Tag Archives: charactersdoingstupidthings

Playing with Voice

So, this came about thanks to a suggestion from Adrian on his blog. I am struggling for voice in my 1920’s necromancy – I just can’t get it to sound right, to feel right; it won’t flow. So he suggested playing around…

~

“Dash it all, sister,” the young man standing by the door said, perusing the invitation he’d been handed by the postman. “What the devil do you think she wants?”

“It’s a social invite,” a light voice said scornfully. The speaker didn’t appear to be in the room, but the voice came from the young man’s vicinity. “Afternoon tea is a suitably nice affair that you could be invited.”

“Why has she invited me?” The young man ambled over towards the table that filled most of the room and dropped the embossed square onto it. “Afternoon tea! Lord. It sounds a bore.”

“Or she’s just unwisely disposed of someone,” the light voice suggested, “and she wants you to speak to them?”

“Sister!” The young man stood up straighter, his dark brows knitting. “Dash it all, watch your tongue!”

“You have to admit it’s likely. Why else would she invite a necromancer to afternoon tea?”

“I hope you won’t speak that unwisely if I do accept the invite…”

“And you are going to accept,” the light voice said decisively. “It would not do to decline.”

“These teas are such a bore.” The young man flung himself into the nearby chair and kicked one toe at the carpet, which was starting to become threadbare. “I can’t eat, you do all the talking…”

“Well, you can’t decline. It’s an invite from Lady [X].”

The young man stretched out a hand and picked up the invite again. “Tomorrow. Well, I suppose I’d better write back and accept. But it’s going to be a rotten bore.”

~

There is no good way to get a summons from the mafia, even if it is an invitation to afternoon tea.

The young man stands in the centre of the dusky room, scowling at the square of embossed card he holds in one hand. His dark hair is cropped to his ears, his jacket missing a button, and one sock is in danger of sliding down his calf. The room around suggests that he takes more care with housekeeping than he does with his appearance, but it also bears signs of regular use; worn floorboards around the large table in the centre, a locked cupboard against one wall with inlaid sigils of protection, and an entire wall of bookshelves containing well-thumbed books. In short, the rather worn young man matches his surroundings – although the scowl on his hawk-nosed face does not sit there lightly, and suggests that it is not as well-used as the rest of the man’s features.

“Well.” The light voice drifts into the room. “At least they were polite.”

“They are sending a car for me.” The young man’s lips shape the words almost absently. “They want to make sure I attend.”

“And you’re going to, of course,” the lighter voice says sharply as the young man sighs. “What did you do to come to their notice?”

“Nothing!” The young man casts the parchment at the table and watches as it drifts aimlessly onto the floor instead. “I have never even met Lady [X] or any of her family.” He bends to pick up the sheet. “Do you think she wants my services?”

“It’s a social call,” the lighter voice says thoughtfully.

The young man straightens and drops the invite on the table, catching the corner with one finger as it drifts again. “An invitation to afternoon tea does not exclude her talking business.”

“Then she has disposed of someone, and requires you to speak with them.”

“Sister!” The young man frowned. “I beg you, do not speak in such terms.”

~

I will be one of the first to admit that my brother is useless in most matters except necromancy, in which he fortunately displays a talent that surpassed – and surpasses – my own. However, in matters of society, etiquette, and – dare I say – the heart, he is something of a fool. The matter of the invitation from Lady [X] was no exception.

He failed to open the invite when handed the envelope from the postman, and instead stood, staring with a most gormless expression on his face, as if the parchment itself would tell him what was contained within.

“Are you not going to open it?” I asked, with some acidity.

He did so, thankfully without further chiding, and we perused the contents. An invitation, by Lady [X], to afternoon tea no less!

“Well, you must attend,” I prompted after a minute of silence.

“What do you think she wants?”

“It is a social invitation,” I snapped at him. My brother’s fancies often take the wildest turns, and I consider it part of my duty to ensure he refrains from daydreaming at inopportune moments. However, on this occasion, I considered that he may have accidentally hit upon a salient point. “She may wish to discuss a matter of business with you while you are there, however.”

“Then why on earth invite me to tea?” My brother sat down gracelessly in one of the chairs surrounding the large table, throwing the invite onto its surface.

“So that she should not be subject to the gossip that would come if she were to invite a mage to the house, and so that she may discuss her affairs with some discretion!” At times I despair of my brother, for he has no sense of social niceties at all, and indeed seems to take pleasure in embarrassing me at every turn with his uncouth behavior.

“So she has had someone killed, and needs me to talk to them.”

“Brother!” I snapped, horrified. “Even if Lady [X] were to consider such a matter, I highly doubt that she would sully her hands with such business!”

“Oh, come off it, sister. You know that she married well, and his money has gone to her ends. Even if you are in ignorance of her business affairs, I am not.”

“I am certainly not,” I snapped, wishing my cheeks would flame to burn out some of the mortification I felt, “but it certainly does not do to discuss it! She is a social paragon and if she heard you speak of such things-”

“I wouldn’t get invitations to afternoon tea,” my brother finished with a certain air of glee. “All right, all right. I just don’t see the point of sugar-coating it, sister. You must be practical. You’re going to be the one doing the talking, anyway.”

“And I consider that a great relief!” I snapped, still mortified. My brother’s silence during public events, and the necessity for me to speak for him, is possibly the only redeeming feature of the whole affair – and, I suspect, the only thing that has saved my brother from social ignominy thus far.

~

I think the last one is my favourite, although it screams more Regency to me than 1920’s, which is unfortunate as I do feel Regency has rather been done to death. Anyway! I’m going to keep playing, and see where I end up…

Writer’s Block: Going Back To Basics

Well, it’s not exactly writer’s block. It’s a feeling that this novel is not the one I want to write; there isn’t a yet a story I can tell. It’s missing spark. I’d be able to write it, sure, and it’d be ok.

And that’s the problem. I don’t want to write an ok novel. I am not in the business of “meh”, darling!

So. Adrian and I had an informal Cake Club meeting last week, as Sophie is chaotically busy with maps; and we ate too much Yorkshire pudding, talked over Adrian’s (lack of) editing progress, I got all of his gossip…and then we spread my novel out, metaphorically, and played with the pieces.

It’s missing a spark? Then one of the bits needs flipping. Something needs adding. Sure, you might have a lot of the pieces – but something just ain’t quite right.

Adrian was picking apart themes, and we settled on a strand of life/death. So…ghosts? Zombies? One of my second themes is essentially WW1, so can I use that existential dread to wind into the horror and enormous impact that the war had on citizens and soldiers? I’ve also got a nice line in necromancy, so ghosts would work well there.

Another strand was looking at tropes. Zombies have been done to death (hehe) but could they be flipped somehow? What could be taken as a baddy that hasn’t been done in my context? What’s the polar opposite of a Tudor society, and can I incorporate it somehow? What would really scare the people of that society – and us?

And a third strand was thinking about voice. Adrian prefers to look at overall voice – after all, you can twist the same character into many different styles – but I have to start with the characters. I had someone I wanted to write, but…could I change them? What voice do they have? What setting do they fit into?

And actually, I might have something there…

It’s all still ideas at the moment; I’ve got a lot of wool, and I’m going to have to wait until I find a thread I can pull that will let me knit the rest up. This is a frustrating point in writing, as I really do just have to let it settle out! I can’t force the ideas; I have to let them come.

But it certainly gave me things to think about!

Motivation and Getting On With It

I was trying to work out today what motivates me to write. I’m in a bit of a slump at the moment – I’m not feeling inspired and struggling to motivate myself, despite having time to actually write (and read, and research…)

It’s not finishing something. That’s great, but it doesn’t give me a satisfaction, doesn’t give me a buzz; it’s just another step, because I know that even if I’ve finished something, then I’ve gotta send it to a reader and then edit and then re-edit and then…it’s just another step in the process.

Wordcount doesn’t motivate me, either. It always feels too close to the NaNo 50k or bust thing; it doesn’t matter if they’re good words, just words. And frankly, that just annoys me, because if I write shit words then I’ll just end up rewriting, so what’s the point? I can appreciate that it’s good at some stages of a writing journey, but for me, I’d rather not write than write shit that I’m just going to have to redo later.

Ideas? Sure, I have a few things that I think “hey, that’d make a great story”…but unless it’s there, it’s got the inspiration behind it, then it just sits. I’ve got quite a lot of snippets and odd fragments of story that have never got further than that “hey, that’s a cool idea” stage.

So what does motivate me? I guess, as far as I can work out, it’s getting the voices out of my head. It’s writing a story that needs to be told. I can have a great idea, but it needs to live. I need the characters in my head. I have no idea what the process is that puts them there, but it’s something I try to make sure I have it when I write.

So…at this stage, I guess the best I can do is just keep going. I’m re-reading my work in progress(es), trying to see if I can continue with any of them even with my current slump. I think there’s one that I can continue, so…

This freakin’ sucks. But hey, such is a writer’s life with a screwey brain. Some days, I have everyone shouting in my head – other days, I just get tumbleweed.

All of the possibilities

So, I made the mistake of asking two of my writing friends what they thought my next book should be. I outlined a few plots, and then…

Well, we had an hour-long discussion – aka. they tore my ideas to pieces – and we went off on tangents including spinal fluid, Regency, superheroes, Brighton Pier, love stories, killing people by burying them in sand, and the importance of alcohol. Yeah. Writers are weird.

The major issue that I had with the story was that it lacked a pull; the protagonist didn’t really have any reason, any stake. In addition, we decided the story needed a twist; sure, standard plots are fun, but what you really need is the “ok, that sounds normal….what?!” moment when someone hears your tagline. So together, we came up with a roughly workable idea based on this original concept, and I’ve been refining it. I’m currently in the thinking stages – it always feels like I’m not really doing anything, and I have to resist the urge to start writing. But I need the time; I think as I’m walking, and as I give it the time to expand, it grows and twists.

I throw out ideas, too, and throw them in, and mix them up. My characters change; a group? A city? One person? A love story? What would tell my story best, what fits the world, what lets me have fun? The entire thing is malleable, and in many ways, this is the most fun part – where entire plotlines change because I suddenly want to add something, or I throw out whole ideas because something else works better. It’s a frustrating and a fun stage.

I’ve got scribbles and notes, and I have a feeling that I may try this for my 2017 NaNo; I should have a rough plot by then, and have my world figured out. But at this stage, the whirlwind includes Romeo & Juliet, castles, mafia, alcohol, death, necromancy, robots, romance…

The ideas are just bouncing around!