Category Archives: Writing

Where do character names come from? Is that me?

Phil: Where do the names of your characters come from?

I was idly flicking through Jack the Station Cat and the Snail Trail recently, when I spotted that one of the characters was Mr Parker.

That’s odd, I thought. Could that be me?

I’m not sure when author Alan Cliff wrote this book, but we have corresponded by e-mail a while ago on one of his non-fiction books. Maybe he was searching for names and our chat inspired him to pluck mine out of mid-air.

I suppose I could ask, but I think I’ll just stick with the warm feeling that it might be me.

 

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Don’t forgot the support

Candice: I was pondering the other day about those people who do all the work in the background to keep us entertained.

I’d spent a very long day mainly sitting in a room having random conversations with people I didn’t know and wouldn’t see again.  No, I wasn’t waiting for a job interview but waiting to do some work as a supporting artist or extra.

I meet the most interesting people when I do my extra work.  One of the last jobs I did I worked with a Bollywood star, a property magnet, a judge in training.  Plus those who do background acting as a full-time job.

Being an extra doesn’t pay well, the hours are long and you often get treated like stupid sheep – herded from place to place and told when you can eat and go to the loo.  But it also gives all of us a buzz being on set, hanging out with semi-famous and famous people and then getting to watch yourself on TV or the big screen. I’ve always said that there is no other job where I would get up at 5am, sit around for hours, be treated like I am thick, and get home for 9pm for peanuts in cash.

But these are the people who keep our favourite shows going and make them believable.  There are a whole host of people who do TV work, or write for the love, not the money or fame.  And we if didn’t have all those people then the world of entertainment and escapism really wouldn’t work.

Phil and I definitely fall into this bag, as we haven’t certainly become millionaires from our writing but we’ve had fun along the way.  And the same is true of my TV work.  But I can say to my daughter, look that’s Mummy on TV. She still doesn’t really understand it at the moment the connection between the two, (though we did watch a ‘making of’ programme the other day for a TV show she likes and then she watched the actual show and was talking about how the doors weren’t real). And that’s something, plus my books that I can always have to say – that’s mine, I did that and I’m proud of that.

So lets not forgot all the unsung background people, pretending to drink and chat behind the main shot making it real and never being acknowledged or the thousands of writers out there creating something that a small number of people get enjoyment from.

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Giant vegetable news: Life follows art.

The pièce de résistance, though, was a costume he had borrowed from the local amateur dramatics society. Many years ago they had presented a series of plays to local schools promoting a healthy eating message and for part of this the cast dressed as fruit and vegetables. Thanks to their attempts at tackling obesity, the roof of Oswythal House was surmounted by a giant cabbage waving a bed sheet covered in brown marks.Kate vs The Dirtboffins.

Phil: Our book opens with a protestor dressed as a giant cabbage being thrown from the top of a building. (Spoiler alert, he’s fine).

I thought it would be a funny idea, after all, cabbages are amusing, aren’t they? You certainly don’t want to eat them, or at least I don’t.

Last week, what do I see on the news? A man dressed as a giant stick of broccoli for a protest!

 

Oy! Get your own ideas!

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Writing to keep your head in check

Computer study exasperation colPhil: Last week saw World Mental Health day. As you’d expect, there is the usual trite advice about it being OK to not be OK (try telling your boss and see how far that gets you), or to ask for help when you aren’t feeling right.

All well and good, but ask who?

The NHS? They don’t have nearly enough money to provide these services. The Samaritans? They will chat, but there aren’t usually any answers. People you know almost certainly have enough on their plate to need your troubles.

Nope. In the real world, you are on your own. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

First up, read a book.

I’m rubbish at getting away from it all. Unlike my friend, I don’t really do holidays and when I do, I’ve still taken me with me. If I can get into a good story, however, I can properly escape for a while. Reading engages my brain so it can’t do any of that spinning that it does when left to its own devices. The book needs to be a real page-turner and if I’m honest, something light and enjoyable. I want to see light at the end of the tunnel. There’s also the satisfaction of seeing the bookmark work its way from front to back – visible progress which makes me happy.

The other option, which we’ve been working on ideas around, is writing things down.

We’ve both found that writing empties dark thoughts from your head. More than once recently, I’ve had things rattling around my brain and stopping me sleeping. Turn those thoughts into an e-mail, you don’t even have to send it, and I feel a lot better.

Blog posts, and even scribbling in notepads work just as well. The key is the process of forming your thoughts into words.

A longer form novel provides both the satisfaction of a project that makes progress and a world that you are in control of. Many mental problems stem from a feeling of a lack of just that control, well you are the author, you make the rules. You can even be autobiographical if you want and visit revenge on those who cause your woes. Probably better not to publish this, or at least change the names though!

We’ll be looking at this again in the future, but in the meantime, if life is getting to you, write it down. You’ll feel better for it.

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A twisted last post?

Phil: This might be my last blog post. I may not get the chance to write another. The reasons should be clear by the time you reach the end.

Sharing books can be an enjoyable thing. You find yourself presented with something you might not have chosen yourself. Maybe even a complete genre that had previously passed you by.

I’ve never been into books which involve people getting killed. I know they are called “thrillers” but I like to read for escapism, and that generally doesn’t involve me being reminded that I could be killed randomly just because some loon wants to send a message to someone else – usually a detective. I mean, why can’t they just pick up the phone and dial 999? Maybe send a text, or even a postcard?

Anyway, the latest novel to come my way is Twisted by Steve Cavanagh.

I wasn’t really intending to read this but found myself short of books, and I quite liked the orange and black cover which is a bit stylish.

By the end, I enjoyed it. Not just because I found some matching colour cake either.

The plot is confusing. Apparently, the novel is written by JT LeBeau, a mysterious and very, very successful author. Or is it?

You see there are twists, turns and red herrings aplenty.

Halfway through, you think you know what’s going on and the whole thing turns on its head.

By the end, we have an author who is a killer, and a woman with nice shoes lying on a beach.

Now, I know a woman who has nice shoes and is partial to lying on a beach. How far would she go in pursuit of said shoes and sunlounger? Has she got a list of previous writing partners that I don’t know about, all of whom have disappeared in mysterious circumstances? Why does she keep giving me books about people being murdered?

If you don’t hear from me again, please send flowers. And cake….

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Cunning idea – The newbie

lonely lake/office chair, prescott, AZPhil: My writing other half started a new job this week. We met up in her last week of “freedom” and among other things chatted about the joys of being new at work.

This gave me an idea. Not one I can use at present, so I chuck it out there.

Writing from the point of view of the new person anywhere would provide an excellent vehicle for explaining a location to a reader.

Think about it – the reader is also new to the job/location, so everything going through the newbie’s head is the same as that in the reader’s mind.

OK, perhaps they don’t have the same “Where’re the toilets?” anxiety, but new people, a strange office to navigate around, unusual rituals at break times (does everyone go to lunch together?) and a thousand other questions need answers. There’s also the whole cliquiness of workmates to consider – who gets on with who?

The more I think about this, the more I remember why I hate changing jobs!

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The great speed writing challenge

Phil: You might know that my job involves (cue eye-rolling from Nolan) writing and editing model railway (Candice: Toy train you mean) magazines. You might even know that currently, Channel 5 is running a TV show called The Great Model Railway Challenge.

At the mag, we thought it would be a great wheeze to write a summary of each episode, to be published as soon as possible after the show airs. It’s something that many newspapers do so they can pretend not to be interested in a reality show whilst grabbing as much web traffic as they can from leaping on the bandwagon (I’m looking at you the Guardian).

The problem we have is that no previews are available to us (The producer said no) so the job has to be done fast. Really fast.

Now, I quite fancied having a go at this so volunteered to give it a try.

Thanks to the joys of the web and catch-up telly, I had a practice run on an episode from the first series. It was hard work, but I wasn’t unhappy with the results.

I’m now two episodes into the current run and it’s still hard work.

As I watch the show, I take note of anything I think is worth mentioning. That’s 6-7 pages of scribble in my notepad. Scribble I hope I can read in a short while.

I also start typing during the advert breaks. You know how you wish they were shorter? Not me, I’d be happy with lots more time.

At the end of the show, I stick it back on catchup while I finish the first draft. Having the episode play away in the background keeps my memory fresh and augments the scribble. With the first draft finished, the whole lot is run through Grammarly to pick up the really big boo-boos and also allow me to re-read in a different format. After that, it heads off to our editor who has agreed to proof it properly. We did try to skip this step, but it turns out that you really can’t see something with fresh eyes when you’ve been so deeply embedded in writing it, at least not for a couple of hours, so a lot of rubbish slips through.

While the words are being proofed, I’m collecting screenshots to illustrate the article. I’ve noted down some times on my pad and use these as a guide, but always find others.

The end result, so far, has gone live about 90 minutes after the 75-minute show has finished.

You can see the results for episode 2, appropriately enough for this blog, with the theme “Classic Books”.

I’ve never done anything quite like this before. I have to write very fast, try to be interesting AND witty. The process is very intense and I’m glad it’s only once a week. By 11, the show airs at 8, I’m shattered mentally.

Still, this is an interesting challenge and it’s fun to do. Perhaps we all need to really stretch ourselves once in a while? Who knows what we might find out?

 

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