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An article I wrote about four years ago when I was absolutely obsessed with the Internet, online file sharing, blogging, Web 2, etc, etc. 

A number of people, I notice, are losing interest in Social Media sites and only use them occasionally, if at all.  Some are returning to so-called old-fashioned email.  Possibly, the increase in phone Apps has led to a general feeling of bombardment - i.e. things have become too much, impossible to relax when phones and other devices constatly squeal or blare out music.

I still value the many opportunities made possible via the internet and mobile phones.  Equally, since writing the article, I’ve discovered new and other interests that don’t require an internet connection.   For instance, foreign languages.  (At the moment, I’m on Intermediate French and Beginners German. ) 

So for the first time in four years, I can actually go through two or three days without logging on. 

Amazing! 

http://lawrenceez.wordpress.com/2010/05/04/what-i-like-most-about-the-internet/

What I Like Most About The Internet

Initially, I took an immediate dislike to the Internet.  Like many people brought up on a diet of pens, pencils and typewriters, I was suspicious of what I probably regarded as another trend.  Then, in 1998, someone told me they might have a spare typewriter I could have, but the typewriter never materialised, so a friend lent me her word processor.

Imagine the excitement and fascination…I could already touch type, but the machine in front of me offered a lot more.  It allowed me to save work to a disk and copy/move sections of writing, and it also checked for spelling errors.  And there were plenty of those at first.  As I writer, I believed that I’d found the most valuable tool for writing.

At around the same time, one of my friends bought his first computer and we often had friendly arguments about which was better – a PC or a standard word processor?  To cut a very long story short, my friend created a Hotmail account for me that I still use today for email and storing documents, although I couldn’t see any point of having the account at first.  Within a few months, however, I’d brought my own computer and gone on an IT course.   I’ve never looked back.  Over the coming years, I studied HTML and CSS and learnt how to design basic websites.  I even enjoy reading books on Troubleshooting!

I still, of course, value life away from the computer.  Equally, I can’t imagine life without the computer or the Internet.  So why do I like the Internet so much? 

  • People with access to the Internet (they don’t even need to have a connection at home) can publish almost anything on the Web, usually for free.   Photographs. Pieces of music. Books and articles. Magazines.  Digital radio shows.  Films.  And a lot more.
  • People can download fully functioning programs (Open Source) for free, including website builders, word processing facilities, spreadsheets, digital photography and sound editing.  A few years ago, these programs would have cost a lot of money.
  • The average citizen can start a blog and engage in journalism.
  • Elderly people have an opportunity to record their memoirs for future generations. (I particularly like this.)
  • Artists, musicians and writers can showcase their work for free.
  • People can track down old friends and keep up with present friends without needing to go out and buy stamps.
  • Web 2.0 sites enable the average person to create the media content of their own choice.  The Internet revolution of the last few years is, quite literally, a revolution.

Just a few of my reasons.

I’m most of the way through a third novel, Silent, a psychological thriller set in the North, aimed at teenagers and the Young Adult market. 

In Silent, central character Gavin (17) attends a special school for gifted musicians after getting in trouble with the police back in London.  But events from the past threaten the safety of the students, along with current mind games, and Gavin finds himself drawn into confusion and danger:

The atmosphere had changed and I thought the town looked pretty unattractive now. Dying feel. Black, grey sea with its lapping waves. Tide in. Cheerless sky. Daylight ebbing away. The pylon-like structure holding up the pier. The abandoned vendor booths and empty cider cans. The dome-like room of the Grand Theatre, aged and grimy. Closer to the sea, I detected a scent, a mixture of pickled onions and diesel that seemed to get stronger and stronger, and once more, I wondered why a family like the Harlesden’s had chosen to host their piano master classes in a town like this one.

The sun had begun to set over the horizon, a strident shade of scarlet and purple, and the smell from the sea intensified. The late evening breeze turned chilly, brushing my cheeks, cooling them. So Philippa had invited Dawn and Paul too. For a moment or two, I considered giving the party a miss and getting a cab back. I wished people would stop picking on me and treating me like a kid.

 

On the merry-go-round of the life of an unknown author.   A book launch last year bought in about thirty or forty people whereas an author talk in the local library last weekend resulted in just four people attending.  

Similarly, the local library want to stock my second novel EggHead, but WH Smith has removed my debut novel Secrets from their website. 

A mixture of good and bad then.  

I’m working on a third novel, Silent, a psychological thriller aimed at teenagers and young adults.   In the story, talented musician Gavin goes on a Summer School up north after getting into trouble back in his native London.  But during the week at the school, he finds himself in further trouble…

A brief sample:

Behind us, the first clouds of smoke are forming, the flames crackling in the distance and dancing up walls, the pungent smell of burning beginning to starve the air of oxygen. Somewhere in the building, a miniature explosion sounds, followed by another.  A third explosion sounds somewhere in the building, even louder than the last one. I consider ducking, but Jace shakes his head. ‘We’ve got to get out of here,’ he says, panting. ‘Before the roof caves in.’

 

St Patrick’s Day

It’s that time of the year again. St Patrick’s Day and celebrations, and also my birthday.  Glorious weather too, at least here in the UK.

Wishing everyone a Happy St Patrick’s Day.

 

 

I haven’t had much time to blog lately.  My current working novel Silent, a psychological thriller aimed at teenagers and Young Adults, is going well and I’ve covered a good two-thirds of the story.  

I’ve taken up French in my spare time – hence, the title of this post.  As a classically trained musician, I tend to find language learning easy – the whole thing about hearing the sentences (general meaning) rather than sifting through long lists of words and irregular verbs.  

I would compare studying French to learning Mozart on the piano.  Mozart has to be precise.  French, too, has a precise structure that often revolves around the use of specific pronouns.   It’s a great language, relatively easy to gain an overall knowledge of, but like the Mozart piano sonata, pretty difficult to master on a fluency level. 

My next goal.

I’m at that section again, where events in the story start to pile up, creating tension. 

Creating tension in fiction, particularly in crime fiction or psychological thrillers, takes a great deal of thought.  Too much, and the story loses its sense of reality, taking on a monotonous tone (ie. “one thing after another”); two little, and the story becomes boring.  Additionally, the tension has to compliment the character’s true nature (their motives and sources of conflict). 

Difficult. 

The following section comes from the subsidiary (female) viewpoint in my current novel . The character, aged seventeen, has got herself into a lot of trouble.

Back door open. No Arthur.  Nothing, apart from the sense of someone waiting by the trees, peering in at the cottage, at her. A person again, watching.  A shaft of sunlight fell in the centre of the garden, creating patterns that danced in front of her eyes, and the light obscured the person by the trees  She blinked; the next time she looked, the person had gone.

Shutting the front door quietly, she left the cottage, turned right and hid behind a barn. Now what?  Should she take a taxi or bus?  She needed to reach Jace or Gavin before Arthur contacted the police.

Her phone rang.   

Unfamiliar number.

‘Yes?’

‘Lucy,’ a voice whispered. ‘Is that you?’

The voice.  Familiar, so familiar.  Like Arthur’s, but much younger. Male, husky from years of cigarette smoking. She thought she’d never hear it again.

‘Lucy, it’s me. Don’t turn round,’ the voice whispered.

Once again, I’ve reached the crucial moment in my current novel – namely, the middle section – where choices made can easily destroy earlier potential for drama and immediacy.  Compare to playing chess.  Many people have a good understanding of the opening moves, but once the players reach the middle section, they require a greater understanding of mental combat.  I think the same applies to writing; once the writer reaches a certain point in the story, they’ll probably find the second half much harder to plot and bring off.

I’m currently reblogging articles from five years ago when I first started this blog and was struggling with my first novel, now published.  The following addresses a number of structural issues and introduces the standard story arc: 

 

Creative Writing Headaches

 January 13, 2009 by lawrenceez | Edit

You come up with an idea. You sit down to write. An hour or two later, you crunch up the paper or switch off the computer in disgust. Or you’re already halfway through a story and don’t know where to go next. When I first sat at the computer to begin a psychological thriller, I had no idea of the difficulties in store.

Choosing an Opening

I began with a repetitive dream, perhaps one of the most difficult starters because of the tendency to overdo things by pumping up the fear factor. Not only was the dream untypical of repetitive dreams, it didn’t actually tell the reader much. When I took the work to a novelist group, a member suggested opening with the first inciting incident where a young married couple return from a New Year’s party and the wife, an artist, thinks someone has tampered with her painting. The wife is correct, of course, but her husband thinks she’s overreacting. The rationale and back story took a long time to sort out and I ended up with an entirely different story. I experimented with a number of openings, finally settling for a short dream in present tense – an option I wouldn’t normally recommend. I settled for this option because I believe it’s the best way of beginning this particular story.

Openings are a real headache. In my opinion, people shouldn’t worry too much about the opening sentences at first. It’s better to continue writing until you have a basic draft to work with. Then, you can go back over the draft and select a few possible starters.

Dialogue

My least favourite part of the process. In writing dialogue, the writer has to give the impression of real speech without recording it word for word. Each speaker also needs to be distinct. I try to hear the characters’ voices and accents when I read back over the manuscript. At some point, I made the decision not to print off large sections of dialogue until I’d had the chance to read the sections again a day or two later. It’s amazing how muddled dialogue can get on a first attempt. Not to mention, all the shrugging, smiling, grinning and laughing people can do in one chapter. Generally, writers should stick to “he said/she said” and avoid the use of other attributive verbs because these distract the reader from the purpose of the speech. Also to be avoided are unnecessary adjectives – for instance, he said quietly, she said angrily. The speech itself should reveal how the character speaks.

Dialogue has to travel from an opening point to a finish through a process of development – again, difficult to pull off. Making a few notes away from the computer helps keep dialogue focused. In particular, you should ask yourself what you are hoping to convey in the section you’re working on.

Loss of focus after a few chapters

When I first started, the story soon became chaotic and unbelievable. Add to this, the overwriting and clumsy punctuation. Nowadays, I jot down the relevant story questions after every fifty pages of work and I constantly refer back to the notes.

Many stories pass through eight stages:
The starting point (“stasis”).
An inciting event (“trigger”).
The central character’s search for an answer, an object or a person (“quest”).
A succession of obstacles preventing the character from achieving their aim (“surprise”).
Decisions the character makes (“critical choice”).
The consequences of the choices (“climax”).
Consequences of climax (“reversal”).
Aftermath/New Stasis (“resolution”).

In thrillers and crime, the central characters should be driven by conflict, both external and internal.

In my earlier drafts, the main character went to the police when she suspected someone was coming into her home – a course of action most people would take in real life. As I reworked the back story, I realised the character couldn’t go to the police because of a secret in her past. Instead, she is forced to turn to an elderly family friend, someone she doesn’t fully trust. Here, we have three sources of conflict – the disturbances in her home, her past secret and her distrust of the elderly friend.

To discover sources of internal conflict, write biographical notes for each of your main characters in first person, paying close attention to areas of their lives that draw a blank or produce a particularly strong emotion. Mark these areas and go through each one separately, making further notes. You now have your sources of conflict to work with.

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