Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Embracing the Cliche

Whenever I hear the phrase 'little old lady', it always takes me back to the children's series Chorlton and the Wheelies. Chorlton the dragon would refer to Fenella the witch as 'little old lady'. That's obviously a personal memory for me but I think it shows how powerful phrases can be in creating a picture, emotion or memory in us.

Many writing sites and courses talk about how terrible and lazy it is to use cliched phrases and to an extent they're right but the reason why so many of these phrases naturally arise in our writing is that they are ingrained into our psyche. In day to day conversation, we say that someone is 'blind as a bat' or a confusing instruction is 'as clear as mud'. These are sayings that have always surrounded us and so of course they will become part of our writing too.

I'm a great supporter of flow writing, writing non stop without editing. It can be difficult and make me very twitchy when my internal editor begins to poke me, but just getting the words down on paper can be invaluable in creating a first draft. This is the time when those phrases we see as cliched can jump in. Often a writer's gut reaction is to stop and muse over an alternative description or phrase. Don't. Leave that until your editing session. Get the piece written first.

Personally, I take great pleasure in seeing cliched phrases turned on their head. 'Once upon a time' may make us think of children's fairytales but it is often used as an indication of a struggle for a dream. This is excellently shown in the film 'Once Upon a Time in America', an epic crime film that tells the story of a group of Jewish ghetto youths from the 1920s up to 1968. The film includes no princesses in pretty gowns or helpful mice but the characters strive for something better, in their eyes a 'happy ever after'.

Taking a cliched phrase literally can have a pleasing effect. The phrase 'the butler did it' provided me with an idea for a murder mystery set in the 1920s about a family called the Butlers. Similarly 'Dead Gorgeous' has led me to a play about a beauty salon.

Cliched phrases may have been done and overdone but please do not dismiss them. They have value, if only in that they make us think and seek to improve our writing.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

No More Sarah Jane

This image is a promotional picture from Docto...Image via Wikipedia
I am an avid Doctor Who fan. From my earliest years, I can remember being scared of the Daleks and chortling at the Doctor's antics. My personal favourite (and the Doctor I remember most from my childhood) was Jon Pertwee. He always seemed very glamorous and gallant.

The Doctor's companions came and went but one companion whom I was always glad to see was Sarah Jane Smith. She was gutsy and honest and always ready for a fight. She wasn't scared to stand up to the Doctor or that episode's particular villain. Even when the Doctor was no longer in her life, she refused to turn her back on her travels and instead began her own personal crusade to investigate aliens visiting Planet Earth and helping those in danger. She was as much my hero as the errant Doctor.

Yesterday it was announced that the actress who played Sarah Jane had passed away. Elisabeth Sladen died, aged 63, from cancer.

John Barrowman tweeted about her death, saying "I loved my time on the Tardis with her. I am proud to have worked with such an icon of the sci-fi world". Russell T Davies, creator of the Sarah Jane Adventures has said, "I absolutely loved Lis. She was funny and cheeky and clever and just simply wonderful. The universe was lucky to have Sarah Jane, the world was lucky to have Lis."

A spokeswoman for the Doctor Who show which returns on Saturday has announced that "something suitable is being planned" as a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen.

I don't want to say goodbye to Sarah Jane because her character will always be a part of the Doctor Who legacy. I'll leave you with a clip of her instead. I think this pays excellent tribute to both Sarah Jane and Elisabeth Sladen.

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Monday, 18 April 2011

Versatile Blogger Award

Over the weekend I was delighted to discover that Dawn Brazil of Dawn Brazil's Brilliant Babbles about Books blog had awarded me The Versatile Blogger award. As somebody who juggles her life between motherhood, business and a wee touch of leisure (plus there's a husband somewhere in that mix), it's great to hear that other bloggers see me as versatile too.

So to follow the rules of this award, I have to mention, thank and link to the award giver which I think I've done now. I also have to tell you seven things about myself. Here goes.
  1. I was originally supposed to be born on Christmas Day but I kept my parents hanging about a few days longer. Well, they say that the good things in life are worth waiting for.
  2. When I was seven years old, I stood at the top of my road and thought 'This is the most mature I will ever be'. I still hold with that opinion.
  3. I like change. By this, I don't mean that I want to continually be moving house or changing relationships. The kind of change I mean is the need to be always learning and developing. The downside to this 'like' is that I'm not very good with routine and repetition. I can now see why my initial career in an office environment didn't work out and the number of jobs I had (and left) is in double figures.
  4. People talk to me. More than that, they tell me their life stories. As a writer, this can be fascinating. As someone trying to get their shopping done on a rainy day, it can be rather distracting. 
  5. If I don't manage any creative activity in a twenty four hour period, I get grumpy. I don't mean to but that seven year old me that I mentioned above kicks in. Creativity is my life blood, even if it's only building lego houses with my son.
  6. In addition to change, I like diversity. Ok, I like the dance troupe Diversity but that's not what I'm talking about in this instance. I like to mix and match my life, be that my wardrobe, my reading material or my friends. 
  7. I am thankful for my life. It hasn't always been easy but then very few people have an easy life. And anyway, how boring would it be to face no challenges in life and always get what you want? I like my rollercoaster. It keeps me breathing.
The final rule to this award is to pass it on to other bloggers. I follow a tremendous number of blogs but of them all, I felt that those listed below were amongst the most versatile.

I'm now going to visit all of these blogs and let them know I think they're versatile. They're well worth a visit so why don't you drop in on them too.

    Friday, 15 April 2011

    Fashion Targets Breast Cancer

    I'm not the most fashionable or even stylish of people. What I wear tends to be decided by practicality, time and money available. I stand in awe of the mums at the school gates who are pefectly turned out in co-ordinated outfits (whereas I can't find two matching socks) and nails manicured to within an inch of their life. Celebrities and models in the latest trends may be a inspiration but they also seem slightly alien to my lifestyle. When the fashion industry takes on such an important issue as breast cancer awareness though, the world of Twiggy and Naomi Campbell becomes a little closer to my own.

    Fashion Targets Breast Cancer was started by Ralph Lauren when he lost a close friend to the disease back in 1994. Later launched in the UK in 1996 by Breakthrough Breast Cancer, FTBC seeks to raise awareness and funding for breast cancer charities around the world.

    There are various ways you can help from 'liking' the Facebook page of Bottle Green (who will turn your 'like' into a 25p donation from their own pocket), to blogging about FTBC, holding a fundraising party or simply by donating some money through the FTBC site itself.

    Why not get involved?

    FTBC on the web:

    Facebook Page
    On Twitter

    Tuesday, 5 April 2011


    The topic for today's blog post came to me when I was driving home after the school run this morning. The thermometer in the car told me that it was 12 degrees C. To me, that's quite warm. Outside the car, gusts of wind threw around anything they could move - trees, birds, the occasional pedestrian - and the dark, heavy clouds that greeted me when I woke this morning were now tossing handfuls of rain at my windscreen. To put it simply, the weather was warm, wet and windy.

    Alliteration is one of my favourite writing tools. It adds a level of lyrical texture to any piece of writing, be that prose, poetry or playscript. It can be stretched out and luxurious like a sleep in silken sheets, or rapid and alarming like a tap tap tap on a window frame.

    In Edgar Allan Poe's poem, The Raven, he uses alliteration perfectly,

    "Once upon a midnight dreary while I pondered weak and weary"

    "And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain"

    "Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before"

    He even extends the alliteration by using words that include the 's' sound in the second line and the 'd' sound in the third line.

    I love alliteration, especially the way it rolls off the tongue in a play script. Just for a bit of fun, I've put together an A-Z of alliterative phrases. Why don't you do the same?

    Fi's A-Z of Alliteration

    Aimlessly arriving at the apex of the hill

    I ran, breathless, blinded by my belief that I could save him.

    "Crikey, love. You almost came a-cropper there."

    Dig,dig, dig, were his only thoughts, down, down, down into the dark depths of the soil.

    Easily erected and just as easily destroyed, the building brick tower tumbled to the floor.

    Fiona frantically fought her way through the tangle of thorns.

    Gorged on the gargantuan feast, Gordon gripped the arms of his chair to prise himself from it's embrace.

    "Helloo," hailed the voice from the mist.

    Jessica felt like swearing. The idiotic itching just wouldn't stop. Damn that poison ivy.

    Jumping, jumping, jubiliantly jumping

    Kevin kicked the ball against the wire fencing.

    "Look, Darling. I have loved, laughed and lived life to the extreme but I would never lower myself to that."

    Miriam hummed to herself as she merrily mowed the lawn.

    "No, Nigel, you can't knock down the summerhouse. It is needed nearly every weekend."

    The official opening of the Oberon Arms provided him with the perfect opportunity to speak to her.

    "Really, Roger. Wrecklessly ramming your car into the supermarket was hardly going to help the situation."

    The silken sleeve of her robe snagged on the rose bush.

    Toppling, tumbling, turning over again and again as it fell

    Up, under, up, over the thread

    Violently veering to avoid the oncoming traffic

    She wheezed woefully, unable to get her breath.

    Expecting excitement from her friends, she rushed into her explanation.

    She watched the yellow yacht until it disappeared from view.

    Zebra zigzags adorned every surface.

    Sunday, 3 April 2011

    Celebrating Mum

    Another Mothering Sunday has come around. My husband and children are making it a lovely day for me - lie-in, breakfast in bed (made by the children), cards (also made by the children) and chocolates. I got all the housework and chores done yesterday so today I can relax. A disadvantage of having this downtime though is that it gives me time to think and the more I think, the more I remember that my Mum isn't here. Maybe good times are always tinged by sadness. Maybe that is what makes them so important. So today I'll not only enjoy the day for my own sake but I'll also remember the times I had with my mum too.

    Happy Mother's Day to all the mums, those still with us and those we have lost. You all have a place in our hearts.

    Friday, 1 April 2011

    Waxworks of Horror

    Over at Murdering the Text, we've recently designed a whole range of merchandise that now appears in an online shop called Strangemoo.

    It all began with a image of Stalking Stephen from our plays 'Waxworks of Horror' and 'Bride and Doom', and I'm now happy to inform you that the range has been extended to include several of our cartoon strips on t-shirts, posters and mugs, to name but a few of the many items available. You can find them all under the category 'Waxworks of Horror' in the Strangemoo online shop.

    WOH "Dead on his feet" by Strangemoo
    Buy a cheap mousepad at zazzle.co.uk