Saturday, 30 July 2011

Beautiful Minds

"The meadow in which he sat spread away before him in a carpet of muted greens, blues and pinks, a mix of colours he had never seen in grasses. The clover was white, but touched with crimson spots. The meadow dropped downwards into a sprawling valley which rose again miles distant in a wall of mountains that formed a dark barrier against the sky-line. Behind him, the trees of a forest loomed blackly against a mountain slope. Trailers of mist hung over everything."
from Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks

"By now the whole of downtown Morpork was alight, and the richer and worthier citizens of Ankh on the far bank were bravely responding to the situation by feverishly demolishing the bridges. But already the ships in the Morpork docks - laden with grain, cotton and timber - were blazing merrily and, their moorings burnt to ashes, were breasting the river Ankh on the ebb tide, igniting riverside palaces and bowers as they drifted like drowning fireflies towards the sea. In any case, sparks were riding the breeze and touching down far across the river in hidden gardens and remote rickyards."
from The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett

"Gilchrist's Second-Hand Furniture Warehouse had once been a cinema. in the years when cinemas were still palatial follies. A folly it remained, with its mock-rococo facade, and the unlikely dome perched on its roof; but there was nothing remotely palatial about it now. It stood within a stone's throw of the Dock Road, the only property left in its block that remained in use. The rest were either boarded up or burned out."
from Weaveworld by Clive Barker

Three books, three worlds, three beautiful minds. These three (the books and the writers) are gems on my bookshelves. They're very different and I've come to them at separate times in my life but they all use a very rich method within their writings. They create beautiful worlds that encapsulate not only their stories but also our imaginations. 

Terry Brooks is probably most famous for his Shannara books, I was introduced to Brooks through his novel 'Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold'. Landover is a magic kingdom, complete with dragons, wizards and tree maidens. The kingdom itself is instrumental in the storyline but the way it is described and the manner in which we discover Landover (as Ben discovers it himself) added to my involvement with the novel.

Terry Pratchett has always struck me as owning a genius mind and imagination. His use of footnotes and the mythology of the Discworld has created a set of novels that are, if not unique, then inextricably linked to him in their style and feel. Knowing the magical physics of this world includes us in the Discworld family. We accept that a piece of luggage may easily have legs and be loyal to its owner, that a camera only works if the wee man inside is in the mood to paint and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a flat planet that sits on the backs of four elephants who ride an immense turtle in space. 

Clive Barker is generally labelled as a horror writer. I daresay that for many people, the word 'beautiful' doesn't sit easily with his novels and yet he has an eye for beauty, perhaps exotic and alien, but beauty nonetheless. He paints his worlds, be they in another dimension or, as in the extract from 'Weaveworld' above somewhere we know well, in this case, Liverpool, England, with a vibrant palette. He brings colour - sometimes bright, sometimes deep to a street scene that we might otherwise have walked by unnoticed. His worlds provide not just a backdrop for his stories but a frame that seeps into the canvas of his novels.











Provide your readers with a world that is not just a scenery flat but another living member of your storyline cast. Whether it is set in this, our known world, or some other dimension, planet, or version, treat your world as importantly as your characters. As you would reveal details about your characters, reveal the rules of your world. Does magic exist there? Are the physical laws similar to our own? What is extraordinary and colourful about the world that you have created? Invest as much time and care in creating your world as you do in creating your characters and watch your story come to life.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

I've tumbled

A friend recently pointed out Tumblr to me. It's a name that I've heard now and then but have never really paid much attention to. In essence, it's a hosting platform for microblogs where you can share photographs, text, music, links, videos and basically anything you'd include in a normal blog.

So here is my Tumblr blog - What I see, what I hear, what I am. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

My Summer Reading List

Over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed that magazines and newspapers have started running their 'summer reading' recommendations. Although I love to see what new books crop up on these lists, my hackles always slightly stir. Once again we're persuaded to spend money and add to, if not our bookshelves, then our e-collection of stories. What's wrong with the stories we know and  the books that we own? I'm no angel when it comes to literature lust (the need to buy yet another new title even though you know you have unread novels on your shelves) but I don't have money to throw at my local bookseller. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

This summer, I will be looking to my bookshelves for unread titles and old favourites that I can easily return to. I'll also be visiting my local library (which for the holidays has been relocated to a Portakabin due to building works - I see that visit turning into another blog post in itself). Finally, as mum to two children, I'll be working with them to create stories of our own.

Fi's Summer Reading List

Unread gems I've found on my bookshelves:

Good Wives by Louisa M Alcott
Murder Most Fab by Julian Clary
The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie
The Ghosts of Sleath by James Herbert
Sepulchre by Kate Mosse

Old favourites that I'll reread:

Imajica by Clive Barker
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
Magic Kingdom for Sale/Sold by Terry Brooks
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Friday, 8 July 2011

Pegging it out

Clothes pins.Image via Wikipedia
When I was a child, my family would often holiday in Scotland and particularly in the town where my father was brought up. I remember very little of the town itself but there are certain things that remain with me.

Firstly, outside a large cafe was a statue of a golden retriever. It was life size and probably made of some kind of resin as it was coloured like the dog it was meant to represent. Over the years, it was 'borrowed' by local drunks on a regular basis, even ending up in the loch now and then.

Secondly, our landlady Mrs Mackay would always serve massive breakfasts (fried sausage slices, tatty scones, fried eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread) and finish it off with toast and jam. As part of the table setting, there was a ceramic jam pot shaped like a beehive with a bee handle and a matching slender spoon. I can remember taking great pleasure in helping myself to the contents and being told not to play with the lid by my mother.

Thirdly, my father would talk of his life there as a boy and young man - a job working on the steamer, his father's role as park ranger, and his home, a tithe cottage overlooking the vale.

These three things form pegs that secure my memory of that place. Each of them leads to numerous memories and occurrences, providing even more 'pegs'.

The best stories (in both books and films) utilise these pegs, providing us with fixed items that we can hang the storylines on. The Harry Potter novels have his round glasses and his scar, the extremes of Hogwarts and the Dursleys' home, and the knowledge of how Harry's parents died. The Terry Pratchett Discworld novels have the Discworld itself (a disc on four elephants on a turtle flying through space), the wizards and the assassins, and Pratchett's many colourful footnotes. Dickens' Great Expectations has the Kent marshes, the meeting with Magwitch in the graveyard, and the unhappy Miss Havisham.

Creating these pegs lends the reader a security and a familiarity within the storyline that will keep them turning the pages, and not flicking back to find out why that woman just slapped her husband's face or whether this is her third or fourth cousin removed and whom they married the second time around. Help your reader by including a handful of pegs, be they visual (Harry's scar), a sound (the drumming in the Master's head in the Doctor Who series) or an emotion (Miss Havisham's bitter despair). Peg our your storyline in this way and secure it in the memory of the reader.
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