So you wanna be a writer? Longer writing prompt.

Trigger warning – this might be upsetting for some.

Grief is an awful thing to go through, but it’s also a process that we all go through.

I use writing as a therapy tool. Man, that sounds so cliche, but it’s true. Every time I go through something that’s hard, or I don’t understand, I tend to work through it in my writing. My Bone, Ashes and Dust Trilogy is a case in point. Depression is a main theme in that series. There are other things I was working through too, like my difficult relationship with my mother (not that the mom in my work is my mom but still I used my experiences to inform that character, I used it as a foundation for Evie’s mother then ran with it).

So, anyway, back to the prompt.

Grief.

There is a  quote by Jamie Anderson on Pinterest:

“Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot…Grief is just love with no place to go.”

I lost my grandad when I was 11. I was devastated. It was probably one of the most profound things that has ever happened to me. I’m 44 now and still, I feel it. Not as deep or as intense as when it first happened but, even after thirty-one years, the grief is still real.

Today, I want you to work through the difficult emotion that is grief.

Write a piece about your grief. Be brave, be raw, let it all out. It might just help.

Anyway, here’s a little memory of my grandad. He couldn’t talk or walk properly because he’d had several strokes but still, he was my hero.

The Red Leather Chair

The smell of frying bacon drifted in from the kitchen and my stomach groaned in anticipation.  Grandad looked at me with his smiling blue eyes, his thick white eyebrows arched high above his black glasses.
‘Sorry,’ I giggled, shrugging my shoulders, ‘had no breakfast this morning.’
‘Uh,’ he replied, with a shake of his head, a gentle smile erupting on his face as my stomach complained again.  He pointed to the telly with a crooked finger and then to his ears.  ‘Uh-uh.’
I flashed him a cheeky smile and shrugged again.
Shep, my Grandad’s long-haired collie, stirred in the seat beside me.  He yawned loudly, stretching out and laying his head on my lap as I wrapped my hands in his glossy coat and turned my head towards the telly just as it was announced by the heavily bearded commentator that Giant Haystacks and Big Daddy were due in the ring.
Grandad shifted forward to the edge of his seat, his walking stick clattering to the floor as he unbuttoned his shirt sleeves and rolled them up past his wrinkly elbows in preparation for the fight.
‘Fred, do you want sauce in your bacon?’ shouted Nan from the kitchen, but Grandad was oblivious to it all; he’d only got eyes and ears for that small black and white telly.
Shep leapt from the sofa, dashing behind it as my Grandad’s red leather chair began to dance around the room, the wood and leather creaking and straining under his weight, his grunting harsh but still with lashings of warmth, becoming louder as he lost his mind to the wrestling, to his life as a boxer in the army.
I could never tell anyone who won any of those fights we watched on that battered telly on the Saturday dinner-times we spent together; I was far too engrossed in Grandad’s face to care.  The strokes had robbed him of many things; his speech, the ability to walk or eat independently, but as we sat there I became lost in the sparkle in his eyes and the stories that had become etched in his wrinkles.  It was during these times that I could see my Grandad was still a man and was still truly alive.
But the red leather chair sits empty now; still and lifeless like the room in which it sits.  His grey trilby is still perched at an angle at the back of it, his walking stick abandoned on the floor.  The smell of cigars lingers in the air along with the smell of his hard-earned sweat.  But now the warmth has disappeared and a numbing coldness is seeping into the room through the cracks, filling me with emptiness.

So you wanna be a writer? Five reasons why you shouldn’t.

So, you wanna be a writer? This post is five reasons why you shouldn’t even attempt it.

Wait…what…?

Have you ever told someone you want to write, or that you’re writing a book and they’ve looked at you with that blank stare? Or, probably even worse, they just laugh at you and say “why on earth would you want to do that?” Or, “you can’t do that you didn’t do very well at school.” Or, “that’s a stupid idea, you have to have an innate ability to write.”

It kind of sucks, doesn’t it?

Well, here’s five reasons why they’re right.

Not really, I’m not that kind of person.

Here’s five reasons why you should tell them to go f**k themselves and write anyway 🙂

This post, if you hadn’t already noticed, will have some swearing in it. Sorry, not sorry 🙂

One – Don’t bother writing if you haven’t got an innate talent for it.

What a load of b*ll*$cks.

Whilst it’s true that some people have an innate ability when it comes to writing, anyone can learn to write.

Writing is a craft. And like all crafts, you need to learn and master the basics. Then you move on to the more complicated stuff. You have to put the legwork in. If you do, then you WILL be able to write.

That’s not to say you won’t make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, even six-figure authors.

Make mistakes, acknowledge those mistakes, learn from them and move on.

Two – Everyone wants to write a book

Yeah, maybe not everyone wants to write a book but sure, a fair few people do harbour the ambition.

But here’s the thing, there’s a big difference between TALKING about writing a book and ACTUALLY writing it.

And, so what if everyone does want to write a book? That doesn’t stop you writing your book, does it? Your experience of life is different from everybody else, therefore your book is going to be different because it’s written by YOU.

Only YOU can write YOUR book.

What everyone else thinks or does should have no bearing on what you do. If you want to write a book, write a f**king book!

Three – No one will want to read what you write

Excuse me?

Like, does this point even need a response.

People will want to read what you write. You just have to find YOUR people. The people who will love your work.

Finding an audience can be hard, but that audience IS out there. You just need to find them!

Someone out there WILL appreciate what you write.

Four – Your grammar sucks

Whilst grammar is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all of writing.

I have read many stories where the grammar has been perfect but this doesn’t necessarily translate into a good story.

In my opinion, the story is the most important thing, NOT grammar.

That’s not to say you should ignore good grammar. Try and brush up on your grammar skills, take a course, try and teach yourself about grammar.

But, if all else fails, there are editors out there!

DO NOT let your fear of grammar stop you from writing.

Five – There are too many people writing books and publishers aren’t interested anymore.

Whilst it may be true that it’s hard to get noticed, let alone published, by a traditional publisher, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write.

Better to try and fail than never try at all.

Besides, it kind of depends on your reasons for writing. Not everyone who writes wants to get published.

And if you do, that’s cool too. Try and get it trad published if you want. It’s a long hard road, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it, does it?

Also, consider Indie publishing.

There’s still a stigma to Indie publishing but it’s not as bad as it once was. There are some seriously good Indie published writers out there (Mark Dawson, I’m looking at you!). And these writers can make some serious money. Not that money has to be your motivation but it is good to know that it is possible to make a living from your work.

The thing is, Traditionally published or Indie published, is still published and both are hard work, whichever way you look at it.

So, that’s the end of my TED talk. Don’t let what other people say put you off writing. Yes, it’s hard, yes, it can be frustrating but is it worth it?

Abso -bloody-lutely!

What crappy things have been said to you about writing? What puts you off putting pen to paper?

 

 

 

 

So you want to be a writer? Five things to think about when creating characters.

Morning folks!

I do like to do these “five things” posts, don’t I?

Today I want to consider how we write our characters and what it takes to make a character seem, well, real.

This is incredibly important if we want our readers to connect fully with our characters.

The first thing is, to be fair, pretty obvious.

One – Appearance

woman in grey long sleeved shirt
Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Appearance is very important.

We live in a very visual world. A world in which how we look is noticed very quickly and assumptions (rightly or wrongly) are made.

As soon as we meet someone we notice their hair, how they dress, their facial features etc. (unless it’s my hubby when I’ve had a haircut. That goes straight over his head, bless him. You’ve just got to love him :)).

Whilst I’m not going to get into a debate here about assumptions made on looks (although, I am dying to have a rant if truth be told :)) we need to make sure, as writers, that we don’t feed into people’s assumptions and their prejudices.

So, why have I picked a pretty girl as the picture to this section? To emphasise the point. And to make sure you’re paying attention. Are you?

Appearance is important. But it’s also important to question and constantly try to challenge these assumptions.

We need to look at things differently and mix it up a little bit.

Besides, how boring is it to read about the millionth heroine with blond hair and blue eyes who is also a fantastic cheerleader, loves animals, aces school and is loved by absolutely everyone?

That’s unless she’s a serial killer by night.

It’s also very boring when people do the “looking in a mirror scene” and then list all of their character’s features.

“I looked at myself in the mirror. My blond hair was perfect, in a bob, just to my shoulders. My green eyes smouldered, looking fabulous in my smoky eye makeup. I adjusted my emerald green top that seemed to set off my eyes…”

You get the picture.

Try and scatter descriptions of your character throughout your writing. Don’t info dump.

You’ll thank me for this one, I promise 🙂

And please, please, try and think about appearance in a new light. Maybe play with people’s expectations a little. Challenge those assumptions!

Two – Quirks

What is a quirk?

A quirk is a peculiar or special aspect to a person’s character.

Such as Harry Potter’s lightning scar. Or in my book, Dragon Rider, my character WIllow has pink hair and lots of piercings.

Willow

Or it could be a character that recites Charles Bukowski ALL. THE. TIME. Or an autistic child who speaks in cat language. Or maybe they chew gum like it’s going out of fashion (like the cliche I slipped in there?).

Whatever the quirks are, keep it consistent and don’t go too over the top!

Three – Traits

Character traits are an aspect of a person’s behaviour and are therefore a very important ingredient in making a character come alive.

You need to know if a person is lazy or energetic. Are they kind? Are they spiteful?

But please, for the love of God, don’t make your character all good or all evil. People are shades of grey. A good, well-developed character will have good traits and some bad.

Again, try not to use cliches. Mix it up a little bit.

Okay, the next two points are my absolute faves when I’m writing a character. I love to get into the nitty-gritty of what drives my characters. What do they want? That, my friends, is the key question.

Four – Motivation

Why does your hero do what they do? What drives them? What to they NEED?

On a basic level, it could be peer pressure that makes them do what they do. Or curiosity, or guilt or the need to survive?

woman standing on road
Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com

Is it evil or good that motivates your character? Do they act out of love or hate?

Or are they acting out of fear? Pain, or rejection?

This is what I love about creating characters. I love to find out what makes them really tick.

Five – flaws

Remember the perfect blond I was talking about earlier?

Well, she doesn’t exist. No real person or character, for that matter, is perfect.

We all have flaws.

What are flaws, I hear you ask?

Good question.

A flaw is a fault or weakness in a person’s character. An imperfection or an undesirable quality in your character.

For example, I am very lazy. I eat far too much chocolate and I drink far too much gin and wine. God, I’ve just realised I’m a walking, talking writer cliche. Who knew? I’m also very clumsy. And I eat too much.

I could go on, but I won’t. I’d be here all day else 🙂

Flaws can range from the minor ones (eating too much, clumsy etc.) to the major flaws (greed for example) right up to what are known as fatal flaws.

Minor flaws don’t really impact upon the story. Whereas the major flaws do. For instance, the villain’s flaw will eventually lead to her downfall. The hero’s flaw must be overcome at some point in the story. You get the picture.

Fatal flaws, however, are very different. These are specific flaws that tragic heroes possess. These flaws are so great that they cause the character to bring about their own downfall. Prime example, Tony Montana in Scarface. I know it’s a film and not a novel, but I love Scarface 🙂 The principle still stands.

Want to say hello to my little friend?

No, I thought not, lol!!

So, these are my top five things I like to think about when I create new characters. What do you think?

Anything you’d add to the list?

 

So, you wanna be a writer? Character Development

Character Development

Sometimes, a story can come from one idea, a what if? That’s how my Bones, Ashes and Dust Trilogy began; one simple what if? What if the Angel of Death sent to collect a soul decided to save it instead? But sometimes, it’s a character that comes alive and kicking and screaming – if not fully formed – from your imagination.

This is what happened with Dragon Rider. This is Willow Ravenwood:

Willow

Willow is a witch, a street kid and a bit of rebel. This character was supposed to be at the centre of the novel I was writing but, in the end, the story took over and the novel became about someone and something else. This can happen and I will probably talk about that in later posts.

So, before all that happened, I knew I wanted to write a fantasy novel, set in England, in the future, in a world where Faeries have taken over and have become the dominant species. I also knew I wanted to have a strong central female character. I don’t know how it happened, but as I was ruminating about this scenario in my mind, this character, Willow, pretty much formed in my head.

My first job was to draw her. This helps as a reference when you’re writing. I often forget what colour eyes my characters have, or where their tattoos are and a drawing is a good reference point. My drawing is quite crude but helped me to visualise Willow quite well. If you can’t draw, go through magazines and find a person that fits what you’re looking for. Cut the person out and use that as your template. I did this with most of my characters in the Bones, Ashes and Dust Trilogy, even researching what clothes my character would most likely wear and when. This was especially fun with my main character because she was an EMO and I loved looking at the fashion and picking outfits.

Next, I usually fill out a character profile. This answers questions such as; name, address, age, the birthday of each character as well as their favourite things to do, favourite food, their favourite books and all of that kind of thing. Most of this won’t get used but it’s important to know because it informs your writing as you’re doing it. It’s kinda stored in your memory and helps you get to know your character.

So, I’ve included a free printout of a basic character profile with this post. It won’t fit every character or genre but it is a good starting point from which you can add and take things away from the list. What I want you to do, is, either draw a character or find a person in a magazine and cut them out. I want you to begin making them an outline by printing out the basic profile and filling it in, giving them a name, an age, an occupation or a school that they go to. I want you to give them favourite books, a favourite movie and I want you to turn them into a living, breathing character. What do they want?  What are their fears? What gets them going? What do they get out bed for?

Have a play. A great character may just appear and surprise you! Maybe it might even produce a great idea for a story! Have a go at building a character and have some fun!

Character Guide in word

Character Guide in PDF

So You Wanna Be A Writer? Where Do You Start?

This post is full of swearing!!

So, you want to write a book, eh? But you haven’t even begun yet because, like, it’s scary and where the fuck do I even start?

Well, you don’t have to start at the beginning, that’s for sure, but you do have to START.

It doesn’t matter how shit it is. You can’t edit a blank page my friends. THAT is the truth.

So, first things first, what do I need to write?

Just a notebook and a pen or pencil and an idea. That’s all.

Simple, eh? Well, maybe not that simple. But we have to start somewhere. You don’t even need a computer in the beginning. A lot of writers I know actually prefer to write their first draft of a novel, or a poem, or a short story in longhand. I do a bit of both depending on how I’m feeling and where I am.

So, number one tip; get yourself a notebook and pen. (Actually, you might need several notebooks. A writer can never have too many notebooks. #FACT)

Okay, so I’ve got my notebook, now what? That is a good question. You don’t have to start out with a grandiose idea. Big Oaks grow from little acorns. If something pops into your head, jot it down. You don’t know where that idea will take you. My Bones, Ashes and Dust trilogy started in this way. Just a single idea. A what if?

What if the Angel of Death sent to collect the soul of a person who’d tried to end their own life, saved them instead?

Also, another good tip (obviously it’s good because it’s my tip :)) is to keep an ideas notebook. Random ideas pop into our heads at random times. Jot them down. You never know when they’ll come in handy.

But, I’ve never written anything before. I didn’t even finish school.

First rule of Writing Club, Fuck the Grammar snobs. This is important because, in life, there will always be people waiting to knock you down. That’s especially true when you’re writing. “Oh but that writing is shocking because you haven’t got an apostrophe there and BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! Fucking yawn! I know Sharon, I’m not a fucking grammar snob like you AND it’s a first draft.

Let me tell you a little secret. I’m shit at naming things. What is a Compound Sentence? What is an adjunct? Fuck if I know, Sharon. Doesn’t mean I can’t write. Telling a story is more than just naming things and getting the grammar right. A story can have perfect grammar but it don’t mean shit if the story is crap.

That’s not to say you can just leave bad grammar in writing. It will need sorting. What I’m saying is, don’t worry about grammar in the beginning. Start writing. Grammar is something you can learn. And if you can’t and still struggle, an Editor is your best friend.

DON’T let the fear of grammar stop you from writing!!!

And, finally, for today’s lesson, Practice. Practice makes perfect. Keep writing. It doesn’t have to be anything long. Your ideas don’t have to make sense and they don’t have to all join up. That’s okay. To write, you need to get into the habit of writing.

So, to recap;

Get a notebook, a pen and an idea. Now, go and write. And Fuck anyone who puts you down!

Oh, and apologies to any Sharons out there 🙂