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Emma Darwin
I write novels and short fiction and I live in South East London.
Interests: fiction, creative non-fiction, novels, short fiction, short stories, historical fiction, academic writing, writing, reading, editing, teaching
Recent Activity
The other day, without so much as a gun to my head, I willingly wrote a synopsis. Since synopses are, famously, at best a chore, at worst a nightmare, it was with mock-contrition that I murmured on Facebook that - sorry, hate me now, but ... I actually really enjoy writing them. The first ten comments were un-re-printable, but then my fellow synopsis-lovers cautiously put their heads above the parapet to agree with me. In the end there were ten or so of them, too, and we agreed, trying not to sound smug, that they can also be extremely useful... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Oh, it is, it is! A lovely book.
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"the Austrian literary theorist F.K. Stanzel describes the first-person narrator, the third-person narrator and the omniscient narrator as points in a circle with an endless amount of intermediate forms." How interesting - and refreshing. It's so often posited as an "either-or", and it so isn't!
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Jenn's on a well-deserved post-publication breather, but you're welcome, Rowena!
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Hi Marsha - and I'm so glad my reasoning makes sense. Mind you, I wrote that many years ago now, before I was doing much teaching: these days it's closer to a professional blog, though I don't monetise it in the obvious sense. I run the blog under a Creative Commons licence, which normally doesn't allow for quotations for commercial purposes. However, I'm happy to let you quote that extract, with acknowledgement, if you feel it would be useful for your readers. Best of luck with the book - it sounds very interesting.
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2016 on Welcome to my blog at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Hi Esther - lovely to see you here! And I'm so glad you like the blog. I'm always specially pleased when other teachers find it useful. Good luck with the re-found writing!
Toggle Commented Jul 20, 2016 on Welcome to my blog at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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You're welcome - glad it's helped!
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Why not, if it suits the story? Sounds good to me.
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You're welcome - and, yes, it's startling, the cumulative difference just these apparently small tweaks can make to the overall effect. And, essentially, it's a very simple editing job, much of the time.
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You're welcome, Jennifer. And congrats on the Daily Pages - respect for you for keeping it up. Sounds as if it suits you!
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One of the questions I suggest asking your novel is "Who is telling this story?" And the next is, "Where are they standing, relative to the events they're telling?". So I was excited to discover that Jenn Ashworth was building her new novel, Fell, on one of the most interesting - and fruitful - answers to that question that I've yet come across. I was lucky enough, a while back, to have a tiny role in her working-out of the considerable writerly challenges it posed, and when I read the book a few weeks ago I just loved it (its... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
In fact, it's such a good question I'm going to tag my answer onto the original post...
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Good question. The key to first-person narrators, I think, is to think about them as two separate entities: a) the character who is an act-or in the story, and has the knowledge and limitations of any other character, and b) the narrator-storyteller, who can tell the story however they like (including, if you choose, scenes they weren't there for, and knowledge they didn't have at the time. Let's try it with the first example: "I walked over to the sofa by the wall and sat crossly on it. I looked through the door and there, in the hall, I saw Jane's roller skates, lying yet again at the foot of the stairs. It seemed to me, though, that something was wrong with them. I noticed that one was standing straight but the other was at an odd angle, and then I saw that it was missing both its back wheels." Take the "filtering" knife to the paragraph, and we get exactly the same event, and learn exactly the same things from it: "I walked over to the sofa by the wall and sat crossly on it. Through the door, in the hall, Jane's roller skates were lying yet again at the foot of the stairs. But something was wrong with them. One was standing straight but the other was at an odd angle, missing both its back wheels." and, of course, it's up to you how much of "I saw" etc., you let in, and how much you exclude. It is a risk with first-person narratives, indeed, that they get very "tell-y" in that way, and I see a lot of it. It's the opposite of the common assumption that first-person narratives are "closer in": it may be easier for beginners to get closer in, in psychic distance, but you're even more likely to let those filter-words slip in, because you're so conscious of the character's presence in the scene, in a way that you might not be if you have an external, third-person narrator who can naturally be "outside" any particular head.
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You're welcome!
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All how-to advice is only, really, someone distilling what loads of good writers have worked out as they went. And then others read that distillation, and map it onto their writing - and half the time they'd already half-intuited it, but didn't have a name for it, or didn't realise it's a Thing which is worth tackling as itself.
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You're welcome, Deborah!
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Oh, yes, that's a good'un!
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I know people who get cross that their work may not be read by the name judge, but as well as the fact that it's logistically impossible, it also in a funny way lets you off the hook. You don't know who you're trying to impress, beyond the general flavour of the comp if you can research it. So you might as well just try to write a blimmin' good story!
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Fab, isn't it! That Susannah Rickards, she really can write.
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"Filtering", as a technical issue in writing, probably wins the prize for Most Useful Concept With Most Unhelpful Name (although, for that prize, "Free Indirect Style" is a very close runner-up). But John Gardner called it that in one of Creative Writing's founding texts, The Art of Fiction, and Janet Burroway sets Filtering all out very clearly in her classic Writing Fiction, so we're stuck with the label. The basic idea is that writers very often use phrases which get between the reader and a straightforward representation and evocation of what's happening. Gardner describes it as: ... the needless filtering... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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I think Cashelmara was a while ago too - I have read it, but yes, the Starbridge ones I loved particularly. I remember thinking "How, given that this is at heart a history of the doctrinal and theological history of the Twentieth Century Anglican Church, does she make it so impossible for me to stop turning the blimmin' pages?????"
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You're welcome, Marsha - lovely to see you here. I'm not an English major either, as it happens! I think few of us would try out and articulate all the possible combinations - but it can be illuminating to try them sometimes!
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Stephen, it's at the top of the page of the first one.
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Competition in creative art is an odd concept, but also a natural one: since the beginning of time there's been a limit on the number of chops you can carve off a goat, and only one place by the fire for a storyteller because our audience - the Lord, the Lady and their top henchmen - had the other places ex officio. We compete, too, to increase that audience: the Palace fireplace is bigger than the Manor's, and the Royal cooks serve roast swan. But it's not only good practice to enter competitions: they can be a very good way... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Well, thank you all so much! The recommendations you posted are fantastic, and show what a wonderfully wide range of tastes and interests The Itch's lovely blog-readers have. It's been very hard to choose, not least because I've read some books and authors, and not others (but will ... soon. Have you any idea what y'all have done to my to-be-read pile?). But the point of the exercise wasn't whether I agreed with you. As this is the Itch, and in the spirit of the Itch of Writing Bookshelp I focused on posts which got specific with why the book... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2016 at This Itch of Writing: the blog