Creation and Evolution: The Two Stages of Character Development

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Based on that heading, you might have thought this was going to be about an entirely different topic but fear not! Religion and politics are the two discussion subjects to avoid for an easier life and since I’ve already ventured into politics (in a very small way), I won’t push my luck with religion.

Of course, the creation and evolution I’m talking about here relate to character development: who your characters are at the beginning of your story and who they become as the story unfolds and concludes. The two stages have a lot in common but there are important differences in getting each of them right. Continue reading

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Cheating Your Way to Better Editing

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Let’s face it – there are so many rules in the English language that no one (not even a trained editor like me) can know them all (that’s why I have lots of reference books to make sure I get it right more often than I get it wrong). But if the rules and the reference books aren’t your thing, there are a few things you can do to cheat your way to better editing.

Minimalise Headings
The rules state that certain words in headings shouldn’t be capitalised, such as “a”, “the” and “and” (unless they are the first word in the heading). There are more groups of words that aren’t supposed to take an initial capital. But do you know what they are? More importantly, do you care?

So an easy way to avoid having to figure it out is to use the minimal approach – that is to only use an initial capital on the first word and to leave all others uncapitalised. Continue reading

Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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When the first thing you read after opening the front cover of a book is that the author was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, it sets up a very big expectation in the mind of the reader. So imagine how pleased I was to discover how worthy this book and its writer were.

Of Mice and Men is the kind of book that high schools make students read in English classes, usually before they are emotionally ready to understand the importance of it. First published in 1937, it beautifully portrays the hard lives of two itinerant workers, George and Lennie, as they struggle to find their place in the world. Lennie is a “simple-minded giant” – today he would be described as intellectually disabled – and George is his protector, has been since the death of Lennie’s Aunt Clara. Why he feels this responsibility is unclear. They dream of a little patch of land they can call their own and just need the money to buy it. But there has been trouble in the past and as the two men prepare to take up new jobs on a California farm, George and Lennie agree on a place to meet up if there’s any more. Continue reading

An Interview with Louise Truscott by Louise Truscott

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If you’re wondering why I’m interviewing myself, you obviously haven’t read my post from Tuesday (Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!). Read it first and then hopefully this won’t seem quite so self-indulgent.

How long have you been writing?
I don’t know where the time has gone but it’s been over twenty-five years now. I started, like all children, writing adorable yet cringe-worthy stories for my primary school English class, progressed to angsty poetry in high school and by Year 12, I was writing a novella. When I started university, I moved into writing romance. I was so sure that I was going to be the next queen of Australian romance fiction. But I found the confines of the genre very limiting. I didn’t want to write one thing, I wanted to write everything. Continue reading

Can’t Get Anyone to Interview You About Your Book? Interview Yourself!

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As part of the announcement of the release of my latest book, Project January: A Sequel About Writing, I sent an email to the alumni group of Swinburne University where I studied and graduated with a Master of Arts in Writing. I’d done the same thing when I published Project December: A Book About Writing and they’d been kind enough to include a mention of it in their e-newsletter and a link to where it could be purchased. I hoped they’d do the same this time.

Instead, I got an email asking if I’d be interested in being interviewed and profiled as part of a series on their past students. I thought, “Why not?”.

But once I’d agreed to do it, I did what I always do, which is panic. Sometimes I feel like I have proverbial foot-in-mouth disease (not literal foot-in-mouth disease – gross!) and am prone to say things I shouldn’t. I aim for witty and end up coming off like a weirdo. It’s why I’m a writer, after all. I like having the chance to revise. And revise. And revise again. Speaking off the cuff doesn’t give you that chance.

To keep myself calm and to try to prepare for an interview where I didn’t know exactly what the questions were going to be, I decided to attempt to pre-empt what might be asked and come up with answers. That way, if they did come up, I’d have something that didn’t make me sound like a person on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum.

Yes, essentially, I interviewed myself. Continue reading

Does It Matter What Your Characters Look Like?

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There are three types of authors when it comes to character description and, just like Goldilocks and her porridge, only one of them gets it just right. Of course, this means the other two provide way too much information or not nearly enough. It’s a fine line. It’s also difficult to please all readers in this area because some prefer a lot of description in order to have a comprehensive image of the character in their mind and some prefer the bare minimum so that they can do some of the imagining for themselves.

So does it matter what they look like? I’m going to use a few Shakespearean examples to answer the question. (Shakespeare’s plays are usually a great example of everything to do with writing.) Sometimes it doesn’t. In Kenneth Branagh’s film adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves play the brothers Don Pedro and Don John. While Don John is described as a “bastard”, an illegitimate son, there is no mention of any specific cultural characteristics so Branagh decided to give his version of the story one black brother and one white brother. However, it’s the illegitimacy of the second son that is relevant, not his different skin colour. Continue reading

Book Review: Hell Island by Matthew Reilly

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Hell Island was released in 2005 as part of the Books Alive promotion – the only way to get it at the time was to buy another Australian book in order to receive it for free. Given Matthew Reilly’s popularity at the time, it was a brilliant idea. People (including me) were desperate to get their hands on it. (I bought a Phryne Fisher book by Kerry Greenwood – didn’t like it but love the TV series that is based on the book series.) That was when I first read it.

The story is part of the Shane Schofield narrative, Reilly’s heroic US Marine who always seems a little smarter, a little stronger, a little more strategic than everyone else around him and one hell of a survivalist. In the Schofield chronology, it takes place after Scarecrow and before Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves but is easily removed from it. And enough is regurgitated to make this a stand-alone book. Continue reading