Novel ideas

I have been mapping out the characters for my new nov, The Four Matthews, using the techniques suggested to us on the OU course which involve doing very detailed profiles of each person, their physical appearance, personality, personal history, etc.  It is a useful method.  Whilst I may not end up using all of their background information in a story, it helps to understand their motivations.

The new characters I have created are grabbing me more than their previous incarnations.  I feel I can weave a few interesting plotlines around them as they trek across Shropshire and Staffordshire.

So now we have Polly and Martin, a young couple who have been to counselling and each agreed to partake in activities of interest to the other.  Hence Polly joins Martin on a walking holiday – but gullible Martin doesn’t yet know Polly’s activity of choice is to be a swingers’ party!  He remains besotted with his partner and naively oblivious to her infidelity and gold-digging tendencies.

It is fun, but also extremely daunting, being at this preliminary stage of creating a novel.  It will be the fourth one I have written since 2003 – albeit none have been published – and I still experience this same tingle of apprehension as I set out on my ‘journey’ (that word again!) across blank pages.

Whoops!!

Unfortunately I managed (not inentionally) to give my husband food poisoning during our not so romantic Valentine dinner!!!

The carbonara was nice, but the choccie rum soufflé was not.  It tasted really bland and rubbery and did not appear to be cooked properly. I only managed a couple of mouthfuls, but Nathan had a bit more (I think he was just trying to be polite).

After spending most of today in bed, and being dosed up with Dioralyte, he has just about stopped throwing up!!  Ouch.

Happy Valentine’s Day…

…you old romantics out there.  I shall cooking for my husband our traditional 14th Feb dinner (we never go out for the occasion, since every restaurant hikes their prices and crams diners in, which makes for a not so romantic atmosphere).  This year’s meal consists of spaghetti carbonara – my favourite dish – with chocolate rum soufflé for dessert.

I have been attempting to resurrect my ‘walking’ novel, The Four Matthews, which I began a year ago but abandoned when all confidence in my writing was zapped away.  It wasn’t really coming together last year, so I have replaced some of the characters and now feel happier with the direction I intend taking the story.

My research for this story has involved tracing my fictional route on the atlas and checking Wikipedia for anecdotes about the towns and villages being walked through by my cagoule-clad characters.

This could end up being a slightly unusual novel, and probably a very self-indulgent exercise for me since it is highly unlikely to be commercially published (I could never send it to that literary organisation which made me feel lower than a dog turd for daring to bother them with Gap Year, as they would undoubtedly despise it).

I intend having the eventual finished product bound, as I have done with my previous efforts, so it will at least end up resembling a book.  I will also no doubt upload extracts of it to this site.  I am going to see if I enjoy the freeing sensation of writing just what I like rather than trying to conform to a literary association’s constraints.

I am quite nervous about embarking on another novel.  I will just have to make the effort to maintain the confidence given to me by completing the OU course.

Jail Mail

I have uploaded Ronni’s Reprisal, the story which earned me 76% on the Open University course, to the ‘OU Pieces’ section.

I can’t claim it’s my best ever piece, but it is a departure from my usual light and frothy ‘chicklit’ style, and I’m glad to say my tutor rewarded my step out of my proverbial comfort zone.

For part 2 of the exercise we were asked to explain, in about 300 words, our choice of narrative point of view, tense, genre, point at which the story begins and any emotion or mood we wished to convey.  These were my answers:

Narrative point of view

Ronni’s letter to her pen friend naturally presents a first-person viewpoint.  My aim here was to ‘show not tell,’ allowing Ronni through her own words to reveal her irrational, obsessive personality and Jason’s emotional effect upon her.  Writing from Jason or Naomi’s viewpoint would not have achieved this.

The second half of the story employs a third-person omniscient narrative, to give the true version of events and refute Ronni’s deluded account.  The author is all-knowing and thus trustworthy.

Tense

The story is told mainly in the continuous past tense.  The events leading to Ronni’s incarceration have happened, but Ronni is still brooding upon them and her punishment is ongoing.

There are present-tense elements to her letter, in which she tells Paula her current feelings and interests.

Genre

I set out with no specific genre in mind, although facets of a crime story, possibly even a psychological thriller, are apparent.

I traditionally write in a humorous, ‘chicklit’ style, so this exercise was a large step outside my comfort zone.

Point at which the story begins

It begins at the end so far as the crime and trial are concerned, but at a point where Ronni is still living with the consequences of her actions, albeit in earnest denial of any guilt.

I aimed to dissect Ronni’s emotions then summarise the backstory less intimately, to avoid both repeating too much of her account and slowing the narrative flow.

Emotion/mood

I strove for an overall mood of unease, exposing Ronni’s warped malevolence, in contrast with the ‘victim’ act she presents in her letter.

I chose not to focus on Jason and Naomi, relieved and safe now their tormenter is imprisoned.  There is greater tension in showing Ronni vehemently believing a relationship existed between Jason and herself and they will be united upon her release.  One is left wondering what future threat she poses to Jason and Naomi.

Slumdog OU student

I have just received my final OU course results, which I am slightly stunned about as I was under the impression we would not be getting them until March.

I got 76% for my second assignment, Ronni’s Reprisal (which I will add on this site very soon), which means my overall mark is 76% as well!!
 
I am over the moon, especially as I was writing out of my proverbial comfort zone for my second assignment.  I said I would be happy with any mark over 70% as this is, according to my university graduate friends, apparently equivalent to a First Degree!  Ideally, though, I did not want to dip below my mark for the first assignment – and I haven’t, so am well chuffed.

I really couldn’t be happier with such a result.  I learned so much from the course, and what I will take away from it cannot be quantified by percentage grades.  I gleaned so many tips on how to write better, as well as skills such as time management and self-discipline.

I went to see the excellent Slumdog Millionaire yesterday.  It was like no film I had ever seen before, and I was truly riveted from start to finish.

Set in Mumbai/Bombay, it tells the story of Jamal Malik (Dev Patel), an 18-year-old cha wallah [teaboy] in a call centre who wins the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and is consequently arrested and tortured by sadistic police officers who accuse him of cheating.

The narrative flashes between Jamal’s appearance on the show and scenes from his impoverished, brutal childhood during which he, by coincidence, acquires the knowledge which enables him to answer the questions that land him the Millionaire jackpot.

The film is not a comedy, though has its funny moments, and there is an exciting undercurrent of unease throughout.  With the exception of Jamal, the hero, you feel as though you cannot trust any character.

There is a social history element to the storyline too; it demonstrates how India has developed over the last 20 years, into a centre of commerce and call centres.