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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
Yes, I LOVE Barbara's "kernel" - such a good way of putting it. I've been calling it "the heart of the sentence", but that's not as good, so I'm adopting "kernel" forthwith!. "simplification isn't an end in itself, but a starting point on the way to finding your own style." Yes, and the problem is that so often it becomes an end in itself. I do find, though, that because writers come to a course from all different angles, with very different innate talent, and (separately), experience, I always hesitate to expound only the "rule", before saying it can be broken: so many students are already beyond that simple level...
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Yes, I think that's very true. But, as ever, the cure isn't to say "don't do it"...
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Yes, it's true of course - each generation over-corrects for the previous generation's errors. And don't get me STARTED on the rubbish that some people say about adjectives etc. And "was"...
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Sounds wonderful - I love a good long (and a long, good) sentence!
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What with finishing Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction (the copy-edited manuscript has just landed on my desk) and the way I keep acquiring new writers to mentor, I've been thinking a lot lately about not just creative writing, but creative thinking. It's what writers don't necessarily have in common with literary critics, and may have in common with geologists. It's what choreographers have in common with farriers, and mathematicians with symphonists, and architects with historians. And it's what my physicist grandfather Charles had in common with his composer cousin Ralph, and their shared ancestors Erasmus and Josiah ... Leith... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Debi Alper has just sent me a an absolutely fantastic long sentence from Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which I'd post here except that I think it belongs even more in my Long Sentences post. So click through: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/09/in-praise-of-the-long-sentence.html to see it in all its glory.
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Hi Dave - so glad you're finding the blog useful. I think when I said "Character is a static thing", I meant "character" in the sense of "protagonist" or whoever: that just describing them and what they're like isn't enough; it's static until they DO something. A 'pen-portrait' is only a portrait, not a person. And as soon as they do something, you have a story. "Character" in the sense of "personality", I agree, isn't static in itself. But it is in story-telling terms. Characters have to act, even if only in resisting being pushed about by events around them.
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Hi Dave - I think I was assuming in my metaphor that the ship - or rather the people sailing the ship - have a reason to sail, or they wouldn't sail. Sailing costs money, after all! I'm not sure about forever changed: certainly in a short story, the punchline, as it were, is the protagonist realising that they can't change - that they've had the opportunity in some way, and failed to grasp it. Only of course that realisation is a change, in a sense.
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Janet, you're welcome! I think memoir and other kinds of creative life writing do make 'Telling' come naturally: because we know the narrator is the author, it feels very natural to the reader to be told things. As you say - we take it for granted that the author/narrator has control and authority over the story. If Telling is the best way to get your reader to understand your point of view then, as being different from your point of view now, then go for it! Although you probably still want to try to make your telling showy... And, of course, an awful lot of novels are formed as memoir, which is one reason for recognising that the idea that a narrator can't tell - that they don't have a presence and an understanding outside the events of the main story, is nonsense
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So glad it speaks to you, Alma. I agree - time helps! Sometimes a trial separation from a novel can be enough to tell you whether it's the right novel for you...
Toggle Commented 7 days ago on The Other Novel at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Alvar, I think that's a good example of the way that we are our own first reader: in a way that second draft is also "for yourself", but "you" as reader... And yes, it's often only worth showing to a second reader once you, as first reader, are reasonably happy with it.
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You probably know how cross I get when I hear of writers being told that they should stick to short sentences. I suspect it's sheer cowardice on the part of writers and teachers who haven't bothered to learn to control a long sentence, but it's also terribly stupid, because it deprives your writing of the energy and variety that you need if you're going to tell your story as effectively as possible: any writer worth their salt needs to be able to handle any kind of sentence. And it's doubly-terribly-stupid if you're ever trying to evoke other voices in narrative... Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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Yes, it is more of a challenge. No bombs in baby carriages available to you! One thing that helps a lot is to think about things like: What does she hope for at this moment? What does she hope for long term? What does she dread at this moment? What does she dread long term? What's at stake? and make sure that those hopes and fears are vividly present underlying what she does - though of course you don't want to bring them up to the surface and make her think about them all that often. You could look in the Tool-Kit for the posts on Characterisation-in-Action, which is all about that http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2013/03/characterisation-in-action.html and also the one on Fortunately-Unfortunately http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2014/03/dont-plot-just-play-fortunately-unfortunately.html which helps to keep the tension up page by page, as the main plot unfolds.
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It's a lot of work - but for many writers, less work, ultimately, than trying to get it all Right First Time/Draft... Good luck!
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Lyle, so glad you liked it. I think it's true that one's striving for immediacy - I think my word for it would usually be vividness. And as I was exploring in the post about making your Telling Showy, you're right, telling can be immediate and vivid too. But sometimes the narrative needs to be able to step back from the immediate moment, and tell a bit of in a more meditative, contextual way. Which may not be vivid (particular, sensory, detailed) in the conventional sense at all. Sometimes a storyteller is saying, as it were, "In a far off land, a long time ago, a poor girl lived with her father"... Which would fail most tests of immediacy and vividness...
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Isn't it marvelous! So gorgeous. And what a wonderful story about the hawk ... even if it did come by way of what sounds like horrid accident. (In another life, I'd do hawking from horseback ... But probably not in this one.)
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Best of luck with the steaming forward, GP, and you're welcome.
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You're welcome, Betty! Yes, exactly.
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Yes, I think that's right for a lot of writers - though by no means all. I know writers who don't move on from a page, until it's just so, and then it's fixed in stone forever: effectively, they're doing the first-second-third draft on each sentence, but then it's done.
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Q: Oh, Jerusha! Can it be anything but a bad sign to feel sick of the thing you're writing? I've done well with children's fiction - prizes, sales - and now I'm tackling an adult novel. My agent's feedback is very positive but we've agreed that before it goes out large parts need not revising or editing, but full-on re-working - new scenes, settings, characters - which I'm now doing. I don't know if it's just that I've had such a bumpy ride with this adult book but I have a sense of just wanting shot of it now. I'm... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
Judi, that's really interesting - and yes, I think you're right: another form for "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em and do it better". Ah, yes, the bliss when someone says, "I didn't find it a problem at all!"
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It's lovely, isn't it. And yes, though I wouldn't quite put it in the same class as Jane Eyre, but classic in passing the really-good-book book test of being differently rewarding to read at all stages of life.
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A couple of days ago, on Twitter, @joseordonezUT asked if I had any tips for a new writer. As you may have noticed, I don't really do tips on here, partly because as soon as I think of a tip, I think of a reason why it's not always true, and before I know where I am two more paragraphs and a set of bullet points have unrolled themselves out of my fingers. But of course, as soon as I thought "I don't do tips", I remembered a good one. Write your first draft for yourself, your second draft for... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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What do you do when the right word - phrase - action - scene - is something which the reader might take the wrong way? Anything from tripping up on a word, to hooting with laughter at a moment of high drama? The other day, writer Graeme Talboys posted this on Facebook: OK. I know this is very first-world anorak writery stuff, but in my latest work I have a psychic who is also illiterate. The problem is, I keep using the term 'read' to describe what she is doing and it is beginning to jar in my head. Is... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog