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Dickensian characters

DickensianPhil: Bit of a catch up post this time. I’ve been meaning to write about the BBC TV series Dickensian for some time but all the book stuff got in the way.

I’m not big on TV series as a rule. Years ago, everyone in the office I worked in was watching “Heroes“. We enjoyed it right up until the end when the plot fell apart and great disappointment ensued. Since then, I’ve never really bothered keeping up with telly stuff.

In the run up to Christmas the BBC heavily advertised their new show. The idea was to take a cast of mostly minor characters from Charles Dickens stories, stick them in a small area of London and off we go.

Dickens aficionados were doubtless horrified but I suspect the man himself would have been perfectly happy. He knew how to write popular stuff. Stores were serialised in print with readers eagerly buying each issue as it appeared.

I had an advantage in that apart from “A Christmas Carol”, I don’t know many of the original works at all. I could enjoy the characters unsullied by notions that someone was ruining a well-loved original story.

Even the first gripping storyline, who killed Jacob Marley, didn’t annoy me. In the book, Marley dies in his bed but here he is murdered by the docks. Does it matter? Not a huge amount. This is almost fan fiction. Suspend disbelief and just let the story move on. At least there is the splendid Inspector Bucket, “Of the detective” and the only actor other than Alistair Sim to make a decent job (in my mind) of playing Scrooge.

Actually, you had to like this because the first episode was full of people who all looked a bit the same but once the Whodunit thread clicked then it was easy to concentrate on it while gradually learning about the other characters. Very clever writing drawing you into what could have been a complicated set of plots without the viewer noticing.

Taking characters written by another author and using them in your own story is surely a compliment. I’d be dead chuffed to find Kate & Co. turning up in stories we hadn’t written. This will take a few books and perhaps the first feature film to happen – after all you need to be immersed in the world of KOD first.

On-line reviews of Dickensain have been largely positive. Professional review were less kind but these were usually written by someone desperate to show that they had read the books and could only accept a pure approach. Me, I enjoyed it immensely and would recommend you look out for repeats or DVDs to binge watch.

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Important advice for the wannabee writer. Write non-sucky books.

Phil: From John Scalzi’s blog post “How to Build a New York Times Bestseller (or Maybe Not)” where he explains how “Redshirts” climbed the NYT bestsellers list. There’s some good advice for those of us who aspire to doing the same thing. Point 3 is my favorite:

I wrote a book that didn’t suck. A commercially successful book does not necessarily have to be well-written, but it doesn’t hurt things if it is. Redshirts is well-written — or, perhaps more accurately, it’s written in a manner which is easy for most literate humans to read, with efficient prose and a light, speedy style that rewards swallowing the book in big gulps rather than sipping it slowly. Even more simply put, it’s designed to be fun to read, and to read fast. These are fine qualities for a novel to have when one is hoping for commercial success.

Read the rest of the post here.

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