Don’t let the rain drown your novel

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Too many times do I read the same old, same old, scene.

It’s raining, grey clouds overhead. Drizzle, cold wind.

Why?

Because it is a funeral, or someone has discovered a friend’s death.

OR

There is a tempest, heavy rain, thunder, lightning. Gale force winds rattling the windows.

Why?

Because its eerie, a big house, a derelict building, a graveyard. Or the cars broken down on a country road.

OH, PLEASE. Come on. Enough is enough.

I know you want to set the scene, make the reader ‘feel and see what is in your mind. But not like this; not again.

Hollywood and television overworked this format years ago. Mary Shelly used it way back in 1817… (yes, I know Frankenstein’s Monster was not published until 1818. 11 March 1818 to be precise! but Mary completed her work in May 1817).

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After that, I can understand some writers utilising Mary’s techniques (which she stole anyway!); but that was almost two hundred years ago! Surely you can work your wordsmithing magic without falling back on this old literary cliché?

Let’s take a look at the graveside scene again. This time, dismiss the notion of grey skies and rain.

Try and build that ‘feeling’ you want, let’s say, for this exercise, sadness and sorrow. (Although in another version it could be joy and relief, dependent on your character’s viewpoint).

‘The solemn parade of black clad mourners slowly crunched their way over the gravel and melted into the dimness of the church, passing under the gothic arches of time worn stone’.

Here the tone is set using a few simple, but descriptive words, to create the mood. ‘Solemn, black, mourners, slowly, melted, dimness, gothic, time-worn’ All carefully selected words that imply the general emotion of the procession.

An alternative may be something along these lines.

‘James glanced at Mary, her eyes glistened as tears formed. Small dew-drops of sadness sparkling, reflecting in the sunlight. The scent of yew trees and grass added to James’s sense of numbness as he watched the coffin being lowered into the grave’.

IMG_4424Approaching the scene from an oblique angle often offers the author an opportunity to ‘drip-feed’ the reader, only giving them a small bite sized piece of the overall scene with each sentence. This allows for an element of surprise, or revelation.

Neither of the above paragraphs have fallen back to the old ‘grey sky and rain’ chestnut. Yet they convey the very essence of emotion which one wishes to communicate with the reader.


 

Onto the scary stuff!

The haunted house? The killer lurking in the dark woods, the stranded car on that country lane.

Hey, guess what?

You’re right, it’s NOT raining here either! No lightning, no storms and no doors banging in the wind.

So, how to get away from those ‘same old, movie style embedded notions’.

Well, let’s try. Let’s start with an approach to that (possibly) haunted house or old barn.

‘Two huge stone eagles balanced precariously on the dilapidated columns. The bindweed twisting about their talons as if securing them, denying them of flight. Framed between and beyond stood the old mansion house. The bright sunlight reflecting from the walls enhanced the blindness of long lost windows. Empty hollows, gaping holes beckoning us towards them’.

Locals say the owner of Ohio’s Milan Mansion was a practicing witch.

Note the ‘bright sunlight’. This time using the opposite, of what has become expected, to enhance the ‘darkness’, the brooding mood.

Not a raindrop in sight and the clock is not about to strike midnight!

As for breaking down on a country lane, perhaps having to abandon your vehicle to seek help…Let’s attempt to approach this in an unexpected style too.

‘He had been foolish for stopping; but nature would not wait and the hedgerow of holly offered the ideal shelter to hide behind while he answered her call. The car was going nowhere. The tyres just spun in the deep snow. With each attempt they sank lower until now; now the car was axel deep. He was stranded.

In the far distance the occasional puff of smoke drifted upwards into the crystal blue, cloudless sky. Turning his collar up, ramming his hands as far into his overcoat pockets as they would go, he started to plod through ankle deep snow towards the smoke. Gregory guessed it was from a cottage chimney. How wrong he was…’

Here I have constructed the paragraphs to portray a relatively normal situation, feeding the reader small tidbits about the weather, not only to ‘set the scene’, but as miss-direction, so that I can increase the effect of the final few words.

I beg you, if you are about to write, (or re-write), a section of your novel where you have been sucked in by the old ‘rain & storm’ caper, alter it. Dismiss the rain; freshen up your narration, pleasantly surprise your readers with something new and exciting.

Please do not let the rain make your book a wash-out.

Thanks for reading, Paul

Feel free to comment, leave feedback and ‘follow’ Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Oh, don’t forget to read the new edition of CQ Magazine. It is jam packed full of great ‘stuff’!

https://issuu.com/ramblingawaymagzine/docs/cq4prt1_1_2016

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How to write better… by watching more movies.

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 I for one love to read ‘the book’ rather than watch ‘the movie’. The reason is, I want to let my own imagination create the world the book has drawn me into.

I want ‘that’ character to evolve as I see him or her; guided by the author’s words, yes. But I do not want it forced upon me, in such detail, there is no room for my own mind to fashion form.

The pity is, there is no choice when watching a movie. A film shows the actress’s face and how the character’s voice sounds.

There is very little left for one’s own imagination.

Yet, I have formed some of my [best?] writing techniques from watching movies. Well, not just movies but TV dramas, plays, even commercials. Almost anything, in fact, which contains moving images.

Now, you may think, from what I have written above, I am contradicting myself by making what seems, at least on a superficial level, contradictory statements.

So I shall, in my normal ‘Rambling’ way, try to convey exactly how watching moving images has enabled me to hone my skill as a writer of words.

It is mostly to do with the film’s editing, a lot to do with camera work and a bit to do with stealing the director’s viewpoint.

However, before I can start on that, I must tell you when I am watching a film or TV with a ‘writers eye,’ it is not the same as watching for enjoyment or pleasure. Even if sometimes I cannot help but notice things when I have no intention of thinking about writing. (But that is my cross to bear, not yours. At least not yet, not until you have finished reading this!)

 

Ok. The Director’s viewpoint. This is probably the most obvious, yet, in this great scheme of things, the least important.

Imagine the opening shot of a film scene.

The camera slowly pans across a room, it is dull. Dust mots hang in the air, highlighted by faint shafts of light streaming downwards through a window. As the camera pans the_room_is_dark_and_empty____just_like_me_by_potpoorri-d5pvf7b.pngfrom the window, a small figure of a young girl wearing a white cotton nightdress is revealed.

This is gold dust to me.

The scene, altered to suit my style and the storyline I am writing, is something I can use.

NO… this is not plagiarism.

I would not copy it, but use the imagery as a base to create my own, dull room in which I could slowly reveal a figure of… someone.

My room may be a log cabin, a large warehouse or a compartment in a submarine. The light source could be from a fireplace, daylight filtering through a damaged roof or the ‘red’ lighting used on ‘that’ submarine.

The figure I reveal may be an old man, a dead body lying on the cold concrete floor or maybe the ghostly spectre of an old sailor.

BUT…. all this has come to me from watching the opening shot of the movie; seeing it, not from the ‘viewer’s’ eyes, not as a member of the ‘audience’, but from my imaginary ‘director’s chair‘. To have an understanding of the atmosphere the director was trying to create when he shot the scene and how the darkness, the light and the slow reveal assisted him in conveying the mood and ambience to those watching.

Recognising the director’s intentions and methods, simply leaves me is to translate the scene, or my version of the scene, into words, imagining it over and over in my own mind like a movie, so as I write, the ambience and timing of my own story is just as cohesive to the reader.

 

Secondly. Camera work.

While the above scene clearly needed the aid of a camera to record the director’s instructions, all of the actual imagery in a film is down to how things enter the lens. Yes, some of this is to do with lighting and the type of film used, but here I am speaking of the camera alone.

Firstly, the angle, the position of the camera to its subject. Not forgetting its height. Generally, a low shot, ground level, is used to enhance the perception of speed. Think about car racing or chases. How the tyres almost run over the lens or rock the camera as the vehicles flash past. (Yes, depth of field and all that matters, but it is not important here).

4240A high shot, from a boom, tall building, a crane or drone, one which looks down on the subjects, can give expression of vastness, loneliness or being lost.

Next time you go to the movies take note of where the camera is situated to get ‘the shot’. I do, it enables me to hold the moment, the feeling of vastness or loneliness, in my mind while I write my next paragraph.

Reading my words back to myself, I am hoping they evoke the same feelings; if they do not conjure the right imagery, as when watching the film, I will re-write, over and over, until I get it right.

 

Lastly, but for me the most important, is the Editing.

Now, I am not talking about editing words, but editing film, which is a totally different beast.

I cannot help myself with this…

When I have my ‘writers head’ on, I am constantly, without any self-control, watching for the ‘cuts’. Often more intently than whatever I am viewing. I know it is sad, but it is the truth… maybe I do need to get out more?

For those of you who may not be familiar with the terminology,  a ‘cut’ is an abrupt, but usually trivial transition from one sequence to another, usually, without breaking the flow necessary to keep an audience engaged with the narrative.

Cuts are noticeable when two characters are holding a conversation. Each time one character speaks the viewer sees who is talking. So, say firstly you see a boy speaking. When he stops the girl starts to speak and you see her face. That change of viewpoint, from him to her, that is a cut.

In fast moving action scenes and in most advertising, where time is at a premium, you will see many ‘cuts’ per minute. Chances are you will not have been aware of them… until after you have read this, when you will be unable to watch anything without trying to count how many ‘cuts’ are involved, even in the simplest broadcast. (Sorry.)

I hear you asking, how the devil can that help me write better?

Truth is, it may not help you.

But it helps me. This is how I utilize ‘cuts’ when writing.

For this explanation assume I am writing an important part of my stories plot, one where I need to get the emotion and feeling soaking into my reader’s psyche. This is one part of my book where I must get the reader totally immersed in the story, where they must believe they are living in my fictitious world.

I have already written the basic scene, it is in outline form, a rough, very rough draft. Now I need to build it, develop it, into a masterpiece.

Going back, to the early shot of the young girl in the dull room. Let’s say the story is of a child longing for her dead mother’s return.

This time, instead of using the scene as an opening, we will use it as a scene somewhere within the depths of the book, a part which needs far more input to make it ring true.

It is here I will start bringing in those [film] ‘editing’ tricks.

I shall still start with the description of a dull room, but this time I will place the reader at a set viewpoint, say, they are looking into the room, through the doorway, from an even darker hallway.

Once the reader has that firmly in their mind, I will ‘cut’ the shot.

Now the reader is looking down from above. (Remember this viewpoint conjures a sense of loneliness and being lost). This allows me to ‘open up’ the scene, to use words which reinforce the atmosphere I am creating.

I will employ words which carry connotations and suggest the values I desire. In this instance that could be, “a heavy shadow” or possibly, “even the floorboards seemed to weep with sadness as I crossed the room.”

I want the reader to envisage a large empty room, a figure, the introduction of my second character, walking across it towards the young girl. I want the floorboards to creak, to give an impression of neglect, of loss or of foreboding. (This can be used as a form of foreshadowing.)

The words ‘heavy’ & shadow’ both work well individually and better in combination.  With ‘sadness and weep’ I manage to blend the sound of the floorboards as they are walked upon without saying ‘creek‘ or ‘crack‘, which are ‘harsh’ words and far too direct to covey the correct ‘mood’ in this scene.

Cut.

sophia_blog1Now I use a close-up of the young girl. For the first time, we see her face, the way the “sallow light settled on her fair skin” or “her pale blue eyes, damp with tears yet unformed.”

Again using simple words which are descriptive of the girl character, but also in the context and reinforcement of the mood of the scene.

Cut.

Now… the viewer sees both characters together, giving a juxtaposition of size and age, hints at the relationship between the two. One speaks to the other… Etc.

The second figure could be a sister, a social worker or nurse, maybe the step-mother or even the ghost of the girl’s maternal mother.

Cut.

Now the viewpoint is of both of them looking out of the room, into the darkness of the aforementioned ‘darker hallway’; they have just heard a noise… “their heads snapping around, towards the sound…”ZGPIAp

Cut…

This is how I write many of my scenes. by watching a movie inside my head, in the darkroom of my mind. Personally, I find it helps me construct a whole, comprehensive section of my plot. It stops me rushing, stops me skimming over sections which deserve more care.

Please note, when I say ‘viewpoint’ in this essay, I am not speaking of the ‘narrator’s viewpoint’, but that of my imaginary camera/ cameraman I carry within my mind. Sometimes this may be in harmony with the narrative viewpoint, but more often is not.

Mostly I write a complete scene from a number of these converging angles, such as in the brief example above. But the stories narrative perspective is kept constant.

This is not to say I do not need to edit or re-write, far from it, but each time I do, I use the same technique to make ‘tweaks’ until the scene works. Editing and re-writes purely allow you to correct the detail and flush out unnecessary and often misleading words and to hone the cutting edge of the stories mood.

This way of writing may not work for you. It may go against all you have learnt about writing, or just not suit your style.

But then again, it may be worth having a go, maybe a short story or even a piece of flash fiction to start with. You could even employ it to write an Electric Eclectic book, why not have a go?

Or maybe you are struggling with a scene or section of your work in progress and I have now come along with this amazing and brilliant idea, one which gives you the next international bestselling book this millennium, or a Booker prize-winning novel?

If this proves to be the case, please keep me in mind when you receive that big royalties cheque.

Honestly, I hope you can glean something from this Rambling, whatever it might be.


 I am, as always, open to feedback and comments.

Oh, if you have not done so yet, please ‘follow’ this blog.

Thanks for reading, Paul.

You can read some of my short stories HERE

or visit my website HERE

where you can see my books, my blogs and what I am getting up to right now.

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Revealed. The websites no Writer or Author can do without.

As we all try and make sense of the process of writing and publishing our books many of us find particular hosts, sites, programmes and applications which, at least at first, look as if they will aid us, help us reach our goal of producing a great work.

A work which has minimal mistakes if any at all. One that is beta read, proof read, edited and formatted to near perfection as it is possible to achieve.

We are the creatives, the dreamers, the weavers of fantasy and make-believe. It is an often lonely and arduous task. So anything we can find that will allow us, help us accomplish our tasks more efficiently, even in an easier way must be welcomed.

The same is true of marketing, of promotion, of finding ways to put our carefully crafted works of magical wordcraft in the eye line of potential readers, those strangely elusive souls who may be the ones, when suitably tempted, to put their hands into their pockets and withdraw a handful of mysterious tokens called ‘coin’.

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RumpledSheets-1024x656Oh the dreams of easy writing, of superb marketing strategy and wondrous, ever climbing sales……yeh okay…you can wake up now!

However that is not to say that there are a number of sites and services that can actually help, albeit to varying degrees.

I for one am of the super sceptical when it comes to paying for a service, particularly when it is (from my point) untried and untested.

That means putting my faith in promises. That means believing marketing bumf and advertising. Not something I do lightly, particularly if I am to be parted with hard earned cash, even hard-yet-to-be-earned-cash.

So I am ever cautious.

In fact I have been so very careful you can call my a ‘tight-wad’ if you wish; but to date I have Indie published five books; Empty Walletone full length novel, one long-short-story eBook, two books of poetry and a very dirty adult erotic anthology. I have also contributed to four collaborative anthologies and produced two stories for a website/video site. Yet I have not spent a bean, not a single Penny, a loose Dime, an odd Rupee on anything.

Honest.

I have written, read, re-written. I have had my stories beta read and edited. I have formatted them. I have designed all my own covers, promoted, marketed and sold them all off my own back. I consider myself a truly independent author and publisher.

No, I have not made a fortune (yet!), neither have I, as yet, created an ongoing passive income large enough to see me through retirement until the day I shuffle off this mortal coil….but I am working on it!

I carry this ‘Modus Operandi’ onto the things I do to help others.

small buttonMy book promotion site ‘Sneak Peek’ offers free listings. I re-blog on ‘Brilliant Blogshare’, ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ & ‘Further Ramblings’ and carry others stories on ‘A Little more Fiction’. FeaturesAwards note2 and Showcases in CQ Magazine are also offered at no cost. I will suggest, coach, aid and do whatever I can to help other authors and artists all without thought of personal gain.

I cannot promise that the way I work would be right or suitable for you. You may well be far more eager for returns and results than I. You may not think you have the skills or the knowledge, or have the time to learn, or the time to commit. So I am not going to get into a ‘how to’ or a ‘how I achieved’ thingy!

Nor have I, or do I, intend to write a book on the subject!

Neither am I asking for you to pay me to tell you what or how I have done what I have. Those of you who know me will know that is not what I am about, it is not how I ‘tick’.

What I do enjoy, what gives the greatest satisfaction is helping others achieve their own dreams, goals, or targets or whatever term you want to use. Put simply I like to help everyone to be happy.

So on that basis I am listing here the websites and services that I use, have used, intend to use, or think could be beneficial at some point.

The overriding fact is that ALL of these are FREE, or have a free basic level with options to upgrade to a paid level(s) at a later stage if you wish. That ‘if you wish’ is all important. It is open-ended, no trail periods, no right to cancel at some future point. IF YOU wish to upgrade to utilise other services that is YOUR choice not theirs.

I guess I have said enough about my principles on this subject so that you get my gist!

So OK. Here is my list and my brief reasons for using and/or liking these sites/hosts. They are not listed in any particular order or categorised in any way, so it is best if you read through them all and choose which you wish to use (or not!).

I do hope that you will find at least one helpful or useful to yourself.

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  • http://www.howmanysyllables.com/ Love this site. Syllable dictionary, syllable counter, Poetry workshop, English Grammar & more. No poet should be without this site in their armoury.
  • http://authl.it/ If you publish in Kindle format this site is indispensable. Create multi-region Kindle book links.
  • http://nibbler.silktide.com/ I use this to safeguard my research. Tests the quality, safety and security of most websites. Don’t browse unsafely, use this as an additional aid to stop malware, phishing etc.
  • https://www.canva.com/ Not a bad site for some basic image layouts for social media etc. Not a image editor, but good fun.
  • http://www.qrstuff.com/ QR code generation. Download, print, email, even print on ‘tee-shirts’! Use QR codes on back cover of you books, bookmarks & all promo material to lead to your website etc.
  • http://authorsdb.com/ Author profiles & book listings….but more…cover competitions, community, promotional stuffAUTHORSdb, services & more. One of my favourites. Contactable, responsive. Site takes some navigation but the end result is worth it.
  • http://www.authorgraph.com/ Get and send your autograph to your eBook readers. Worth checking out & using as an extra marketing tool.ag_logo-e82121c0b20665eb28fa8a9be15d7572
  • http://www.wix.com/ I think this is the best free website on the market at present. Lots of additional features like blogs and ‘shoutouts’. Premium available but as a single person author I have not sensed the need to upgrade yet.

I Love WordPress

  • https://wordpress.com I think the best blogging format at present. I also use WordPress for Sneak Peek.
  • https://about.me If you do not have an ‘aboutme’ page go get one NOW. This is the webs new ‘calling card’. Honestly get your page now, like today…go on…go do it!
  • http://promocave.com/ Love Promocove. Book promo & author profile etc. But much more. Best go take a look. J6_2_IJCFriendly and responsive team too.
  • https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/  OK, so I am biased here large buttonthis is my book promotion site primarily for indie authors. its FREE, so you have absolutely nothing to loose and only new readers to gain. I’ll say no more!

Ok that will do you for now. I am not giving ALL my secrets away!

Any questions, comments, feedback or if you know of any other sites that are free and good, please leave a comment or email me.

Cheers, Paul.

Tips on Creating Settings for your Characters and Scenes.

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I was going to call this post something simple, like ‘somewhere’ or ‘place’, but then I thought that it may be a little to oblique, so I ended up with the rather long title above.

Pretty much is the same with content. To make this as comprehensive as possible without (I hope) getting boring, I have had to write far more than I do in many of my other posts. I am sure you will see why as you read through.

Simply put, this post is all about creating a setting, or many settings, for you story. Somewhere your characters can live, somewhere they can go about their business in a way that helps bring them to life, a way that makes them ‘real’ people to your readers. Which is what we all should be seeking to achieve, a sort of Holy Grail for writers!

Let’s take a look at the three basic options we have.

The first is to use a Real Location.

This could be a village, a town, even a city, say Paris or London, or it could be somewhere much humbler like a hotel, a café, your kitchen or maybe a cellar?

Whilst the ‘where’ has to blend into you story while enhancing the readers pleasure, that is not the initial prime concern one should have. If you are using a real setting the most important aspect is to ensure accuracy.

This means research.

Even if you live in the place you intend to feature. Misrepresentation, whether it is a matter of geography, culture, or something in between, will be considered a travesty, it will be a failure in your story.

Make sure, when you include a detail or piece of information, that it is correct, or at least feasible. It must makes sense, be credible and contribute to the image you are portraying.

Go there! If at all possible go to the location, find details, talk to local people. Look about, notice how the buildings stand, what transport is available, what colour is it? Consider the language, do they have a dialect or use slang? What are the most noticeable aspects of the culture?

Now you have acquired this information you have to write it in a way that builds, or recreates that place for the reader. If the reader has never been there you must lead them in, be their guide in introducing them to the place. If they know the place already then your part is to re-create their memories.

To do this you must ‘show’ them, give strong sensory detail, get them involved and interested, especially in places unfamiliar. Make them feel they are getting to know it and you have them feeling you are portraying it accurately.

imagesDon’t be afraid to use dialect. I would not recommend attempting to write a dialect, a least a phonetic representation, as this shouts doom! But be aware of such in dialogue; for instance what do the people in this location call a long sandwich? Is it a Sub…or a Hoagie, a Hero….maybe it a Baguette?

Getting ofay with the vernacular could make or break your story. But be careful, a misplaced slang word can throw you readers sense of place haywire.

Remember, not every story will fit into every setting. As with the characters and the plot the setting should be a living part of the story, it should interact with everything else on the page. If you tale is not working here, try a new location, or place a new section of the plot in this setting. If you have a disconnect you work may just collapse.

Now we move on…

The Fictional Location.

Here, wherever here may be, you are in total control. Nothing can be here, nothing can exist without your consent. This is you world where you can construct anything you like to be part of your story, even if it is a far-fetched creation.

But let’s start a little simpler. If you need to create a school or a restaurant or some regular societal value, you have no worries if somewhere similar exists, because ‘yours’ is purely fictitious.

A simple example could be an underground railway. If you have no idea of how the London Underground operates, so what? You can design and create your own public transportation system, one that fits into your plot, one that works with your characters schedules. It does not have to be an accurate representation of anything from the real world.

Please do not allow these facts to preclude your story from remaining realistic in terms of how certain types of place operate on a general basis. You still have a duty to your readers to portray a believable scenario.

The location may be best suited if, say for a town, it can be placed near somewhere in the real world. Possibly south of Huston, or just over the Tyne river outside of Newcastle. This will aid your story in finding its cultural roots.

Now the third of our three.

A Fictional setting in the Real World.

This is a far from unusual tactic employed by authors. There are many novels set in small fictitious towns which are then placed in a real counties or countries.

If you aim to do this then your town should be, at least in its initial appearance, similar to real towns in that region. This is to create believability. Yet by creating your own town as a setting you have almost as much freedom as you would with one set in a total fantasy.

Another benefit is that the townsfolk and/or your main characters can have specific feelings or views about this setting. Such as ‘it is haunted’ or ‘or it is a dying town’. No one can refute this, because the place does not actually exist.

This format works well when creating locations which do not exist, within one that is real. For example you may need to have your characters meet in a bar. Create a bar rather than using one that is real. This solves and can also absolve you from future problems. vampire1

Of course one area that fake settings placed in the real world are great is in the realm of fantastical realities. Think vampires, ghosts and Harry Potter! Here one uses the real world to disguise something hidden or a secret.

Let us go a little further.

You are writing a romantic novel and in all good tradition and faith you choose Paris as the main setting of the book. It would therefore be wise to assume that, most of your readers will have a strong conception, a healthy mental image of Paris before they read a single word of your novel.

If the words ‘the Eiffel Tower’ are spoken your reader will automatically conjure up a mental image. The same goes for ‘the Statue of Liberty’. All you need to do is paint the picture of how, at that particular moment, the city lights refract from the River Seine. Now your reader can picture your character in that setting.

Now consider that your novel is in a fictional city.

Firstly you will need describe the city in far more detail, including the landmark ‘tower’ your character is to propose on. This will take a lot more writing, which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you need the word count!

Also it is not always to your benefit if the readers are familiar with the setting. After all many readers perception may be based on, or limited to, the ‘picture-postcard’ vision of a city and it is possible that you wish to portray a very different side of that metropolis.

So your descriptions will have to be vivid enough to dispel false perception while constructing a new mental image to bring the reader closer to the one in your own mind.

While in a totally fictitious location the reader can bring no preconceptions with them. You will, therefore, have a blank canvas on which to paint your words.

To wind all this up…

images (1)If you are to set your location in an actual place, a real setting, then detailed knowledge or meticulous research will be demanded. The payback for this is that a romantic novel set in Paris has far stronger ‘shelf-appeal’ than one set in a fake city. A place no one has heard or knows of.

The same is true if your novel is set in New York, New Deli or cruising along the Nile. Choose a place lesser known and the majority of your readers would not have heard of it anyway!

In writing, particularly in the case of a full length novel, it is evocation of place and atmosphere. It is almost impossible to deal with these as separate elements. Place can and does determine atmosphere. For example where else could Stephen Kings ‘The Shining’ have been set? It had to be that isolated, snow-bound hotel on a mountain.

Some writers have the tenacity and patience to craft meticulous settings, they build amazing and entire worlds. Others approach by the minimalistic route, sprinkling few, but highly suggestive details into the narrative.

It matters not what genre, or what style you use your story will take place somewhere. A small room, a foreign country, another planet. Your setting can be a backdrop or a character itself.

But take a while, take a look. If most of the novels in your genre are set in a particular kind of location, say a shed, a farmstead kitchen or a city tower, that is a good indication that is what readers of that genre expect, possibly demand.

It does not mean that you have to stick with tradition or stay with the norm. That is your decision, to go with the run of the mill or similar, or do you strive for something new? Maybe you will compromise, add that slight twist?

Whatever you are writing consider the scope you have for creating the right setting. You may want to have a small room or you might want your novel to spread across galaxies, even the entire universe.

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Whatever you choose I hope that in some small way this has given you an insight to possibilities not before considered.

Oh, just before you leave I would like to say you can check the setting and locations I have used in my books by visiting my website at

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Thank you for reading yet another of my Ramblings, Paul.

Seven indispensable sites no Author or Writer should be without.

writers-block As you will know, the normal style of my posts are to bumble away rather randomly about various topics or subjects which are playing on my mind at any given moment. This post is not one of those. I believe, at certain times there comes a point when a more direct approach serves better. This post is one of those! I hope you find it informative and useful. Please let me know, thank you, Paul. No matter how an experienced writer we are we always, I will say that again, ‘Always’ need help, assistance or guidance at some point during the writing, editing, publishing or marketing process. Over the years I have been writing I have amassed a collection of various sites which I find invaluable. I have mentioned some of these in a previous post, http://wp.me/p5nj7r-8h & have also shared Melanie Rockets blog http://wp.me/p5nj7r-86 which I hope you will take a look at as it contains so much useful information. I have not however, until now, shared other sites which I use on a frequent basis. These are a rather eclectic collection covering a wide range of topics, not all are directly connected to the actual act of writing, but all are indispensable as far as I am concerned.


So here they are, in no particular order!

How many syl-la-bles I enjoy this! It is primarily an educational site for teaching poetry, but take a look at all the helpful pages like the Syllable counter, syllable dictionary, English grammar, How to count syllables, poem workshop and teaching resources. I am certain you will find some things more than helpful and keep returning as I do. http://www.howmanysyllables.com/poem_syllable_counter_workshop/


Author It. For all with eBooks this is a great app. It creates a ‘short link’ from your books ‘ASIN’ so when a potential reader clicks on the link it takes them to an intermediate window which shows the national flags associated with each Amazon server. The reader just ‘clicks’ on the relevant flag and is directed to the correct countries Amazon site for purchasing your book. So no more searching and listing a whole host of links, this one does the lot! I recommend you check this out. Helpful Authl.it is brought to you in association with the Kindle Users Form. Authl.it is designed to make linking and promoting Kindle eBooks as easy as possible worldwide. With our system you can easily generate a single link to direct your readers to the Amazon store for their country or region. http://authl.it/


. Writing World. SO much I could say about this site, it is just a MASS of info. Apart from comprehensive info about writing, from beginners to experienced, this site has information on dealing with rejection, writers block, writer’s life, time management & so much more It also covers Genre writing, children’s writing, flash fiction, non-fiction writing, travel, memoires and more. There are inclusive articles on Syndication, freelancing columns, journalism and…..lots more too! Publishing, social media & reviews & releases. And that is just for starters! This is a MUST site. But do not just take my word go take a look yourself! http://www.writing-world.com/rights/rights.shtml


Freelance fees. What should you charge for an article in a magazine, or for public relations or maybe for digital media? Do you have any idea? What about cancelation charges or fees? Bet you have not thought about that. Well these folk at London Freelance have and it is all shared with you right here. http://www.londonfreelance.org/feesguide/index.php?&section=Welcome&subsect=All&subsubs=All


Writers Workshop. Established in June 2005, The Writers’ Workshop is the world’s leading consultancy for first time writers. They offer professional feedback on your work, run courses, host events, provide a mass of free advice, and – when you’re ready – They can use their extensive connections to find the literary agent who is right for you. I need to say no more! http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk/agents-advice.html


QR code generator. A bit of fun and another great way to get interactive with your potential readers, use the QR code on the back of your book to get readers to view the trailer for you next novel. Or simply link it to your website or author page. It is up to you. http://www.qrstuff.com/


Add this. A host of smart website tools for WordPress. Take a look and choose your weapons! https://wordpress.org/plugins/addthis/faq/


These are all sites that I use on a frequent or regular basis. I have found each one advantageous and effective for my needs, so you could say they are ‘tried & tested’ by Moi!


Thanks for reading, I am open to all feedback and comments. I welcome new followers so don’t be shy at pressing that ‘Follow’ button! Have a great day, Paul.

A piece on the noble art of writing ‘Flash Fiction’.

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Basically flash fiction is a short form of storytelling.

Trying to define it by the number of words is a futile exercise. Purists may give a figure of 100 words, but that is arbitrary at best.

For most a story of under 1,000 words can be considered flash fiction, some even stretch this number to 1,500 words.

What is generally accepted is that ‘flash’ is an extremely short medium in which the writer must tell a complete story. Fragmented tales are not tolerated.

The challenge is to tell the tale in a way that every word is absolutely essential, discard all words which can be considered superfluous, leave only the gleaming white bones of direct narrative.

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Ernest Hemingway stated this wonderfully in his (over-quoted) dictum referencing an iceberg: Only show the top 10 percent of your story, leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.

Although it is a rather worn and overworked cliché it is one that should be born in mind when writing flash fiction.

Flash fiction is not a new phenomenon created by social media or the internet, it is an ancient writing form which has existed for millennium.

Some other names for this form of writing are: Sudden, fast, quick, postcard, minute, furious, and even skinny fiction!

The French often term this as ‘nouvelles’.

In China, pocket stories, minuet longs and palm-sized writings are frequently used terms.

download (2)I have also heard flash fiction referred to as ‘smoke stories’. A reference that it only takes as long to read a flash story as it does to smoke a cigarette!

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I know that this is a very short post in comparison to most of my ‘Ramblings’, perhaps it should be called a ‘flash blog’?

Thank you for reading this, enjoy the rest of your day.

I the meantime I shall leave you with a little ‘micro fiction’ piece which was inspired by the aforementioned Mr Ernest Hemingway.

‘Colt45. Used only once. Includes 5 shells. Sale due to recent bereavement’.

© Paul White 2015

Why not mosey over to my other blog ‘Further Ramblings and read some irreverent ruminations.

Understanding Black. (Notes for writers).

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Be it poetry, the opening scene of short story or an emotive section of a novel, the colour black is often utilised by writers to project or convey a ‘certain feeling’ to the reader.

But how many of us have actually considered why we perceive black in the way we do?

As one of the tools in our wordsmithing armoury should we not understand why the word black can be such a powerful device?

Generally black embodies the values of death, depression and evil. It can be used to describe something terrible or maybe a void.

But why do we identify black with badness, immorality or malevolent actions?

It is common in our society to use the word black as an exclusion, such as blacklist, black mark, or black sheep. We also apply it to people who we perceive of unpleasant actions, such as saying they have a black heart or black soul.

You may say it is because one wears black to a funeral, or it is the colour of mourning. But that is not necessarily so. In other cultures, such as China and India the traditional colour for mourning and reflecting death is white.

Not until Bollywood adopted and merged some western ideology into the Indian cinema, would you ever see anyone wearing anything but white sari at a funeral. In fact it would be considered impolite to wear black at any Hindu funeral.

Much of this form of the perception of black is a Christian/Western opinion based on ancient observation or teachings, much based on historical legend.

Ancient Greek myth has it that at the beginning there was just ‘Chaos’ or Khaos. (This does not mean ‘Disorder’ in the contemporary sense, but rather ‘Chasm’, in the sense of a dark, gaping space).

downloadKhaos gave birth to Erebus, the darkness of the Underworld and Nyx.

Nyx was the goddess of the night, one of the ancient Protogenoi (first-born elemental gods). In the cosmogony of Hesiod she was born of (Khaos) and breeding with Darkness (Erebos), produced Light (Aither) and Day (Hemera), first components of the primeval universe. Alone, she spawned a brood of dark spirits, including the fates, Sleep, Death, Strife and Pain.

Nyx was a primeval goddess usually represented as simply the substance of night: a dark veil of mist drawn forth from the underworld which blotted out the light of Aither (shining upper atmosphere).

Even in Nordic legend black has a prominence. The fire giant whose sparks made the universe.

Surt is the King of Fire in Norse mythology, the Lord of the Fire-Giants of the realm of Muspellheim.20a7f6c18823e6ed7d2cf7e4b25c4d4e

In the beginning, there was only the blackness of Ginnungagap, and then Surt appeared out of the blackness with his flaming sword and touched the land, it lit up and became the Realm of Fire.

Eventually it drew close enough to Niflheim, the primal Realm of Ice, that it warmed and melted the frozen earth, revealing Ymir the primal frost-giant and Audumhla the Great Cow. In this way, life was created from the meeting of fire and ice.

With these ancient wisdoms and beliefs being passed down the generations it is no wonder that darkness, that the deep black of night still has a resonance of anxiety and apprehension within us all.

Modern knowledge may have more acceptable theories such as the big bang, yet even here it is suggested that it was many thousand millennia after the bang before the first stars began to form, which is almost inconceivable to comprehend.

The thoughts of endless night, a total void of nothingness, a black hole encompassing the entire universe is frightening to most.

So it is not surprising that based on tradition, folklore, socially established conventions and custom that we westerners perceive black to hold the qualities of evil, depravity and immorality. Much of this is due to our cultural dread and fear of the unknown, the unseen and the minus light of darkness.

Now, add a touch of Hollywood movie conjoined with mass media and you have an ideal breading ground to spread rumour, fabrication, falsehood and fiction, all of which so easily becomes assimilated into the psyche of modern society.

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Suddenly black is the epitome of all evil, it is the quintessence of Goyan nightmares, of original sin, of death, of satanic rituals, black mass, sexual depravation and transgression.

Black becomes the cloak of darkness for vampires, the shadow where werewolves lurk, forests of malevolent spirits and the embodiment of evil itself.

Or does it?

Because there is another side to black, a lighter, brighter side to this deepest of darkness.

Fashion, glamour, opulence, style and desirability.

Black is the new black.

Here lies a social and perceptive disjuncture.

The sleek aesthetics of glossy black fashion, a world of sequins, leather of obsidian jet chic and metallic black Ferraris.

Here is a transgression from black’s authority of depression and nightmare.

This is a juncture where modern mindfulness separates the black associated with the natural world, the world of dark recesses and shadows of mystery and myth, from the brighter black of the contemporary, enlightened and progressive world of today.

The little black dress, appealing, sensual, hinting at naughtiness, suggestive of excitement. This is sexy black, the black of lacy underwear, of thin straps revealing rather than concealing, the offering of promise.

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Yet even here the evocative black is tinged with an inference of deprivation, of transgression from the acceptable. It is that, the allure of going beyond the boundaries, the immorality of wild or illicit acts which is attractive, which whets our carnal appetites.

The modern black, the black of this world is the white light black of Newton and Robert Boyle.

So be it.

Therefore to know, to understand which black to choose when weaving that spell in your novel of dark fantasy, or which black to spill across the pages of a bloody thriller is a most important element.

Select the modern black, the industrial manufactured black for seduction and pride, for sex and sheen.

Take hold of the natural, the organic, ancient, primordial black which seeps uncertainty, drips terror and dread for your dark scenes, your night horrors and death itself.

Choose your darkness well my friends, write admirably and when the shadows of sleep creep upon your wearied eyelids, shutting the out the light, sleep soundly in the comfort of the black night……If you dare.

© Paul White 2015

Website: http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

You may also enjoy reading some of my short stories at: https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

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Another great site all writers need

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You folks should know by now that I am always looking for great sites which will help improve our writing skills, or simply encourage us to continue when we feel down or have that thing some call ‘writers block’.

Another area I am always keen to explore is marketing, advertising and promotion because once we have written our books we want to share our stories with the world.

At least I do!


Over the past few weeks I have highlighted book promo sites:

PROMOCAVE http://promocave.com/

AUTHORSdb http://authorsdb.com/

and of course SNEAK PEEK https://takeasneakpeak.wordpress.com/

I have also blogged about MELANIE ROCKET’s wonderful, informative & useful website http://wp.me/p5 one which I would highly recommend you visit whether you are an experienced writer or just starting out.


There is yet one more fantastic site which offers all sorts of advice for writers along with direct help.xlogo.png.pagespeed.ic.HZT-ltPmGK

NOW NOVEL http://www.nownovel.com/

The ‘How to’ pages and blogs are excellent, like how to create tension-eight methods, or how to pace a crime novel, even six secrets to writing a series.

Furthermore you can submit a 500 word sample for criticism by other writers, or constructively criticise their 500 word samples. This is a wonderful way to get personalized feedback to give you direction, and support to improve your story.

ill-1One of my favourites from Now Novel is a process that gives you a blueprint for writing your novel. It’s guaranteed to get you from where you are now to where you want to be.

Now Novel is a structured method designed to help you finish your novel. The process is organised and easy to use, with helpful mentorship and consistent motivation to give you one essential thing: the blueprint for your novel.

Don’t just take my word for it, go check out Now Novel’s site yourself, mooch around and read. You will be glad you did.

I hope the above will help you, as they have me.

Keep tapping away!

Paul.

A great find for better Book Marketing

writers-block

Like most authors I am continuously looking for ways to do things better, not only improving my writing, my plots, characters, details and realism/escapism of my words. But also in ways to promote my work, to get my books in front of potential readers, dare I say, even to create ‘fans’ of my writing, people who just ‘cannot wait’ to read my next book.

None of these things are easy and, as I often ask myself, why do I bother at all to make my work public? Why do I publish my stories, and why, oh why do I expend so much time promoting my books and my blogs?

There must be a much easier way to achieve my goals without spending hours upon hours in front of a computer ploughing my way through the hosts of social media sites, in the hope that one person may, just may buy one of my books today.

The trick is of course to have a marketing strategy and a comprehensive promotional plan. Yep, that was the first thing that sprang into my mind the moment I finished my first book.

When that final keystroke printed the ‘d’ in ‘The End’ I should have been focused on an

integrated advertising and publicising stratagem, designed to maximise exposure and to create interest and awareness of my book in all the constant and variable media channels, avenues and vehicles possible, being fully inclusive of traditional forms as well as online technology based means such as social media platforms and internet related mediums

or at least something along those lines.

But I chose to heave a great sigh of relief and swill down a cold beer.

I do not think that I am alone in doing such a thing on completing a one hundred and ten thousand word novel either?

Which brings me back to the start of this rambling, ok it does not, but I’m going back there anyway!

So how can I do things better? As for the writing it really just comes down to writing, editing, re-writing, more editing and then doing it all again. That is something generally called practise and, in all honesty, that is the only way anyone can improve, although some suggestions and mental nudges can help stimulate ones muse.

In this blog, if you care to look back and read some of the previous posts, the archives, you will find a plethora of tips, ideas and ‘other stuff’ which will assist, I hope, in doing just that.

The second part, the marketing and promotion, which is the bit we all would like help with, the bit we could all do with making easier. Once again I have jotted down a few tips in the back catalogue of this blog.

But, and this is a big but, there is so much ‘out there’ that I am still finding. Some I dismiss as pretty darned stupid, inappropriate, or too expensive…even a few ‘dodgy’ sites and apps. I am certain you know of some of these too.

However, every now and then I come across a gem or two, or three. When I do I try to share them with you via this blog,‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

Today’s little gem is in fact a big shiny diamond.

Melanie Rocket’s website is a pretty cool place to visit if you are a writer or author. The problem is where I start in explaining what she has going on here.

Firstly I think a brief bio will set the scene, so here goes.

MER-logo

Melanie’s background of writing, photography and television production, positioned her perfectly for the Internet. She has been developing websites and marketing strategies for the Internet for the past 20 years and has worked with some of the top Internet marketers in the world.

Melanie has written twenty-six books, thousands of articles, hundreds of television scripts and is a non-stop idea machine. She often says, “I work far harder for my clients, than I do for myself!” This is evident from the strong Internet presence she develops for her clients.

Her clients have referred to Melanie as “the Web Witch, the Internet Wizard, “the Internet Goddess, the Traffic Cop” and as “Simply Amazing.” Melanie happily answers to all of them, though she admits to preferring “Goddess.”

Check out Melanie’s blog about book marketing http://melanierockett.com/category/book-marketing/

Or how about tips on using WordPress http://melanierockett.com/category/wordpress/

Like something more, then take a peek at some time saving software  http://melanierockett.com/category/productivity-tips-and-tools/

Looking for a good book reviewer? Check out the directory http://melanierockett.com/book-reviewers-directory/

There is so much more here too, like the services Melanie offers.

“I work one-on-one with authors and publishers to assist them with their  book writing and publishing projects.  From consulting to coaching to providing marketing advice and services.   It all starts with an email or a phone call”.

You can contact Melanie via her ‘contacts’ page on her website, just use any of the links above.

I hope you find at least one thing to make your life easier and your marketing planning better.

Books end

Have a great day, Paul.

Railways, nostalgia, memories and time travel.

I am sure I am not alone when I say stations and trains hold countless evocative memories for me. Many of these recollections are from my childhood, others from my adolescence and beyond. But most are essentially pure nostalgic longing.

I say nostalgic longing rather than reminiscent memory because most of the evocative scenes which play within my mind, when I contemplate railway carriages and station platforms, are false recollections. They are simply wistful yearnings for a time and place I have never been privy to.

Those of you who do not have a creative bent, those who are not writers, poets or lyricists may not, as yet, comprehend my words. So I shall, in my usual arbitrary, chaotic and irregular manner, begin to ramble away and hopefully elucidate you all too where my thoughts have wandered regarding this subject.

If you will humour me, I shall ask you to close your eyes for a moment or two and imagine you are on a station platform in the nineteen forties or fifties.

casablanca04Hear the sounds of the locomotive hissing steam as it waits for the passengers to disembark. See the porters wheel loaded wooden carts to the goods wagon, while others push handcarts laden with passenger’s luggage to the coach doorway where they assist the people to alight.

In the waiting room a small coal fire burns filling the air with a sooty but homely scent, a scent of warmth and comfort. From a small kiosk a man wearing a scarf and flat cap sells newspapers to the passengers waiting on the platform.

All around a cacophony of sound melds into this concert of life, whistles blow, milk churns clank, You can hear the ‘thunk’ as reams of newspapers are plonked on the platform ready for collection. Passenger’s voices are a constant murmur, a backdrop to the stationmaster’s call of “All aboard”. Doors slam shut, the train huffs and puffs as it pulls away. A metallic squeal pierces the air as the wheels begin to turn.

Those remaining on the platform wave off their loved ones who, leaning out of the windows, blow kisses back.

The pervading smell is of coal, steam, hot metal, wood, newspaper and soot.bacio in treno grande

That is how I remember railway stations. Or at least that is how my selective and partially false memories cause my mind to create this evocative picture in my head.

I am not old enough to have had such an experience. I was not born into that era. Perhaps I do have just enough knowledge, enough memory to blend the truth into this fantasy.

As a young child, maybe six or seven years old, I regularly watched the last few operational steam trains as the rattled over the railway bridge in Penge.

I remember ‘platform tickets’, tickets which allowed non-passengers access onto the platforms to say goodbye and wave off their loved ones, or to meet them on their return. I have sat in the comforting warmth of a British Rail waiting room which was heated by an open coal fire, the smell of which I shall never forget. I also recall when the green liveried trains had first, second and third class carriages, as well as a goods wagon and guards van at the rear.

Some may say that these were the ‘good old day’s’ and in many ways I agree. But historical conclusion is not the topic of today’s rambling.

I was not born early enough to have encountered life in the forties, not early enough to truly know the scents, sounds and feel of traveling by train in ‘those days’. Yet I do have the ability to create with my pen an acceptable and, this is the important bit, believable account of ‘being there’.

This is where ‘false memory’ becomes a friend and not the enemy.

downloadMixed with those few true memories I have are the perceptions of what life was like during such times. I have absorbed and pooled many of these ideas by reading books and watching films from that era, such as Brief Encounter (1945), or The Lady Eve (1941) and many other such scenes from plays and television programmes.

If, as a writer, I do my job well I can utilise both the true, the false and the acquired to create a world that will captivate the consciousness of the reader, draw them into my fantasy world as their eyes traverse the page. I want to fascinate and enthral the reader, not only with my characters and their antics but also by lending to them an illusory world where they can escape the mundane and humdrum of life, at least for the moment.

This is where nostalgia, or at least nostalgic imagery features. I believe it is something we all have a longing for. Who, for instance would not wish to travel back, to at least one certain point in time, if they were able?

I know that is something I would do if it were at all possible.

So why, I hear you ask, have I focused on railways as a topic to discuss the past. The answer is simple. Trains were ‘the’ mode of transport for the majority of people ‘way back when’ when few owned a car, less could afford to board a ship and air travel was just an aviators dream. Most places were too far away to cycle and horses were all but history.

How many have not said goodbye, waved off a loved one or shed a tear on a railway platform. Who has not been be45a6b16e065833331925e08c5acb93bursting with excitement and anticipation while awaiting the arrival of a train returning a family member, a friend or a lover home?

It is a fact that stations are a place we all hold dear, because this is where we have experienced numerous emotions countless times.

The station, the train, the railway is a place indelibly ingrained, permanently embedded and entwined with both our memory and emotion, however true or however false those evocative recollections might be will still hold them close, we still cherish them.

We all carry within that simple wistful yearning for a time and place that we have never been.

Thank you for reading this rambling. I hope that these few randomly scribbled words have given you food for thought, stimulated your muse or even simply entertained you for a short while, Paul.

 


To read more of my work please feel free to visit A Little more Fiction http://wp.me/5od8T

or Further Ramblings http://wp.me/5njAU

If you enjoy a great book why not check out Sneak Peek where you can browse and read excerpts from a plethora of books from fantastic authors  http://wp.me/5sgTb