Tuesday, 18 November 2014

An Unexpected Crossover

(So, I wrote this at the end of NaNoWriMo in 2013. It's a crossover because Sophie was a character from my story. It's not the best piece of writing ever, but I like the dialogue)

The first thing Sophie saw when she walked outside was the box. Thinking about it, she wasn’t sure that box really was the correct word. Certainly, what was standing in the snow was box-shaped, but it was human-sized, unlike anything she had ever seen before. Although she had no particular interest in it, she wanted very much to learn what was inside it.

It seemed to have doors, in the front. Sophie walked up to them instinctively to knock, but thought better of it. First, she should investigate this strange thing. She was well aware that she should move on, but this wouldn’t take very long, and there was no one around to judge her anyway. The hour was too early and the morning too cold for any sensible person.

Walking all around it, Sophie observed panelled sides, all of them painted a royal blue, though judging by its hue it might have once been darker. The box, however, seemed otherwise undamaged; the paint was not cracked or scratched, and the panels still perfectly smooth. Along the top there was writing, tight and curiously packed. She strained her eyes against the falling snow. Police… public call… box. It made absolutely no sense. Well, at least someone had possessed the good sense to label it a box, she thought dryly.

As she came back around to the front, Sophie decided to examine the door once again. There was a white panel on it, which held an inscription of some sort. She examined this briefly, but it too raised more questions than it answered. What was this thing, and what was it doing out here? The tiny keyhole wouldn’t fit any key she had ever seen, so Sophie decided that the wisest course of action would be to knock.

“Hello?” She didn’t expect an answer, but someone had to be behind the appearance of this strange thing.

The door opened abruptly, and a tall man popped his head out. “Did somebody call? Oh, hello there. Been a while since I’ve seen anyone.”

He was, first and foremost, extremely skinny. The pants and shirt he wore — both of an unknown style and fabric to Sophie — seemed to simultaneously hang off him and be a perfect fit. It was immensely confusing, so she decided to simply ignore it. His face was very angular, matching the rest of him rather nicely. His hair, on the other hand, looked so unruly as to be at odds with his head. It stuck out at a great many angles, such that no two strands were parallel. Sophie’s gaze did not linger there however. It was rude to stare.

“Who are you?” she asked, aware that she seemed impolite. This whole situation was too strange for niceties, however, and Sophie was aware that she should be on her way. “And what is this strange box?”

“Me? Oh, I’m nobody. Just a simple man and his box.” His voice was a little strained, and he was talking very quickly. “Sorry to bother you, I’d best be getting back inside—”

“It’s a rather small box, isn’t it?” Sophie wasn’t an idiot, and she knew the signs when someone was trying to get rid of her. “What are you doing in there?”

He laughed rather suddenly, catching her off guard. “Knitting, actually. I’d show you, but it’s a bit out of reach from here.”

“Out of reach? How can it be out of reach? That box is tiny.” Sophie should know. She had walked all round it.

“Oh, there I go again, saying things I shouldn’t. Listen, I have things to be getting on with, and I would really rather not be chatting about the TARDIS to someone I don’t even know.” He began to close the door rather quickly, and Sophie impulsively stuck her foot in the gap.

“TARDIS? Is that what this thing is called?”

“Um…” He seemed to be a little lost for words. “Yes.”

“Huh.” Sophie didn’t know what else to say, but she filled the silence with something anyway. “I don’t mean to bother you, but I haven’t ever seen something like this before. How do you fit?”

“Fit? Easily.”

As if that explained anything. “May I come in?”

“Well, I don’t suppose it’ll do any harm.” The strange man opened the door once again, a wry smile on his face. “And here I was, simply settling down for a bit of quiet.”

Sophie shook her head and had her first look inside the box — the TARDIS. She very nearly passed out with shock.

It was, simply put, enormous. The inside was at least ten — no, twenty — times bigger than the outside led you to believe. How was it done? Her first thought was mirrors, but such an effect couldn’t just be done like that. The man walked inside and her hunch was confirmed. It was as if space itself had been stretched, to accommodate the insides of this thing. How that had happened was unfathomable.

In the centre of the space was a six sided metal thing, with controls all round it, such that she had never seen before. From the centre of that rose a clear round pillar, with a bubbling green liquid inside it. The whole space was completely surreal, so much so that Sophie had to pinch herself to make absolutely sure that she wasn’t dreaming. She was not, which only served to make the whole thing seem that much more absurd.

“What do you think?” asked the man, a knowing smile on his face.

“It’s…” She struggled to find the right words, and put them in the right order. “…bigger inside, on the.” And failed. Sophie shook her head. “Wow.”

“Wow is right.” The man grinned widely, exposing rows of perfect teeth. “My name’s the Doctor, by the way.”

“Doctor? What kind of doctor are you?”

Another laugh, no more expected than the first. “Not the kind you’re used to, I’m sure. It’s what I call myself. A nickname, if you will.”

“Then what’s your real name?”

“That’s not important. Who are you, anyway? I like to know who I’ve let into my TARDIS, after all.”

“Oh, of course.” Sophie blushed. “Where are my manners? My name is Sophie, pleased to meet you.” She held out a hand, just as she had been taught to do. Why, her parents would have skinned her alive for such an affront to a person.

The Doctor took her hand and shook it rather tentatively. His grip was a little weak, but his hands were warm. “Glad to have met you, Sophie. Welcome aboard.”


“You do ask a lot of questions, don’t you? Though I suppose I invite them. This, my dear, is far more than simply a box. It moves, too.”

Did it? Sophie had enough presence of mind not to ask another question. She simply couldn’t seem to help it, but if it fazed him she would try to stop. Who was this man? This enigmatic, eccentric and completely intriguing man. She had to know more.

“Time And Relative Dimension In Space. TARDIS. It’s an acronym, you see.”

If Sophie had known what an acronym was, she surely would have replied. Instead, she continued to drink in the experience, and kept her mouth well shut. What wonders the universe held, indeed! If only her mother, or even her father, could see her now! What would they say to her, to find her with a strange man inside his moving blue ‘police public call box’? Probably nothing good, so Sophie did not try and imagine it.

“What’s wrong with you? Cat got your tongue?”

“Cat got my what?” Sophie sighed. “It’s a lot to take in.”

“I’ll say.” The Doctor smiled. “You’re doing very well not to panic, though.”

“Am I?” Another question. Those seemed to be the only things she could articulate at the moment. “I think the panic is waiting to burst out later.” Might as well be truthful.

“Really? You humans are funny creatures, aren’t you?”

“Us humans?” There she went again. “What are you, then? Some kind of alien?” It was a rhetorical question. She wasn’t actually expecting an answer.

“Yes, actually.” Well, she’d gotten one anyway. Who was this person? Not human? That was completely and utterly absurd.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Of course you don’t. I just showed you a box that’s bigger on the inside—” There was that expression again, said correctly this time. “—and you won’t believe that I’m an alien. You know that thing I said about loving humans? I think I take it back. You people have such tiny minds sometimes.”

“Watch your tongue, sir! I will not stand for slander like that.” Sophie sighed, and then remembered that he hadn’t said anything about loving humans. She decided to let it slide. “Well, let’s say for a moment you do come from somewhere alien. Why would you look like a human?”

“Oh, you lot really do think that you’re the centre of the universe, don’t you? Well, let’s call it evolution. The human form is quite a good one after all, isn’t it? Although I will say that it may be you who look like us.” He shook his head and flopped down on a chair. “Honestly, the things you people come up with.”

“You can be a rude alien, can’t you?” Sophie smiled despite herself. “Though I don’t believe it’s on purpose.”

“Certainly not. Manners of a saint, usually. Better, actually. Met a couple of saints. Terrible table manners, never seemed to wash. Anyway, what are you doing aboard the TARDIS?”

Having a look around, it seemed, although there was something else about this place which tugged at the mind. “You let me in, and I’m naturally curious.” Sophie smiled. It wasn’t entirely her fault. “This place is fascinating, and quite beautiful, in its own way. How does it all work?”

“It would take rather a lot too much explanation to tell you that.” The Doctor’s grin was growing wider by the second. “If you were a great deal more clever, I might attempt to tell you.”

More clever? Sophie frowned.

The Doctor scratched his head. “Actually, it’s just that you’d need a physics degree just to get your head around even half of this stuff.”

“What’s physics… oh, never mind. It’s a beautiful machine, anyway.”

“Oh, I think she’ll like that.”

“Who will?” Was there a woman here somewhere, in one of the corridors which lead out of here?

“Um…” The Doctor bit his lip. “The TARDIS.”

“The… the box?” Now this was really getting crazy.

“Yeah. She’s sentient.”

Wow. This was a lot to take in. “Let me get this straight. The box is a woman?”


Despite her best efforts, Sophie began to panic.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Another Year, Another NaNo...

(If I start every post with yes, it's been a while it'll get old soon. So I guess I'll just post whenever I feel like it without apology)

So yeah. My third NaNoWriMo already! Heck, the years go by quickly. I intend to win again this year, and to be honest, I'm well on track. This makes me proud, I would say deservedly so, but maybe my ego needs slapping down a few notches. Since everything seems to be going so well this year, I guess I should talk about my struggle last year, and the progression I've been going through with regard to writing. Here goes.

When I first started NaNo, I had only been writing as a hobby for about 2 years (2 and a half? I can't be bothered to work it out). As a result, my longest piece of writing was 20,000 words long, and needless to say, very generic. All I was doing was copying the themes and styles of my favourite writers and projecting them in a manner that I thought worked. And it did, to some extent.

Fast forward a few months. I had finally written something that came to 50,000 words. It was also not very good, though the writing itself held water. It was the storyline that needed fine tuning, for it quickly went to a place that was unsatisfying and hard to resolve. I told myself I would try again. Flush with the success of my first NaNo, I wrote several new things over the next year (the chronology is a little messed up in my head; there are some things in my folder I'd forgotten I'd written). All the while, my story lines grew more coherent, and I grew more confident.

NaNoWriMo 2013 was a tiny bit of a mess, which may come as a surprise to you, reader. Even with all of my newfound experience, I found that the story I'd chosen to write didn't come out quite right for my tastes. I lost my enthusiasm, and though I still won NaNoWriMo, by the end of the month I was writing because I had to, not because I wanted to. There was a short story among the last of my writings that year, a Doctor Who one, because I'd run out of inspiration. I don't really consider it cheating, because it came from my storyline and involved one of my major characters.

This year is a whole other kettle of fish. My muse is bright and bold. The difference, this year, is how I went about it. Every year I write with no plan; this year I wrote with one. While I did stray from my plan quite considerably, I found that by having an ending that I could work towards, I eliminated silly plot things that  might mess with my novel. I usually think of my novel's ending halfway through. This time, I had it at the beginning. It didn't solve everything, but I think as I gain more experience and confidence as a writer, I grow closer and closer to something I think might be worthy of publishing. And that, my friend, is a heady thought.

(P.S. Now, if only I could add this to my word count...)

(P.P.S. Doctor Who story to follow)

Friday, 28 February 2014

Sheltered as a snow cave

Okay,  so it's been a while since I've posted anything. Entirely my fault, I'm not gonna lie. In any case, I'm back now, and I intend to make this a habit. Anyway, there is something specific I wanted to post about, rather than just making excuses. Here we go.

So I recently watched Frozen. Yes, I know, it's great (and also everywhere). The characters were super relatable, seeing as I have two sisters myself and I would probably do anything for them. However, something that's been niggling at my mind is a tv show that I watched some weeks ago while waiting at a doctor's office; a daytime talk show where a woman was complaining about the uncannily thin and large-eyed appearance of the characters, and how it would be a bad influence of young girls.

...I know. But some people do think like that, and that's what worries me. Let me explain my reasoning.

It's not the first time I've encountered the view that Disney could be a bad influence on girls. In fact, my sister's legal studies teacher was sheltering her own children from it, because she believed it to perpetuate the stereotype that girls need saving; that they should be damsels in distress. And though it seems reasonable on the surface, I have a few problems with this.

The first is the shelter aspect. Controlling your children's television and movies may seem like a great way to influence their personalities, but what if they're not interested in what you want to show them? A child is a human being, just like you. I someone was telling you to watch twilight, wouldn't you be a bit miffed? (I just had to, sorry).

Secondly, I'm doubtful about the effect that these shows may potentially have on their minds. Having loved fairytales all my life, I would be the first to tell you that there's nothing to worry about. The appeal of fairytales is their fantasy; they often contain princes and princesses, along with at least a touch of magic. It is their inaccessibility which draws us; we know we will never be a princess or a hero, but we can dream about living in that world.

'Hold on!' I hear you cry. 'But these are children we're talking about, they can't possibly think that critically.' I know, I know. But that brings me to my last point: Education. If you don't like the message that a tv show is sending, how about you simply tell your kids that? Teach them that not everything they watch is grounded in truth; that some things need to be taken with a pinch of salt. They're much more likely to listen to their parents than to some movie. And you will be teaching them one of the most valuable lessons they are likely to learn: scepticism.

I have a knitting pattern to post, so if I don't do that soon, give me a textual slap on the wrist or something. Happy watching!

Monday, 5 August 2013

The trouble with outlandish names

Now, this is something I've been ruminating on recently (ruminating... never used that word before...). My attention was brought to it by, of all things, eating chocolate. How, you ask? The answer is simple. Lindt and quiche. Got you more confused, have I? I'll explain. These two words are ones that my high school history teacher rather memorably (to me at least) mispronounced. Here's how.

The first (although I mentioned it second) is quiche. My teacher told us an anecdote about how she had been at school, and it had been on the menu. "Oh," she had said, "What's kwi-chee?" A rather harmless anecdote, I think you'll agree. Now, let's move onto the second. In school one day we were discussing chocolate (don't ask me why; I don't remember. Just accept that we were amazing). And my teacher, bless her, said "I like those Lie-in-d chocolates."

These things may seem to you rather trivial, and they are. But let me get to my point. You see, no matter how simple a pronunciation may seem to you, there is always someone who will pronounce it differently.

The English language has thousands of different letter combinations, each of them culminating in different pronunciations. Is it bass (mass) or bass (lace)? Are you producing the produce? How must it be pronounced? This is rather delightfully demonstrated in a deliciously evil poem available here which even a native English speaker has difficulty saying in one go.

And when you've taken that into consideration, there is the matter of nationality of accent. The English language is a minefield for the creation of made-up words.

So, what to do? One thing NOT to do is to put a pronunciation guide in the back of the book, like in Eragon. By the time a reader has gotten to it, they have their own ideas about pronunciation. Trust me, I know. I spent an entire book pronouncing Gil'ead (GILL-ee-id) as Gil-eed and Uru'baen (OO-roo-bane) as OO-roo-bah-en. Not to mention Ajihad, whose name is supposed to be pronounced AH-zhi-hod. And then there's Tronjheim (TRONJ-heem) which I pronounced with a German inflection of TRONJ-hi-m (rhymes with bye).

My biggest tip if you're worried about your names not being pronounced properly is to show it to people and get them to say it. If you're not happy with how they're pronouncing it, either include a pronunciation guide at the beginning of your book, or change it. As for me, I'll just stick to normal names. And who knows? You may not even care about people mispronouncing your names.

That's all folks. I'll post again later.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Getting writing time out of bus trips (without putting pen to paper)

Now, please don't take any of this the wrong way. I am not a stalker. I am certainly a normal person. But, there is something which I do sometimes to help with description. Description, I find, is the part of my writing which I leave out the most. I think of my characters as just people, regardless of what they look like. Now, while this may be a very inclusive outlook on life, it does not make for as immersive an experience as I would like.

So, what to do if your characters all look the same? Just look around you. When I am on the bus, sometimes I will surreptitiously look at the people around me and think about how I would describe them. What does their hair look like? How would I bring to life that particular set of features on paper? Here, for example, is a man who regularly takes the same bus as I do:

He was a tall man; not particularly heavily built but with enough bulk to be noticeable. He had his eyes closed, and his eyelashes and lips were almost feminine in contrast to the rough stubble which covered his chin. He did not, however, look effeminate. On the contrary, his features combined in a face which looked astonishingly manly.

Hardly the best of descriptions, I know. The difference, however, is that I would never have come up with something like that all on my own. If it were me, I would have simply made up a man. But what is a man without a few curious features. And don't stop there. Try to imagine what kind of job they do. Are they unemployed? Married? A lawyer? A doctor? What is their personality like? The beauty with this is that they can be whatever you want them to be. Such as:

He spent most of his days at the university, leaving early and coming back late. He did not enjoy the commute; in fact he spent most of those times trying to sleep on the bus, with his music in his ears and trying to ignore the movement of the bus.

And that, I believe, is all I have to say on the topic. Try it guys, just try not to let anyone see you staring. They probably won't comment, but you'll be forever marked as the strange person as the bus. Though if you're like me, you were probably already strange to begin with. Bye!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Pen Name: A Discussion

Okay, I know it's been a long time... there are reasons for that. Stupid, pathetic reasons, which are really just excuses. I'm sorry. I've been neglecting my online presence. So, first up, an update. I've been participating in this year's July Camp NaNoWriMo, and I'm well on my way to completing it. As well as that, I'm knitting a Dalek Lace Shawl, which shall also be finished soon. I'm quite excited about both. The last thing which is taking my time is Minecraft, which if I'm honest I never should really have started. But it is such a wonderful outlet for creativity, even for someone who can't draw a straight line.

Now that that's dealt with, on to the actual article. I recently searched, with the help of the NaNoWriMo forums, for a pen name. In two days I had a response, and lo and behold, I now have a pen name. Hannah Laurent. Has a nice ring, doesn't it? It's an amalgam of my first and middle names, swapped. If I ever publish, hopefully it will be under that name.

Of course, why the need for a pen name? I decided a long time ago that my full name was not suitable as a pen name. It comprises of a first and a middle name, plus a ridiculously long hyphenated last name. Those do not make up for the most pronounceable of names, so I was keen to make up something new. Nor did I want to simply chop out my middle name and the last part of my surname, because it sounds bland and uninteresting. Laura Berger. Can you imagine that on the spine of a book? I thought so. But then, maybe I'm being harsh to myself. After all, when Ian Fleming began to write his famous series of books, he picked the name James Bond because he thought it was exceptionally boring. We all know how that turned out.

Then of course, there's the recent news about J.K. Rowling writing under a pen name in order to avoid the stigma which followed her on publication of A Casual Vacancy. Rowling, of course, already writes under a pen name, albeit one not too different from her real name. In this case, I applaud her. She is, I believe, a very competent writer, whether you like her latest books or not. And when I find people putting them down simply because there is no magic or wand waving, I find it very sad indeed.

So, what about pen names?

I find that a pen name will be the mask I wear to sell books; a fake veneer for my very introverted self to hide behind. Even though publishing is the least personal medium of expressing oneself, perhaps I can distance myself from bad reviews if it's not actually my name. Probably not. But I can hope so, anyway. I guess, in the end, it completely depends on your circumstances. Perhaps you are a published children's author who wants to be taken seriously with adult fiction, or you want to keep your sinful writing from the people you know. Perhaps, like me, your own name is just too boring. A pen name, in any case, is a very flexible thing which can be adapted to any circumstance. It can be sexy, serious, mysterious; whatever you want it to be. Therein lies its power.

I hope you enjoyed that disjointed series of thoughts; I promise to return with some more structured material within the week. If I don't, feel free to leave a comment to smack me on the head. Wishing you a very lovely day,

Sunday, 5 May 2013

7 Writing Tips to keep the words flowing

Writers' block. We've all experienced it, all lamented the inopportune arrival of it. Some deny its existence, call it a mere temporary setback. But whether you like to think of them as slow patches, or if you simply do not have any ideas, you need a way of dealing with this. Here are my tips. You do not need to use all of these to conquer writers' block; in fact it would be better you only use one or two. Find the method that works best for you and put it into practice.

  1. Soldier on. Write more words, even if they're painful and you hate them. You can come back and edit them later.
  2. Try skimming slightly over the section you're writing. Give bare details where an entire paragraph would be preferable. Don't give the how or the why if it's not important and you can't think of it. These things can be added later.
  3. Add a plot point. If things are never going to work out or if your story has reached a stalemate, make something happen! It doesn't need to be explicitly related to the overall plot line, and it certainly doesn't need to resolve the story; but it can serve to push your characters in the right direction.
  4. Write ahead. Use with caution. You can skip the section you're on, but beware that it might create structural issues in your story if the part you're on is important.
  5. Make a summary. If you know what's going to happen but can't bring yourself to write it yet, write a summary of that part (as detailed as you can make it) and move on. This is a viable alternative to option 4 if skipping it might cause issues.
  6. Write something else. Spend a little time doing a short story. The time away might cause you to forget things about your story, but let's face it, you've forgotten half of it already, right? Writing another project might help you put the issue into perspective.
  7. Find a human guinea pig. Find someone whose ideas are very similar to yours, like a sister or a best friend. Tell them the issues you're having and have a discussion with them about how to resolve it. They might see things you've missed, and they're also great to bounce ideas off.
Hope you enjoyed those pearls of writing wisdom. May writers' block never hinder your path, and happy writing to you.