Achieving quality through technology

One of the drawbacks of many interactive books is that the story can be sacrificed in favour of the technology. Finding authors who possess the skills to write captivating stories with the required visual dimension can prove problematic. The growth of this field of children's writing has led the major publishing houses to begin seeking new authors for their interactive ranges. This is the first step towards opening up a relatively closed area of writing, so if you have a background in IT and...

Acting the part

Take top hat and tails from the above list. They have a seemingly magical effect on their wearer so that men not exactly renowned for their sartorial elegance suddenly find themselves holding their shoulders back and their stomachs in. Perched at a jaunty angle on their heads, the top hat provides the perfect finishing touch, conveying both style and breeding. The same is true of the full-length ball gown. Ladies who usually dress for comfort in tee shirts and jeans can find themselves...

Answers to Assignments

CHAPTER 5 - SUGGESTED REWRITE OF 'SHOWING' NOT It had been raining hard for days. Water streamed from the gutters of every roof, pouring down windows, along pavements, running in fast moving rivulets along each road. Underneath the streets, torrents of water gushed and gurgled beneath the feet of the people hurrying along the shiny wet pavements, pushing and shoving one another in their haste to get out of the rain. Steel grey storm clouds gathered overhead, meeting one another head on in...

Assuming a parental role

Anthropomorphised animals do, it is true, have instant appeal but they also perform a variety of other functions. They can be adults who behave like children children with capabilities far exceeding their actual age naughty to make a moral point a metaphor for their human counterpart. Having your animal playing the part of a silly adult offers the young reader the opportunity to feel superior and adopt the parent role. The naughty animal can get into all sorts of scrapes from which it has to be...

Attending banquets

Eating and drinking was just as important in the past, if not more so. For the historical novelist, it is vital that you know what food was served and how it was cooked. Finance also rears its ugly head as, whilst the hero and heroine will care nothing for monetary gain, financial status will have enormous implications on any potential marriage plans. In romantic fiction, the background is as important as the plot and accuracy provides an ideal balance for the escapist tale you long to tell.

Avoiding errors

Another great advantage ofproducing a visual aid like this is that errors in the storyline can be detected at a glance. If, for example, you have a character who was killed in Chapter 3 unaccountably turning up in Chapter 5, you can remedy this before you get too far into the book. A written plan allows you to see where each character is at any given moment and to calculate how to move them from and to each location. It also prevents you forgetting any minor characters along the way.

Basing your setting on a familiar location

In order to avoid the distracting 'street map' scenario, an effective alternative is to throw in one or two well-known evocative names. This encourages the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks, as demonstrated by the following rewrite of the previous City of London example Leaving the Bank of England, Barnaby made his way from Threadneedle Street towards St Paul's, feeling a flicker of excitement as he read off the historic names of the roads he passed. Old Jewry, Bow Lane,...

Becoming astringer

If you regularly write to the letters page of a newspaper or county magazine about items of importance to the residents in your area, you may be contacted and asked if you will become a 'stringer'. This involves keeping an eye out for snippets of news and views on local issues and phoning them in to the editor. Many regular columnists in specialist magazines begin their writing careers in this way before graduating to their own regular column. Experts who can express themselves clearly and be...

Being famous

If the answer to question 6 is 'yes' the next question has to be 'Am I famous ' Unfortunately, if you're not, then the chances of having your book accepted by a publisher are very slim indeed. The fact is that the majority of autobiographical books being published at the moment feature celebrities currently in the news, be they supermodels in their early twenties, sporting personalities, leading politicians or famous names from the world of film and television. Compared to yours, their lives...

Being small and powerless

The one emotion that is shared by all children is the feeling of powerlessness in the face of adult supremacy. Looking at life through a child's eyes gives you a very different perspective from that of a grown-up. Adults can come and go as they please, buy what they like, eat what they like, do and say what they like and more importantly, they are big and powerful. A child, on the other hand, is small and powerless, subject to the whims and wishes of pretty well anyone bigger than themselves....

Believe what you write

A tongue-in-cheek approach to romantic fiction simply won't work. In order to write convincingly, you must believe in your characters and be prepared to fall helplessly in love with the hero. This doesn't mean you can't bring humour into the story. Providing you are laughing with and not at your characters, you can make them and their situation as amusing as you wish. At the end of the day, however, you have to care whether or not your characters proclaim their love for one another and achieve...

Case Study Ben Tries An Experiment

Ben is a science teacher at a large comprehensive school. Utilising his knowledge of school systems and the National Curriculum, he devises a plot in which a group of children working on a class project make an amazing scientific discovery. They show their teacher who promptly takes all the credit and the children have to combine forces to prove to the school's head that they are the true inventors of the formula. The vocabulary is correctly pitched and as they are based on Ben's own pupils,...

Case Study Bill Takes A Practical Approach

Bill is a businessman in his late forties who travels extensively as part of his job both in the UK and abroad. The father of teenage children, he has had quite a chequered career, serving in the armed forces for a time and then as a prison officer. His past and present occupations have meant that he has learned how to relate to a wide variety of people on vastly different levels from all sectors of society. Consequently, he has developed the ability to predict how people are likely to react in...

Case Study Bob Loves To Shock

Bob is a mature English Literature student. His special interest is horror and his writing is colourful and imaginative. Unfortunately, he is inclined to let his imagination run away with him, filling his stories with so much blood and gore that the shock effect he strives for is lost. Until he can tone down the imagery by taking a more subtle approach, he will fail to achieve his full potential as a horror writer. Horror stories exploit our fears and shock us into facing the thing we believe...

Case Study June Makes Everything All Right

June is a cheerful person in her mid-twenties. The mother of two small children, she has an optimistic outlook on life and this is reflected in her characterisation. Unfortunately, this tendency always to look on the bright side means that her characters often lack depth and realism. She also finds it difficult to bring conflict into her stories, as she likes to make their lives run as smoothly as possible. Until she can overcome her desire to have everyone living happily ever after, her...

Case Study Rachel Demolishes An Office Block

Rachel has the perfect location in mind for the fictional city setting of her historical novel. There is now an office block on the site but, with the aid of some careful research, she unearths sufficient information about the houses which once stood there to create a vividly realistic impression of the layout of city streets at the time in which her story is set. Based on her investigations, she is able to devise her own street map for reference, adapting it to suit the storyline wherever...

Case Study Steve Tries Out His Climbing Skills

Steve's hobby is climbing and he bases his plot development on situations he has encountered as a member of a climbing team. By combining his experiences of climbing different types of terrain, in a variety of weather conditions with his knowledge of teamwork in potentially dangerous situations, he is able to bring his characters vividly to life. As a result, his adventure stories are fast-paced and exciting. MOVING YOUR CHARACTERS AROUND THE ROOM As we saw in the section dealing with reaction...

Changing times

Times have changed and thankfully, attitudes have moved on. Black, Asian and foreign characters are no longer portrayed as caricatures, whilst tough girls and sensitive boys are perfectly acceptable. Today's publishers acknowledge that not every child comes from a two-parent family and that goodness and decency are not necessarily commensurate with a white, middle-class background. The influence these positive changes in attitude have had on children's fiction should not be under-estimated.

Checklist

Have you set aside a time to write each day 3. Do you keep a notebook of ideas 4. Do you have a good dictionary, thesaurus and access to reference material 5. Have you considered how the use of computers impacts on your own writing ambitions 6. Are you writing about what you know ASSIGNMENT Take your notebook and jot down 10 ideas for articles or stories. By the time you have finished reading this book, you should have developed at least one of those ideas into a workable outline.

Combining action and dialogue

As we saw in the previous chapter, characters are not static. They move from place to place, wave their hands around, shrug their shoulders and stamp their feet. Their facial expressions change, they have endearing or irritating mannerisms and their body language can tell you almost as much about them as the way they actually speak. A combination of action and dialogue, as demonstrated in Passage B above, will bring far more realism and life to the characters than a string of 'he she said's.

Conforming or contrasting

The fact that the clothes your hero is wearing have him looking every inch the gentleman and your heroine's attire implies style and breeding is a major factor in characterisation. Whilst the tall, handsome, immaculately turned-out chap may fulfil the role of every woman's answer to her dreams, he could also be any one of the following a confidence trickster without a penny to his name a fashion-conscious young dandy, interested only in his own appearance a charming rogue, who overspends on...

Confronting writers block

It is arguable whether writers' block actually exists or whether it is simply brought about by the provision of perfect conditions in which to write. Fig. 14 Suggested headings for expenditure record. Fig. 14 Suggested headings for expenditure record. Fig. 15. Suggested headings for income record. Like our fictional characters, we will strive to overcome any obstacle in order to fulfil our ambitions to see our work in print. Remove those obstacles and we immediately yearn for distraction. We...

Confronting your worst nightmare

Horror fiction is based on the principle of confrontation with your worst nightmare and common phobias are used to great effect in both ghost and horror stories. The prospect of spending the night in a haunted house, for example, mercilessly exploits our natural fears of the dark and isolation. Among the spooky sensations and incidents guaranteed to scare us silly are being cut-off from the outside world having supporting characters mysteriously disappearing one by one.

Consulting a specialist

Novels featuring amateur detectives are usually set against specialist backgrounds reflecting areas of their authors' own expertise. Ellis Peters' medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, for example and Jonathan Gash's roguish antiques dealer Love-joy are just two such successful fictional sleuths. In this type of novel, the fascinating backgrounds give rise to sub-plots and back stories which are as gripping to the reader as the crime being solved. If a new specialist amateur sleuth is to break into...

Creating an element of doubt

Picture a scene of contented domesticity. A housewife is tackling the routine chores when the phone rings. Just as she is about to pick up the receiver, it stops. Nothing particularly unusual here, just a wrong number. Unless, of course, the same thing happens continually throughout the day. By the time her husband returns home from work, our housewife is a bundle of nerves. He manages to calm her, putting it down to phone engineers working on the line. That evening they are watching TV when...

Creating an interactive dimension

One type of book for children that you cannot miss as you scan the bookshelves for ideas is the interactive book. These come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, aimed at an equally wide age and ability range. In their simplest form, the stories are very basic and designed so that, when pages are pressed, the pictures will make the appropriate sound. For slightly older children, the books invite the child to find symbols scattered throughout the pages, then press a matching symbol on a bar at...

Creating Conflict

In order to understand the importance of conflict in a fictional tale, imagine the following scenario A beautiful, titled young lady is about to celebrate her eighteenth birthday. Her wealthy, happily married parents throw a party for her at their stately home. Her adored older brother telephones to let her know that he is bringing his best friend and partner in his successful law firm to the party. The best friend is the handsome heir to a fortune and a vast estate in the country. Their eyes...

Creating Fictional Characters

When interviewing authors plugging their latest book, one of the most frequent questions asked by the presenter is 'Are your characters based on real people ' The answer invariably given is 'Not exactly'. In order to be convincing, fictional characters must ring true. The reader should be able to relate to them and identify with them, but the description needs only to be sufficient to project a recognisable image. After all, as the average reader is unlikely to have met her, there is little...

Devising a storyboard

Putting it on computer gives you the freedom to alter it at will although it does help if the plan is in constant view in storyboard or chart form while you are working. Some authors use wipe-clean boards or self-adhesive notelets which can be moved around and discarded when necessary, whilst others prefer a large sheet of white paper, drafting the plan out in pencil, colour coding, erasing or crossing out items where necessary. Whichever method you select, once you have a plan to which you can...

Digging up the past

Ghostly characters are no different from any other protagonists and should be treated accordingly. You need to dig deep into their past so that their background offers an excellent reason for their current existence. Their past will also explain their attitude to the mortals they encounter. For the mortal characters, whether the ghost is frightening or friendly, the initial meeting must have an element of suspense - a creaking floorboard, sudden icy draught, a slamming door or window.

Discovering new worlds

We now know so much about our own solar system that, if you wish to write about inter-planetary travel, you need to go much further afield. Due to the vast distances involved, you have to find ways of preventing your characters from dying of old age before they reach their destination and there is a number of methods you can use 'warp' speed drives for your spaceship 'hyperspace' - a dimension where distance is reduced to zero a 'generation' starship, i.e. a moving, living colony in space.

Doing and describing

By comparing the two passages above you can see that in Example A, Susan is almost static. The reader is told that the weather is cold, that Susan is wearing a heavy, hooded overcoat, that the street was gloomy and the atmosphere oppressive. In Example B, however, Susan is reacting to her surroundings. She 'pulls' her heavy overcoat around her, 'offers silent thanks' for its warmth and 'hurries' down the street. The trees, too, are moving. They are 'waving menacingly' causing her to become...

Drawing maps

As with any other writing technique, in the hands of a skilled author, the use of this kind of detailed information can become integral to the tone and pace of the book and many writers can and do use it to great effect. The attention to detail award-winning novelist Ruth Rendell pays to the routes taken by her protagonists, emphasises rather than detracts from the atmosphere of her novels. She sometimes takes this one stage further by drawing a map or street plan of a location, as illustrated...

Drawing On Your Own Experiences

One of the first rules a would-be writer learns is to 'write about what you know'. If, however, this rule is taken too literally, few writers would ever gain the requisite knowledge to write an historical romance, murder mystery or science fiction novel. Far more practical is the advice from bestselling author Martina Cole to 'Write about what you know and if you don't know - find out'. You don't need to have lived in a previous century, be a murderer or travel in space to write genre fiction....

Driving Fast Cars And Wearing Fancy Clothes

Romance and glamour go hand in hand and if you intend to write romantic fiction, you need glamorous settings for your stories. Our story is set around the fast-moving background of a television news station. However, the worlds of high fashion, fast cars, thoroughbred horses and sporting champions also feature heavily in this kind of novel. No one wants to read about the love life of a garage mechanic and a secretary. Not, that is, unless the garage mechanic designs and builds revolutionary...

Eating and drinking sensuously

Eating is almost as important as sex in a romantic story. Meals are described in great detail and range from plain but wholesome simple fare to delicately presented gourmet dishes. For example, a romantic ploughman's lunch for two would consist of a fresh, French loaf, deliciously crusty on the outside, the soft, white middle thickly spread with creamy butter. The cheese will be firm and mature, served with a generous helping of tangy, home-made chutney. The whole thing will be washed down with...

Educating young readers

Both non-fiction and storybooks for children offer enormous scope to teach young readers about the world around them. The following is just a taste of what can be covered conservation and ecological issues Bearing in mind the expertise required, the educational book market can be quite difficult to break into. Harcourt Educational Publishers, the UK's leading publisher of educational materials, admits that very few of the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts they receive each year are accepted....

Employing an amateur detective

For today's crimewriter, the gifted amateur detective in the style of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple is a thing of the past. Nowadays the amateur is usually someone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Having stumbled across a crime, they become entangled in the events which follow and are forced to solve the mystery in order to extricate themselves from the situation. The attitude of the professional policeman in all of this is either one of outright hostility or downright...

Establishing motivation

Knowing the struggle your character may have had to achieve the status they have attained, you will instinctively know how they will react ifthey learn that everything they have worked for is to be taken away. Returning to our TV Presenter, we can select a young anchor-woman for a regional news programme and devise both background and motivation for her. Using a chart format, Figure 4 details an unhappy childhood and difficulty in sustaining relationships which suggests the following storyline...

Examining your motivation

Before you begin to write your life-story, however, it is worth examining exactly what your motives are, so ask yourself the following questions 1. Do I have a fascinating tale to tell 3. Do I need to confront my past in order to move on in my life 4. Do I wish to leave my family a record of my life 5. Do I want to give hope to others 6. Do I want to have my autobiography published

Explaining the inexplicable

Unlike fantasy, which features magical creatures such as goblins and gremlins within parallel worlds and time zones, science fiction explores the concepts and implications of space and time travel, scientific developments and theoretical possibilities. The premise you use need not be proven scientific fact but it must have a factual basis and it must be theoretically possible. Within these constraints, the science fiction writer can approach the genre from a variety of angles exploring the...

Falling for the flaw

The flaw may be physical, perhaps the heroine is a little too short, the hero just an inch or so too tall. Whatever you feel it takes to make them a bit more human than if they were perfectly proportioned. However, a physical flaw, whilst useful, only offers part of the picture. A rounded character will also have an emotional hang-up. Perhaps they are stubborn, proud, impetuous or absent-minded. These are the sort of characteristics that will at first exasperate and subsequently attract one to...

Feeding in the information

One method of avoiding this kind of over-emphasis is to feed the information to the reader in snippets. If it is raining heavily, then have your character run for shelter, or struggle for a few seconds with an uncooperative umbrella. An impression conveyed with a few well-chosen verbs, adverbs and adjectives will be far more effective than wordy description, hammering home a point made early in the first sentence. Economy with words not only improves the quality of your writing, it also makes...

Fighting talk

A keen writer will never let a good piece ofdialogue escape, no matter when or where they stumble across it. If their partner happens to hurl a particularly juicy phrase at them in the heat of battle, they know they'll only regret it if they don't stop and write it down. We all find ourselves in confrontational situations from time to time and the more you can identify with the roles of your characters and relate to their feelings and frustrations the more realistic their arguments will sound....

Finding a gap in the market

The majority of successful self-published books are non-fiction and invariably fill a gap in the market. For example, your business may involve travelling around the country but as you work for yourself, your budget may be very tight. Perhaps you have built up a personal directory of B & B establishments offering exceptionally good value for money. So many of your colleagues ask to borrow your directory that you realise it has potential as a saleable commodity. You obtain quotes from local...

Finding an illustrator

It is not a good idea to draw the pictures yourself unless you are a trained illustrator. If the idea for your picture book is strong enough, a publisher will find a suitable illustrator for you. Because the illustrations are so important, this may take some time, possibly years rather than months. Due to the skill and time involved in illustration, the artist often receives a higher payment than the author. On the plus side, picture books are so expensive to produce that if your manuscript is...

Finding True Love

A romance is the story of a man and a woman who meet and fall in love against all the odds. The ingredients for a standard romance are attractive central characters a beginning, middle and happy ending obstacles designed to keep the hero and heroine apart a satisfactory conclusion, culminating in the promise of marriage. Romantic fiction is true escapism and great fun to write as you steep yourself in a vision of what life could be like if only all your dreams could come true. Most but not all...

Flashing information

Whilst the length of a flashback varies considerably from one short phrase to a complete chapter, the technique works best if you simply 'flash' to a significant incident in the past, then bring your character straight back to the present as soon as you have imparted the relevant information. For example, if the reader is to understand why our TV presenter, Sally Blake, behaves in a certain way, we need to give them a few hints about the background to the story. The flashbacks in the following...

Further Reading

Aslib Directory of Information Sources in the UK. 501 Writers' Questions Answered, Nancy Smith, Piatkus. Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Directory of Writers' Circles, available from Oldacre, Hor-derns Park Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, Derbyshire SK23 9SY. Tel (01298) 812305. Email oldacre btinternet.com Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (PC Mac) CD-Rom. From Pitch to Publication, Everything You Need To Know To Get Your Novel Published, published by...

Giving away the ending

One recurring error that irritates publishers and agents beyond belief is the synopsis which promises wonderful things but finishes with something like 'If you want to know what happens next, you'll have to read the book ' Sadly, they won't. They'll probably just heave a sigh and send your manuscript back in the next available post. Your synopsis is your sales pitch and should contain all your manuscript's strongest points, including details of a satisfactory ending.

Giving encouragement

Editors are simply too busy to write personally to everyone who sends them a manuscript but if your work shows promise, some will take the time to scribble a few brief words of encouragement. Some have two standard letters, one an outright rejection, the other rejecting the piece but asking to see anything else you write. If you receive the second type, send something else off without delay - your toe is in the door. Occasionally, an editor will phone you, either to accept the piece or ask if...

Giving yourself permission to write

Due to a common misconception that unless you are a published novelist, you cannot be considered a 'real' writer, novice authors often find it difficult to convince either their nearest and dearest or, indeed, themselves that their desire to write should be taken seriously. However, even the most famous authors had to start somewhere, so don't be put off by outside pressures. Be assured that your writing is more important than cleaning, dusting, gardening or any other similar activity that will...

Going over old ground

The ongoing challenge for programme makers is finding exciting and original storylines and where a long-running soap is concerned, almost everything and anything has already been done. For a script to be considered, you need to be sure that it not only develops existing storylines but also has something fresh to offer a loyal audience. One useful method is to keep abreast of topical issues that can be woven into your scripts. These could be anything from the imminent marriage of a member of the...

Guiding and informing

For would-be travel writers, keen to master what is a highly specialised skill, travel guides such as the Lonely Planet series can be an excellent place to begin. Aimed at the independent, adventurous traveller, these practical guides offer their readers clear, down-to-earth information to support them with their journeys around the globe. At the time of writing, Lonely Planet are looking for authors who can meet the following criteria set out in the guidelines on their website Professional...

Having a conversation

One useful method of bringing your dialogue to life is to choose the pair you most strongly identify with from the list below and write a confrontational conversation between them dissatisfied customer unhelpful shop assistant unreasonable traffic warden irate motorist disinterested hospital receptionist frantic patient officious train guard exasperated commuter harassed shopper pushy elderly lady angry homeowner selfish neighbour. If, by now, you are in a flaming temper, calm yourself down by...

Having fun with your hobby

Michael Green is one author who has made a successful career out of the humorous aspect of his hobbies. His Coarse series is required reading for every weekend sailor, rugby player, golfer and amateur actor. With an innate ability to home in on the way the average person will go through hell and high water in the name of their favourite leisure activity, Michael's books keep you laughing from the very first line, as the opening to The Art of Coarse Sailing demonstrates. Every year I swear I...

He said she said

Take a look at the following passages and decide which you think works best 'You know I hate fish,' he said, 'Yet every week without fail, you insist on trying to make me eat it,' he complained, throwing down his knife and fork in disgust. 'You know I hate fish.' He threw his knife and fork down in disgust. 'Yet every week without fail, you insist on trying to make me eat it.' In fact, both passages work perfectly well but in Passage A, the words 'he said' and 'he complained' are completely...

Heightening Allthe Senses

As we have seen in previous chapters, in order to bring fictional characters to life, it is important to bring all five senses into play. In romantic fiction, these senses are heightened for maximum stimulation. Cars go faster, food tastes better, clothes feel silkier and voices are softer and warmer. Things look better, too. Cars gleam, meals are feasts for the eyes, garments cling in all the right places, hair and eyes shine and flash, skin and muscles are soft or hard to the touch.

Her reaction

Armed with the information about Sally's background and character, depending on the style of the book, she could react in one of a number of ways. She could 1. blackmail Mark into using his influence to reinstate the job offer 2. devise a plan to murder Mark 3. confront Mark, fight with, and accidentally kill him 4. consult a lawyer and take Mark to court 5. compile an expose of the TV industry 6. secretly conduct an in-depth investigation into corruption in Mark's company 7. set Mark up to...

Historical Settings

The advantage of a contemporary romance is that you are writing about today's characters and can set them against backgrounds with which you are familiar. As we saw in Chapter 4, it is important to have accurate knowledge of a location whether it is a small provincial town or an exotic South Sea island. Background information must also be accurate. Knowledge of the television industry would, therefore, be essential for anyone writing Sally and Nick's story and for historical romances, accuracy...

Hotting up

In the following passage from Jonathan Gash's novel, The Judas Pair (Arrow Books), antiques dealer and amateur sleuth Lovejoy finds himself in mortal danger, when the villain sets fire to the thatched roof of his cottage. The shushing sound was the pooled noise of a million crackles. My thatched roof had been fired, probably by means of a lighted arrow. At this point, Lovejoy panics but his sense of self-preservation swings into action and he makes a rapid analysis of his situation I had to...

Imagining What It Would Be Like To Be There

Assuming that you've done your research and have sufficient information to write a detailed description of your character's surroundings, try the following test Picture yourself sitting in an armchair in your living room. It is around 7.30 pm in the middle of winter and you are reading a book. You have a drink beside you. Now imagine exactly the same scene in a previous century and then at a point of your choosing in the future. For all three scenes, answer the questions listed below 1. What...

Informing the public

Many successful autobiographies do more than tell the author's life-story. They also provide a documentary record ofhistorical incidents and procedures which may have been hidden from the public eye. An autobiography which performs any one of the following functions might well be of interest to an appropriate publisher. Describes a practice which has been concealed from the public, e.g. sending orphanage children to Australia. Details the author's recovery from a potentially life-threatening...

Interacting with one another

In the following extract from the psychological thriller Ladykiller by Martina Cole, a description of serial killer George Markham is given through the eyes of Josephine Denham, a colleague at work 'Mr Markham, have you five minutes to spare ' The voice of Josephine Denham broke into his thoughts. He turned in his seat to see her standing in the doorway, smiling at him. 'Of course, Mrs Denham.' His voice was soft and polite. Josephine Denham turned and walked back to her office. George Markham...

Interruptingummingand aahing

In real life, most people sprinkle their conversations with 'ums' and 'aahs'. They also tend to interrupt the person speaking to them, so that sentences are cut short in mid-flow. If fiction writers were to include this sort of dialogue in their stories, no one would read past the first piece of conversation. In fiction, each character must have their say in their own instantly recognisable voice. In order to produce realistic dialogue, therefore, you have to develop a good ear for listening to...

Joining a writerscircle

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of writers' circles and websites, conferences, seminars and courses. Your local library should have details of writers' activities in your area and writing organisations will be only too pleased to add your name to their mailing lists. Societies, associations and websites for writers are listed at the end of this book but for some excellent on-the-spot advice, here are some words of wisdom from established writing professionals ' I look for a strong...

Just when you thought it was all over

Depending on the style of the story you are writing, it is sometimes possible to add even more impact to the tale by reviving the monster just long enough for one last attack. The central character has fought and vanquished his foe and is feeling justifiably euphoric. Nothing can harm him now, the town city world is saved and life is rapidly returning to normal. Just when you thought it was all over, however, whatever grisly being is left after our hero has finished with it hauls itself...

Keeping an eye on the media

Perhaps the richest sources of ideas are newspapers, television and radio. Keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual stories and quirky programmes tucked away between the major items. All kinds of things can capture your imagination. For example, a BBC Radio 4 programme about the potentially dull topic of making a will inspired me to write a short story for Bella magazine's 'Mini Mystery' page. The programme highlighted the legal pitfalls facing people who wish to make unusual wills and the...

Killing by accident

Occasionally a victim is killed by accident. They may fall down rickety steps and break their necks, have something heavy fall on them or be locked in the cellar of an empty house. Under these circumstances, they tend to be victims of their own evil plans, having hatched the plot and fallen into their own trap. Occasionally, however, they are innocent, their death leading to untold problems for the character who was instrumental in causing it in the first place. When planning a murder, be...

Laying a false trail

Twisting the tale involves laying a false trail in such a way that any surprise ending is a feasible one. The clues must be double-edged, so that whilst carefully steering the reader in the wrong direction, on closer examination they actually lead to the right one. For example, in our story about Sally Blake, the minute Nick meets Sophie, he appears to be following Route (a) in the chart in Figure 9, ditching Sally in favour of her sister when, in fact, he is actually following Route (b). As...

Letting Off Steam

For the avid newspaper and magazine reader, the temptation to write a learned piece complaining about the state of the nation or the rising price of a pack of frozen peas can be overwhelming. It is tempting to try to emulate controversial comment columns in the hope that a discerning editor will be keen to give pride of place to our words of wisdom. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Comment columns are usually written by staff writers, well-known journalists or political analysts. These are the...

Letting your characters set the scene

The most effective way to describe a scene is to let your characters do it for you through interaction with their surroundings. This will improve the pace of your writing and convey a feeling of setting, atmosphere and insight into the character in one fell swoop. For example, study the following two passages and decide which you feel is most atmospheric It was the middle of winter. The room was icy cold and hiding in one corner was a child, a little girl. The man stood in the room for a moment...

List of illustrations

Suggested format for potted history 34 4. First background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 39 5. Second background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 42 6. Map of fictional location 59 7. Plan of obstacles to romance 104 8. Outline for crime novel 122 10. Sample outline for non-fiction book 154 11. Sample chase-up letter 155 12. Sample covering letter 160 13. Sample front sheet 160 14. Suggested headings for...

Listening to the rhythm

Rather than try to reproduce an accent phonetically by spelling the words differently or dropping the odd letter here and there and replacing it with an apostrophe, listen to the rhythm of speech. You can achieve far more realism by turning the order of words around in a sentence and sparingly throwing in the odd colloquialism. In contrast to her Scottish namesake, contemporary novelist Patricia Burns effectively conveys Scott Warrender's American accent through the subtle use of phraseology...

Looking Back Into Your Past

There is little doubt that anyone with a chequered past will have plenty to write about but many of us feel we have done very little in our lives worth committing to paper. On closer inspection, however, this is very rarely the case. Take yourself right back to your earliest memories. How did you feel when you were told off for being naughty you were picked on by other children you got detention at school you had to have treatment in hospital a family trauma made you realise that nothing at...

Losing control

The underlying theme of the scenarios featured above is that of powerlessness. Once a character is trapped in a situation, they must rely heavily on their wits for survival and if they've had those wits frightened out of them, we won't hold out much hope for their chances. Loss of control or free-will is another very powerful theme in ghost and horror stories and includes being under attack from monsters, e.g. werewolves, vampires, zombies etc. being trapped alone with your worst nightmare...

Magazines for writers

The New Writer, POB 60, Cranbrook, KentTN17 2ZR. Tel (01580) 212626. Fax (01580) 212041. Email editor thenewwriter.com Website www.thenewwriter.com Writers Forum, Writers International Ltd., PO Box 3229, Bournemouth BH1 1ZS. Tel (01202) 589828. Fax (01202) 587758. Email editorial writers-forum.com Website www.writers-forum.com Writers' News & Writing Magazine, Fifth Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. Tel (0113) 200 2929. Fax (0113) 200 2928. Email derek.hudson writersnews.co.uk Website...

Making up your own location

Making up your own location allows you to design the landscape to suit your own purposes, particularly if it is based on an area with which you are very familiar. It also allows you to deal with any unforeseen hazards constructed in your absence by the town planning department. The odd new road layout, housing or industrial estate can be happily discarded if it obstructs your protagonist's progress or detracts from the planned storyline and if you need to get from A to B in a hurry, you can...

Making war not love

Action novels such as war stories use similar techniques to conjure up the feel of battle. Shattered bodies and flattened buildings, deafening shellfire, screams ofterror, the stench of death all around. Once-bustling towns are reduced to piles of rubble and twisted metal, the surrounding landscape becomes a mass of craters littered with burned-out vehicles. This time, the pace is very fast, pulling the reader through the horrific sights, sounds and smells as quickly as possible to the...

Manipulating adults

At the same time, the baby also uses trial and error to manipulate the adults who pander to its every need. It learns very quickly how to stimulate the desired response in its parents and understands all too well how to react in order to avoid certain situations. At a very young age, the baby will be capable of quite complex behaviour guaranteed to drive its parents to distraction. It is at this point that the baby begins to form the very accurate opinion that adults are highly irrational...

Moving back and forth in time

The above passage does more than set the atmosphere, it also conveys an impression of time. Harriet's grandmother is not a modern career woman. She is the epitome of respectability, comfortable with her role as wife and homemaker. She lives an ordered life in the country and her outlook is rooted in a strong sense of duty and the values of a previous generation. Remove her from this setting and place her in a chrome and glass apartment in the centre of a bustling city and she will appear...

Moving forward in time

It can be surprisingly difficult to move your characters forward from one place and time to the next. For example, when getting them from work to home, unless it is vital to the plot, there is no point in having them walk out of the building, get into their car and giving a blow by blow account of the drive home. Nor is there any need, once they are home, to follow their progress through eating their evening meal, going to bed, then getting up in the morning, leaving the house and driving back...

Nonfiction Fact

Flexible step-by-step plan of a manuscript. Piece. An article intended for publication. Plot. The plan of events running through a story. Police procedural. A crime novel where the detective is a police officer. Political correctness. The requirement that attitudes and vocabulary in your manuscript are not offensive with regard to race, sex, creed etc. Potted history. Brief resume of a character's background. Reader identification. Characters and situations which are instantly...

Offsetting your costs against tax

You can offset the cost of materials such as paper, ink cartridges, postage etc. against tax and, of course, capital expenditure such as PCs, desks and filing cabinets. Keep receipts of everything you purchase and record all your income and expenditure. Suggested formats for recordkeeping are illustrated in Figures 14 and 15. There is a number of useful leaflets available from the Inland Revenue and your tax inspector will be prepared to advise you or you may prefer to engage an accountant....

Paying for prizes

Poets find it especially difficult to find a publishing outlet for their work, so it is not surprising that they can fall victim to unscrupulous advertisers. The prize is publication in an anthology which the so-called 'winners' are invited to purchase for anything from around 12 upwards. Knowing that few writers can resist the opportunity to see their work in print, the competition organisers can be sure of receiving at least one if not more orders from each entrant. The book, if it ever...

Paying for publication

The price for this dubious privilege may start at four figures and can escalate beyond your wildest imagination. Horror stories include tales of people selling their homes and everything they own in order to pay for something that is, as far as the commercial book world is concerned, completely worthless. If you are driven by countless rejections from legitimate publishing houses to investigate the world of the vanity publisher, be aware that 1. their income is derived from being paid to...

Planning your novel

No matter what the genre, you should always draft out a plan or outline which takes the work through from its beginning to its logical end. This helps you to plot both the main theme and any sub-plots or 'back stories' within a flexible framework. As we saw with the plan of obstacles to Sally's romance in Chapter 7, far more is going on than just her love affair with Nick. Each stage of the plot must be set out within the frame of a chapter-by-chapter outline, so that you can see at a glance...

Planting red herrings

Red herrings, unlike twists in the tale, are simply false trails which are designed to lead you down a proverbial blind alley. Each suspect is furnished in turn with an alibi and there is an element of challenge involved whereby the reader is being invited to unravel the mystery. For example, Sally is initially the obvious choice for Mark's murderer but can be eliminated by a helpfully detailed pathologist's report. This leaves us with the standard murder mystery question 'if she didn't kill...

Playing Around With Ideas

Take a good look at the latest children's books, particularly those which are recommended for use within the National Curriculum. You will find that they deal with a staggering variety of topics, ranging from serious lifestyle issues to fantasy adventures. When writing for very young children, you need to use simple, basic concepts and familiar situations. As their social skills develop, humour plays a much larger part and includes slapstick, puns, one-line jokes and wisecracking characters....

Playing safe

Between the two ends of the scale, the standard guidebook and the one-off adventure, there is an incredibly wide range of topics for the seasoned traveller to write about. Listed below are just a few suggestions travelling throughout pregnancy and with a baby backpackers' guides to a range of countries (series) locations off the beaten track travelling across continents by train bicycle car motorbike etc. With a little imagination and a lot of experience, setting down your travelling tales on...

Plotting And Planning

A plot is simply what happens in a story and plot development depends a great deal on your characterisation. Your characters' reactions to a given situation will have a strong influence on your plot. In a family saga, for example, the story will be centred around one character's relationship with their family and the people they encounter as their tale unfolds. In contrast, crime novels are centred around the solution of the crime so that, whilst it is essential to have a strong protagonist,...

Portraying a multicultural society

Chapter 1 highlighted the importance of writing about what you know, with the proviso that you should not limit yourself purely to your own personal experience. Research plays a vital role in providing background information but research alone is unlikely to adequately equip you with the insight required to create characters from social, sexual, religious or ethnic groups of whom you have only a fleeting knowledge. When you consider that, for some authors, simply attempting to write from the...

Preventing the characters from succeeding

Having created your almost perfect characters and set them against a suitably romantic background, it would be very pleasant to simply sit back and let nature take its course. Sadly, that's the last thing a romantic writer can do. The author's task is to come up with devious ways to prevent the hero and heroine from getting together until the last possible moment. As we have already formed a picture of television newsreader Sally Blake, we can use her as a heroine for our romance. Taking the...

Provoking a reaction

The author leaves us in no doubt that George is most unsavoury and at no time do we feel the slightest bit of sympathy for him. Josephine has, we are sure, every right to dislike him. This impression is reinforced a few lines further on when we see his reaction as Josephine tells him he is to be made redundant. George felt an urge to leap from his chair and slap the supercilious bitch with her painted face, her dyed blonde hair, her fat, wobbling breasts. The dirty stinking slut The dirty whore...

Reading comics and magazines

Glancing through the wealth of comics and magazines on the newsagents' shelves, you will find something for all age groups and interests. Newspapers and magazines occasionally feature pages for children and may take nature, craft or activity articles. Whilst many comics, especially those designed for pre-school children, are produced by the makers of television programmes, toys and computer games, there is still scope in this market for authors who can write to the required format. Moreover,...

Reading with a writers eye

This book is designed to help you understand how to read with a writer's eye, taking the time to analyse how an author manages to grab your attention and hold it so that you keep on reading through to the end. Your notebook will become a valuable source of reference. Failure to write ideas down can result in you losing them altogether. Committing them to paper helps commit them to memory and stimulate new writing projects. Use the questionnaire in Figure 1 to analyse published examples of your...

Recognising an alien

Aliens, like ghosts, can be hostile or friendly, depending on the tone of the story. Many are humanoid but if they are, they always have one strange characteristic by which they can be identified. Of those that aren't humanoid, hostile aliens tend to be slimy or scaly, whilst friendly ones are usually cuddly and or furry. However, watch out for aliens disguised as earth creatures. These may take the form of insects or small mammals, only revealing their true identity under certain traumatic...

Relating to the right age g roup

Before you attempt to write stories for children, decide which age group you relate to best. Children are as varied in their tastes and interests as adults but whilst there is no limit on the themes you can explore, vocabulary and style is a very different matter. As Margaret Nash, author of many children's books, including the popular 'Class 1' series, explains Plots have to move much faster for children than adults and each chapter should include some particular interest as well as some form...

Relating To Your Character

Whichever scenario you choose, bear in mind that if you don't care about your character, neither will anyone else. The 'old' Sally (Figure 4) may be ruthless but it's not her fault. As her creator, it is your task to convey her innermost thoughts and feelings to the reader so that they will understand the reasons behind her behaviour. In order to truly relate to Sally, you need to put yourself in her place and imagine how you would feel if when you were four years old, you saw your father leave...

Researching the period

For an historical story to work effectively, the right monarch must be on the throne and costumes, furnishings, vehicles, dialogue, attitudes and behaviour must all reflect the right period. Romantic etiquette through the ages is a complex area. In order to write believable historical fiction, it is essential that the author understands and is thoroughly conversant with the conventions and rules of the period. Employing the language of fans, for example, is one method by which a heroine could...