Did you know it's Agatha Christie's birthday today? A while ago, I decided that I was going to read all of Agatha Christie's works. I knew I already had a vast majority of them done already - how hard could it be? It turned out to be a far more difficult task than I thought!… Continue reading My quest to read all of Agatha Christie
Once a year, a list like this gets published. 100 books to read before you die. 100 books you should read. 100 books that changed the world. You know the sort. Last Monday, the BBC published their latest version of this on the culture website. 100 Stories that Shaped the World. And every time I see one… Continue reading Should we care about the top 100 books?
This is technically part two of my Frankenstein post which I published here on Friday in honour of the 200th anniversary of this book. But there was so much to talk about with this particular character, I thought he deserved a Never Underestimate post! Something I’ve always found fascinating about Frankenstein’s many and various adaptations… Continue reading Never Underestimate… the Igor
How can you tell if your favourite character is, in fact, a manipulative bastard? This character, for me, will forever be judged against the standards of Shakespeare's Iago. Has your character manipulated his friend into a bar brawl so he gets demoted? Convinced his wife to steal a handkerchief he later plants on said friend… Continue reading Never underestimate… the Iago.
I recently finished reading The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah. If you don't know, this is Sophie Hannah taking on the continuation novels of Agatha Christie's beloved Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Approved by the Christie Estate and written by a very talent crime novelist who I had the chance to meet at Swanwick Summer Writing School.… Continue reading Never underestimate… the Watsons
What's the most valuable tool you have as a writer? That's right, it's the 'Write your way to Success' app available on iPhone and Android for the reasonable price of £19.99. Get this app and you too could be the next Stephen King in four to six months. That's right, it's the 'Write your way… Continue reading Your most valuable tool: But why?
How many articles or books listing ‘writing rules’ have you read? How many have you read saying that you should break them? Many of you may recognise the title of this post if you’re ever watched, Friends. Rules are fun! Rules help control the fun. The Guardian has an entire page of writing rules from authors like… Continue reading Rules are fun! Rules help CONTROL the fun.
After four years mulling and a year writing, I have now finished the first draft of my steampunk novel. Whew! I have mixed feelings on it all. It most certainly isn't a masterpiece. There are plot holes, too much telling than showing and a lack of cohesiveness which makes it feel more like a string… Continue reading First draft hangover. What have we learnt?
Fiction is written by us. And what we like to see, what we cling to, is the sense that the universe will eventually fix everything. Whether that’s a god, fate or narrative causality, bad people get their comeuppance and good people get rewarded. And when we see terrible characters undergo terrible deaths, it’s okay, even… Continue reading Are your characters victims or dodgers of karmic justice?
Elizabeth Bennet by Jane Austen (as depicted here by Jennifer Ehle) One of my favourite heroines. Elizabeth Bennet is a character who has echoed down the ages purely because of how human she is. She's not at all perfect, laden with pride (and prejudice, surprisingly...), refuses to be stereotyped or dedicated to, but remains a woman… Continue reading Top 10# Female Heroes of Literature
Let me explain to you my relationship with books. I want books. All the books. I haven't got time to read them, but I want them. I'm going to buy them and worry about reading them later. They're wonderful, they make me smile. I want to be surrounded by books I don't have time to… Continue reading I can’t stop buying books. Is there a book for that?
Ever late to the party, this is one of the classics which I haven't read before. The Book Club I go to decided on My Cousin Rachel this month, partly due to the film now being in cinemas. I'm one of those people who hate seeing a movie based on a book without having read the… Continue reading Review: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
I briefly spoke about the Bechdel–Wallace test in my post about complex and powerful female characters, which you can read here. But as it's such an interesting idea, I wanted to talk about it in depth. The Bechdel–Wallace test was created by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. It first appeared in 1985 in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. Basically… Continue reading The Bechdel–Wallace test and how it can help us
We've all been there. We see a competition for a short story and we're suddenly inspired by the topic. Clearly, cognitive dissonance has already set in, because on some level we know we're going to hate it by the time we've written it. But at the first rush of feeling, ideas like fireworks are lighting your… Continue reading Without hesitation, repetition or deviation
This is a post I'd been working on for about two weeks before the new Doctor was announced, which I wrote about last week. I bumped up this post today as I think it ties in well about our changing view of female characters. Strong female characters, or the lack thereof, has been a hot… Continue reading STRONG female characters? How about we just write better.
Does anyone find that they the story, but not necessarily the book? Those occasions where a story transcends its source material to take on a life of its own. Perhaps you like West Side Story, but you’d never read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps you love Bridget Jones’s Diary, but would never read Jane Austen's… Continue reading Not all Classics are created equal
My degree was Classical Studies - Ancient Greeks and Romans. And a lot of what I learned shaped my understanding of literature. You’d be amazed at how much influence 5th-century Athenian literature has had on us, from tragedy to comedy. And probably the most famous know-it-alls of all time, Aristotle, still has a lot to teach… Continue reading Give your character some good old fashion vices
The Kingfisher Book of Myths and Legends by Anthony Horowitz You know those treasured books which have been with you forever? This is one of my earliest and most beloved books. Back in Primary school, I was a bit of a mystery to my teachers. My reading age was significantly higher than my spelling age, which made… Continue reading 5 books which have influenced me
The Busy Bee The busy bee, bright brown and yellow, Flits from flower to flower in industrial glee, With not a care in the world. Just like my neighbour, Mrs Cassidy. The busy bee, ungainly and urgent, Buzzes and bounces against glass panes, Knocking and fussing. Just like my neighbour, Mrs Cassidy. I should probably… Continue reading The Busy Bee
Around the beginning of 2016, something awful happened. I stopped reading. I wasn't sure why, but I couldn't pick up a book anymore. I've been an avid reader my whole life and it was pretty startling to realise that three months, four months, six months had gone by without me opening a new book. In retrospect, there were… Continue reading When you forget how to read
Ah, cliché. That old unwanted friend who turns up at your party, but you've known them forever and it's too much effort to get them to leave. Terry Pratchett summarised it best: Clichés are the hammer and screwdriver in the toolbox of communication. Read any 'how to write' guide and they'll tell you that clichés… Continue reading This post was six weeks away from retirement
Flashbacks and flashforwards. Why, what did you think I meant? Flashbacks and flashforwards have become a significant part of the language of modern fiction. I hadn't thought too much about until this weekend when I saw the Guardian article Bad memories: Colm Tóibín urges authors to lose the flashbacks. At the Hay Festival last weekend, Colm Tóibín,… Continue reading Is there too much flashing in modern literature?
Pick up any two guides to writing, or check out any number of blogs and you'll see 'the X elements of good story telling'. These range from three to twelve or more. And all of them are different. Hum. It's almost as though storytelling is a subjective art... I spend a lot of time picking… Continue reading Remember these four elements of good storytelling
The Guardian published the article How real books have trumped ebooks celebrating the recent and hopefully continued uptick in sales of physical books over ebooks. In this article, James Daunt, the chief executive of Waterstones makes a wonderful point about selling books: A very large part of the way I sell books has been about how you… Continue reading Forget the idiom, we DO judge a book by its cover
Recently I was lucky enough to see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead with Joshua McGuire and Daniel Radcliffe at the Old Vic. This is one of my all time favourite plays and has been for a long time. I'm a true Shakespeare nut, to the point where I literally flinch if a line is missed in Much… Continue reading Rosencrantz and Guildenstern… what happens when you give minor characters their own play
I've been creating stories for as long as I can remember. As a child, I would borrow my father's video camera and tell stories, often with props but always bossing around my younger sister (aka the lead actress and stagehand) and my impressive range of made up words like 'blustery-er'. It wasn't until I was eleven… Continue reading I’m going to start a blog. How hard can it be?