How??!!

How do you make your writing unputdownable?
How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
In short, how do you make Readers want to read your books?

As a writer, one of the things that I do is read. I read Non Fiction for interest, research and inspiration. I read The Internet (which is an interesting mix of Fiction and Non fiction) for the same reason.
When I read fiction, it’s for interest & escape (genres in which I have no intention of writing in), to learn how other people write and finally, to try and piece together the answers to the questions that I started with.

I’ve read all sorts of books, all different genres.

The truly great writers all have one thing in common. They have (whether they know it or not) figured out those answers and are making use of them.

When I read a book where the writer has used these answers, I am sucked so deeply into the story that it’s an effort to get out of it. I have to be yanked out by the hair to make dinner or help PW go to the bathroom or go shopping…

I’d love to be able to make my own writing that compelling.
There are times when I read something that I have written and I think I might have it… and usually it all falls apart on me moments later.
So how do I do it?

Well I started by watching the work of some of the best writers in the business… yes, that’s right, I said watching.

When was the last time that you watched an animation? I’m not talking the nonsensical stuff that they put out for the littlest of children; I’m talking properly developed, well thought out animated movies.
Studio Ghibli, Square Enix, Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks – there are many others, but these are the biggest and they have the best writers that they can afford working with their teams.

It’s no secret that I’d love to work with any of them… if I ever had the opportunity.

The films that make billions in box office takings aren’t just because of the quality of the animation or the design of the characters and environments – it’s because the story sucks you into the film itself and you’re not just watching anymore, you’re living it through the eyes of the characters. A lot of that comes from the writing – the compelling stories and the inability to look away because even if it’s cringeworthy or a little scary, you watch from behind your hands… you have to because you want to know what is about to happen.

And when they’re finished, you feel satisfied but a little sad because you’ve had to leave the world.

I love animation because it gives me an escape that live action films rarely manage. The ones that we have bought on Blu Ray are the best ones, they’re ones that will suck me in and keep me watching. They’re the ones that give me that satisfied but sad feeling.
There are live action films that do it; oddly, they’re ones like the Marvel Comic Universe films, Star Wars films, the Potter Universe. Some of the DC Universe films have done it; the Michael Keaton Batman’s and the first two Christian Bale Batman’s, and I think that Wonder Woman might be another (I obviously haven’t seen it yet, but it looks like it might work!)

Obviously films (whether animated or not) are a tricky subject; so many things influence their success, so it clearly isn’t “just” the writing that makes them great. But great writing will produce at worst an “okay” film; at best it produces a “superb” film. The writing has to be there for the actors, directors, producers etc to work with.

So how do books and movies intersect?

Obviously they both need writers, but they also need writers who know their craft.
They need writers who know how to create a believable world, how to design a character that isn’t two dimensional and who can make the reader /watcher connect with the character somehow.
They need a story that draws the reader/watcher into the world and keeps them there with action that ebbs and flows, until the story has concluded and they can sit back and wish they were still in that world.

And how do you get to be that kind of writer? Let’s look at my original questions and answer them one at a time:

1) How do you make your writing unputdownable?
You craft your story carefully and make it draw the reader into your carefully designed world so that they don’t want to leave it.

2) How do you make readers fall in love with your characters or the world they are in?
See above… plus, world design and character design is a whole different blog post… I’ll do that another time.

3) How do you make the reader want to spend time with the story you have written?
I believe I have actually answered this – were you reading carefully though?
*peers at blog reader and frowns thoughtfully*

4) How do you make Readers want to read your books?
See #1…
*winks*

And the Question I finished the post with?

5) How do you get to be that kind of writer?
If you were reading carefully, you’ll see that I answered it… before I posed it. It’s what I have been doing for most of my life and always go back to when I am having a problem with my own writing…

I read. I watch. I study, I practise, I edit.

In Fiction; I read writers who have inspired me, I read writers that are considered classics, I read writers (and stories) that have been around for eons, I read brand new, barely discovered writers.
In Non-Fiction; I read subjects that interest me. I read subjects that are uncomfortable for me, I read new subjects that I haven’t tried, I read subjects that are old friends.

In TV; I watch Documentaries, I watch TV serials of all sorts of genres, I watch Kids TV, I watch Adults TV (yes, porn too), I watch Foreign Language TV (by subtitles).
In Movies; I watch Small Screen, Big Budget, Foreign Language, Animated, Live Action, Independent.

I study Writing; I read How To books, I take modules from Free Online Course Sites, I read the books that the Big Writers have written about how THEY got into writing.

I Practise Writing; I try writing Poetry (Different styles and Meter), I try writing Flash stories (there are different word lengths), I write different Genres (there are so many I can’t list them all), I write different lengths of story (Flash, Short, Long, Novelette, Novella, Novel, Epic), I write for different ages (Child, Young Adult, New Adult, Adult), I write for different audiences, I write inside and outside my comfort zone.

I edit… this one is the hardest of all.

I do a basic grammar and spelling edit, then I get people I trust to read what I have written and they comment on it (these are Alpha Readers). Then I re-read it and consider their suggestions as I go along. I adjust it if I agree, discuss it if I don’t – the discussions always help me to understand what they see – and change it if I can see what they are getting at and agree with them.

Then I get a second round of Reading done (these are the Beta readers) not always by the same people. If they throw up anything that needs adjusting, I re-read and adjust if I agree… if it’s something I didn’t agree with the first time, I take a long careful look at it.

Then I get someone to do a General Line Edit for Typos and plot holes etc. This is always someone who hasn’t seen it before and has Editing Experience. Sometimes they may have been an Alpha/ Beta Reader as well, but they have to have Editing Experience as well.

And no, not every Writer is a good Editor – I’m a prime example of that!

Once it’s Edited, then (and only then) I consider it ready to be published. And bear in mind that until I think it’s ready to be published, it may go back for Beta Reading or Editing again.

That’s how you get to be a Writer.

To be a Great Writer, someone who can write a Book or Movie that will draw the Reader / Watcher in and hold them there until they’ve finished; someone who can leave them with that “Satisfied but Sad” feeling; someone who can bring them back for more of their work, time and again?

That takes Talent.
Do I have Talent?
*shrugs*
I don’t know.

I know “some” people have enjoyed my work because they have told me so personally or they have written reviews on my books that have shown they’ve read them and considered it good enough to leave a comment about it. That has been enough to make me want to keep me writing and publishing.
But is that Talent?
You’d have to ask them or read my books to answer that for yourself; because as it is with every Artform, Art is subjective and personal.

You have to make your own mind up.

Thoughts and Ramblings: Respect

Respect. It’s an odd word.

There’s so many people using it and sometimes I wonder if they know what it means. Hell, sometimes I don’t even know what it means, and I’m a writer. I should know what words mean… but sometimes the English Language stumps me and I have to turn to the old faithful, the dictionary.

Definition of respect

noun

  • 1) [mass noun] a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements:the director had a lot of respect for Douglas as an actor
  • the state of being admired or respected:his first chance in over fifteen years to regain respect in the business
  • (respects) a person’s polite greetings:give my respects to their Excellencies
  • informal used to express the speaker’s approval of someone or something:respect to Hill for a truly non-superficial piece on the techno scene
  • 2) due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others:young people’s lack of respect for their parents
  • 3) a particular aspect, point, or detail:the government’s record in this respect is a mixed one

verb

[with object]

  • 1) admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements:she was respected by everyone she worked with(as adjective respected)a respected academic
  • 2) have due regard for (someone’s feelings, wishes, or rights):I respected his views
  • avoid harming or interfering with:it is incumbent upon all hill users to respect the environment
  • agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement):the crown and its ministers ought to respect the ordinary law
Taken from entry in http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/respect; 30/11/2012

Ignoring the other meanings for a moment, let’s look at the first:

a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements

How many people can you truly say that you respect? Can you actually say to yourself, while looking in your eyes in the mirror, that you respect someone that you have professed to hate?

Taking a personal example; I hate my Grandfather.

It might be a bit of a shocking example for many reasons, the very least of which is the fact that he passed on to the Summerlands a while back and one should never speak ill of the dead, but I have some very personal, very deep seated reasons for hating him. Some people that know what I am talking about may actually understand why I hate him.

Can I respect him?

I don’t know. I honestly, truly and with deep feeling in my bones do not know if I can respect him.

Why? Mostly because I barely knew him. Possibly if he hadn’t have done what he did to me, I might have been able to get to know him and I might have been able to respect him. However as things stand, I didn’t know him and I am unable to decide if I can respect him.

Can any of you say the same about the person that you hate?

Anyway, back to the main subject, why is it important to be respected?

Believe it or not, Wikipedia gives us a very good definition of the emotion of respect which may shed some more light on the question:

Respect gives a positive feeling of esteem or deference for a person or other entity (such as a nation or a religion), and also specific actions and conduct representative of that esteem. Respect can be a specific feeling of regard for the actual qualities of the one respected (e.g., “I have great respect for her judgment”).

It can also be conduct in accord with a specific ethic of respect.

Rude conduct is usually considered to indicate a lack of respect, disrespect, whereas actions that honor somebody or something indicate respect. Specific ethics of respect are of fundamental importance to various cultures.

Respect for tradition and legitimate authority is identified by Jonathan Haidt as one of five fundamental moral values shared to a greater or lesser degree by different societies and individuals.[1]

Respect should not be confused with tolerance, since tolerance doesn’t necessarily imply subordination to one’s qualities but means treating as equal.

The antonym and opposite of respect is contempt.

Taken from entry in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Respect; 30/11/2012

Respect is important because it defines civilisation. Everyone in this world is trying to gain respect in one form or another. And it has so many different forms… Self Respect; Environmental Respect; Cultural Respect; Societal Respect… and these are just the big ones.

Putting it simply, respect is the glue that ties civilisation together and when it is lost, differences become arguments, arguments become fights, fights become wars… and we all know what war does to civilisation.

Want an example? Okay. Let’s look at Israel and Palestine.

Going to the root of the problems in the geographical area of the world that these two countries claim is their land would probably be a whole article in itself.

Actually, thinking about it, the whole conflict could have a hundred different people analyse it and write weighty tomes about what they think is the problem and still not solve anything.

So I am going to tell you what my opinion on the matter is. Feel free to disagree; we’re all human after all and that is a big part of our nature, but I promise you I will respect your opinion (see #2 under Verb in the dictionary extract to see what I mean by that use of the word) and we shall remain on friendly terms.

Israel is the country that Judaism calls home. It is the place that their records tell them they come from and the birthplace of their religion.

Palestine is the geographical name for the area. When the news talks about the Israel /Palestine war what they are actually going on about is the State of Palestine…

Again, Wikipedia does a damn fine job of explaining this one, so I’ll let them enlighten you:

Palestine[i] (Arabic: فلسطين‎ Filasīn / Falasīn / Filisīn), officially declared as the State of Palestine (Arabic: دولة فلسطين‎Dawlat Filasin),[1][2][3] is a state that was proclaimed in exile in Algiers on 15 November 1988, when the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO’s) National Council (PNC) adopted the unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence.

Taken from entry in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_Palestine; 30/11/2012

So here we have two separate countries claiming the same piece of land.

Why did the war start? I don’t actually know why (that’s an article for someone more interested in the subject), but I do know that they could have lived together quite happily had they just respected each other’s differences and agreed to share the physical space. The World is quite a big place… even if the piece of land they are fighting over is pretty small in comparison

Historical region of Palestine (as defined by Palestinian Nationalism) showing Israel's 1948 and 1967 borders

Historical region of Palestine (as defined by Palestinian Nationalism) showing Israel’s 1948 and 1967 borders

See? Surely it’s big enough to be divided equably between the two countries? Especially if they were to respect each other’s wishes and religious places.

Obviously they couldn’t come to a respectful conclusion. Look what happened next:

Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) showing Israel's 1948 and 1967 borders

Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza Strip) showing Israel’s 1948 and 1967 borders

Surely both sides would be happy now? Well we all know from the news that neither side is happy. Look at how it stands now:

Palestinian National Authority showing Israel's 1948 and 1967 borders

Palestinian National Authority showing Israel’s 1948 and 1967 borders

Will they ever be able to respect each other enough to live together without fighting? That’s a question that only time can tell.

Why on earth are you maundering on about this? Is there an actual point to this article?

Um, yes, actually there is a point. And believe it or not it’s about people…

Think of the geographical location of Palestine as a single person. What do you get?

One very messed up disturbed person! Schizophrenic even…

Definition of schizophrenia

noun

[mass noun]

  • a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.
  • (in general use) a mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements:Gibraltar’s schizophrenia continues to be fed by colonial pride

Derivatives

schizophrenic

Pronunciation:

 /-ˈfrɛnɪk/ adjective & noun

Origin:

early 20th century: modern Latin, from Greek skhizein ‘to split’ + phrēn ‘mind’

Taken from: http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/schizophrenia 30/12/2012

And the way that Palestine is looking, I’d say that there was almost no hope left of curing them… I could be wrong; I hope I’m wrong. As a Person, Palestine  lost it’s self respect  a long time ago.

In a person when you lose respect for yourself it starts you on a gentle downward slope. A lot of different things can cause that initial loss of self respect, but it’s what happens if you don’t recover that feeling of admiration for yourself that concerns me.

Why it concerns me is that I had an Eureka moment today.  And yes, it actually happened in the bath. All the best things happen in the bath; half my best story ideas occurred to me in the bath… as well as a few other things. This particular eureka moment is a bit more serious… And this is where what I said about my Grandfather comes in as well.

What my Grandfather did to me (no, I won’t tell you exactly what it was, just that it should never ever happen to an eight year old girl) stopped me from developing my own self respect properly. Then I went through the whole growing up thing, hit teenage years and what little self respect I had managed to regain disappeared into being a teenager.

When you’re a teenager, you are looking to be treated as an adult, but still want to act like a child. So you do some very stupid things to gain respect from your peer group.

In my case, that included getting completely and utterly blotto on red wine and throwing up in other people’s gardens on the way home, as my long suffering little sister did her best to get me home (did I ever say thank you to her for that? I can’t remember, but I’m saying it now – THANK YOU, CHRISSIE!)

You mistake the respect and tolerance that adults give each other as self respect… and in the process you lose what little self respect you actually have.

Now most people climb back out of that particular pit and redevelop their self respect. I did too, pulled myself back out, went to uni and met my fiance… then I had kids.

One of the things that they don’t warn you about having children is that if you aren’t careful, you can lose your self respect. I did. I mistook the love I had for my children as self respect and submerged myself in their needs. I forgot about my needs. There’s a fine balance between loving your children so much you give yourself over to them totally and loving them while you love and respect yourself.

In the bath, I realised that I had done the former.

It’s time to get myself and my self respect back…again.

And that revelation and realisation makes me happy. It’s going to be tough, but I’m going to do it.

I am fed up with being negative, so if you don’t like positivity, please look away now!

As the title says, I am getting fed up with all the negativity around. The whole world is whining about something –  the economy, politics,  weather… and while I am not saying that these things are unimportant (because they are important in many ways), I am just saying that it’s time to look on the positive side for a change.

I think, that as a race, we humans are overly critical of everything. Take Britain and the weather.

At the moment we are having a cold snap – there are several inches of snow in the northern areas of Britain and on any high ground  and the rest of the country has bitingly cold wind and rain. Last week we had a heatwave that was as hot as a british summer gets in an average year.

As I crossed the playground to pick up my children from school this afternoon, all I could hear was “I hate the cold. I hate the rain. I want the sun back.” from so many people (including myself) that it kind of blurred together. These were the same people who (when it gets really hot in the summer) say “It’s too hot. I wish it would rain. I wish the wind would pick up and cool me down”

The whine hurt my ears and it started me wondering. Why are we humans so critical of everything?

Why do we complain so much when things aren’t just right and when they do go right, we just say gloomily (like Eeyore from Winnie-the-Pooh or Marvin the robot in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) “It won’t last for long. Make the most of it while we’ve got it.”

I came across this meme on Facebook:

I realised in a sudden flash of inspiration that not only have I been criticizing myself for years, but we humans have been crticising ourselves for years.

Why?

Well, on a personal level, I critcise myself in order to make sure I don’t get too big headed; after all, I am a qualified teacher, I have been to university and I am intelligent and creative (only the facts, ma’am) so I knock myself down to stop myself floating away!

In fact I have trouble remembering to stop criticizing myself every-so-often and praise myself for what I have actually achieved.

I am a healthy, wonderful mother of two healthy and beautiful children. 
I am the much loved partner and soul mate to a gorgeous, creative man.
I am a good writer and a persistent Jewellery Designer-Maker who *will* be successful in my pursuits.
I am Many things to Many people and I love all of those whom choose to call me Friend or Family – I have lots of love to share!

 

So why are we humans criticizing ourselves?

Whose approval do we have to gain to see that we are wonderful creatures (like every other inhabitant of this planet), a miracle of Mother Nature and an improbability that is unique and different to every other creature on this planet.

Those of you who are religious will say:

“God [Allah/Jehovah/Shiva/Buddha/Jesus…delete as appropriate] is the one we should be pleasing.”

Why?

We are told as adults that we do not need the approval of others to be who we are. So why should we need to seek approval from God as a race?

I’m sure that statement and question will have annoyed a few people – should you wish to discuss the post, do it quietly in the comment boxes provided…

I don’t think we need approval of anyone except ourselves. If we feel happy as a Race or a Species that we’re doing well, then that should be enough, surely?

Well, no actually. That point would hold true if we (every human) did feel happy, but as a matter of fact, we are not a happy race.

Why?

Because things are not well on this planet.

There are greedy people who want more than they could ever need. There are starving people who need more than they are getting. There are sad people who have lost more than they should and there are silent people who watch and don’t say a word / can’t say a word.

We are a species divided by the worship of material things and those material things do not make us happy.  They bring heartache and war and deceit and fear.

So what will make us happy?

If I knew that, then I would probably be the happiest woman alive…

“He is happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home.”  – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Events will take their course, it is no good of being angry at them; he is happiest who wisely turns them to the best account.” – Euripides