Brockman, and I did have to look up the name, is the youngest child in the sit-com Outnumbered. The episodes were not scripted, but suggested to the child actors and Karen had some wonderfully effective scenes. Played by Ramona Marquez, the character could turn any expectation on its head. The character is a wonderful example of the self-absorbed and the mayhem that trait can wreak.

NCIS I loved the original series and many of the subsequent ones. Changes in the ensemble cast lost Cate, Jenny and Mike Franks. Again blatant escapism with larger than real-life characterisation and super-complicated plotting. I no longer watch as I find some of the chemistry gone and some of the plotting improbable to a degree.

So what memorable traits have I given my characters? I would say Mariah is determined. Bella is courageous. Daisy is self-aware, but it’s hard won. Melissa is brave in the face of enormous adversity. The character I’m writing at present will also need dollops of courage to get over her conservatism. Or, as we say now, leave her comfort zone.

To find out what my fellow authors think of this topic, go here:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-18Y
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

 

 

Round Robin – In What time period do set your stories?

Topic: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change? 

 

Unequivocally, I like to set my stories in the past. I do write short stories in the present, but I don’t remember ever having a go at the future.

THE PROBLEMS of writing in the past are two sides of the same coin, On the face of it is the problem created by not having been there. On the reverse is the problem created by having been there.

Dancing shoes with medals

Scottish Regency I wasn’t around in the latter years of George the Third’s reign and his son’s extended regency, but there is ample research material. Books, papers, art, furniture, the laws made, the laws enforced and, the real glory, the Georgian buildings still standing in many British cities. Edinburgh has its magnificent New Town and outriders like George Square where Bella’s Betrothal is set. I can look up the street directories and find out who lived in which house and what their occupation was. You can’t do that today!

One problem that creates difficulties for me in trying to woo some readers is the sheer cliff-face of the shift in attitudes since 1819. Some readers might be turned away by the strictures of life for a woman in that period. They may not wish or aren’t able to get into the mind-set. As a writer I love the challenge of working out how a woman would have made the best of it and, in the case of one’s heroine, bested the hero, her papa, the local lothario…

Midlothian 1950s

I was there and many, many of the thousands of folk who read my debut serial in The People’s Friend last year, A Traveller’s Life, were also there. Memory is a tricksy business. The facts may well be indisputable, but their interpretation most certainly is not. I have two friends from my early schooling who grew up in the village I did and the neighbouring one. Consulting them helped enormously because the sister of one not only remembered the nature of the District Nurse’s uniform and the blue lamp at her gate, but also her name. Another friend had worked as a District Nurse and provided me with the wonderful insight: “And you kept your hat on – no matter the procedure being undertaken.” A little thing, but annoying to the many wonderful ladies (I think that’s right, only women) who undertook such essential work, if you get it wrong.

ADVANTAGES

For me, the principle advantage of writing in the past is perspective. As a writer of fiction I do have a ViewPoint character and the story will be skewed to show that person’s perspective. Writing years after the type of event in the story allows me to have read and thought about what might have happened in those circumstances and what might have provoked it or even resolved it. I may have to give a particular VP, but I can at least allow the others to break the surface of memory’s pool.

WOULD I LIKE TO CHANGE

Maybe. I do have one or two stories I want to tell in the present rather than through the lens of the past. It is, however, very difficult when living amidst the glories of Edinburgh’s New Town and visiting on a fairly frequent basis the wonderful sweeps of London’s great Georgian streets and their magnificent parks, to drag myself into our world of ‘normal’.

WORK IN PROGRESS

It’s a mixture. I’ve got a Scottish Regency on the go having been primed by writing a short story for Capital Writers (more on another occasion). I have a scatty heroine and a set of loveable rogues poised on the threshold of adult responsibility. I’m also, the Fiction Editor mentioned it in her blog two weeks ago, writing a contemporary serial for People’s Friend.

If you want to read others’ views on this month’s topic, here’s the list of great participants:

 

Marie Laval http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/
Anne de Gruchy
https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-14G
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
A.J. Maguire 
http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright
http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Round Robin – Description – How Much is Too Much – Too Little?

 
Description I remember a writing lesson exercise at primary school. The task was to describe the living room of our house. It was a huge joy when the teacher said of my piece that he would be able to walk into that room and not bump into anything because my description was so careful, he knew where everything was.
     So, is that degree of detail appropriate for the kind of historical fiction I write now?
I don’t think so. I prefer to give the reader a few clues and allow them to visualise countryside, room, people, animals, in their mind’s eye. I like to think that a clue will conjure a world.
     If it’s pouring rain, the reader will see the water from a phrase like, ‘She came up out of the underground into a mass of folk hurrying on their way beneath a jostling canopy of umbrellas.’
     On the other hand, if the sun is blazing, I might use, ‘She shielded her eyes beneath an outstretched palm. It was hard to tell whether the heat was more shocking than the expanse of flesh on view. She knew her mother was right when she said Brits don’t dress well in summertime.’
     I want to include enough to let the reader know the bits of information it is important they do not get wrong. I want them to see the difference between a young lady and her maid, a crossing-sweeper and an Eton school-boy – and so on. One of my favourite passages from one of my own books is this from Mariah’s Marriage:

“Of course Tilly would be interested in the earl’s tailored wool coat with his spotless waistcoat and carefully tied neck cloth. The men who normally visited here wore ill-fitting garments which were often stained with food. Not only that, but the earl had a clean-shaven face and the hair of his head was trimmed into a neat style that allowed his strong bones to be seen easily. Seen and admired, she thought.”

I think this little snippet of description not only tells us what Tobias looks like, but how overwhelmed Tilly is and, indeed, how Mariah, too, is succumbing.

London Girl

London Girl

     Our topic also asked whether I skimmed description when reading a book. Oh dear, yes I do. I am most likely to skim scene-setting description. It’s very unfair of me and maybe I should try harder, but honestly, I want to know the characters are in a dental surgery or a fast-food outlet, but I don’t need to know what colour the paintwork is. Unless, of course, that’s relevant to the plot.
So, if description interests you, then read on among my Round Robien friends below. I think you’ll enjoy…

Round Robin – Prologue and Epilogue

PROLOGUE AND EPILOGUE The temptation to misquote from something half remembered is too strong to overcome. In my beginning is my end…

I don’t use either prologues or epilogues in the four novels I’ve published so far. It is fair to say that Daisy’s Dilemma carries on the story of Lady Daisy and by doing so tells any interested reader what happened after the first book, Mariah’s Marriage, ended.

But that is novel length and hardly a short rounding off of anyone’s story.

So – why not?

Prologues almost, but not quite, fall into the same category as Introductions for me. I don’t read them before I read the book and sometimes not even then. Is this impatience to be getting on with the story? Is it arrogance? Why do I need to have someone’s view of a subject before forming my own?

Prologues of course are little tasters. They plant a hook deep in the reader’s brain about what happened to, or in the life of, one of the characters who are about to unfold on the book’s stage. I prefer to have all of that in my story. Maybe it’s just a question of stylistic preference.

Epilogues round off or flesh out the ending the reader has been presented with. Just in case one was unsure doubt is removed. Yes, there was a happy ending and here is how it evolved. No, it was a bittersweet ending and here is how it evolved. Oh dear, the baddie was rescued by a passer-by and is recovering in hospital to plague the hero and/or heroine in another book.

Personally, although I do read epilogues, I like my own imagination to have room to weave an ongoing fantasy.

Our full topic asked if you could have one without the other. I don’t see why not, but perhaps my fellow bloggers have reasons. Catch their opinions below.

Anne Stenhouse Author

Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-QS
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

September Round Robin – do you have eccentric writing practices – Pardon?

What writing practices do you have that you think are eccentric or at least never mentioned, but you find helpful? – is the theme or topic for September’s Round Robin post.

Hmn!

If they’re our practices will we be aware that they’re eccentric? If we are, do we keep quiet about them lest others think we’re eccentric – or because we sense an unfair advantage?

100_5920So, Tunnock’s Tea-cakes are the secret eccentricity around here. But – maybe not so eccentric as they’ve been around, if not here exactly, but in Scotland anyway, for  nigh on 60 years. They are a much enjoyed tea-time delicacy, school snack, lunch treat, anytime…

bannerfans_15410729

And how do they constitute an eccentricity in writing terms? Well, when it’s going well, they’re a wee reward. when it’s going okay, they’re a sugar rush to the head. When it’s going badly – well there are worse things to do than eat a teacake – or two.

Maybe I was supposed to tell you about long-hand drafts or my portable type-writer; the folders of tourist information brought back from trips abroad and never again consulted, but I know they’re there if needed; the xxxx dotted through MSS so I can find the places in need of corroboration or checking; the frantic ‘find and replace’ searches in final edits so that the heroine’s hair and eye colour is the same throughout.

Maybe.

My fellow Round Robin friends may have more curiosities for your delectation. They can be consulted by clicking on the links below. In the meantime, I’ll unwrap a teacake, designed by Boyd Tunnock for the family firm in Uddingston in 1956.

Courting the Countess

courting-the-countess

 

 

 

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Dr. Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/09/24/is-my-writing-right-for-you
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com