Sunday, 28 October 2012

Belly Button Fluff - Poor you if you've got none.

We are who we are. Statement of fact.  But as individuals, do we really know who we are? Are we aware of the traits that irritate the hell out of some and compel others towards us? I’d suggest not. Thank God!

If you think you truly know yourself, then I’d venture you’ve spend too much time naval gazing and whilst you might have the cleanest, fluff-freest belly button on earth, I won’t want to know you. Not only are you unnatural (not a sin in itself) but you are most likely the most boring, pointless person alive. That’s the real crime.

Faults shape us, like the facets on a gem, they reveal the flame within. Without faults to distort perfection and refract light you’re about as interesting as a pane of glass without a view—of any kind.
This relates to writing, how?  Well, nothing is more deadly than reading about the piously angelic, Ms or Mr Perfect, that’s point one. Point two is if your heroine/hero has faults and flaws, then they are unlikely to be aware of them.  Keep your story real. Make sure your characters flow with blood not ink. Too much introspection on the path to self-knowledge is just not authentic. It’s also filthy boring for the reader.

A lack of self-awareness sparks friction, you should be able to feel the rub of sand against sand in the interaction between characters as they blindly bumble through life, trying their best, but largely getting it wrong.
 Not that people can’t change, they do, they grow (not necessarily towards sainthood) but only in response to some trauma or challenge. Something they don’t like, something that disrupts their peace of mind and prevents them from getting what they want, now!  Even then, it’s more a compromise than an outright change of who we once were.  If you have a stinging temper and your current love interest reacts adversely, then the chances are you’ll try and dull the sting. That’s not self-awareness, that’s compromising to get what you want, but the temper that is a part of you will still hold strong and there are times, even in the happiest of ever afters that it will out.

If you’ve written a bitch or a bastard, chances are they are going to stay a bitch or a bastard. But in romantic fiction the reader expects someone to fall for the lead characters regardless.  And  if, as a writer,  you’ve done your job properly, the reader will love them too, flaws and all. 

If I’ve got this right, then a story spins more on convincing reaction than long term changes in personality.  Maybe that’s why series are popular. Readers go back to see how their old friends are faring handicapped as they by flaws, within a new dynamic.

Got a view? Then come on, rub some sand.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


                            HARLEQUIN MILLS & BOON
...that’s right, the organisers of this global writing competition.

Now given I entered, it might seem the height of bad manners to fork through what’s on the plate rather than consume gratefully but this post is less criticism and more a reality check .

Key Point:  The way the voting works, SYTYCW is less a test of writing ability and more a test of social media use and ownership of devices (you can vote more than once as long as you do so from a different device).

It’s a popularity contest in other words.  Got enough family, got enough friends, got enough followers, got BIG ENOUGH BALLS to tout shamelessly your entry across the e-universe and you should go through to the last 25 regardless. (In addition, the organisers choose 3 ‘wild card’ entries which, they believe, merit attention.) Lucky 28 contestants.  Well done! That upward streak is your profile on the rise.

To the remaining entrants, don’t worry about not placing. It is not a reflection on your talent but do learn to e-network (even if only with other writers).  There are some superb opening chapters buried deep in e-silence, if yours is one of those, don’t give up.  Cream rises.

Actually, no-one should give up.  Your ability to write, your skill at engaging a reader from the get-set-go, your future potential, has not been tested. Not in a meaningful way. Not under this voting system.

And why is HM&B the overall winner?  Free publicity.  $$£££$$$ worth of it. They have gifted nothing they would not otherwise have given, albeit by another means and under different circumstances (the slush pile).

Is this wrong? Nah, it’s marketing-smart and integrity often takes a hike when protecting/growing market-share takes to highway.