This is an area where I'll post thoughts on writing, tropes analyses, books I've read recently, etc. It's mostly just my writing toolbox!
At The Collarbound’s launch, Jeanette Winterson started the event at Blackwells by asking about originality. She asked why I set the story in what was, in effect, a ‘school for wizards’. And yet, she went on to say, the story is different from what’s been done before, and quickly brings us somewhere strange and unexpected. Why did I choose to set it in a place so instantly recognisable, then?
It's a question I have often pondered, and one that a lot of aspiring writers, when starting on their project, also worry about – why write a story if it feels as if it’s been done before? Read the full post here.
When I was a teenager, I read every book Amélie Nothomb wrote. In the French-speaking world, Nothomb is a superstar author. She writes surreal short novels (which would probably be called novellas in the UK) which deal with some repeating themes: cruelty, beauty, ugliness.
Truth be told, after a while, I started finding Nothomb repetitive, and stopped following her closely. But she is still publishing, still well-loved, and to this day has a book coming out every year which is generally met with great acclaim. I believe it’s worth thinking about what makes a successful novel – or, in this case, a successful series of novels. Read the full post here.
I think the books I love best manage to blend narrative and concept: the story is fun, and the ideas behind the story are thought-provoking. But fiction can’t explore ideas in a straightforward, analytical way, as a non-fiction book would. Today, I’d like to look at how to create a story both entertaining, yet with depth. How to explore an idea or a concept, sometimes a complicated concept, and unpack it through fiction in a way that is engaging.
A good example for this is Hard to be a God by the Strugatsky brothers (Arkady and Boris). You might have read or heard of their novel The Roadside Picnic, adapted into the film Stalker. Read the full post here.
"If it's bread,
call it bread!"
Orson Scott Card
When it came to writing a fantasy culture, the question of which language to use cropped up. I am lucky to have friends as nerdy as I am, who also have a specific interest in languages. They recommended using the same language group for the same fantasy culture. The language group the fantasy words are inspired from can help give the world a flavour, a tone, which sounds consistent.
A good example for this is The City & The City by China Miéville. If you haven’t read it, the novel is well worth the read, if only because it has such seamless worldbuilding. Read the full post here.
In Defence of Fanfiction
One way of engaging with an author’s work once you’ve finished reading it – a way which appeals to me as both a writer and a reader – is to write fanfiction. I’ve recently learned that the longest piece of fiction in the English language is a fanfic: a 5 million word epic set in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. It took five years to get this far, and the story is still going.
Here’s the thing: I love fanfiction. I rarely write it, but I love reading fanfics of works I enjoy. I’d find it the ultimate form of flattery if someone deigned write a fanfiction about one of my books – and, if that were the case, I’d want to read it. Out of curiosity, and to share the love. Read the full post here.
A Wealth of Mentors
I have discussed mentor figures before, but here I’d like to delve deeper into why I love writing mentors. I realised, as I was working on The Collarbound, that there is a wealth of mentors in the story. Rather than the traditional old man who dies at the mid-act climax, I have three characters who mentor Isha. They all fill different roles.
Sir Daegan is a mage who represents the establishment, the power ruling over the Duskdweller kingdom. He is, very obviously, an evil mentor. Without being cruel or unhinged, he is someone who doesn’t wish Isha well. Read the full post here.
Story Time & Narrative Time
For those who haven’t read/watched it, Haikyu!! is about volleyball. I never thought I’d like a sports anime, and even less so about volleyball. I care less about volleyball now than I did when it was compulsory for my sports exams, and I let you imagine how much it mattered to me then. So I dallied and did other things and watched the trailer twice and still put off having to engage with it, until finally, I gave in and watched an episode.
And I loved it. I binged the 4 seasons of the series in a matter of days after that. Because I cannot leave media I love alone, I spent ages thinking about why Haikyu!! is so good. Read the full post here.