Today is Remembrance Sunday 11/11/2012 and I thought it would be a good day to remember my Dad, Roy. Although he served in in the RAF in WW2 he survived and returned home to his family. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been born because that didn’t happen until 1970 so of course I am grateful for that. He died in 1995 aged 78. I was only 24 and we had had no warning of his death. I spoke to him on the phone at midday and he collapsed and died at 5.15 pm. It was many many years until I came to terms with this death and I can now look back at my memories with fondness and lots of smiles.
It is my Dad that I really have to thank for my writing talent. When I was at school every weekend, on a Sunday evening he used to write 2 pages of spellings for me and I had to sit down and copy each word out ten times. Contrary to what you may think, this wasn’t a punishment but just his way of cementing words into my head, and it worked. He used to love giving me complicated words like ‘liaise’ or ‘toughen’ and testing me on them weeks later. He was a stickler for correct grammar and spelling and told me that my writing would be a direct reflection upon me. “You can lose or gain someone’s respect in the first line of a letter”, he once told me. I have never forgotten those words or those lessons. He taught me how to address and write a proper formal letter using Dear Sir with Yours faithfully or Dear Mary with Yours sincerely and how to write a cheque (something we rarely need these days).
My love of books also helped a great deal with my use of language as from the age of about 5 I always had my head in a book. Usually something by Enid Blyton or, when I got older, Judy Blume.
However, in today’s world it means that I am often frustrated by the lack of importance placed on spelling and grammar. When I was a police officer I was frequently mortified by the terrible spelling in documents and evidential material. As professional witnesses we were expected to perform in all areas to the highest standards but over the years I saw those standards steadily decline and by the time I left entry levels were so low it was embarrassing. I used to think of my Dad and wonder what he would have said if he had read the reports I was reading. He would have been very disappointed and his opinion of the police service would have dipped. I am glad he never saw that.
My Dad was a very shy man, he hated socialising and always felt awkward in company, not like me at all. I am very gregarious, outgoing and love the limelight as my friends and family will lay testament to. I don’t look like my Dad or have the same ambitions that he did. We were very different. He probably thought that he hadn’t left me anything worthwhile but to me he has left a fabulous invaluable legacy. The love and respect of the English Language. I am passing it on to his grandsons and they, like me and him are language purists. I know he would be very proud of that and if I could speak to him today, on Remembrance Sunday I would tell him that his legacy is alive and well in us and 17 years after his death, so is he.
Characters. Now there’s a descriptive word. When someone is described as a character it usually means that they are lively and unpredictable. Well my characters are just that. As they are created by me they tend to act like me. That doesn’t mean that every character I create is a 40 something English female with 4 sons and 2 dogs, it just means that they are temperamental, just like me. And just like me they don’t always want to fit into the story lines that I give them. We even fight over this occasionally and it can get messy, with me threatening to delete them altogether. Then I invariably storm off in a huff and later decide to play it their way.
One such example is my new character, Warren. He is supposed to be the sex-god in my new novella which I was originally writing as a paranormal erotica. Sadly, Warren didn’t want me to watch him having sex with my heroine (what a cheek!). He was far too private. We argued and argued for almost a week and no writing got done. Warren was telling me that the story line just wasn’t working and reluctantly I had to admit he was right. He is now much happier that I am leaving him at the bedroom door to seduce the lady without spectators. So I am now writing a paranormal romance and feeling much happier with it.
However, that brings me to the question, should you always listen to your characters? On this I am sure we could debate. A well known author friend of mine told me that she wanted one of her characters to feature in the next book of a trilogy, but in her words “he wouldn’t come out to play”. She had to rethink the story line a little but she tells me it is all the better for leaving him out.
Conversely I have had a character completely switch on me. In my story “Chuckles” which you can find in the anthology “Here Be Clowns” my protagonist was originally written as a victim of Chuckles. She played the part of the damsel in distress very well but once I had finished my first draft I decided I wanted her to have a meatier role. I rewrote her part and ‘boom’ the story was complete and accepted rather quickly.
I think that debating with your characters is a big part of the creative process. It certainly is for me. It means that my creations have life, personalities, opinions and direction and that must mean I am on the right track to creating something worth reading. I’ll leave that for you to decide and I’ll keep you posted on Warren.
I would say that all writers (and I would be surprised if anyone disagrees) are avid readers. One of the ways you start to understand your love of writing is from reading the things you love to read, whether that be novels, stories, newspaper or anything else with writing on.
Stephen King has a lot to answer for. In a good way. Not only has he written many many fabulously thrilling books but he has also penned a book on how he does it “On Writing” is definitely on my bucket list to read, I mean who wouldn’t want a peep into the mind of the horror master.
Anyway I found this very interesting article where Damien Echols tells us how reading Mr King taught him to write.
I have just read this article about one of the great loves of my life, Waterstones who are stopping signing events by new and up and coming authors. I think it is very sad when things change so much and it only convinces me more that soon they will be a thing of the past. I really hope that this doesn’t happen but with the demise of events like this I cannot help but think that Waterstones are on the path to failure. I just hope that I am wrong. It will be a very sad day if they do have to close.
Well I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it forever as much as I tried.
Yep, I was never going to be able to write this blog without at least one reference to the phenomena known at the 50 Shades trilogy. I have had many a discussion with my friends of the merits (or lack thereof) of these books and they all know exactly how I feel about them.
When working in the bookshop we had to stock hundreds and hundreds of copies and I felt embarrassed having to sell them. No, not because I am a prude, far from it. I was embarrassed that a bookshop of the calibre of Waterstones had to sell this tripe. My manager, quite rightly said, “Just think of all the money we are making.” But I cringed every time I sold them. It got to the point where women would come into the shop looking curious and before they had a chance to say a thing I would just point to the shelves where Mr Grey lived and watched them dribble their way over.
I find it incredible that a book promoting sexual abuse of a vulnerable (but dim) girl in the name of ‘lurve’ is acceptable, nay craved. I can only console myself with the fact that maybe the majority of people who read it just didn’t get it.
Anyway, I don’t want to alienate all my blog readers so I’ll shut up now, but maybe you can have a read of this article on a signing E L James did in California. It amused me.