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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
Gill, I do think it's partly a matter of taste, and habit ... although I think, too, that sometimes the writer is the worst judge of what is enough detail for the reader, because the latter doesn't yet know the patterns and facts that the details are part of, which the writer does. Indeed a writer friend I admire was being exasperated about things her editor was asking her to spell out a bit more, and was quite taken aback when most of the rest of the writers in our group said, "Well, actually, I need that too: to know that she's by the window, not just floating in space, and that he went into the room before he spoke to her" or whatever. The dialogue thing ... I had the self-same run-in with my supervisor on my MPhil. FWIW, I analysed my own intutiion and found, though that although I don't write "said he" and "said I" - it does sound VERY quoth-he-ish to me - I do happily write "said Jo". But only AFTER a speech. Before it, it, again, feels very self-consciously old-fashioned... So there's no absolute logic to these things...
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Isn't it fantastic? SO many revelations. And yes, the fractal thing was a big lightbulb moment for me. Good luck for finding your way out!
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Yes - if the character's realisation that change might have been possible but they haven't grasped/couldn't grasp that possibility, makes the reader feel that teetering on the edge... and thwarting, then that's a story doing its job, I reckon!
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Diane, you're welcome! "at the major hurdle in the climax of the novel my (flawed but sassy and strong) heroine pretty much gave up! " Oh, yes, I think we've all done that kind of thing on occasion. Well done for spotting it in your own work - sometimes it takes an editor, or your very best friend ...
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Michael, I'm so glad the posts are making sense. And, yes, I think watching out for how good writers do it is the key to learning to do it better oneself. As you've realised, they're SO much more varied, and subtle, than any "rules" you might be told. Which isn't to say that true head-hopping (as opposed to well-handled switches) doesn't need a bit of work. I must look out the Gaiman: I'm always after good examples of PoV moves, to thrust in the facesw of the "Don't" brigade!
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Gouri, thanks so much for sending students here - that's lovely to know. And yes, it's all about deciding when to do which, isn't it. No blanket 'don'ts' here on the Itch!
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Marian, that's very interesting. I love a long sentence, as you'll know if you've been digging in the blog. There are several posts in the Tool Kit, on working with sentences, which might help you to get yours under control! http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/resources.html But, yes, I think sometimes sentences are too long because they're subtly repeating and elaborating what is essentially a single point.
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Jacqui, so glad you're finding the blog useful - and yes, the Itchy commenters are such a rich resource! I'm so grateful to them.
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I'm with you on Wolf Hall - and I think it highlights the different ways third and first person play out, in the different tenses. And I'd always say, if a first draft pours out - especially a first draft of a first novel - then let it. Everything can be changed later! Best of luck!
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Inès, you're welcome - and it's lovely to know that editors are finding my posts useful too! Good luck with the teaching.
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Lisa, I must go back to Life after Life. I love how she writes, and I started it with great excitement, but at a moment when my reading time was super-fragmented, and I just couldn't read enough at a time to really relish all that fascinating layering, and just-slightly-different details, and to nonetheless hang onto the constants. Not at all the fault of the book, but of my situation. I must find myself a hammock on a nice summery Sunday, and read it all in one great swallow. Will be lovely!
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Anna, you're welcome. I hadn't thought of the Wylde, but that's a good example, thank you!
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Chris, you're welcome, and the Doerr does sound interestingly non-linear. Must look out for it!
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But they're good thoughts! I think it often only takes a glimmer, for the reader - the experienced reader, at least - to feel safe enough, to feel that there IS some kind of order and reason for things being like this. To trust the writer, as it were.
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A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new film Lady Macbeth. The performances are marvellous, the direction remarkable - especially for a first feature - and costumes and settings are beautiful in a terrifyingly austere way. But I also noticed an aspect of the script which is extremely relevant to writing fiction and creative non-fiction, or anything else story-shaped. In neither script nor image does Lady Macbeth give you almost any backstory or side-story (my term, but you know what I mean), for any character or situation. We learn almost nothing beyond the edges of what we... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Glad it's useful, Christopher! I hope it's coming clear now.
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So glad to hear it helped, Joy, and very best of luck with those next few months!
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You're welcome, Kate - good luck with the deliberation!
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Oh, that sounds interesting - almost a non-fiction thread, standing separately rather than trying to be integrated into the story, which is often difficult and potentially clunky.
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Oh, Paul, thank you! I'd forgotten about The Night Watch, and it's an excellent example. Best of luck with the new novel - like all the best projects, it sounds as challenging as it sounds exciting. And thanks for sharing!
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Brilliant! Thank you!
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So glad it helps, Maggie. I sounds like a great project - good luck with it!
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VERY interesting - and yes, I'm sure that's true. And it's a feeling that historical fictioneers maybe particularly often feel: that all these other worlds are going on in parallel with ours, just the other side of a very thin veil. We could easily get the mixed up.
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Whisks, many thanks for the TTTW reference - that's a great example. And yes, if it's well-enough written and engaging enough, you might happily just go along with it and not worry if you don't quite get the exact details and mechanisms.
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