Characters: Books versus Screen

Something occurred to me today, yes it’s always scary when that happens, but humour me (especially for my British spellings).  I was watching a 2019 film staring Adam Sandler earlier (Murder Mystery) and the first thing that struck me was, “OMG The Wedding Singer grew up!”

So what?

It made me think about how powerful it is to put a face to a character, a living, breathing face.  Book characters only grow up/old if:

  • the book is part of a series that spans enough time to let them age
  • the story is adapted for film or television
  • you’ve got a vivid imagination and plenty of spare time to spend on thinking about what a character would be like if they lived in realtime.

Why why why?

It’s all part of a writer’s rambling thoughts.  I’m not sure if any ‘normal’ person would consider it, or even care.  Correct me if I’m wrong!

I guess this is part of the argument from actors who turn down roles similar to previous ones for fear of being typecast.  But once a face is attached to a character, especially in a film you love, can you really detach and accept they are no longer that character many years later?

Take Tom Hanks for example; absolute legend, been on screen pretty much all my life and played a variety of roles.  With the release of Toy Story 4, he’s dong the rounds with the talk shows.  One of Tom’s characters that sticks in my mind is Walter Fielding in The Money Pit, so whenever I watch that (last week) then see him on TV, e.g. The Graham Norton show right now, I still think of him as a grown-up Walter, especially the scene with the dust sheets, paint and scaffolding.

And?

My characters are still as old as they were in the final chapter they featured in, just like classic characters I read many years ago.

Is it just me or is this strangely scary?

Prompt response: Exacerbate

In response to Your Daily Word Prompt for today, here’s a little story:


It’s not fair because everyone in my class has one

Cassie burst into the kitchen.  “What can I eat?”

“See what’s in the fridge.”  Ma glanced up from the ironing board.

Dragging her feet, with her laces trailing behind, Cassie opened the fridge door, groaned, then slammed it.  “There’s never anything to eat in this house.”

Ma didn’t respond, concentrating on pressing a shirt collar.

“What can I eat?”

“I’ll be cooking soon.  Why don’t you get changed and do your homework?”

“Because I need a laptop, can I get one?” said Cassie, much calmer than before.

Ma switched the iron off and slipped the freshly pressed shirt onto a hanger before turning to face the thirteen-year-old.  “I need a Tesla but I don’t expect to get one.”

“Stop it.”  Cassie folded her arms and pouted.  “It’s not fair because everyone in my class has one.”

“But they’re not even old enough to drive.”

“Not that—”

“I know.”  Ma continued to fold laundry.  “But not everyone has a laptop, you just think they do.”

A dull thud and scuffle came from the direction of the front door, soon followed by the appearance of Max in the kitchen doorway looking like he’d crawled through several hedges on the way home from school.

Cassie blocked his way, still focused on Ma.  “But everything would be better if I had one, like my grades and stuff.  Why don’t you understand?”

Max pushed past Cassie.  “What’s that, what doesn’t she understand?”

“Laptop,” said Ma.  “She’s not—”

“Oh that would be so cool because everyone in my class has one.  Can we get one?”

Ma picked up a pile of clothes and dumped them in Max’s arms.  “Don’t exacerbate the situation.  She’s not getting one.”

 

You can’t please everybody

I’ve been reminded once again that it’s not possible to please everybody, and trying to do so is more likely to result in pleasing nobody.  The most honest feedback you’ll ever receive is from a stranger who has no reason to protect your feelings, and that’s why online critique groups can be helpful and hurtful at the same time.

Imagine you’ve written your best chapter ever, at least, the best in your eyes.  You put it out there for strangers to critique and then question why someone picks it to bits and tells you they hate it.  First reaction, shock?  Second, hurt?  Then you ask yourself why you asked for someone else’s opinion; you’d already decided it was your best chapter ever, so what did you have to gain from requesting feedback?

It’s natural to want endorsement, but if that’s what you want, the best place to get that is from your nearest and dearest; those who saw how much effort you put in, how many drafts you rattled through and how much you need confirmation that it’s great before you can put it aside and get on with another incredible chapter.

Strangers won’t tell you it’s incredible, mostly because they won’t think it’s incredible; especially if they’re writers who have their own unique voice.  I discovered this a few years ago.  I realised that it’s natural to question writing that’s in a different style to the one you’ve spent years fine-tuning.  However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only permitted style.

After working with a much smaller group for a while, as part of my studies, I’ve just returned to my online critique group.  The first chapter I shared was Chapter One of a novel I’ve been working on as part of my MA in Creative Writing.  After an endless number of drafts and several edits, this chapter was formally assessed and graded very highly.  In my online critique group, the first person to review it wrote almost as many words as the chapter, pointing out all the things I’d done ‘wrong’ and all the things they didn’t like about my characters, settings and plot.  A lot of the ‘rules’ I had broken are not chiselled into stone or scribed in blood, they are preferences, personal preferences.  This wasn’t my initial reaction though.  Beyond shock and hurt, my initial thoughts were tinged with self-doubt.  I considered deleting the chapter so nobody else could see what a dreadful story I’d written; luckily I didn’t do anything more radical than sleep on it.

Drawing on past experience, I reminded myself that you can’t please everybody and I was just unlucky that the first person to comment fell into that category.  I still had a shadow of self-doubt, naturally.  Then I received two more lots of feedback almost back to back, followed by two more, all majorly contradicting the first one.  Sure, they had a few suggestions for things I could do differently, and I’m glad because that’s why I shared it in the first place.  On this occasion it wasn’t about endorsement, I’d already received that through my assessment grade.  Requesting feedback at this stage was about smoothing a few rough edges and making sure I hadn’t weakened it with the minor changes I’d made based on my tutor’s feedback.  I’ve certainly got something to work with, and realised that one of my changes (timing) created an inconsistency—ever seen a sunset in England at 11pm?  Whoops!  I’d best fix that little blooper 🙂

I’m now ready to share the next chapter, but this time I’m not planning to read any feedback until I have at least three reviews—power in numbers, right?

So remember, just because one person doesn’t like what you write, it doesn’t mean it’s rubbish, it just means it wasn’t to their taste.  If possible, try to consider if they are your target audience; chances are they’re not!

Above all, believe in yourself and use your judgement.  After all, it’s your story.

Prompt response: Sustain

One technique I’ve used in the past to sustain regular posting to this blog is the use of writing prompts. After not posting for eighteen months, I decided to see what prompts were available.

The top site on my list of inspirational places to check was Your Daily Word Prompt. How apt that today’s prompt is sustain! So here I am, using this to help in my mission to sustain regular blog posting.

Coincidence or not, this isn’t a good response, is it?

I could also talk about my inexperience of using the sustain pedal on a piano. Yes, that’s one of many things that has been taking up my time because I swapped my trustee keyboard for an electric piano six months ago.

close-up of a piano

I now have three pedals, one that dampens, one that sustains the key(s) pressed at the same time as the pedal, and the amazing ‘sustain it all’ pedal (like I had for my keyboard)—the one that gives everything more oomph. The problem is that despite playing for many years, I’ve never learned to read music and have no idea how to use the pedals properly.

How else could I answer this prompt?

  • Writing romance requires my characters to sustain relationships.
  • Studying creative writing means I have to sustain momentum to meet deadlines.
  • ermm…

So how would you address this prompt?

Wednesday Waffle – Crime Investigation Plotting

In the past, when thinking about where I was on the plotter–pantser scale, I considered myself somewhere between 50% plotter and 75% pantser—making me a borderline plantser (to those who believe in plantsing).

Thinking about it now, I was probably closer to 70–90% pantser because although I had some idea of where I was aiming, the process of getting there wasn’t mapped out in any great detail.

Just after I started studying my (in progress) MA in Creative Writing, I began to develop a new story; one where I needed to demonstrate some level of plotting, for the purpose of assessment. It was a process I needed to get my head around. It was also a process that taught me that some stories actually need plotting.

Stepping over the line to try something new

This was my first exposure to writing a crime investigation.

Starting with the knowledge that a crime was going to occur in the first chapter, I didn’t realise how much detail I would need if I was adopting the POV of a detective. I needed to decide who knew what and how the investigation would weave, uncovering clues that would allow readers to play along.

It was time to go all out with spider diagrams, flowcharts and timelines.

I hate to admit it but I actually enjoyed the process, starting with a premise and fleshing it out on a chapter-by-chapter and scene-by-scene basis—slotting the stages of the investigation into a wider narrative.

For the first time, despite only having detailed drafts for the first four chapters, I know what’s going to happen in every future chapter. So, on this occasion, I can’t deny being a closet plotter.

Where do you sit on the plotter–pantser scale?

Stepping through a time vortex

One minute it’s 2017, ticking over to a brand new year, and no sooner than the calendar flips to 2018 I find myself stepping through a time vortex and landing in June 2019. What the hell happened? WFS, that’s what happened! It’s a bit like WTF, but more important.

Work

Yeah, okay, the full-time job kinda melts away the hours. It also pays for the roof that shields me from the rain—after all, it is the start of Summer in England.

Family

These are the guys that drive me crazy and keep me sane, both at the same time. The teens are cool, you know, down wid da kids an all dat, or sumthin. The man, yeah, he’s da man. The dogs are as mad as ever, but my magical bunny passed away—and it still hurts every single day. She had this calming influence on me, and her excitement over the craziest things – like a bird landing in the garden – inspired me to see magic in everything. It’s hard to do that without her.

Study

I have a habit of over committing, agreeing to take this course or that, almost always related to work. This changed during 2018. I finally decided it was time to study something I truly loved—wouldn’t have just given up on study, obviously. I’m now half way through a Masters in Creative Writing, and loving it. Work and previous work-related study had starved my creative mind, dried up the ink in my pen and deprived me of my made-up worlds and made-up friends. I now have an excuse to write about stuff that doesn’t exist!

As well as fiction, I’ve been dabbling with scriptwriting, which is completely new to me but thoroughly enjoyable. I’m now in the process of deciding what I should study for the second half of the Masters, more long-form fiction or some more in-depth work on script. Neither the head nor the heart can decide. Watch this space!

Leaving the time vortex behind

WFS can be full-on, but I need to reawaken this blog, to share what I’m learning. There’s so much I didn’t know, and probably so much more I’m yet to discover I didn’t know. Thought verbs and psychic distance, yes, I knew about these but had no idea they actually had names.

I’ve returned to the critique community, keen to continue developing the stories I’ve been working on over the last year. I’ve now got four novels on the go, different characters, different genres, varying tenses and POVs. Something tells me I need to work on these one at a time, so that’s what I’m doing.

Anyway, that’s me done for the day. Watch out for the occasional flash fiction or short story, and maybe, just maybe I’ll squeeze in some of my random waffles (remember underwear and language? They were the good old days, eh).

The Magic and Curse of Christmas by Angela Guidolin – Day 21 Advent 2017

I love how this turns out

Solveig Werner

The Magic and Curse of Christmas by Angela Guidolin

Day 21 Advent 2017

When I was a child in the ’70, my parents had just started their own ice-cream business. To me, it meant not seeing much of them, having a few toys to play with (that sometimes my mum was forced to give as a present to other children if we were invited to social events like their First Communion for example), and clothes handed down from older cousins.

Christmas Day was a rare occasion to celebrate, and the anticipation for the family reunion and the chance to play with my cousins filled me with joy. Not to mention the expectations for the gifts I would find under the Christmas tree at my granny’s! However, delusion would quickly set in as my presents came always with the caveat, “For today and for your birthday but it’s so big!”

Yes…

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