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Thursday, 28 June 2012

My First Short Story

I wanted to share with you the short story I wrote for university back in December. The task was to translate a quote from a famous Adorno and Horkheimer quote into a creative piece. The quote was about everything being cyclical in the entertainment industry. It only appears to change because the details are interchangeable.

I hope you enjoy! 

“Monotonous!” He tossed the script to one side and took another from the stack that had grown larger and wider every day since his first movie was a box office smash. No further than a few lines in the script was dropped to the unwanted pile of talentless hopefuls. “It’s been done already.”
       “You have to read them properly Michael.”
       His hand hovered above the next script, his eyes devouring the silhouette of long lean limbs. Candice, the swimwear model and heiress of channel 6 who’d attached herself to him on the day he arrived in Hollywood, prowled cat like towards him. Not that Michael usually minded her possessive nature. She had curves in all the right places and looked pretty darn good dangling on his arm at all the parties he had to attend.
       “They’re all the same” Michael dismissed “it’s like I’m reading covers of Unchained Melody, Puppy Love and American Pie here.” He lunged for the stack of disregarded scripts and one by one began tossing them towards the orange blaze of the open fire. “Take out the twenty-first century gadgets and gizmos and you’ve got yourself the same stories from ten, twenty, thirty, fifty years ago.”
       “You don’t know that when you haven’t even read them, they could be originals.”
       “Nothing’s original anymore”
       “Michael, that’s someone’s blood, sweat and tears” Candice stared at him “It used to be your blood, sweat and tears. Where’s your compassion for these people?” Her big brown eyes pleaded with him “I don’t know who you are anymore but you’re not the man I fell in love with”
       Michael picked up the next script. “You know where the door is.” He opened the script, listening to the sound of her heels clicks against the marble floor as she walked away.
       He continued to flick through the scripts, tossing each one towards their fiery grave. Candice didn’t know what she was talking about. He was the Oscar winning director. He was the one who’d made fifteen box office smashes. He could open any one of these scripts anywhere and find the plot predictable and boring. Proving his point, Michael selected a random script from the centre of the pile and opened it a third of the way. Within moments, he found himself absorbed in the plot and flicking back to the beginning. This was a film he was going to direct. It was another potential Oscar nominee.
       “Sir” He hadn’t heard anyone enter the room “there are two police detectives here to see you.”
       Michael put the script down and stood up as the house keeper showed the officers through to the lounge. “Detectives, how can I help you?”
       “Sir, you’re under arrest for suspicion of embezzlement and tax evasion.”
       They would freeze his assets, his bank accounts. He would have nothing and no one to rely on. That dirty rotten scoundrel he’d had doing his accounts since he started freelancing. Michael felt the cold metal of handcuffs tighten around his wrists and stared at Candice carrying a suitcase down the stairs. She’d warned him the toad was cooking the books and Michael was going to take the fall. He was going to lose her because he hadn’t listened to her.
       “You were right about my accountant, about so many things, Candice, and I was wrong.” He murmured “I’ll understand if you leave me now.”
       “It’s a good job I still love you” She sighed, rolled her eyes as she shook her golden curls.
       Michael smiled back as the officers led him away. He was a fool.
       “And ‘Cut’!” A voice boomed over the crowd “That’s a wrap people!”  

Yes, every cliche known to man was deliberate. LOL!


Posts you may have missed:

Novel Extract - Tainted Love 

Book Review - The Long Lost - By Patti Larsen 

Power Struggles in Fiction - 50 Shades of Grey Areas  

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Are You A Character Driven or Action Driven Writer?

I found this interesting post about whether you're character driven or action driven as a writer...  and well to be honest I can't make my mind up! 

I love my main characters to be complex

They have intriguing backstories that make them who they are and why they have come to be where they are at the starting point of my novel. One of the couples in within the Valentina Secrets Series I've tangled up the age old scenario of "Oh no, I have a crush on my best friend". But I've take it to the extreme where over sixteen years friends and family have speculated about the nature of their friendship and that one night  where they've always asked "well, did they? or didn't they? they probably did". I've complicated it further by having one decide to move from New York to Los Angeles on that very night in question. So did they? 

I'm also very character driven because I like to listen to my characters. I like them to tell me what's what? when? how? why? ... you know, I see their world through their eyes. So if things change its because they want them to. An example of this is Tainted Love. When I set out with Faith McKenzie I knew from the Valentina Secrets backstory she was married for twenty years and she had two children, she went on the run for three years, found a man who convinced her to stop running, get divorced and to live happily ever after. But it was Faith who told me she has five children and a step daughter through her second marriage. 

But... I also like my drama...

I open When In Vegas with a slap in the face marriage proposal rejection live on national television. Tainted Love with the words "you have to promise me something, promise you'll tell no one what you're about to read" and Life's a Ball with a hell raising argument between  Elle and her married ex-now-business associate and she's caught by her boss.

So I've also learn that pre plotting is important in this game. I need to know where my characters are starting from, what path I plan to walk with them and where we're aiming for. It's good to work out the kinks before we start on this journey and any detours along the way are easier to manage. I'm not aimlessly floundering waiting for the next big thing to happen because I already know. That doesn't necessary mean the path doesn't change completely.  Characters grow and develop over the course of the novel. When we set out on the path the complexity of the journey and the detours we have taken may alter the ending. So I'm not too ridged as long as their goal is achieved. The original ending of When In Vegas just didn't feel right for my characters so I changed it. I gave Ashleigh everything she wanted... only she realised it wasn't what she wanted any more.  

But I don't think this necessarily means I'm one of the lucky ones ...

and I can write both Character Emotional Development and Dramatic Action plotlines. It's just the way I approach my novels. I get to know my characters and I get to know them well. I get to know my story and I get to know it well. Then I write it.  


Monday, 18 June 2012

50 Shades of Grey Areas

The 50 Shades Trilogy has stirred a few debates in my world recently about the messages we send as writers. It's been a hot topic because of the power struggles/control/abuse themes and I'm opinionated about them because I cover these themes in Tainted Love and Mr Know It All.

I was greatly disgusted with what was presented to me as a vulnerable and innocent girl surrendering herself into a relationship, agreeing to be tortured/abused and thinking he would change because some guy said he loved her and with the happy ever after of him actually changing... This is not responsible fiction! But I decided if I was truly going to comment on someone else's work... I should have the decency to at least READ it!  

Firstly, let's get to the truth ... this is a love story. Typical girl meets boy, girl and boy fall in love - have A LOT of sex, of both the kinky and the vanilla variety. Girl and boy fall out. Christian declares he doesn't want his BDSM lifestyle any more; he wants Ana. and we learn more about Christian and his fifty shade of f*@#ed up as well as Ana's insecurities. Its actually a bloody good love story and even if you skip through the scorching hot scenes its worth a read. Hence, no spoilers. 

Now to the messages, I was told this book was about an innocent girl willingly entering into as relationship with a man and allowing him to torture her because he loved her, thinking he'd change for her, and then he does. I had red mist steaming from my ears a la cartoon character. This is not right. This is not ok. And THIS is not responsible fiction writing!

Words have power and as writers we should be aware of the subconscious messages we are putting in the hands of our audience. Its fiction, you say, its only for entertainment. But when dealing with something as sensitive as relationship power struggles, control, abuse, and to some extent here, the reasons some people make the lifestyle choices they do, I think we should be more aware of what were saying to our readers. 

I was upset by the rumoured story line of 50 Shades because abusive relationships are easy enough to get into already without telling readers that its okay to get into them. And they're hard to get out of. Very hard and it usually means the victim gives up everything to get away. The issue I had with the happy ever after is that leopards don't usually change their spots, and it takes years and years of therapy for it to happen  in an abusive situation. That's why I had to read it. 

50 Shades of Grey Areas  

Christian has some serious issues and chooses this lifestyle because the them. In fact, All of Ana's perceived threats who "like it rough" have some serious issues in one way or another. So even though the psychiatrist says its not a psychological disorder its a lifestyle choice, the author has made all the people who engage in BDSM (bar Ana) completely nuts! Well ... ? What are we to draw from this? the reason people choose this lifestyle is because they have emotional and psychological issues?...surely not.... Hmm... grey area.

I'm concerned by the glamorisation of the BDSM activities within the book. Ana as a newcomer in this world is naturally curious. She explores with an experienced partner and finds it incredibly ... um, satisfying shall we say. However, it is a dark and dangerous world and you only have to watch TV programs such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to find out just how dangerous. This book will and probably has found its way into the hands of the sexually inquisitive. What might happen if the inexperienced were to explore this world without guidance? 

Of course, I'm not saying that you can blame the book for anything that might happen, although I guarantee there will be people out there who will. The author ensures Ana looks at what she's getting herself into, she asks questions, she knows Christian hurt someone in the past and therefore he is capable of hurting her but ... my point is the sexual pleasure/pain line is thin and E L James makes it appear attractive.  What happens when crossing that line isn't nice? There are very serious consequences which were not addressed by this trilogy. I'm discounting the boy and girl fall out scenario, which is weak in comparison to what I'm talking about here because they make up and they continue to have really great sex. Well, don't they in almost every romance novel?

Christian is an overbearing, overprotective, over the top, jealous, controlling millionaire. Ana will not do everything he tells her. She argues with him, she challenges him. But she always seems to bow under his pressure. He distracts he with sex when he's done talking. He buys her gifts she does not want and she ends up accepting them. She's confused, intimidated and scared of him a lot of the time. (Can I point out that in my research for Tainted Love and Mr Know It All that I have found these behaviours are also signs of an abusive relationship.) So here we find ourselves in another shaded grey area and its an issue that wasn't really addressed. An issue that asks is it okay to be in this kind of relationship and to be made to feel this way just because I love him and he loves me? To be honest.... I don't know. and in my personal opinion I don't think anyone who hasn't been there themselves can answer that question.  

You know, I could ramble on all day...  but I stand by my point, (or rather Annetta Ribken's point) WORDS HAVE POWER. Even if we're unconsciously aware of what we are writing at the time we should think about the messages we're sending as we send them. Art is Art we shouldn't ever censor it. But we should talk about it and never bury our heads in the sand also known as "Its fiction... its only there for entertainment"


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Can You Explore A Character's Backstory Too Much?

I recently posted this question on facebook and got a resounding...  YES!! The majority has spoken. Okay, it was only 3 people who replied however, I admire and respect their opinions and they all said YES! ! !

So, I'm going to give you a little back story myself...and the reason I was pondering this question at all. It seems when I get started with a character, once I've outlined I know where they're going and we've started the journey I've planned, they'll tell me something fascinating about something they've done with/for someone else they know. Its only a line or two in their story. Its only something that appears maybe once or twice but its there... they've inticed me... now I want to explore it more.

I'll give you an example, last year when I begun a new work in progress. My male lead had given up his career and moved LA to rescue his sister from an abusive husband. She was his motivation for being in LA, working an unfulfilling job and having a life that sucked. His sister.  And of course her life was now wonderful, she'd achieved her happy ever after. He'd fulfilled his purposed for being there. That was it for this part of his backstory. Its relevance? the rest of the plot play out at her wedding.

This January, I sat down and really thought about my work in progress, about about the main characters and the web of threads that had developed. There's not one, not two, but half a dozen stories to tell and these are just the characters I've found fascinating.

So going back to this sister ... how did she get out of that bad marriage? how did she find her way to happy ever after? that can't have been an easy path for her to walk. So along comes a new love interest who of course had to have a massive conflict with her situation... another back story for me to explore and what do I find? Another half a dozen fascinating characters each with their own stories to tell.

The thing is ... when I went to the source of his conflict and I wrote about the source of his pain. I learnt so much about who he is and why he the person he is now that I wonder...

If your eyes capture every detail anyway and it's your brain that ignores the images it doesn't need is it possible for it work that way in writing too? Is it a bad thing to delve deeper your characters world with them? 


Posts you may have missed:

Novel Extract - Tainted Love - June 2012

Never Say Never - June 2012

Your Character vs Your Genre  - Jun 2012

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Novel Excerpt - Tainted Love

I'm very excited about my latest working in progress.. Tainted Love. Its part of a new series I've begun about what happened behind the closed doors of the McKenzie household and its effects on the children as adults. 

I've been  eager to share an extract for a couple of weeks... I hope you enjoy it ! ! !

Chapter Nineteen

The next time Cal lost his temper there isn’t a word to describe or explain it. I mean, things were the best they'd ever been... in our marriage, at the practise and in school. Our life could not have been better. But this time he wasn’t shouting. The entire neighbourhood could hear him roar I’d done this to him on purpose.
And when he started throwing things? Well, I knew I had to calm him down somehow for Caleb and Georgia’s sake. They were terrified. He’d lost it. He couldn’t see what it was he was tossing or where it was going. I hadn’t spoken I’d simply touched his shoulder.
“You stupid fucking bitch! How could you do this?” I don’t think he realised what he did or how hard he did it. But as he shook me off he threw me across the room.
I knew at that point I had to get the kids out of there. They wouldn’t leave me and I'd never forgive myself if he hurt one of them. I stood on the front porch pleading with them to go. But they shook their heads.
"Georgia, please" I begged "Take Caleb, go watch a movie or play in the arcade. I promise I'll be fine" They shook their heads again. "Dad's just really angry.”  
“Why?” Georgia asked “What did you do?”
“Nothing” She glared at me “It was an accident.” It was certainly a shock and I think maybe he thought we were too old for something like this to happen. Still I didn't expect him to take the news so badly. “We need to talk this through and we need to be alone to do it, alright? He's never hurt me before. He's not going to start fifteen years into our marriage."
How had I managed to calm their worries? I was terrified to step back into the house knowing all those times Cal had hurt me when he been less of a rage than he was now. I could have stayed there all day. But we need to sort this out and we needed to do it before they come home.
So I watched and I waited and I held on to the terrified expressions on their young faces and I let that draw out my anger and it translated my fear and it fired me up inside until they were well out of sight and then... I went inside.
"Don't you ever do that to me in front of the children again!"
"Get rid of it!"
What? How can he say that? He knew I wanted a bigger family. How could he play me like this? Tell me yes then no then yes and now no again. "'It' is a life you and I have created during what has been the best year of our marriage."
"If this is how you'll speak to me after I've treated you with nothing but respect—” Nothing but respect? I gaped at him. He was the one who had an affair! You know, just because we’re having a great relationship that just doesn’t go away and it hurt as much as today it did the day I realised he was having one. “—then maybe I should start treating you like the dog that you are!"
What?! What a bastard! How dare he speak to me like that? I’ve put up with a lot of crap from him in the last fifteen years and have I complained? No! Well I was about to give him a taste of his own medicine! Let’s see if he liked it?
"You can treat me however you want behind the closed door of our bedroom Calvin but never in front of our children. I don't want Georgia and Caleb to see you like this. Don't you remember telling me you weren't this man? You weren't your Dad?” His eyes narrowed and his pupils darkened with the mentioned of his father “Don't you want to protect them from that too?"
He grabbed a fist full of my hair. His nails scrapping at my scalp as he dragged me through the house. I tripped on steps on the stairs as he took them two at a time. I didn’t dare speak. I didn’t dare make a sound as his knuckles forced me head first along the hall. I held back the yelp fighting to be let go when he shoved me through our bedroom door. 
Oh god! This is what I asked for. The privacy of our bedroom. Oh god! What was he going to do it me?
“Now” He threw me to the ground. The carpet burned against my bare legs as I skidded and  crashed into the closet. Pain sliced through my back like a knife blade. "I do what you want" The bedroom door slammed shut. "You do what I want.” He towered over me. “Do we understand each other?”
I didn’t trust my voice to speak. I tried to stop every muscle from trembling at his feet. The fear of what he’d do next shook in my bottom lip, triggered tears at the corners of my eyes. My mouth was dessert dry. I couldn’t swallow. He was going to hurt me. It was going to be worse than it had ever been before. I nodded and closed my eyes. I waited for it.
The door opened and slammed shut again.
It was a few moments before I realised it wasn’t a trick. He actually left the room. And heavy sobs started to gulp at the air. We’d been making love before the doctor called two hours ago. We’d been so happy. I didn’t understand this. He said it wouldn't end his world like it used to. How could he do this to me? He said more children would make him happy? How could he say so many horrible things? Why couldn’t we talk about this? 
I didn’t move from the spot where he left me. I wrapped my arms around my legs and buried my head in my knees and I cried.  He loves me. I know he loves me. So why does he hurt me like this? 


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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Your Character vs Your Genre??

 There's hot debate in my world at the moment about the messages we writers are sending and while I am greatly opinionated to one side of the debate I'm going to save that for another day.

But it's really got me thinking about what we're doing with our craft.

You spend time with your character. You build their world, their hopes and their dreams. You then go and turn it upside-down and then leave it... how?? Well, that depends on your genre.

Everyone knows the first rule in romance is we all live happily ever after ...

em,well, no we don't actually.

And there's nothing more annoying than reading a fantastic novel with an excellent character-driven plot to reach a point where the character JUST WOULD NOT DO THAT!!! whatever "that" maybe, especially at the end.  Ergo, Book meet Wall ! ! !

When I was writing Life's A Ball? and when I created my main characters - commitment phobic Elle and her long time secret admirer Adam - THEY wrote their romance to the point where he convinced her their love was the real deal. Yes, of course, I shattered their happiness into a thousand tiny shards of glass because I'm evil like that. But when it came to bringing them back together... Adam would but would Elle? And I'm not going to tell you how I ended their story, like I said I'm evil... mwahahaha!

My point is just because the genre dictates a certain stereotype, You know your character, You're their best friend... would THEY do what you're expecting them to do? Besides who says you can't be different? who says you can't break the mould? I find if listen to my characters its always my best work.


Monday, 4 June 2012

Never Say Never

Last summer I bought three books by the same author. They weren't my usual romance sub-genre but the back blurbs sold them really well. However I never finish the first chapter of the first book. There was nothing wrong with writing and I can still remember the detail and the scenes fairly well. But the main character drove me up the wall. I hate 1st person prose! Seriously, it drives me nuts. And if the characters too whiny, or too over the top then you've got no chance at getting me passed the first chapter. They were all 1st person prose so I gave them away.

Its one of the reasons I don't read real life stories, those books found on the shelves marked 'painful lives'. Although my reading world is full of hearts and flowers. Where prince charming gallops up on his valiant steed, he sweeps the heroine of her feet and together they ride off into the horizon towards the far away land of happy ever after. So I admit I couldn't face anything THAT real.

I also have an aversion to biographies. Maybe I'd have more interest in them if the market wasn't littered with the current trend where every celebrity young or old thinks its necessary to tell their life story. The teenage singing sensation? But you're 16? How can you have filled an entire book? Those famous for being famous you're everywhere what can you tell me that I possibly don't already know? Yes, I do stop. Breath. Then remember that what is presented to us in the media is not everything. But these books are sold like chapters and it really hacks me off! Yes its your life and I'm sure you think its fascinating but please don't be offended when I don't waste my money!

Any hoo...

If you've read my previous posts, I've been talking about growing up as a writer. To grow as a writer you have to spread your reading wings and do things you may not like. The strangest of things is... I discover an author who wrote a character in 1st prose that I really really loved. Suddenly I can read 1st person and its rare does it drive me nuts. 

One of my own character's back story took a me into a rescue a mission found in one of the real life stories. Now I have not one but at least a dozen stories to tell. They're not all dark and twisted. But I did have to research and face those 'painful lives'. (Gawd, I hate this phrase! Whatever category it falls under its still abuse!)

I was recently recommended a biography.... Stephen King's On Writing. I think its the only one I'd have ever touched...well, is it really a bio when he's giving a master class in writing? It's a delight to read, laugh out loud funny, with lots of tips for the aspiring- ha! for ANY author. I know I'll read it more than once. 

So yes, I've fledged from the safety of my contemporary romance nest, and I am enjoying the new experiences this flight has brought. Romance is who I am and who I will continue to be ... although I'll never say never again.


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The Legal Bit

All characters have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation to anyone baring the same name. They are not inspired by an individual known or unknown by the author and all incidents are pure invention.

The articles, excerpts, and other written work published under the pseudonym Erin Cawood are copyright protected by the author. Guest articles are published by arrangement and also copyright protected by the guest author.

Images of Erin Cawood are provided by Paul Miguel Photography.

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