Archive for March, 2017

What’s in a name?

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , on March 14, 2017 by Kate Jack

There are various ways of choosing names for your characters. For example calling them after someone you know, or perhaps a TV personality, film star, or even “collecting” names from gravestones, or consulting the Yellow pages and even the telephone directory 🙂

I once worked as a data processor for a famous catalogue, recording the details of people who’d entered a competition the company was holding at the time. Wow! What a treasure trove that turned out to be! Not only were there unusual names aplenty, there was also a plethora of location names to inspire story lines. This proved a great resource, but not wishing to infringe anyone’s privacy, I always altered names slightly to produce my own version and never used anyone’s actual location details. Instead I’d combine place names to come up with completely fictional scenarios.

The first book of The Silver Flute Trilogy, Land of Midnight Days, was set in a city. I deliberately didn’t give it a name, but garnered the details of its streets and buildings from locations in Liverpool city centre, my own home town. One of them was St Luke’s church, as pictured above. This building was bombed during the Second World War. It’s always fascinated me because the damage caused was to the interior only, leaving the outer walls more or less intact.

Once I’d created a backdrop, I then moved onto creating the occupants of my fictional city. I decided to call my main protagonist Jeremiah Tully  and gifted him with the ability to play the flute. The reason for this was because I love the 70’s rock band, Jethro Tull. Once I’d decided on the direction the stories were going to take, I thought long and hard about the other characters’ names and decided on a “biblical” theme, in order to enhance the epic feel of the stories. For example: Zebediah and Ezra are two of the names I chose. However, I didn’t want the narrative to be bogged down by too many elaborate names and most of the other protagonists and antagonists have ordinary names such as Joseph, Helen, and so on. I also made up the names: Thrace, Sylvan, Questial and Elawyn. Since I write YA urban fantasy, I had a fair amount of freedom to embellish my characters with wide ranging monikers. 

Of course it does depend, to a certain degree, what names can be used, depending on the genre you write in. That said, there are millions of “real-life” beautiful and unusual names to pick from, in order to make your characters memorable to the reader. Along with great, three-dimensional personalities, a writer can make a huge impression, enabling people to engage with your work.

The Silver Flute Trilogy

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Which is more fun to write…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on March 13, 2017 by Kate Jack

…Heroes or Villains? 

Personally I love writing the latter. As writers it’s our job to produce characters that intrigue the reader, and to raise questions about them that lead the reader on, until they gain the answers. Yes, I do evolve characters that have no redeeming features at all, such as Ezra, one of the main protagonists in Land of Midnight Days, but I also like to create characters that, on the surface, could be bad, should be bad and maybe are. In other words, I like to insert a little bit of uncertainty in the readers’ minds. 

With Ezra there’s no doubt about his evilness, but his real persona is hidden quite deep. Why is he the way he is? Why does he follow a certain pattern? Why is he afraid of  a woman who appears to be no physical threat to him? The answers to these questions are gradually revealed, as the story progresses.

In the second book of The Silver Flute Trilogy Through The Gloaming, we come across another character, called Thrace. He is an enigma, within a mystery, wrapped up in a puzzle. He is a brother in the Dark Monks. However, despite his apparent calling, there is something sinister about him. His past is steeped in bloodshed, war, chaos and mayhem. So how did he become part of an order that seeks only to do good? Is he hiding from someone? 

Dawn Horizon, the third book in The Silver Flute Trilogy heralds the appearance of  Elawyn. Initially it’s unclear as to whether she’ll turn out to be good or bad. She’s bitter, resentful and petulant, with some reason. However, she does change over the course of the story, evolving as she becomes more familiar with her fellow travellers. But does she change for the better, or does she betray her companions and send them to their doom? She is beautiful, but does her beauty disguise a degenerate spirit, or is it an outward display of who she really is?

I had a great deal of fun creating these people, moulding them into what I wanted them to be. That said, some of them seemed to take over their own creation, sometimes turning into something altogether different from what I’d originally intended 🙂

So how did I decide on names, physical appearance, and character traits? Well, I created “character sheets” for each of them. These are basically lists, outlining all of the above so that I ended up with a vivid mental picture in my mind, each time I wrote about them. Character sheets are also handy to consult, if you’ve not written about a character for a long time. It helps with continuity, keeping the character consistent and three dimensional. 

So, my friends, go forth and create. People your worlds with unforgettable characters that will entrance, appal, cause your readers to love, hate and long to read more. But above all have fun doing it. 🙂

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The Silver Flute Trilogy

 

From your point of view…

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on March 12, 2017 by Kate Jack

From what point of view do you write? Your own, as the narrator? Multiple characters? Or first person? Personally I find it quite hard to write first person, as it’s too restrictive for me and it’s quite difficult to indicate what any of the other characters are thinking. Yes, you can use facial expressions, body language and so on, but for me I run the risk of becoming repetitive. I also feel that my hands are tied and become bored and frustrated as a result.

These days the fashion seems to be to write from a single point of view, rather than several, as this is supposed to confuse the reader. To change POV, the writer is supposed to move onto another chapter, or scenario to avoid this confusion. I find that opinion a little patronising, as I’ve read several books written from multiple POVs, within one chapter or scenario, and if it’s done skilfully, I find it’s not a problem to follow what’s going on. An example of this is the brilliant fantasy writer, Sir Terry Pratchett. He changes POV constantly, especially with internal dialogue, and he does it so well, there is no problem knowing who is “speaking.” Having said that, a writer has to be extremely clever to achieve this.

So from what POV do I write? Well, for the sake of my sanity, I usually follow the current trend, a single POV, only changing it in the next chapter or scenario. Why? Because I don’t have the skill to not confuse the reader. At one time I was “head hopping” by the second, this resulted in laboured narrative and dialogue, plus comments that my writing was a “headache” and reading it was like “wading through treacle ” A plethora of adverbs 

Why did I finally settle on my style of writing? It was all down to my university lecturer, when I was doing my MA in creative writing. He explained it like this: Imagine that each character is wearing a camera on their shoulder. When you are writing from that character’s POV, only indicate what that camera,  or the character, can see or hear. This helped me immensely and stopped me from making my character’s get inside each other’s heads.

So, whatever POV you write from, make sure it’s clear to your readers who’s doing what and why, and the world will be your oyster 🙂

tweeting

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A plethora of adverbs, adjectives, gerunds & so forth.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on March 11, 2017 by Kate Jack

Which one of these descriptive passages do you find easier to read? Which flows better?

Totally terrified, she ran through the forest of trees, her heart thudding loudly in her chest. Tripping and stumbling, she staggered onward, totally exhausted.

Filled with terror, she ran through the forest; her heart thudded in her chest. Tree roots almost caused her to trip, but she stumbled on, near to total collapse.  

They both say the same thing, but the first passage is slowed down by overuse of adverbs and repetition. For instance the word “totally” is quite unnecessary; either’s she’s terrified or she’s not.

“A forest of trees?” This is an example of repetition; the word “forest” is sufficient to describe the character’s surrounding.

“Her heart thudding loudly in her chest?” This is definitely overkill. The word “Thud” indicates that her heart is racing with fear and sounds loud to her, as it will reverberate in her ears.

“Tripping and stumbling, she staggered onward, totally exhausted.” This sentence contains two gerunds, words ending in ing, and the adverb “totally”, plus repetition in the form of “stumbling, and staggered.” 

When I first began to write, most of my descriptive passages were littered with overuse of adverbs, adjectives, gerunds and so on. They slowed the story right down and caused any readers I was lucky to get to give up. My writing was described as a “headache” and “like wading through treacle.”

Of course adverbs, etc, have their place; it’s impossible to do without them, but they should be used sparingly. The saying: “less is more” might be a cliche, but like most cliches, it’s also true. 🙂

 

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