Writer's Blog

Conversation Piece

'What's the good of a book without pictures or conversation?' Alice demanded. Her creator, Lewis Carroll, made a point. OK maybe we can forgo the pictures but  a book where non of the characters speaks (or very little) makes for a monotonous read. Writers who employ mainly narrative are unconfident (I suspect) of writing realistic dialogue. It's a pity because it is a powerful tool, not only giving characters voivces but telling the reader a lot abut their character, background location, mood, thought process, feelings...need I go on? I've never found writing dialogue difficult but for those who do my advice is this: cultivate being a listener, tune in to people's voices. Keep a notebook and write down scraps of dialogue overheard. And here is the big one: eavesdrop on conversations whenever you are in a public place. Eventually the music of dialogue will enter your brain and you'll find yourself writing convincing and realistic dialogue. 

Who is telling the story?

So many writers, especially at the beginning, make mistakes over point of view. They begin a short story or  a novel telling the story through one character's eyes and then switch to the view of another character. And the reader, who is happily immersed in the story as 'told' by Character 1, is brought up short and  the illusion is lost. You, as writer, has to decide 'who is telling the story?' and stick with it. Ok, you CAN change point of view but there has to be a clear signal...beginning another chapter, for example. You are taking your reader on a journey into your character's mind. Don;t risk them getting lost. 

Acquire a cat - if you want to write.

“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially on some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle under the desk lamp. The light from a lamp … gives the cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impeded your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, and very mysterious." 
*(or rather, the character of Mrs Hawkins in A Far Cry from Kensington.)

Take Your Writing Up a Notch

This is a new group with the desire to enable writers to bring their work to publication sytandasrd. We would love you to join us at Toast By The Coast 8th December at 20 am. Bring something you arre working on and let us hear it. Friendly and supportive group. No fees just a great meet up of writers.

It all began with Lizzie

The rescue of a feral cat called Lizzie set me on a mission, which continues to this day. It has been one of many obstacles but also success. My eyes have been opened to the shadowy side of Sicily, a place I believed I knew so well.

I’m a writer and journalist and, in 2002 I was having a prolonged stay in Taormina, Sicily while I worked on a book. My friend, Andrew, came to stay for a week or so and we took a trip to Castelmola, a little hill town village. The plan was to sit in a renowned old bar to taste vino al mandorla, almond wine. Instead, Andrew suggested we explore the tiny side streets and darted ahead. When I finally caught him up I found he was staring at something in silence.

            Lying on the ground was a small cat with a ghastly wound – a back leg so shattered the bones were protruding through the skin. As an ardent cat lover I knew I had to help. Many of the local people didn’t seem to care but I found a young man who suggested a vet he knew and allowed me to call him up. That was how I first met Giulio. But he couldn’t come until the evening.

Armed with torch, thick gauntlets and a humane trap, he and I prowled the dark streets until finally we caught her. Then it was back to Giulio’s surgery where she flew round the room like a cat demented until he managed to sedate her and set the break. While I waited I asked myself: why am I doing this? I knew the answer. Fate had somehow sent us down those narrow streets. Most people would have just left the cat to her fate.

The question was where could she stay while she recovered? To Giulio’s amusement I said I would nurse her in the apartment .I dared not tell my landlady what I was doing and had a terrible job hiding any traces if ever she popped in. Lizzie, I’d called her Lizzie, stayed with me for three weeks. She suffered her imprisonment in silence under the bed, emerging to scoff the tasty morsels I offered. She was my first experience of feral cats and I had no notion of their nature. Little did I know then, that I would learn a great deal more about these felines of the streets.

They have an innate mistrust of human beings. The mother cats train kittens to be quiet and stay put. A meow might attract predators. They will also make their kittens wash and wash to remove the scent of food from their fur, which again could attract the enemy. Their games prepare offspring for the life of a feral. A mother may play roughly with the dominant male kitten, training him to be an alpha male. She will teach her kittens to go to the food dish, forever watchful and poised to run, should a human appear. It is a game, but a grim one of survival.

            I was exploring new territory on this the beginning of my journey. 

Creating a character

There are many ways to create a character that is three dimensional. Description of how they look is just the start. Dialogue is a great tool. How someone speaks gives a lot away about the person they are.  Are they straight to the point or prevaricating? What is their vacabulary? Do they use certain catch phrases? How do your other characters see them? Often, different people will each see a person in a quite different light. What are their habits? Are they slovenly or super tidy to name just two. It's the old business of showing us rather than telling us about them.

A Day for 'Lovies'

The CAA (Concert Artistes Association) resides quietly in Bedford Street, just off the Strand, London. What a place, a welcoming space for 'lovies' who gathered in the delightful Jesters Bar, yesterday. I was among them, having a drink before our Scripts Live! showcase began. The walls are lined with photographs of performers and the talk was mainly theatrical. Martin Cort had assembled a group of us, all members of his Drasma group for a public reading of our plays.  Mine, WAITING, was second on the programme. It's a quirky piece, a conversation between a diffident man and a nosy woman in a hospital waiting room. Gradually she worms out of him (I use the term advisedly) that the secret of his svelteness is his friend, a tapeworm. Audience loved it and I preened in the applause. For a writer who spends so much of her time alone, it was wonderful to have such an airing and, together with friends Bev and John, we had a great afternoon.

RESEARCH

Research is an important part of the writer's work. In writing Monet's Angels I did hours and hours of research in order to make the story believable. the book begins in 1913 and I needed to be sure details were historically correct from the clothes my heroine, Judith, wore, to the car Robert drove and, of course, there was much research into impressionism and gardens, Claude Monet's twin loves. Google is a wonderful tool for this but you have to be careful. It is all too easy to become engrossed in a particular subject and find yourself an hour later still reading round it. Also, like an iceberg, only a small portion of your research will show. It is best to be selective and use on a few pertinent details at a time to 'flavour' the story rather thsn deliver huge, indigestible chunks. 

Writing tips for today

When planning your book leave a question mark about the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.

Always carry a note-book.  The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.

A WRITER LIVES TWICE

Writers have a huge advantage. Whatever they experience in life, the good and the bad, can be squirreled away and used in their work. So the holiday didn't come up to scratch, it rained on that long plznned picnic, conversely, there was a wonderful unexpected meeting as you walked along the seafront in today's autumn sunshine. Nothing is wasted it will emerge, sooner or later, in your work.

Taking writers to the next level

You are a dedicated writer or you wouldn't be reading this. You are probsbly confident in the genre you've chosen but you also feel you'd like feedback and constructive criticism from people who are friendly and supportive. If this is you, I'm inviting you to a series of workshops commencing this November. We'll meet in the welcoming atmosphere of Toast by the Coast, Shoreham by Sea with the joint aim to raise your writing to the next level.

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I am based in Shoreham-by-Sea
West Sussex

Email: info@jenniferpulling.co.uk

 

Writers Workshops

Unleash your imagination at one of my forthcoming workshops, beginners welcome, I take an organic approach which encourages the writer to sift through experience and allow it to compost in the imagination.... read more