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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
It's terribly addictive, that's the trouble...
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Anne, I think it's incredibly common to write too much of the stuff of getting from A to B - it's a classic kind of "scaffolding", which you may remember me blogging about here: http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2010/12/the-common-scaffold.html I've come to accept that I may NEED to write that scaffolding, in order to get my imagination from A to B. I just then need to remember to take most or all of it down again! But, as you say, it's not a given that taking it all down is the best thing to do.
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I take the point about animals not being inadequate - but I think it would be fair to argue that if they're the vehicle for telling a human story then they're inadequate as any outsider's consciousness is in one way or another: their internal frames of reference don't match (at least at the beginning) the frames of reference of the world they're experiencing. Obviously if the story is of their own world - Watership Down, I assume (never read it) - they're wholly adequate - and for the eavesdropping human, as you say, more adequate that we are. Maybe we need a concept of the inadequate [i.e. human] reader...
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G'wan, Hugh, you know you want to ...
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Dear Emma, I saw in your twitter feed that you're looking for blog ideas. How about scene changes, especially getting the prose right while establishing time and place. My writing gets quite clumsy at this point as I try to avoid 'It was Saturday and we were sitting in the kitchen.' It's taken a while to get to this, but it's such a good question - which is only to be expected from Sophie Beal, whose blogpost Dark Matter, Dark Glass and Anne Tyler was Highly Commended in the Postiversary Competition. (If you're not sure how you'd define a scene... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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You're welcome, Chevone! Glad it's useful.
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Gotta love an existential dog called Mr Bones...
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Whisks, yes, anthropomorphism is a fine line, isn't it. I know people who think Watership Down is way to anthropomorphic... He didn't put himself enough into proper rabbittyness, as it were. I suspect the don't-use-animals is because they get slews of dreadful ones. And perhaps because there are some readers who are just never going to get it. (But then there are some who are never going to get historical fiction...)
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Sheenagh, I guess that it's less daunting to sustain a non-human PoV in a poem than in a story of much length. And poetry homes in on sensory stuff so often, animals would come naturally.
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Ah, yes, rabbits galore. Looking rather nervous at being in the same post as a dog...
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Oh, yes, I knew about the Lovric, but had forgotten. She does Venic so brilliantly. Thanks for that, Emma.
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Thanks so much for those, Jules, that's brilliantly useful.(Matt Haig's two different titles is confusing, isn't it! I wasn't sure which to put in the post) And yes, "inadequate" is such a helpful term. As you say, "unreliable" really isn't right.
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Yes, that's one of the most rewarding things, isn't it: having to write using other senses.
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The third in a new series of mini-reviews that focus on what a book I've enjoyed has to offer a writer. Click here for the full (or rather, rapidly filling) Itch of Writing Bookshelf, and if you're looking for books to help with your writing directly, then click through to Books for Writers. H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald Helen Macdonald was a young academic when her photojournalist father suddenly died. She had flown and worked with birds of prey as a hobby, but now she decided to buy and train a young goshawk: the biggest as well as... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at This Itch of Writing: the blog
A writer friend posted this: Can anyone think of adult books (i.e. not War Horse) where you briefly get an animal's POV? I would love to use my sweet little dog (who has a place in the story) to be the reader's first experience of a crucial, awful place, before anyone else's. I want to get his keen senses in there - to show the place through a creature who is in one way acutely perceptive - but I wonder what level of language I can get away with. For example, could I describe a smell as metallic, or is... Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog
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I suspect it's the old problem that when you write in a genre - crime, say - it's easy to be pigeonholed...
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Thanks Annette - yes, I did. Duly corrected. I think Hist Fic is really good to learn from, because it has many of the common problems in particularly acute form, so it's extremely good exercise!
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Gershon, I think telling really comes into its own when you need to convey information (and yes, putting it into the dialogue is so often a disaster: "As you know, Bob", or in hist fic, "Thou knowest, Will, that...") The key, I think, is the voice of the narrative: what the further-out psychic distances sound like. What could be stronger than "In the far-off days of Uther Pendragon..." We're lucky, in hist fic, that we get to play with those voices which are lyrical or epic or dramatic, full of rich words and richer rhythms ... Sit your storyteller down by the fire, pass him the bottle, and ask him for a story ...
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Delighted it's been helpful, Sheila - and congratulations for having got onto the NWS. Enjoy!
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I'm not sure (as I was saying further up) that setting is really the kind of "dramatic language" issue that I was thinking of. Although it's true that some settings in a novel often work better than others: that may simply be a failing on the the part of the author, or the editor, to spot that the evocation is better and stronger, for whatever reason. (I felt that The Poisonwood Bible should have finished when they left the jungle, before it started to sprawl into a history of the next twenty years and the whole of Congo...) Plus, readers saying they don't like a switch or whatever isn't necessarily a reason for not doing it. It might just be a tribute to how well the first bit worked - as with Room, evidently, for those readers. I know with parallel narratives that readers tend to prefer one strand to the other, which is a similar kind of reaction. But as long as which they prefer varies, (for TMOL it's about 60% liking Stephen, 40% liking Anna better) I've decided that's just built into the nature of the book, not something to worry about.
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Laura, I haven't read Gone Girl either, but I don't think it would be fair - or safe - to think of a change of setting as an issue of the sort of "dramatic language" that Julian is talking about. Re the 'other documents' sort of thing ... I guess it's all in why, and therefore how, it's done. I was furious with Enduring Love for tacking the scientific paper it was based on onto the end: it showed a lack of confidence, I thought (though whether that was McEwan's, or his editor's, I don't know.): "Look, really, I'm not just spinning a yarn." But if it's a sense of "This is the part of the story that can't be told from inside," - the doctor's report or whatever - then in some way it's come from inside the story itself, hasn't it: the story has created it, and so it's one more trace of what happened.
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You're welcome, Sandra. Always pleased to know that I've said something which others have thought... Best of luck!
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You're welcome, Carlie. And interesting that even with a book you know well and love, you found it harder to read analytically. I'm not altogether surprised, though. Certainly I've found that to be the case with books which are how-to, self-help and information sort of stuff: it's next to impossible to use the book how YOU want to: you're at the mercy of the software.
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The second in a new series of mini-reviews that focus on what a book I've enjoyed has to offer a writer. Click here for the full (or rather, rapidly filling) Itch of Writing Bookshelf, and if you're looking for books to help with your writing directly, then click through to Books for Writers. THE ANATOMY OF GHOSTS by Andrew Taylor It's the late eighteenth century, and bookseller John Holdsworth has fallen on sad, hard times, with bankrupcty, the death of his child and the suicide of his wife, both by drowning. To help the crazed son of a possible patron... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2015 at This Itch of Writing: the blog