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September 2011

August 2011

Strangers on the bus and lovers in the bed

Noel Streatfeild had a "bus test" for whether she'd developed her characters well and deeply enough: if you saw the family on a bus, would you recognise them? (If you're a Streatfeild fan that's a great site, by the way). It's obvious what the central characters - the ones Forster called round characters - in your novel need, even if it's not so obvious how to set about it. But what about flat characters? What if the world you're working with has a huge number of peripheral characters? How do you bring a bit of life to them, make us... Read more →


Thinking, introspection and spilling tea on the dog

One of the editorial comments (for which, read reasons for a rejection) which I often hear about is "There's too much introspection", or "The main character is too passive and doesn't do anything, just thinks." And although I see what they mean, I also see the writer's problem. I'd say that it's most common in character-driven novels, and perhaps it is a particular risk there, but the most recent version of this question was in fact from someone writing fantasy. The character had killed a person in self-defence, at the beginning of the novel. She must show remorse, but how... Read more →


Short-legged brunettes also welcome

You'll know by now that I don't believe in "rules" in writing, and point-of-view "rules" are some of the most discussed/agonised-over/struggled with of the lot. Jauss's exploration of point of view and distance is so persuasive that even people who are looking for rules are brought to agree that there's no inherent reason why a first-person narrator can't narrate stuff s/he can't see or wouldn't know. If you follow Jauss, though, you could write things which "break the rules": any individual paragraph may look very like sheer incompetence. So what's a writer to do? You may know why you did... Read more →