Monthly Archives: February 2016

Normality

If you’re writing a novel, short story, or screenplay you will have to make many choices. I’m not talking about plot or characters but something more fundamental. How the story is told. Each way has its advantages and disadvantages.

The Hunger Games is an excellent example of this. The books are told in first person. 20140119_223736 This means that we have access to Katniss’s thoughts and see the world thorough her eyes. This has the advantage of letting us get to know our protagonist very well. However it also means that we don’t get to hear the thoughts of the other characters, we only see Katniss’s impressions of them, and we don’t get anything other than what is happening to Katniss.

In the Hunger Games films we’re able to see the broader world. We get scenes between Snow and Seneca Crane that would have been impossible in a strictly first person story.

First person narration need not be limited to one person.This is masterfully done in The Woman in White. We get the story told from many first person perspectives allowing us to understand all the character’s involved. If you haven’t read it I thoroughly recommend it.

After much debate, or faffing about, with my novel I decided that first person would be the best approach. One of the things it allows is colloquial speech. A character can, in my opinion, more easily skip over stuff than an omniscient narrator.  A character can say ‘I’m not going to bore you with the details. Here’s what you need to know…’ This is only a general statement. In A Christmas Carol there is a quite wonderful description: ‘…as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.’ There are any number of ways to tell a story.

When trying to get into a character’s mind there is a problem. DSCN0253 I only know my own mind. I have no idea if the way I perceive the world, or the strange thoughts that stomp through my brain, would in any way be close to how you see things.

I have strange thoughts sometimes. My brain seems to like to play a game of ‘What’s the worst thing I could say right now?’ I don’t actually say it but my unbidden thoughts have some strange notions.

This is all rather difficult to express. Do you ever think about what ifs? What if a terrorist threat was made but they didn’t want political concessions or money but something else – a new series of Blake’s 7 – a B*Witched reunion – (Okay, funny story, they did reform in 2012), or to see some celebrity, I’ll let you pick a name, dance naked on Strictly Come Dancing.

These kinds of off the wall thoughts come to me now and again. I just find myself wondering how such a story would be reported in the media – assuming the threat was considered believable.

I spoke to a friend about this and they too have had thoughts of what if. What if I ran through work dressed as Gollum? What if I started talking like Zathras? What if I started speaking only in rhyme? What if I only spoke in lines from famous TV shows or films.

Actually that last one is the only likely one. My brother once showed me Dr Horrible’s Sing-along-blog. I wasn’t particularly interested and when <redacted for spoilers> happened I said ‘Jesus, Grandpa what did you show me this for?’ – paraphrasing from The Princess Bride.

If I ever become a manager I’ll probably end up speaking like Captain Picard. If one of my staff makes a suggestion saying ‘Make it so’ Would be difficult to resist.

When writing in first person I’ll try to make each character speak in a unique fashion. It should always be easy to tell who is speaking. I have rewritten sections when I realised that the voice wasn’t right for a character. For instance it’s quite different writing for Sam Carter and Rodney McKay. They both serve the same role in their respective series, and both characters are brilliant, but Carter is far less egotistical. Thus it would be relatively easy to identify a Rodney line from a Carter line.

This post has been a little vague. That’s because I’m not going to revel all the thoughts in my mind. My question is simply this: If my characters have little asides and musings, while telling their stories, will the reader see themselves reflected? – or will they think that all my characters – and by extension me – are completely mad?

What David Mitchell says in the video above is completely relateable to me. Except that I take it to the crazy next stage. Sometimes I’ve been walking down the street and catch sight of a sign in my periphery. I’ll turn back to read it. Even if I know that there is absolutely no reason for me to know what the sigh says! In my mind I will come up with a justification for the turning back – so apparently I’m worried about nosy telepaths. The thing is that, to be honest, nobody cares what I’m doing.

So yeah…

My characters will have flights of fancy: They’ll ponder the important questions; What if I told Great Aunt Ermentrude she looks like a baked potato?; They’ll consider the result of mumbling Emma Blackery’s F**K You Google Plus+ while working; They’ll look longingly at the attractive guard on the train and wonder what would happen if they quoted some Shakespeare or a well placed line from a Jane Austin classic.

None of this bears any resemblance to anything that ever happened anywhere ever…

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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Castle Normality?

2008-03-28_144541_dscn0152 The sky of this picture seems to have blended with the white of the background – this is a castle in Germany that I visited back in 2008. It is called Burg castle and you can find out more on its website or there is always faithful Wikipedia.

In the center of Cardiff, where I grew up, there is a Castle. To me this is completely normal. Cardiff Castle is only a stone’s throw from Burger Kings, Starbucks, Sainsbury’s’ and Tescos. Well I say a stone’s throw but you’d probably need a trebuchet.

What other towns are like this?

York has a medieval wall and so does Tenby. I’m sure there are many towns across Europe that still have vestiges of old buildings. Actually that might be a rather redundant statement as with churches and cathedrals it could even be most cities and towns.

‘I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from.’

Eddie Izzard

When writing it is interesting, actually essential, to know what is normal. Nobody would place a castle in the United States of course but there are other factors to consider when considering peoples from places you’re unfamiliar with.
Bute Park
I was writing a scene in which a centaur nodded – to indicate approval. Then I realised I was trapped within a British view of things. Nodding doesn’t mean agreement everywhere. If the centaurs were from Ancient Greece then they would have an entirely different set of gestures.

That’s it for this post but the question of normality will continue in the next post. Specifically what is normal in our minds? A problem when writing in the first person.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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Sir Terry Wogan 1938-2016

I was in a shop when I heard of the death of Sir Terry Wogan I was looking for a present for a friend. Feeling uninspired I turned on Facebook and, before going to my friend’s profile, I saw in my feed that Sir Terry Wogan had died. It was quite a shock and I think I will now always know where I was when it happened.

If you live outside of the UK and Ireland you may be unfamiliar with him. He was a broadcaster for 59 years. He had a radio show, presented quiz shows, presented Children in Need, but, for me, it is his Eurovision commentary that I knew him best for.

I agree with him when he says or Eurovision:

‘It’s supposed to be bad. And the worse it is, the more fun it is.’

It might be a British thing, despite Wogan not being British, but we like sarcasm – so Wogan’s Eurovision presenting always done in this style. For the acts, the presenters, and even the spokesperson for the results.

One of my favorites was describing the presenters, in Denmark in 2001, as ‘Doctor Death and the Tooth Fairy.’ – This was not well received.

I was greatly disappointed when Wogan stopped presenting Eurovision. Nevertheless Graham Norton is a very worthy successor giving a commentary in a similar style.

Sir Terry Wogan wasn’t on TV all the time but his moments on Eurovision and on Children in Need were very special and memorable.

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I just wanted to say that I have checked this post. I really have. Unfortunately my particular combination of dyslexia and dyspraxia makes it really hard for me to spot typos. Please enjoy and I’ll try not to make too many errors.

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