The 7 ways of the tale teller
May 23, 2013

sevenDid you think there were more? Well of course there are as many ways as people but a little bit of delving around reveals a strange and perplexing truth about storytelling – all the stories anyone ever writes are based around one or the other of the following seven themes:

1.       Overcoming the monster :dagger

Think of St George and the dragon, The War of the Worlds – and so topical now – Dracula and his gluttonous vampire army. Monsters represent our fears – dark and dank, and that we have to beat to achieve happiness. So of course that is why we are buried under a ton of vampire and werewolves  YA (young adult) fiction at the moment. What more dank and drear source of fear is there than adolescence?

 colours2. Rags to riches:

Oh easy, I hear you say – I’m getting the hang of this now. Cinderella, right? Well, yes, of course – and The Ugly Duckling, Jane Eyre, Slum Dog … it crosses all genre, cultures and  centuries. It gives credence to our belief in ourselves – we may start out mundane, poor, struggling, but we can – through hardship and trial, achieve the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and return home – bad boy done good etc. It may sound trite, but seeing the underdog triumph does us all good and gives us hope – so we love to read about it too.

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3. The quest:

Another very topical one here – Lord of the Rings is the best and most spectacular example of this – and it’s an epic journey too, but you could go for Watership Down, or Raiders of the Lost Ark as well. There must be a hero, a lure or pull to an all-important goal and thrills, spills and almost death along the way before success brings the conquering hero home again with their spoils. Uplifting, inspiring, escapism – wonderful!

4. Voyage and return:

The Wizard of Ox  – I had to have that one as it is the production my daughter is dancing in this summer, Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine … Traveling out of everyday surroundings, the hero(ine) and the group of people traveling with them have to cope with the strangeness of another world, face shadowy threats  and make a thrilling escape back to a normality they now appreciate where they had found it boring and mundane before  – ‘there’s no place like home…’ (And of course there isn’t!)

5. Comedy:shoes too big man

Bridget Jones had us laughing all the way here and back with her, and then – if you’re a Shakespeare fan, so does The taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream etc . It’s all good clean fun where the central character is blinded to the reality of things by their ego, short-sightedness, one track mind, whereas the reader/audience sees the wider picture and the humour lies in seeing the two juxtaposed. Of course our hero(ine) sees the error of their ways and All’s Well that Ends Well but not before they’ve been led a merry dance along the way. The end result is self-knowledge and reconciliation where there was harmony and unrest.

6. Tragedy:

Ironically the same as comedy – and essentially the same as all the other story lines ultimately, where there is a problem to solve, ordeals to overcome and a journey in search of the goal – but rather sadly, the outcome will involve – for some of the characters, at least – death, destruction or disaster. And if you’re watching  a Jacobean tragedy the body count on  stage will probably be higher than the numbers in the audience (I love a bit of blood and guts!).

And finally there is…

daffodils7.  Rebirth (as one would expect after death, destruction and disaster):

Again a journey to achieve self-realisation, but the enemy is often – at least in part – from within. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Secret Garden are all based on rebirth. Often there is a direct confrontation between dark and light to achieve self-understanding and healing.

So let me think which of these I have written so far.

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Chained Melody has to be rebirth, with an element of tragedy involved too. Someone or something has to fail, suffer or be lost in order for self-knowledge to enable the two main characters to achieve their form of happiness.

Web Web cover design - draftis dark and dire at times, and funny and lighthearted at others, but its message is all about seeing oneself and others clearly and putting that understanding together to create a whole. Two of the characters are so immersed in their own machinations they fail to see the most dangerous aspects of the whole until it is almost too late, and the other character is dark, dark, dark – confronting themself, and allowing the darkness to take over… It has elements of a tragedy too but is again a journey towards rebirth for my two dipsy daisies in it.

Then I have left to consider Falling Awake Falling awake draft cover design 2– which is definitely all about overcoming a monster – but defining the monster is as intriguing as finding out how it is overcome – or is it? And Patchwork People, which I have just started, is a quest, pure and simple.

Job done.

Web will be released in the Autumn, Falling Awake Spring 2014 and Patchwork People towards the end of 2014 (unless I get lost on the quest).

Which one of the 7 are you working on?

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Or find me on my website: www.debbiemartin.co.uk

Finding a style
April 9, 2013

Writing style:

What is it? Is it genre-specific – a certain format that stamps the writers presence on their prose? Is it content specific – dependent on what you are writing about? Or is it all down to intent? An underlying principle that delivers a specific impact aside from the words it is conveyed through.

Probably all of these- and more. Style is a writer’s personal signature created through their collection and use of words. It seems easy, when we refer to a writer’s style, to assume that as soon as anyone starts writing, they immediately adopt their personal style and that’s it.

Child writing Of course it’s hardly that simple. Personal style is something that develops over a period of time- like the way children grow. The five year old shows only the tantalising whisp of the promise of the adult they will become. Professor Winston, in his documentary series of ‘7 up’, ‘14 up’ and so on tried to demonstrate how the adult-to-be was clearly present in the child, and in as much as he could indicate certain traits in  them, but it was very much down to the experiences they had and the opportunities that came their way that shaped their future. It’s the old nature/nurture argument. We have latent abilities  but we have to do something with them to develop them into skills, so writing style doesn’t automatically flow from the first piece of prose we write, it grows from practice and experimentation.

How to?

Trial and error, experimentation and repetition, and wide reading help, but in the end it will be down to time, volume and feedback that will ultimately develop the style you stick with – how you feel about it, how well it delivers the message you want to give, and whether your readers get that same satisfaction and understanding from reading it in that format. That is where writing exercises and prompts and subsequent feedback and critique has most value.

To play around with possible forms, look at a variety of writing styles amongst well-known authors – the flowing-thought style of Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar , the densely descriptive and somewhat turgid style of Hilary Mantel (Bring up the Bodies), the pacy style of Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine (most recent – The Child’s Child)  or the almost conversational style of Julian Barnes (The Sense of an Ending). These are just a few ideas – pick a favourite author, or a new one you’ve not read before – or one that is a current award winner – of the Costa etc. Now, try out writing in their style and see how it fits with you. Take any piece of prose – it can just be taken from a newspaper article, if you like, and write it in the style you’ve chosen.  How does it fit with you? Are you happy writing in that style? How have you instinctively modified it? Do you like reading that style of prose?

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Now turn it around and take a section from one of their books and try paraphrasing it into your words. What comes out the other end? It will almost invariably be the style you instinctively slip into and that will form a basis for how you style your future writing, although you may adopt several styles depending on the work you are doing at the time. For instance essays and academic articles will almost certainly have a more literary and formal style, magazine articles more conversational and fiction may have any style you like to adopt as long as it melds with the genre you are writing in. After that, it is a case of write, write, and write, and you will hone your style more and more; and invite feedback and positive criticism whenever you can.

Do not take criticism personally; take it as a means to improvement, after all, the most successful style – however it is formed – is the one a reader wants to read.

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Interview with an author – Jodie Pierce
February 4, 2013

Well all – having done some interviews for others I thought it was time to introduce my blog readers to some of the great authors I’ve been meeting along the way and to kick off , please meet Jodie Pierce who so kindly featured me on her blog spot on the 19th January.

This is what Jodie has to say:

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   Tell me a bit about yourself: Well, I am from Cleveland, Ohio and am married to the most dedicated,

supportive and loving man that’s ever come into my life. I have been writing since I was in high school but

the stories were too simple and you could tell I wasn’t inspired while writing it. Once I read the Anne Rice

vampire series, I was inspired and realized that I wanted to write about vampires. I was introduced to

vampires as a child and I fell in love with them and grew up with them. I am also a researcher and was an

exchange student in high school to Brasil so you will find many of my experiences in my stories.  I am a

seven time published author. Five of my books have been published through a publishing house. The other

two have been self published and all are available on Amazon.com.

Tell me about your latest book: My latest book is the final instalment of my Vampire Queen trilogy. It ties up the first two books, has action, twists and turns and vampires.

Where is your book available? My book will be available from November 1st on Amazon.com both in paperback and Kindle formats.

Where you live and one thing you love about it: I live in Cleveland, Ohio but I also lived in Brasil for six months when I was 16 and very impressionable. Brasil is so beautiful and the people are kind, generous, friendly and unjudgemental. The country is beautiful as I live two blocks from the beach. It is a third world country and I saw a lot of poverty but even they are kind. That was my favourite place to live and would go back there and live there for forever if given the opportunity.

Website: www.thevampirequeen1.weebly.com & www.thevampirequeen1.blogspot.com

What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? My parents were always good readers and I picked up the hobby from them. I just started writing short stories about my life, moved to romantic fiction and then was inspired to write about vampires. After years of trying to get published, I was finally introduced to publishing houses and later on, self-publishing. I was estatic to see my stories come to life and to be able to share with others.

Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? Interview with a Vampire and Queen of the Damned were the first books to inspire me. I then read Anne Rices’ erotic novels and found that I could also write stories that were similar though I preferred the vampire romance genre.

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What was the seed of inspiration for your latest book? My book, The Vampire Queen was my first and favourite

manuscript. I wanted to reunite her and her lover and take them on an adventure. I deliberately left the second book, The

Vampire Chronicles open for a third book. I then decided I wanted to tie up the events so I wrote the final book, Demise of

the Vampire to do that.

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? I would want them to fall in love with the vampires I’ve created like I have. I also want readers to understand that bi-sexuality is okay to have as a part of their lives.

 What challenges have you faced in your writing career? Marketing and promoting have been the thorn in my side. Even with the publishing company, the marketing was left up to me.

What has been your best moment as a writer? The best moment was when I got the email stating they wanted to publish my book. Nine months before, I had sent my manuscript to them and they refused it. The, Twilight broke out and I resubmitted it to them upon the request of my hubby. They took it and when I read the email, I thought someone was messing with me. It turned out to be real and I was really excited

Who is your author idol? Anne Rice is my first idol. J.K. Rowling is a close second but she doesn’t write about vampires which is unfortunate. Christopher Paolini gave me inspiration for fantasy and the Anne Rampling series encouraged me to write the one erotic book I wrote as well.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? Absolutely. Most of my characters are based on the people that have come into my life in many different ways. Sometimes, just their personality or physical traits are included in my characters.

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? Well, my dream of being published has come true but there is always more for me to write and publish. I am constantly learning more about myself, my writing and marketing. I’ve met some great people along my journey and am grateful for everything and everyone I’ve come in contact with. The website people are always awesome, friendly and helpful.

What is your personal cure for procrastination? I don’t have a cure as I don’t procrastinate. I wake up in the morning, sometimes at 5am just to write or check my emails for others’ comments, etc.

What does your workspace look like? I used to write on a desk that was full of papers and sticky notes but it was uncomfortable. Now I work in my recliner and my computer on my lap. It’s much more comfortable and instead of sticky notes I use a notebook to keep track of things.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Absolutely! Fear of rejection can cause many authors to give up and quit their dreams. Also, as in my case, I’ve typed for so long that I now have Carpal Tunnel and have to limit my typing each day which just kills me. I have to write and I enjoy it so it’s very hard to stifle my creativeness. I’ve started writing ideas down in that notebook I mentioned so I can write a little more later.

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? I have never wanted to quit. Rejection at first made me feel horrible but as time went on, I learned it’s all part of the process and can brush it off as it comes along.

What do you do when you’re not writing? I like to spend time watching TV with my hubby, reading is good too. I usually have two books I’m reading at the same time which can get a little confusing if the books don’t grip you and force you into the stories.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Write what you want, not what you think publishers want. Write from your heart and the creative juices flow more easily. Jump in with both feet and bring your ideas to life through your writing.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? In high school, I had a great English teacher, Mrs. Israel who encouraged my writing and often critiqued my stories. She taught me to keep going and never give up.

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? I wrote in high school but when I started writing about vampires, I knew that was my calling. While writing my first book, I found every aspect of it to be fun and that reinforced the idea that writing was exactly what I needed.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Never give up and support your fellow authors. You can learn a lot from them and it will make you a better writer. If I gave up every time I was rejected, I wouldn’t be published. Take the bull by the hands and make your career what you want it to be.

I’m delighted to share other authors views with you – if anyone has a short story or poem they would like to share, please let me know and I would be happy too see if we could feature it on here – it may be your first step to publication yourself …

Until next time,

Debbie Martin

debbie@debbiemartin.co.uk

http://www.debbiemartin.co.uk/

also on:

Twitter @Storytellerdeb

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Lured into the red room of pain …
July 30, 2012

Last night I got lured away from the Olympics and onto Channel 4 to watch a documentary on the rise and rise of ‘50 shades of grey’. Now I have steadfastly refused to read this literary masterpiece because, having read the first page and a half on the Amazon preview when I was in the stage of maybe I ought to find out what this is all about, I realised that I couldn’t read even more than another word of it. I openly admit here that I do not ever intend reading it – why would I want to waste any more moments of my time on it? The documentary confirmed everything I always thought but with a little more detail.

Its genre seemed to be encapsulated by the wonderful description by an interviewee of it as ‘Wuthering Heights with whips’ or ‘Mills and Boon with bondage’. The very thought turns me off, not on. Another comment – ‘I don’t know any women who want to be anally fisted before bedtime’. Actually neither do I! I listened with interest to the reviews of the language used to portray these dramatically charged sexual scenes and laughed: ‘he touched me down there’ and ‘my private bits’. Is this an embarrassed five year old straying into the world of pornography or an adult? What sexually mature woman do you know who refers to her vagina as ‘down there’? My Auntie Mable did when she told us about having to see the doctor on a personal matter, but my friend Mandy would call a spade a spade, or a fanny a fanny. I can think of a whole dictionary of suitable words, although I won’t as I’m not a porn writer. Couldn’t you have researched your vocabulary better, as well as the sexual proclivities of the submissive society, EL?

And so she came, and came and came … ad infinitum, it seems. Is this what relationships are all about? I’ve been labouring under a misapprehension all these years … Indeed Pamela Stephenson – who now describes herself as a ‘Sexologist’ – wow, when did YOU come (pardon the pun) by that trade Pam? The last I heard you were a comedienne, but I’m digressing; Pammy commented that plainly Anastasia (more on the names later) was faking as no woman comes that often. Now that would be interesting to open up for discussion, but I imagine Cosmo has already been there.

Interestingly the real BDSM devotees that were interviewed on the documentary dissed EL’s version of it all, saying that no true BDSM relationship would countenance the submissive partner being spanked until they actually needed pain killers – as Anastasia does on one occasion. Apparently, the role allocation is also unrepresentative of the BDSM community – generally it is the woman who is the dominatrix and the man who wants to submit. The theory that was being expounded by several of the interviewees was that women respond to the content of 50 shades because, in a society where women have to work hard to be independent, organised and competitive in the boardroom, they relish the idea of being able to relinquish control in the bedroom. Maybe – but relinquishing control only occurs happily in a relationship where trust, equality and tenderness are paramount, not submission and control. Any general or BDSM relationship exponent would tell you that.

So what genre would I describe this 50 shades of something as? Well, if agents and publishers go on so little as the first page and a half and a brief synopsis, so will I: first the names. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey – apart from suggestions in the documentary that the male protagonist’s (I can’t believe I’ve called him that) name was derived from a film already made, aren’t they pure Mills and Boon nonsense? Then there’s the coy, twee language; ‘the ‘down there’ and descriptions like one of Anastasia’s orgasms (who knows which one …) ‘shattering her into a million pieces’. Christian’s cock is Anastasia’s ‘very own Christian Grey popsicle’. I can only use teenage speak to respond to that – OMG – really? Pathetic (the language, not the cock – that is said to be HUGE). And intelligent women and men all over the world in their millions are reading this? I can’t actually decide on the right genre now I have to, maybe we should create another one – although I don’t want to be insulting.

So, some of you reading this will say ‘she is just jealous of EL’s success’. Not at all. As an entrepreneur myself – as well as a writer, I applaud anyone who makes it big with an idea. Well done for the achievement EL – and I wish you many more millions of success – although what you are going to do with it beats me. The dumpy little housewife/mum who was being interviewed on American TV in the documentary claimed to only want a new kitchen and to have bought a new Volkswagon car with it so far. She steadfastly refused to admit whether she had actually tried out the many forms of spanking, bondage, whipping, nipple clamps – BDSM in its entirety, in fact – simpering that the internet was a very good research tool…

No, what I object to is this: women suffered and fought, were killed and maimed to give other women equality. We now claim to be working hard to achieve and maintain that in our society. We deplore any kind of oppression or abuse and yet this trilogy of books is glamorising – even glorifying the submission of a vulnerable woman – still a virgin at 21 so naive and unwordly in the extreme, and the media and the publishing world are promoting it – all for the sake of the big bucks; cynicism and betrayal in the extreme. Betrayal? Well, not only is it a betrayal of the great women in our history who have fought for us to have the right to say no and be believed – the suffragettes and the women who have forged a path for us to follow at their own personal expense, it also thrusts a pile of badly written sloppy porn on the reading public at large, when there are hundreds of thousands of unknown TALENTED authors out there, struggling to even be read by an agent or a publisher. They are the people who have talent pouring out of them, but they do not write what purports to be sexual fantasy, they do not write sensationalism, they write eloquent, well thought out, meaningful pieces that have something to say to the soul.

If you want something really useful to do with your millions EL, since you don’t seem to have the vision to think of anything better than a new kitchen or car, do something to help the struggling debut authors to be acknowledged and give the reading world a chance to read good fiction not mediocre porn.

Back to the real world next time and the rest of the E-publishing review …

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Where you’ll find lots more to read and information when my books are published.

Debbie Martin