Five facts: Madcap Library

27/06/2014 12:51

I was tagged on Facebook in a fun game to share five facts about my current main character, and I thought you guys would appreciate it too! I’m currently writing Madcap Library stories, so you get the Sloth…

1. He’s currently employed as a duster at the Madcap Library, exact location unspecified. Previous jobs include doughnut taster, Portable Hug Dispenser, and accidental lookout for a gang of bank robbers (don’t ask).

2. He originally wanted to be a pilot, but fell asleep during the selection process. He has since discovered that there are other ways of fulfilling his speed addiction, but he keeps the flying cap and goggles because he might need them.

3. His favourite food is hibiscus flowers, as it’s the Sloth equivalent of chocolate.

4. After a minor incident involving long claws and the banisters, the Sloth joined the Bark Scratcher’s Society, as it keeps his claws trimmed (which is why you will sometimes see deep grooves in the bark of trees). The subscription is fairly expensive but is happily paid for by the other members of the Library Staff, who like their clothes left intact on the frequent occasions when they get hugged by Duster.

5. The person he would most like to meet is Kelly Brook, as he thinks she would be exceptionally huggable. The Head Librarian fully agrees with this point of view.

There you go! I am being tagged quite a lot in writing games, so I will have another post coming up shortly on Things I Write…

Some thoughts on characters

11/05/2014 21:04

News first: I’ve passed by six Green Sky stories on to my editor/publisher for reading – she’s already given me thoughts on Green Sky (can someone remind me to do a post on them?) but I’ll get thoughts on the rest back in a few weeks – scary!


So, characters. This came about because I was talking to a friend today who has problems writing characters: he has the world, but struggles to put people into it. Although my advice earlier wasn’t quite as coherent, I’ve had time to think, and here’s my list of things I can think of that could help:

– Write someone real. Pick a scenario, and drop them into it: pick a friend, put them in a box, and see what they do. Our variation was “what would happen if X found themselves locked in a house?” Answers included have an argument, hide in a corner, decide on a sensible course of action then do the opposite, and smash a window – any of which would make a good story!

– Write fanfiction. The characters and the world are already there: pick a side character, and write their voice and their story.

– Write yourself. If you’re not sure your life is exciting enough, write something you want to happen – write that date with your crush, write the journey you want to make, write that day you want to have. Write yourself as the hero, write yourself as perfect, write what you really want to say and do even if you’d never really do it. The important thing isn’t writing a good story or an exciting story or even a story that you’d show to anyone else. The important thing is to be writing.

– Write a scenario. For example…a deserted campsite. Where is it? Why is it deserted? If there’s dead bodies all over the place, why? And then drop a character into it: if I suddenly walked out of the woods and into this campsite, what would I do? What would [pick random action hero] do? What would [film character] do? What would you do?


And this got me thinking: how do I write characters? I tend to have two methods. The first is to start with the character, usually based (vaguely) on a real person. The second is to start with a snapshot, an image, and then work who the character is from there. 

I admit, I find it hard to use real people: I don’t know exactly what they’d do or say or think, no matter how well I know someone. My friend also argued that he didn’t like the idea of manipulating someone, even in his mind. However, if you’re not happy making up characters, use someone real at least to start with. They will change and mutate based on your story: I keep an image of someone in my mind, even if I don’t conciously try to write them – they somehow come through, and the voice somehow works (don’t ask me exactly how), but I don’t aim to write the person themselves. And then I drop them into my world, and see what they do! In Catter’s case, he fell in love; in another case, my character killed people. Both are in-character – if extreme – for the person they were based on.

Writing a scenario is closer to the last option on the list above, except I usually have a person already involved. Desert Sands is a case in point: my starting image for the story was of someone, running through the desert. So who are they? Why are they there? What are the running from, or for? Which world is it? Where do they fit in to the rest of my plot and storylines? I admit I have the luxury of already having a world and plot up and running, but the snapshot image is as good a story-starter as any other.


I’m not sure how coherent the above is. Thinking about how I write, and how to help other people write, isn’t really something I have done much until recently! It tends to make my brain hurt…

Merry Christmas and human stupidity

25/12/2013 17:49

First, Merry Christmas! For us, it’s a day off – we do one lot of family on Christmas Eve and the other lot on New Year’s Day, so it’s a nice break with just myself and Jon (and the Lizard, who is extremely grumpy today). For anyone who’s having a family day, best of luck…


Second, I’ve been thinking about writing – this happens quite frequently – and today, the world of choice is Greensky. I was plotting weapons last night from a standpoint of electricity, rather than gunpowder – rail guns! spud launchers! tasers! flamethrowers! – but I started thinking about the amount of powder needed, and what would happen when Meton exceeds its current storage space. They have mountains behind the city, so would they move into those? A hollowed-out cavern filled with capacitors would be amazing.

One of the places in the mountains is Treloolir, which is the centre of magic (roughly. I’ll simplify it for those that haven’t yet read the story). I could work it so that Toru, who has an attachment to Treloolir, uses that as the new base for his electricity workings and the storage space the city needs. It could become an engineers’ place, full of mechanics and electricity and new things.

And then I thought…waitaminute. Treloolir is somewhere that most Mages can’t go, due to the sheer amount of magic. It would mean that the engineers are effectively blocking one specific group from seeing what they’re doing – when they are making things (like flamethrowers) that could do exactly what the Mages can. They would be making rivals, making challengers, making the Mages obsolete. And if I was a Mage in those circumstances, I’d be utterly paranoid. The simple location of the facility could create a division, a paranoia; a split that would divide first Meton, and then the world. It would put science and engineering on one side, and Mages on the other – even if they didn’t want to be. Over a generation, as the new technology exploded into the world, it could be catastrophic.

Would anyone really be stupid enough to do that? Is there any way it could not work out like that? Is there any way that magic and technology could sit side-by-side? I mean, it always would, as the magic won’t fade – Mages will continue to exist. But would they continue to exist in the same positions, the same roles? What would technology do? Would there be a war (which is entirely possible), or a lot of distrust and hatred, or could it co-exist peacefully? In the current world, magic is assisting technology – Toru’s flying machine needs a Mage at the helm to provide the ‘engine’. If magic and technology could work together, the results would be very different. But that isn’t possible if the inventions are created somewhere that the Mages can’t get to…

There are plenty of examples of the stupidest little decisions exploding into horrible consequences; Northern Ireland, large amounts of the Middle East (Israel for starters), bits of Africa both in the Colonial era and modern era…it is entirely possible that an innocent decision to relocate somewhere with more space and more stone could have unforseen consequences.

And finally: is it really something I want to continue thinking about? At the moment it is simply a train of thought, a following of ideas in my own head. I love my world – do I really want to put something that horrible into it? Do I really want to write those divisions in, and follow the tiny decision by Toru to its conclusion?