Thursday 29 September 2011

The Best Speech in 20th Century Cinema*


*according to me.

Monday 26 September 2011

The New Apple Imago – does everything!


The problem with technology is it makes life too easy – for your characters. Your smart phone connects to the internet, records video and has GPS - who needs a watch with a garrote or a pen that fires darts? Never mind the Aston, James, here's my Ford Lacuna that parks itself and never gets in accidents. 

Thursday 22 September 2011

A staggering work of no importance whatsoever


So I’m walking into the house with my shopping, and the neighbour says, Hi, and I say Hey, how’s it going, and the neighbour says, Well, Nick is swimming now, he loves it, he was terrified of the water at first but he’s taken to it like a fish... The question is, do I care? No? Why not? And, what would it take to make me care?

A story is like your kid. You brought it into the world, you helped it grow, everything about it is fascinating to you. But why should anyone else care? Obviously they care about their own kids, if they have any. But they also care about some kids they’re not related to, so why not yours?

Monday 19 September 2011

The Reversal


The Reversal is a technique when things appear to be going one way, but they end up going another. It helps stories avoid being predictable and you can use it to subvert clichés. It also pulls the reader deeper into the story.

In its most familiar form a reversal is a plot twist, usually big and important. You thought the murderer was Dave, everything pointed to it being Dave. But it was BILL!

What you can do though is use it in a more simple, subtle form, to keep a reader engaged and wondering what will happen next. This is especially useful in genre fiction where readers who are familiar with the form start guessing what happens next and rapidly lose interest.

Thursday 15 September 2011

The Story Equation


They say there are only 22 variation of plot. Actually they say there are seven basic plots. Well to be honest it comes down to three types of story: this guy does something, this girl does something, or this thing does something.

When you come right down to it, every story has a formula. They all follow the same basic pattern: beginning, middle, end. Even when some bright spark decides to reinvent the wheel, all they’re really doing is leaving bits off or switching them round. But you can still see the same basic equation at the heart of things. Formulaic writing is seen as a bad thing, but this formula is far from simple.

Monday 12 September 2011

Chapter One: Rosemary's Baby


The latest genre in my series of Chapter 1 Analyses is horror. Rosemary's Baby was written in 1967 by Ira Levin, and was made into a hugely successful movie. It is a supenseful supernatural chiller set in a modern city with a cast or urbane characters. It is not an out and out blood and gore type of story, but it is horribly effective at getting under the reader's skin.

It is quite short at 195 pages. Chapter one is about 8 pages. There will be spoilers.

The opening lines are:
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse had signed a lease on a five-room apartment in a geometric white house on First Avenue when they received word, from a woman named Mrs Cortez, that a four-room apartment in the Bramford had become available.

The opening is not particularly scary. In fact the whole first chapter is about the couple trying to get out of their lease and move into the Bramford. The actual story doesn’t start until they become residents, and the novel could easily have opened with them moving in. So why didn't it?

Thursday 8 September 2011

First Campaigner Challenge


My entry for the First Campaigner Challenge. I will be doing the rounds checking out the competition.

Write a short story/ story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open”. 

Monday 5 September 2011

Anxiety > Curiosity


The reader should want to know what happens next. The drive of curiosity is one of the main factors in what keeps those pages turning. But anxiety is a more powerful emotion than curiosity.

If I said I was curious to know the results of my blood test, that would be different to if I said I was anxious to know the results of my  blood test. And that anxiety is what keeps me sat by the phone waiting for the call (I’m fine, all tests came back negative).

That’s not to say you should always go for anxiety over curiosity, it’s depends on specific context and intention, but it should be a deliberate choice and you can only make that if you understand what it is your choosing between, and how to achieve each.

The main difference between the two is this: with anxiety you have to be aware of a possible bad outcome.
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