On People Watching

Hey. I’m not crazy. People watching is a genuine thing writers (and other creative people I guess) do. It’s fun. Try it.

What is people watching? People watching can be as simple as sitting in a cafe with your notebook and a pen and recording interesting things about the people around you. Something like, “elderly lady in a pink jacket with blue jeans and trainers drinks a coffee whilst reading on her smartphone” can be enough to spark off a story.  Continue reading

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Using Your Phone/Tablet To Your Writing Advantage

phone or tablet in writingAlmost everyone these days has a smartphone and/or a tablet. If you don’t have either, then I really really hope you carry a notebook around with you.

On my Facebook page a while ago I posted about making sure you always have a writing journal (which reminds me, I haven’t written in mine in ages. I think I’m just wayyyy too tired to even think about it!). But I thought I’d post today about using your phone/tablet to your writingly advantage. (Because yes, although people say we’re being “taken over” by technology, don’t you think they’re saying that for a reason? Because the technology is useful?!)

Continue reading

Using Real Life In Your Writing – Places

real life - placesLast week, I spoke about using real life people in your writing. THIS WEEK: PLACES!

Obviously, we all live somewhere. Be that in the middle of a city, the outskirts of a town or in the middle of the countryside, either isolated or perhaps in a little hamlet. So, why not use that setting in your writing? Just go out, soak up the atmosphere. Listen, really listen. Do birds make sounds? Are there lots of shouting kids, or is it quieter in a more elderly area? Look around: what colour is the sky? At night? Are there lots of bus stops? Even the littlest thing can make it seem the most realistic to your readers. Even if most of the place you live in is grass or gravel! – note it. It’s ideal if you’re writing somewhere where you live, because you can just go out if you need inspiration.

Okay, perhaps you hate it, and don’t want to write about. Fair enough. There are other places you can use in your settings.

If you’re on holiday, and you find somewhere you love, why not write about? It’d be perfect, no? Just remember that no where is idyllic, and people who live there probably hate it too! But note the same things as you did for your own hometown. Have a look down some narrow alleys where your MC might walk down to get home, for example. See what the weather is like. If you’re not there all year round, can you talk to some locals? Eat in a local cuisine shop, visit museums, shops, see where your MC might work or go to school. Yes, it sounds very long-winded and difficult, but it’ll be key in convincing your readers about the realism of a place.

If you’re writing a setting of somewhere you can’t get to, why not look it up online? Use Google Earth’s awesome Street View feature. It’s actually pretty cool, and quite interesting. Look for weather news, go on the country’s main news website, you could even find some books based in that area, even if they’re non-fiction (probably especially, actually). Check out the wildlife online. Ask people who’ve been there, if you can find anyone.

And obviously, if you’re writing about a fantastical world or an alternate universe, things are going to be a little different, but you could always try and find somewhere as close to our world as possible, like New Zealand for Lord of the Rings. If you can’t, though, at least try and think of the same things as you’d notice if you were in the place for real – wildlife, the smell of the air, the language or many languages spoken, if people interact in the street or if people only leave their homes if they have somewhere to go.

The setting is so incredibly important in writing, and yet it is often overlooked. You could even try drawing a map and plotting out everything. Perhaps just writing notes, or finding pictures (try Pinterest).

Good luck with your settings! Don’t overlook them, and make sure you’ve done all you can. If you can get to your ideal setting and stay for as long as you can, do it! It’ll benefit you greatly.

The Differences Between…

…A Short Story, a Novelette, a Novella and a Novel

Well, there are a lot of different things you can write – maybe I’ll do different poems or something soon – but I thought that, today, I’d start with the basics.

Short Stories

  • Shorter than a novel, a novella and a novelette (duh)
  • Usually narrative prose
  • Has a beginning, a middle and an end
  • Generally about 3500 – 7499 words, although there is no set length
  • Under 1000 – 2000 words, in my opinion, is called ‘short short stories’ or ‘flash fiction’ – but others say just below 1000 words
  • Tend to only have 1 climax, but maybe 1 subplot
  • Doesn’t have too many characters

Novelettes 

  • Shorter than a novel and longer than a short story
  • A long short story, basically
  • Generally about 7500 – 17499 is considered a novelette
  • Has 1 climax, and then subplots

Novella 

  • Shorter than a novel, but longer than a novelette
  • Generally about 17500 – 39999 words
  • The rules are pretty relaxed with characters and plots and whatever

Novel

  • Longest work of fiction
  • Mainly fictional prose
  • Generally more than 40000 words, but can go up to a billion words, I guess

I hope that that helps with definitions, and I’m sorry that this was so late! 🙂

Sources:
Wikipedia

We’re History…

Historical fiction has always been around, since…well, since history began! For example, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, although a romance, is also historical fiction! But how do you write a good historical fictional story?

Well, like any story, you need a plot, interesting characters, and a setting. I’ll put up a basic idea to use for the purpose of this post – how about a story about a girl who finds out that she can make the worlds in her mind become real, but there are dark forces trying to stop her (aka the plot of The Amazing Mind of Alice Makin by Alan Shea. Hey, I never said it was my idea!). We’ll start with setting.

This is historical fiction, so you need to write about a historical time: in this case, it about ten year after WWII, so about the mid-1950s. Alice lives in London, so obviously it’s still pretty wrecked from the Blitz – in fact, one of the main settings is an old bomb shelter. Furthermore, the places are put together so well that you can create a map in your head!

But also with the setting, you need to have the ‘setting’ of the time. For example, the clothes of the time, or the slang – Alice and her friends use 50s slang when they talk.

For the setting, you have to do a shed load of research. Get yourself a notebook, and use a variety of sources. For other info on research, check out this post. Use a variety of sources for this one, though – perhaps even speak to a historian?

Next up: PLOT! Now, you can tell a real history story, or you can make up one on your own. Alice’s story is fictional, but it is so well put together it seems real. Whereas, there’s a story called Bucephalus that I read years ago, about Alexander the Great’s horse – it follows his story, so, although it is fictional, it is historically accurate.

If you’re making up your own plot, the same applies as that from setting – do your research. If you write about a real event, then you really have to do your research. You can’t afford to get things wrong with the plot if it’s about a real event. If it is a real event, then also make sure you keep with the settings as accurately as possible, otherwise, even if the plot is realistic, the entire story won’t seem realistic altogether.

Finally, characters! Like with plot, you can go two ways with this – one, you can make up your own main character, such as Alice. Or, you can use a character that really existed, such as Bucephalus. If you’re using a character from your own imagination, then yay for you – free will! Just make sure that they stick with the time. But, if you’re using a character from history’s mitts, then you have to make sure you know that person as well as possible. Research on the internet; look up myths surrounding them; read as many biographies – or autobiographies, if possible – as you can; make sure you know them inside out upside down.

If you want another source for info about history, then try CBBC’s Horrible Histories. If you don’t want to watch it, then you can always read the books!

Questions? Shoot! 😀 And sorry that it was late…

DONKEY!

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Animals. Great, aren’t they? So, the big question is: why aren’t there more in writing? Perhaps it is because people do not even think of using them any more, perhaps it is because people don’t know how to write these beautiful creatures. So, how do you?

Well, for starters, they don’t talk (unless, of course, that’s what happens in your character’s world). And, if they do, have a think about if they talk like a ‘normal’ human being, like Donkey, or if they talk in one letter words, like Scooby Doo.

Secondly, they are a little bit mad, there’s no denying it. So make sure you write in that madness! For example, if you’ve got a dog, there’s no doubt that you would’ve seen them have a ‘mad moment’, where they run around like a maniac! Or a cat that hisses at nothing, or jumps about 5 foot in the air. Maybe they wag their tail so hard it takes people out, or dribble at everything. Maybe, if they’re human-like, they pull faces, or wave.

Thirdly, they are like humans: eat, sleep and poop. So make sure you write it in! Animal poop smells a lot, as does their wee, so make sure you write that in. Maybe they eat raw meat, or something disgusting (you know what I mean).

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Also, remember that, to your characters, their pets are, more often than not, their best friends! So keep your friends close, but keep your pets closer! 

Also, if your pets are ‘normal’, in our world, remember that they can be different breeds, colours, they might have scars, missing a limb or a tail. If it’s another animal, like a dragon, I guess it depends on what your world is like.

I’m not really sure what else to say. Because, like humans, all animals are different!

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How To Research

Apologies for not updating – my grandpa died recently, and I haven’t been coping very well. Also, apologies for the title. I couldn’t think of anything funny. It’s rather annoying.

Anyway. Last week, well actually I don’t know when, I made a point on why you should research. Now, I think I should tell you how.

#1 – make sure you have the materials to do so. 

As I mentioned this last week, I shall not go into so much detail about it here. Just remember to have something to write with and something to write on.

#2 – get into the right frame of mind.

If you’re not in the right frame of mind to research, you won’t be able to retain much of the stuff you learn – and, although you have it there, it’s a lot easier to have most of it in your mind. Also, if you’re not in the right frame of mind, you might not find the right stuff, the stuff you’re looking for, or you might miss the most important stuff.

#3 – when you are actually researching, make sure that you…

First offs, read the whole thing – for example, the webpage, or page of a book – first. This way, if it’s complete and utter codswallop, you haven’t recorded it unnecessarily. Make sure you record it clearly and concisely. Make sure you understand what you are writing, so when you come back to it later, you don’t have to try and decode it. And when you do record it, make sure you record everything. And yes, I mean everything. Even if you don’t think it’s relevant, it may be lter.

#4 – if you’re using just the internet, make sure you use a variety of websites.

And make sure you record everywhere you get them from, especially if it’s a big project (like, make a bibliography). This means that if you write something, and, perhaps, post it online and someone disagrees, you can refer them to the source (or if you need to, blame the source for the mistake!). Also, some websites, such as Wikipedia, anyone can edit, so there can be a lot of made up stuff on there. Make sure you always check it up against other sources! And remember: only use the information if they all agree on it, especially for things like History. Finally, if possible, get visible proof, such as a YouTube video.

#5 – if possible, use a library.

Yes, this mystical places still exist! Wow! And, yes, although they have definitely – unfortunately – declined in standard, they are still marvellous places to go for research, especially for history (just beware that new things may have been discovered in between the time they were written and the time you were reading it). Take a notebook and pen and sit down, have a good read and a browse. Some books are absolute gems, and they’ll help you more than the internet.

#6 – if even more possible, talk to someone.

When I say this, I mean someone that was there, or is an expert on the subject, like a Geography teacher or History professor. Or, as aforementioned, get someone who experienced it! For example, I spoke to my Granddad about WWII, as he was in London during the Blitz. And, believe me, I found it much more useful than looking at some old webpage about someone I don’t really know, because I could see the emotion on his face! Remember, if you are talking to someone, ask them if it’s ok to take notes (because otherwise it may look a tad rude) or use a dictaphone or a voice reminder thingy on your phone so you can listen to it back and perhaps make a transcript.

I’m not sure what else to write about research, apart from the fact that it is vital, but if you do require any more help, then please, feel free to comment below. 🙂

Also, would anyone mind if I posted some of my own writing in the future, or should I create a new blog? Thanks, guys!

And yes, I will try and do some more posts. 🙂

DO YOUR RESEARCH!

do your research

Research. A word that many, many people shy away from. “Oooh, it’s such a hard thing to do!”, “I simply don’t have time for that.”, “But can’t I just make it up?”

No it’s not, if you don’t have time for that you don’t have time to write a book, and no. No, you cannot just make it up.

Now, a lot of people do research – the thing is, they just don’t do it right. The might research the wrong things, or get their facts wrong – maybe they don’t even write it down.  So how do you research?

#1 – make sure you have the materials to do so. 

I don’t just mean a paper and a pen/pencil/quill to write it down. I mean: what are you going to look at for your research? With the internet, you quite literally have the world at your fingertips (why, thank you, Google Maps). So yes, using the internet is good – just remember that people can lie on the internet, so make sure you look at many different places for your research. If possible, head to your local library. Books are a mountain of information, and it’s most often factual correct – just try and make sure it’s as up-to-date as possible. And, obviously, make sure you record everything useful and relevant that you find out. Even if you think you might not need it, try it anyway – it could come in useful in the future!

#2 – look in as many places as possible 

Information overload. Naa – no such thing! Keep looking, looking, looking! You might think you know every Greek monster out there, but then you have a glance at yet another textbook – and, oh! You find another one! You may discover something you never even realised – or find out that the information you had always relied on to be false.

#3 – keep referring to your research

Make sure that, once you have your notes – and make sure you keep lots and lots and lots of notes – you keep looking at them, reminding yourself of them. Don’t forget them, or get mixed up and tell your readers two different things.

#4 – when you actually write, don’t info dump with your research 

Don’t tell your readers everything in one go! Your readers only need to know the necessary stuff and they don’t need to know it all at once! Let in little bits here and there, in a way that still makes it interesting for your readers.

Hope that helped! I’ll do one on how to research, perhaps, later this week or early next week.

Questions? Shoot. 🙂

Ps, I like GIFs. I think I’ll use them more often.

Villany Voo, Villany Vee

“You’d better watch out and hide in a hole, you better watch, he’s stealing your soul; Voldemort is coming to town…” 

Wazzup?! Sorry it’s been ages since I last wrote, been busy and tired. xD So, anyway; every story needs to good guy and a bad guy. And anyone can make a good guy – they just do the right thing, don’t they? But what makes a good bad guy?

Now, not all bad guys are always bad – hell, sometimes they’re never bad, as it were, they just disagree with the good guy. In story terms, by the way, the bad guy is often called the antagonist, whilst the good guy the protagonist. Geddit? Pro = good, ant = bad. Not saying ants are bad, but the way. I’m not, like, antphobic or anything…

Anyway.

To start with, a good bad guy (err…) needs a back story. What made them so evil?- or a bully?- or who just likes to disagree with the good guy? Was their brother a dick head and taught him how to shove people’s heads in loos? Were they bullied themselves? So make sure your antagonists’ back story is just as good as your protagonists’, cause otherwise the readers won’t connect with the story, let alone the characters.

Secondly, don’t make them the cliche bad guy. Like, not stark raving mad (unless that is their character), not seriously ugly, or seriously beautiful – like the typical blonde bimbo that’s dating the school jock and gets in the way of the nice girl who just so happens to be a ‘normal’ looking girl who manages to steal her boyfriends heart and get on the bad side of her. That is something that annoys me, in case you haven’t realised… Make them just as realistic as your main character.

Thirdly, make sure they have a motive, for whatever they’re doing that makes them the bad guy doing the bad things. Unless they were born that way, which I highly doubt, they’re gonna need something that made them bad. Was their mum murdered and they’re out for revenge? Are they jealous? Even if it’s the smallest thing, your antagonist needs a motive.

And even if you have a likable bad guy *cough*Loki*cough*, they still need to have the motives and the thing that makes them bad. And, like I said, even if it’s a really awful reason. 🙂

Hope that helped some people. Questions? Shoot.

– Hannah 😀

How On Earth Do You Pronounce THAT?!

Names are the weirdest things, aren’t they?

I mean, it’s like, “So, I’m going to call you this jumble of weird sounds for the rest of your life.”

But what’s worse is when they are ‘odd’ names. And even worse than that, is when you have no idea how to pronounce them. And, if it’s in a book, you have no one to correct you when you mess up badly every single time.

For example, for NaNo, in one of the stories I’m writing (my Teen Wolf fic) my main character (well, one of them – my other main character is Peter Hale who is one of Teen Wolf’s, and I’m really getting off track, sorry) is called Quinn Saharé Flax. 

“What on earth is that middle name?!” I hear you ask. In answer: I don’t know, I just added the accent on the e to make it sound like I wanted it to. My friend is called Quinn and it is one of my favourite names, so don’t you dare put that one down…

I remember before I moved house, I had never heard the name ‘Amelia’ – when I moved down and heard it, I thought it was one of the weirdest names ever. Not gonna lie.

And then you get names like ‘Hannah’ (my name, so clearly the best!) that are palindromes – they read the same back to front. Or acronym names, like my friends – his spells ‘JET’ when his initials are stuck together.

I love names, and I love choosing them. It’s so special.

How do you choose your character’s names? Is it a chore, or a joy? Or do you just pick a random name and hope that it works (that’s always a good way, I guess…)?

Cheerio,

– Hannah