5 Reasons Writers Should Read.

Keep reading as you write.

As a tutor, I always remind my students of the importance of reading. Whether you are writing novels, blogs, scripts for film, tv radio, game or theatre as well as non-fiction even for work, you should be reading what everyone else is doing. So I’ve put together some writing tips, 5 reasons why reasons is important as a writer.

Reason One.

Book stores know what sell.

It’s give you an idea what is out there. The chances are if you by your book from a store, it is more likely to be from a publishing house. Meaning a team of experts have deemed that this book fitted in with current trends of what the reading public want. If you intend to sell you book, then this is a huge help. Not just in knowing what is fashionable, but where you book could fit in and with which publisher.

Reason Two

Reading helps you to develop you own style. Like when as a child you watched a parent or adult cook, you learn how to do the basics. As an adult in your own kitchen you add your own twist to the recipe. That’s exactly what reading as a writer does.

When you start out writing, you just write what comes into your head. No thought is out into what ingredients you need and the quantity, , you simply throw is all in!

The more you read you will pick up on nuances of dialogue, delve deeper into characters, notice the plot turns and twists and where they start to develop. It improves you grammar and language skills. Never a bad thing!

Each writer has their own Writer’s DNA, it comes from who you are and how you got there, making it pretty unique stuff!

That same DNA, effects our interpretation of books. This is what makes up your writing style, so keeping reading!

Reason Three

This one is my favourite, RESEARCH.

The Long Room,Trinity College Library

For any writer, you SHOULD be researching. It doesn’t matter what you are writing there should be an element of looking stuff up.

Let’s start with location. You decide to set your story in a place you have never been. So how do you it’s suitable for your story? How will the characters react to their environment? How will it help your story progress? Science dictions writers haven’t been to the moon, but they can read about temperatures and conditions, they can read science and technology journals to understand what we can currently achieve and what we hope to achieve, with a writers imagination you can take this further!

I love to read up on psychology, I find it a great way of developing intriguing characters with realistic flaws, such as the habits of a stalker.

Don’t let NOT researching limit what you write!

Reason Four

Expand your horizons.

Reading is one of the best tools for doing this. Whether you want to learn a new skill such as writing for film or learn about Restoration Theatre (my current expansion project), there is always an expert on the subject who has already written the book. Not sure where to start? Your local library can help or try a social media group will probably have lots of recommendations or you.

And finally,

Reason Five.

Question Time.

Reading a novel as a writer should make you want to ask questions.

Did you enjoy the story and why?

Where all the characters believable? Did you empathise with them and their situation?

Where all the loose ends tied up when the story ended?

How did the story make you feel? Were you eager to turn the next page?

Would you recommend this book to someone else and why?

I’m sure you can think of lots more questions, your readers will.

So start thinking like a reader when you write and keep asking questions of your own work.

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Fly me to the moon or Mordor.

Not Mordor, St Michael’s Mount Marazion. Cornwall.

Location. It’s not just a place, it’s a character.

As a child did you have that special place where you hid out in a thunder storm? Or a place you returned to at every opportunity for adventure?

I did. Back in my hometown there is a man-made lake, with a wooden bridge that takes you over from one to the other.

Southport Marine Lake and the Victorian Venetian bridge.

It wasn’t the bridge but what I called the islands. Back in the late 70’s/ early 80’s these where overgrown with bushes and shrubs, that had natural hollow dens inside them. Perfect for the young girl seeking an adventure with her trusty bearded collie.

I convinced myself there were mine, collecting the rare piece of litter that had the audacity to spoil the landscape, hiding from adults and families in the summer, like some lost runaway, with a book under my arm.

I don’t have my own private island (maybe one day!) but the importance of that location is till with me.

We were partners in crime. It held my secrets. It was a huge part of my life every opportunity I had.

When writing location in your stories you need to add the relevance to the main characters., what is it and why are we here.

Make your place feel real, dynamic thinks of the great fiction canon’s, from Wuthering Heights and the moody moors reflecting that of Heathcliffe. The moors set the tone throughout.

The landscape of Modor and the Shire are at odds with each other as they should be because each one involves a different part of the hero’s journey.

Your characters need to react to their location, inhale their surroundings, watch how it challenges them and sense when it’s safe and able to protect them. Location is personal.

Like with every part of your story, flip it! Make it unique!

Not only will your setting change over distance but the same one will change over time.

Has the place you grew up in remained the same? I know mine hasn’t, parts that were important to me have disappeared become shops and fast-food restaurants.

Southport sea bathing lake then.
Southport now.

Research an area, notice the changes and think how has this affected your character? What stories do they have to tell. Has it changed their opinions, their outlook?

Most importantly see the landscape through their eyes.

It doesn’t matter if your place is real or totally made-up. The attention to detail needs to be there. Take a page from Tolkien, and draw out a map for your setting. Add important features or prominent places.

For the August challenge Day Two, think of a place that holds a special meaning to you. Write it down in great detail. Now do the same with your story location, through the eyes of your character.

Whether it’s the moon or Mordor make it memorable.

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The Writer’s Garden.

Have you ever wondered why you seem to be so busy yet you have nothing to show for all your hyperactivity?

Even a child will stop to smell the flowers.

As a writer, it’s easy to get way-laid with inspiration, this is what I believe is the REAL writers block. Not a lack of ideas but too many you loose focus. Each one bringing its own excitement and reason for going down that path.

By taking a minute to evaluate and ‘smell the roses’ see what you have accomplished so far, then stand back and look at the whole garden. You didn’t plant everything in a day, you focused on one area then moved on the next.

The same needs to happen with your writing projects.

Focus on one at a time. Set your goals to complete the project, then treat yourself.

You deserve it!

Then start on the next area, you can still go back and tend (edit and revise) your garden later.

Like all successful gardens it’s about the preparation work, and making sure you take the time to enjoy you achievements once finished.

This way you have a year round garden to enjoy, with completed projects blooming!

Finally, don’t forget gardeners look after themselves too, so take a leaf (sorry!) from their book, enjoy the process of writing, then sit back and relax.

Ps. If you want to remain focused trying sniffing fresh rosemary or rosemary oil, it works wonders!

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Words can Kill – The use of Dialogue

For this review, time was of an essence, so I watched a short ( and for those who are not aware sign up to http://www.shortoftheweek.com for some amazing short films.

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2018/04/18/writers-workshop/

Writer’s Workshop (2018) is an 11 minute dark comedy written and directed by Ryan Frances Johnson about Jeremy an aspiring writer attending a writers class.  Having attending many of these, I can relate. Though I have been writing into the decades now, it was only recently at a writer’s workshop was my first piece made ‘public’. Awaiting the response is nail biting it’s your baby, a part of you, that you are putting put there. And it doesn’t matter who comments if they are negative it hurts, and yes despite all the advice you will take it personally and believe you have failed at life! Fact!

At the end of the day write how you want to if it’s for your benefit, writing can be therapeutic, and if you are aiming for loft ‘Rowling’ heights, be aware of what you are writing, take a class of two learn structure, character development, story arc, etc learn to give and take criticism.

FAIL. FAIL AGAIN. FAIL MORE.

Don’t get comfy be knocked back, but use it to learn from and develop, re-read your work whether it’s an aspiring novel or script and ask if the feedback was deserved.

Be critical of your own work,  make a template tick box for what your writing project should contain and tick it off when each part has been achieved.

The best advice given to me, was read it aloud, just to yourself, and if you can record it. Listen. Does it flow?

Have faith, you will get there.

So getting on to my 200 word max review of dialogue (the morning coffee has kicked in); * Spoiler Alert*

Writer’s workshop (2018) is heavily dialogued. Jeremy himself doesn’t have too much to say after reading his words, but just to sit back, grin and bear it.

The realism throughout the dialogue is obviously helped with the actor’s playing it straight.   The opening after Jeremy’s reading is an actual question that will need actual responses from, that are more than one liners. The extended dialogue has been set up with this.

Add drama and dark humour with in each line, and the characters personality is already being developed, Although we get told not to repeat information, it is repeated here and often. It builds a dramatic momentum until Clark is smothered at his own request.

Clarity and context is evident, we know that each critic means it metaphorically (or do they?), and as writer’s we relate, each character has expressed, as requested their viewpoint, the initial question has been answered.

Jeremey nodding and smiling understands when they welcome Clark and his poetry, that it wasn’t personal and that they will all repeat their constructive criticism again.

Sometimes dialogue is just that words, but here they have been used perfectly in keeping with what I remember from writer’s workshops.

 

 

Keep writing! M.

 

Logan (2017) Implied Readership- Who was it for?

Logan (2017)

Director: James Mangold; Screenplay: Scott Frank, James Mangold  & Michael Green.

James Mangold’s adaptation of Logan (2017) from the Marvel comic was heavily anticipated even before the trailer was released, knowing it was the end of a well loved character. For those who had seen the previous X-Men films there was a clear level of expectation from this, and for those who had read the comics, knew the story could have gone in a multitude of directions. It is this question of how will it happen that brings about talk and expands the fandom to those who like action.

From the onset of of the use of ‘Hurt’  as the soundtrack in the trailer and the reveal of new character Laura, someone who was ‘very much’ like Logan, the expectations of what this film would be grew. The scene where Logan takes Laura’s hand is somehow desired throughout the movie, as a symbol of their love and relationship of parent and child.  It’s also a sign that Logan has faced his fear.

But this is by far the only audience that Mangold had in mind, especially when a black and white version was released. This was not just for the fan’s of the genre but of cinematography.

“One Batch Two Batch…”

Daredevil Season 2 Episode 4 Penny and Dime  –

Dir: Peter Hoar; Written By: John C. Kelly

We watch film and TV to escape, to forget and also to grow.  Through these characters we according to Cohen (2013:183), expand are own ’emotional and mental lives’ beyond that of personal experience.  We identify with both the characters and their situation, we empathise with them and understand their goals, we make a connection, become invested in their outcome and are interest is caught.

Netflix’s, Marvel’s Daredevil second antagonist, Frank Castle, is a war veteran, a US marine corps sniper, he has taken out entire gangs. We know he is dangerous.

Karen, a reporter is at Castle’s home. A regular family home with photos of his wife and kids in various stages of growing up, of castle in fatigues, a medal of Honour proudly displayed,  a book is in his daughters room, the words emblazoned on the pages, the words Castle says before he pulls the trigger “One Batch Two Batch”, his daughters favourite book.  We recognise the kids trainers on the stairs, the box of kid’s toys, we too have family photo’s on the mantlepiece.

Rescued by Daredevil, Castle tells of the murder of his family by a gang in a park. We empathise with him, this could have been any family, this has never happened to you, but your gut wrenches too, we cry.  We understand his needs and goals, we want revenge too.

The story feels real, you have felt raw emotion, mirrored the feelings on screen. He maybe on a rampage, but he has damn good reason. He maybe seen as the antagonist to the vigilante Daredevil but he isn’t evil, he isn’t your typical bad guy. And because of this you have a strong connection for him to get his revenge, to see his goal through to the end, you want it to be alright for him. You have connected, you are invested as much as Castle. You have identified with the character and his situation.

As Cohen (2013:186) points out this is an active psychological state, just one of the many ways we respond to film and TV.

 

 Cohen J. (2013). Chapter 11. Audience Identification with media characters in  Jennings, Bryant and Vorderer, Peter.(eds)  Psychology of Entertainment. London. Routledge

 

Redefining that Sinking Feeling

Image result for get out

 

Get Out.   Dir. Jordan Peel (2017)

Multiple award-winning film, Get Out is marketed as a horror. Immediately I felt like I knew this film. It had the ring of a 70’s B movie, you knew what was coming, the tone was set.

A black man walking a quiet suburban street in the dark of night, distracted on his phone, looking lost. A classic white sports car kerb creeps alongside him, forcing the man to change directions, the car radio is blasting out ‘run rabbit run’. A signal the game is on.

From there it changed and got confusing, it was light-hearted, romantic, a banter existed with his buddy. This section of the film felt like you should be hearing canned laughter and a sign reading ‘filmed in front of a live audience’. Then you twig, this is a satirical take on the expected horror genre, from then on everything that happens falls firmly into this routine of satire.

From the start I had high expectations of this film, that was collecting awards like Rose Armitage had been collecting black boyfriends. Until you realise the true tone throughout, then you will be the one having that sinking feeling of wasting your time. When the light-bulb moment arrives sit back, ‘Get Out’ of your expectations and enjoy!

Sunrise: Raising the Film Game.

 

World Films 2015

Sunrise: A song of Two Humans.  1927. Dir: F. W. Murnau

Ironically there is something to be said for silent movies, how the lack of dialogue seems to be a great conduit for increased expression, emotion and communication. The adage of actions speak louder is none truer than in this film, the first to be released using synchronised sound-on- film, only days before the first Talkie ‘The Jazz Singer’.

The title of first of the first ever music video ever made usually goes to XTC’s ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ released in 1979, but Sunrise opening credits expresses this as a song rather than a film, it might be a long shot, but after reading the poem that Mayer wrote as an alternative to a script,  I’m sticking with this as a title competitor, and also going to raise it, adding the longest music video to its potential accolades, as it beats Michael Jacksons ‘ghost’ by approximately 34 minutes.  Being first is not what this film is all about.  Crude hand-painted opening credits open to the film with a clear and strong use of German expressionism.  Distorted scenes, clashing over each other, geometric buildings echoing in the oddly triangular trees, enhance these already moody portrayal, with a style used by Hitchcock and more recently seen in the work of Tim Burton.

Subtitled ‘A song for two humans’ this is a classic love triangle. Three people, a love affair, a superfluous ordinary farmer’s wife or a modern independent woman. A simple solution. Murder. This 1927 film is a relationship thriller, man plotting to kill his wife for his lover, it has romance, a couple whose love is reignited witnessing a strangers wedding, and is an epic personal drama, a man who wants his lover, attempts uxoricide, then changes his mind.  A lot to take in without words and will keep you watching to the last minute. Sunrise covers 3 out of the four genres, a feat itself. While the story might not be the strongest or most original, it’s the cinematography that redeems this film to the next level.

Draft 4.0

Covet final draft

Well here it is and for anyone who read the last one, you will notice quite a few changes to layout, but also I hope conveys the character arc better.

I have also after some advice tried to offer instead of a standard straight forward look but inserted some of the scenes In form of interviews.

One of the major issues I had with my previous drafts was the length, and I am hoping that the method I have chosen here, still gets the same story across clearer, and shorter.

I have really enjoyed this once I thought outside the box I am used to, I used techniques I have learn on the course so far to question myself each step of the way and my office wall is covered in small index cards and post-its. This actually helped the visualising process.

I can sit back and feel like I have earned my glass of red tonight, now just for the critical essay.

 

The Pitch

It’s got to that time already.  The 3rd draft of the script is nearly finished, ready to be submitted.  It’s only natural that now you have written a script you want to sell it, so you need a pitch.

I’m a fair way of selling my script, but I still need to practise my script, and having a really crap short-term memory I knew I was going to struggle. After giving it some thought, I downloaded the TelePromTer app onto my phone, and Voila! I have the words in front of me, and I record, save and review all in one easy go, and even send it anywhere I want, in this case to uni.

Putting myself in front of a camera has never been high on my list, in fact, I avoid cameras, phones, etc as best as possible. The family album is full of kids and the OH, even the dog, cats and garden get a fair few pages, but you won’t find a single pic of me. Call it whatever you want, but it’s mainly confidence. After being a stay at home mum for so long you, you forget how to socialize and talk to grown ups, and you never know how much glitter and glue you are covered in until there is a camera in sight.

Nerves at their worse, I hapazerderly slapped on the old warpaint, removed the bobble and actually brushed my mane.

Having watched numerous pitch’s, I was no more confident in my approach but I had ago, and another, then another… It’s very difficult to capture you best side when you are holding the phone at arm’s length and vanity prevents you from wearing your reading glasses. Eventually I made a  version I was okay with. In a week that has been fraught with rewrites and edits, this is a small win, and I’m going to grab it with both hands.