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Emma Darwin
I write novels and short fiction and I live in South East London.
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Jim, they're very common in hist fic too, these days, and I think on the whole that most times the same job would be done better by another means. Which isn't to say they don't have their (good) uses. If you're thinking about prologues you might want to follow the link up in the second paragraph, to "zingy prologues", which is my main post on them. It's also in the ToolKit link up at the top of the page.
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"I need to separate the beginning of the story in my head from the beginning of the story on the page." Yes, I think that's exactly it. It may be, it may not be: but you certainly don't want to be assuming it is, without interrogating it. A friend on Facebook says that a scriptwriting book he read recommends starting from the mid-point scene: the big turning point, as it were, and building outwards both ways from that. Which is a really interesting way to think of it.
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You're welcome, Edith.
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You're welcome, Daniel. I still find the "was" thing deeply bizarre. Mind you, not that popular bestsellers are necessarily the place to go when thinking about prose, in the sense that as long as the prose is adequate to the job, what sells at that end of the market is plot and story. If that's in place, rather bland or stodgy prose isn't going to matter so much. OOn the other hand, if they were fantastically well written as well...
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Although anyone who's heard me speak will know that however big I write SLOWLY, I probably forget...
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Oh, I hope it goes/went well. And you're welcome - glad it helped.
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Hope to see you there, Sally. Yes, last year was such fun - and it felt very natural, I thought, if that doesn't sound odd. As if it had always been there...
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Apologies for adding to your to-be-read pile, Edith! But enjoy!
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Yes, it is of course. But like all sorts of things ("showing" and "telling", for example), I guess it's useful to have quick labels for things which are actually complex collections of interacting elements.
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Yes - "drunk" in the broadest possible sense... In an altered state, as it were.
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Yes, I love Chuck Wendig's blog. My language is a bit more moderate, but I so often agree with him...
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:)! You're welcome, LEH. I exist solely to save others trouble.
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You're welcome, Deblina. Best of luck with the Masters!
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You're welcome, Sheila. Glad it's helped!
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Well, obviously fundamentally one has to engage with where the student is starting from. But you don't have to hang around in your average teachers' forum or staff room for long to hear a bit of letting-off-steam going on, about students' shortcomings that make it more awkward to help them learn, and it's very natural. It can get poisonous in a certain kind of staff room - a sort of learned, cynical helplessness - but equally a bland censorship of any words which recognise that students are not always brilliant and blameless doesn't get things much further either. Any more than it does to pretend that one's children are always perfect little angels. And after all, at the heart of it is a process in which the basic relationship is built on the fact that teacher is in some way better at something than the student is. That is a superiority, even if the teacher is superior in nothing else. Although we all learn vast amounts from our students, I think it's another bland avoidance of the truth not to acknowledge that it's something of the appeal of teaching: that we know stuff they don't - yet, at least. The danger is that we let it slip - as the post is about - into scorn, because we've become blind to what we can learn from, say, the weak student.
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You're welcome, lee. I agree, it's often easier - but yes, VERY human - to move on quickly from something that apparently has few merits. And sometimes that's the sensible thing to do. But yes, it's worth being aware that there might be things to be learnt about how to do it, not just how not to do it.
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I'm delighted that the story I wrote for Radio 4 has been repeated on Radio 4 Extra. Click here to Listen Again for the next four weeks.* Twelve-year-old Tom and his sister first came to Brighton after they lost their father in the great storm of 1883. They left their mother at her new job in the big house and walked to their lodgings in the Lanes. But in the middle of the night Tom hears their mother calling for them. And in trying to find her, he finds his own future. But, of course, that's only how the story... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at This Itch of Writing
One of the very first bits of clear writerly advice I ever came across was the short-story writer's dictum of "Start as near the end as possible". Later, I encountered the thriller-writer's "Get in late and get out early", which is a double-ended version of the same idea. Certainly it's rare for me to see a beginner's novel that starts "too late" in the story, whereas perhaps the majority either simply should start at what's currently chapter three, or the writer's realised that, and tacked a zingy prologue onto the beginning, in the (entirely folorn) hope that it will compensate... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at This Itch of Writing
At an event recently, the poet Rowan Williams was reading some of his favourite poems by other poets, and he was asked what he looks for - hopes for - when he comes to a poem for the first time. For someone who's so clever and so erudite (not the same thing) his answer was wonderfully simple: "I hope to go into a poem sober, and come out a little bit drunk." And I know exactly what he means. I'm not a poet, and I don't read poetry in an organised, professional way. But there are always one or two... Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2014 at This Itch of Writing
It seems to be Historical Fiction Autumn. The Historical Novel Society's Awards have had a good deal to do with that; I was one of the judges for their 2014 Short Story Award, and our comments on Anne Aylor's wonderful winning story, "The House of Wild Beasts", and on the two runners-up, are now up on the site. The HNS's website is also stuffed with great blogs and articles about everything to do with historical fiction. Antonia Hodgson, whose debut novel The Devil in the Marshalsea is very high indeed on my TBR pile since I heard her speak and... Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at This Itch of Writing
You're welcome, Rita. Good luck for the decision!
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Good to know, Mary!
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Thanks for sharing, Carol and glad its useful. Although I hope they take away the idea that they should be thinking about what IS working in a book, as much as what isn't.
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Sex is always a seller, as I know from the blog (although Passive Voice does even better than sex, in the blog's experience. Writers, honestly!). Most people's feelings about sex are more basic than their waking hours would like to admit - and I think that it's crucial that women are by a sizeable margin the biggest buyers of fiction, and Fifty Shades found the intersection between sex and fiction in a way that more specifically-pitched erotica hasn't succeeded in doing. But on the basis of the two pages I read, I think it delivered what it promised perfectly adequately. If I'd had that writing from a student I'd have known that the student had it in them to become a decent writer. What's wrong with the prose is rookie stuff, not hard to fix. Don't know about the plot because I didn't read enough, but as long as it delivered enough of what readers want, a dodgy plot doesn't matter much. But what it takes to make a successful book into a phenomenon was: a) ebooks: Fifty Shades came along at exactly the point when enough people - women - had e-readers, and of course that means you can buy the book without a soul knowing. and b) the fact that there's some kind of tipping point where word-of-mouth and the media mean that a book becomes a news story in itself: (Harry Potter another example, somewhere round Book Four). And with 50 shades, the fact that it's about women wanting/reading/enjoying/buying sex is going to make it a juicier news story than if it was about cake or cars. The story about an equivalent book for men would be grubby or at least un-surprising: we "know" that men would read such a thing. But the culture persists in feeling that a direct, explicit interest in erotica is odd in women, and discussing it is titillating. People who read perhaps one novel a year start to read it. But, of course, there's absolutely NO point in trying to use wild outliers like Fifty Shades to make any decisions about how to shape your writing life. It's like deciding how to build your house and plant your garden in Surrey, in order to weather the next hurricane, and ignoring the ordinary, daily pattern of wind and rain.
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