Ghosts

Have you noticed on the TV they are starting to put on more horror…? I guess it must be coming up to that time – Halloween! I love this time of year with the leaves turning red and orange and the pumpkins ripening; looking like orange jewels in a load of green and brown foliage. So I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that I love ghost stories. Here is one that I am hoping to turn into a young-adults / middle-range book.

Ghosts

The Story

1930s bike bellA girl of about 12 years is looking for her sister. Dinner is ready and she needs to go inside. When she finds her, the little girl is with her friend leaning over a puddle and poking at something with a stick. The sister rushes them home, but she goes back to the puddle to make sure there isn’t a hurt animal in it.

The puts the stick in and it is as deep as the stick. There is something at the bottom. She manages to grab it and sees it is an old-fashioned bicycle bell. She takes it with her. A ghost cycles past.

The Logline

Melissa only went out to fetch her sister, but after finding an old-fashioned bicycle bell she inadvertently invites the presence of a ghost, and he wants his bell back.

Child Genius

Child Genius

This prompt got me thinking… If you are a child genius what happens when you get older? Sure you skip a year or two in school and everything flies by until you are no longer with peers but people who are so much older than you. Do you socialise? How do you socialise? What happens when everyone is learning to drive and you are meant to be still playing with cars…?

The Story

booksTroy was a normal baby. He talked early but walked even earlier. By his third birthday he was reading. He hit primary school being about to devour books including Harry Potter. He flew through maths and soared in history. his brain was nothing more than a sponge and it soaked up everything.

But he would be alone in the playground, He ate his lunch in the library and he only studied when he went home. His parents never noticed. Instead they would bring him out of his room and dust him off, like a precious antique. They would then parade him in front of friends. Troy would laugh and smile, but inside he was the loneliest person on the planet.

Troy grew and he grew well. His genes were predestined to made him broad in the right places and narrow in others. He hit six-foot at fourteen and gained his first degree. By the time he was half way through his PhD he was driving but not drinking and the education had become a way to escape his family life.

At the age of seventeen he disappeared. Six months later he sent his parents a postcard. It had on the front a penguin in a knitted hat and the back just held his scrawl with the words ‘I’m fine.’

Logline

Troy is a child prodigy and the next Einstein, but on his seventeenth birthday he packed his bags and left. When he walks into Mile Town he had no idea that he would never leave, not that he wanted to, not in the end.

Ebb and Flow

The Daily Prompt has asked for a blog post from the future, three years to be exact… What will I be doing then? Most of the time I barely know what I am doing a week in advance. But this is a blog post of my perfect-ish future.

Ebb and Flow

2016

September is ending and with it another signing tour. ‘A Terrible Beauty’ is crawling up the charts but I loved meeting all you readers. Still glad to be back home and working on something without the hustle and bustle of city life. I love it but at the same time I miss the green. Some how the parks are never the same as walking the dogs up the side of a mountain in Wales. Here the weather is harsher, the air clearer and the sky bluer.

Still I will miss the people. But back in the workshop and working on the next in the series for the children – Echoes #5 will be finished soon. The first draft is about half way there.

Still having a problem with sentence length, still I must remember that short = tension. Otherwise it breaks up the flow of the story too much.

I woke last night with an idea for a picture book – well is was more of an image. It showed a teddy sitting on a hillside having a conversation with the moon. Sounds odd? Not as odd as I was a star listening in. I will work on the image and then see what story comes out of it.

I do love the leaves when they fall. The colour looks like the hillside has caught alight but burns with a quiet slow flame rather the hot fast one in the fireplace.

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Of course what I’m saying here is that I am making a living at the writing – my dream and one I hope comes true by 2016. 🙂

 

Imagery and the art of realism

When I write I am totally focused on bringing my characters to life; to create something so real that you want to go up to the character and shake their hand. You want to meet them in a restaurant or dinner or cafe and talk to them, to ask about their life and their family.

I have just read ‘Dr Sleep’ by Stephen King and I wanted to do the same with Dan Torrance. I wanted to meet him and give him a hug and ask how he was and what he was up to now. That I think is the height of realism in writing. Stephen King has created a character so real that, despite the unreal elements of the book, you want to meet him.

That is what I want from my characters. I write about children, either in children’s books or in adult stories. For adult readers I want them to bend and hug my character, and the children that read them I want them to wish they could be my characters best friend. But as to whether I manage – time will tell.

I was an artist, actually I still am but I don’t commercially sell them. I was into realism and had been ever since I saw this:

violin on doorYou want to reach out and touch it. Of course you can’t but it looks like a real violin hanging on the back of a door and not a painting of one.

This is what I wanted to emulate with my art and I have found it is what I want to do with my writing. I am still the same artist I was but instead to wielding a paintbrush I write. My watercolours have given way to words and I think I do a better job at creating realism with my writing than I ever did with my painting.

In writing it is this realism that make or breaks a book. You have to love the character, or hate them, but it has to be a response. It has to make you want to turn that page. You have to paint that character and then create a place for them using only words and imagery. And I’m not taking about descriptive imagery. It is more to do with understanding the character and what they are thinking. I find that the character has to be real inside and outside of his head. Or her head. The realism has more to do with what the writer reveals about the situation than about what colour the grass is.

Does that make sense? Take your favourite book – be it literary or popular fiction, and find the description of the character. I’m betting that it is sketchy. That the writer has allowed you to create the look of the man or woman or animal. In writing it is as important to know when to stop as when to add. When I was an artist I knew the power of the nothing between strokes. A powerful image understands the beauty of white space and as writers we have to do the same. I find it a balancing act that is hard to get completely right. I just hope that with practice it will happen. That one day I will ask someone to read something and they will, and I won’t be able to make them put down the book until they are finished.

Until that day I will continue to practice. I do wonder though – how many times did that artist draw the violin until he got it perfect and someone tried to pick it up off the back of the door?

Sub-text and sub-plot

Why do I find this SO difficult?

The sub-plot is another plot that runs along the main plot but isn’t the main plot, whilst the sub-text is the underlying meaning of the phrase or dialogue that is there but not explicitly stated…

What!

My head hurts!!!

The other thing we looked at in the workshop was creativity – define creativity…

After this my head exploded and I went home to cry. I think it is the dyslexia but these concepts are really difficult to get my mind around. So I have my version. Here is my take on all three – please feel free to contradict me as I am having difficulty with this.

Sub-plot

This is a secondary story that supports the first. They can either be connected or they have a theme in common. For example in ‘Jaws’ the plot is the shark but we also follow Quinn’s story and that of the marine biologists. Both of these characters support the main plot and are connected by circumstance and the shark.

Sub-text

This is more difficult. Say you are carrying something heavy and you see a friend. You say – man, this is heavy. But you aren’t just stating the fact, you are also saying – help, can you help me. And you are being sarcastic – why are you stood there not doing anything?

The sub-text is the implied story, the one that is there but is not shown or told about. Take ‘Harry Potter’, he is a boy going to wizard school but he is also an abused child escaping the clutches of his abusers. Or ‘The Wind in the Willows’ – Toad is prone to changing his mind and getting urges that he pursues, but the sub-plot is that if you ignore the consequences of your actions you will lose friends.

Creativity

The most difficult of the three. What is creativity? I think it is the creation of something new, something different… It is difficult. Is a film creative and if it is – who is the creative person behind it? The screenwriter, the director, the producer….

If a person draws a picture it is creative. If a person writes a book is it not also creative? My lecturer seems to think that creativity can be itemised and I think it is more vague than that.

I mean it is great if you write something and it has not only a sub-plot but also a sub-text, but I’m not sure you need to worry if they are missing. If they aren’t there is the story any less creative than the one that has them? I really don’t think so. I’ve written a few things with both a sub-plot and a sub-text, but at the time I didn’t think about either as I wrote them. They were accidental.

The prospect of starting a piece trying to write both seems stifling. And terrifying…

I am just going to write and if they turn up then ‘brilliant’, but if they are missing I am not going to get into a twist about it. Just by writing I am being creative… I think… Maybe?

 

The elderly spy

The Elderly Spy

The beginning –

Mrs Simpkin sat at her desk. She was Mr Hargreaves personal secretary and as such was privy to all his comings and goings. So when the operative had walked over that morning and smiled at her, handing her a note she had stared at it with surprise.

“Am I meant to deliver this?”

“No, it’s for you.” And then he had left. Sauntering along, hands in his pockets and humming a tune.

Of course she had known he was an operative because she remembered him from the training, but still she hadn’t realised that he would be sent to her. She was very successful. After all who would have thought a fifty five year old could be a spy, especially as her career had not begun until her fifty second birthday.

She stared at the blank cover of the note. It couldn’t be her fault. She had infiltrated the office completely and the boss relied on her for everything.

Shaking a little she opened the note. In it was stamped one word in bold – Stung. Immediately she got her bag, put the note inside and got up. Leaving her coat where it was she smartly walked out of the office and headed for the exit.

Minutes after three dark suited men arrived at her desk.

“Where is she?” one asked.

“She’s left her coat,” one replied.

“No purse. She’s run.”

Within minutes the exits were blocked.

Across the road Mrs Simpkin got out her compact and fixed her hair, a tendril had escaped her bun, then straightening her bun she walked into the crowd. Silently and in step with her the younger operative fell in beside her and they were both swallowed by crowd of Monday afternoon shoppers.

Logline

Mrs Simpkin is a fifty-five year old spy who holds a secret that could change the world, and with a younger operative she starts her journey risking all for her job and country.

Standstill

Daily Prompt – Standstill

SheepIf I could make one moment from today standstill? It would have to be the point where the sheep were all in the barn. For that split second we could have closed the gate and then treated them and it would be all done with.

Except in that split second the skittish ring leader reared and spun, charging out of the shelter and running up the slope. Leaving me and my dad standing at the bottom making the air blue with bad language.

The result is that we will try again later, after they have settled…

But…

Wait…

Just looked in the field and there they are, all stood in the shelter looking out like a bunch of soppy sheep. Try to go in though and at the first creak of the gate – out they dash, up the slope and away.

We will try bribery later. They will do anything for food – I hope.