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,