#IWSG POV: Protagonist or Antagonist? @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

  • March 6 question Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

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I definitely prefer first person point of view of the protagonist, as a reader and as a writer. My favourite novels, when I started reading adult fiction, in my teens, such as, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and Rebecca, to name a few, were written in this fashion.

The first person narrator, whether he or she is protagonist or antagonist, has the powerful advantage of speaking directly to the reader, but on the other hand, he or she also has the enormous disadvantage of limited knowledge and bias.

The first person narrator cannot be everywhere or be aware of everything the reader would like to know. Moreover, he or she is necessarily biased due to gullibility, innocence, ignorance, physical, or psychological problems, or he or she can be downright evil and purposefully lead everyone along the wrong path, which is usually the case of the antagonist as first person narrator.

The question posed, implies that only one narrator is possible, and that he or she is either protagonist or antagonist, but there are many more options available to the writer. There could be more than one point of view, and more than one protagonist and or antagonist, or the protagonist and antagonist could even be the same person at the same or different stages of his/her life.

The first time I read a novel with various first person narrators was Laura, by Vera Caspary, also in my teenage years. I remember being pleasantly surprised, as a reader, by two aspects, the multiple first person narrators and the presence of unreliable narrators, including the antagonist.

In one of my ‘A’ level texts, The Fall, Camus’ manipulative first person narrator, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose long series of monologues is a confession and reflection of his life, to a stranger he calls, ‘cher ami’, thus, mostly using the second person ‘you’. He is also both protagonist and antagonist, as he finally turns the mirror on his patient and unsuspecting listener/reader.

The options are endless. In my case, I’ve published three books and written five (two will hopefully be published this year), and all of them have multiple, first person narrators, including protagonist and antagonist.

Although I don’t mind reading novels written in third person, I can’t see myself doing so. I would especially avoid third person omniscient narrators, mainly because I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of manipulating characters, events and readers. I prefer to allow my characters and readers more space to grow and reconstruct their own novel.

I overcome the hurdles inherent to first person narration, at least partly, by having more than one first person narrator, which I believe gives the novel wider scope and perspective.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy has several, rotating first person narrators, and although some readers have complained, most readers have positive opinions. The use of various first person voices is innovative and enriching, but it’s by no means easy to juggle so many characters at once, and it’s not something I’m planning on doing again, at the moment.

My two latest, unpublished novels, both have only two points of view. In one case it is the protagonist and the antagonist, and in the second case a mother and daughter, who are both protagonists. So far, beta readers have responded favourably, and I’m satisfied with the end product, although, one still has to go through the final draft and editing stage.

I think two narrators give enough scope for multiple perspectives to allow readers more space to interact with the narrative.

I will probably experiment with other viewpoints in the future. As I said, I enjoy many  different points of view as a reader, but for the moment, I plan to continue writing novels with, at least, two first person points of view.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, how many and whose point(s) of view do you prefer as a reader and as a writer?

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#IWSG Avoiding Pitfalls @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the August 1 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe,Sandra Hoover, Lee Lowery, and Susan Gourley!

August 1 question – What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey? 

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The single best piece of advice I’d give an author, especially an author who is aiming to self-publish, is to find a good editor.

It seems obvious. I mean, everyone knows that, don’t they?

It also seems easy. I mean, there are plenty of editors out there, aren’t there?

Yes, to both, but authors can still make mistakes. I did.

When I finished my first novel, I found an editor via Goodreads. She was recommended by another editor an author I knew had hired, and she was reasonably priced.

I thought I’d got it right, until another editor, who saw my book, which had been accepted for review on Rosie’s Book Review Team, read my novel and pointed out some / too many errors in the first few chapters.

Most were punctuation, but not all. I’m useless at commas. I actually have nightmares with them, so I was relieved that an editor/proof reader had gone through my manuscript, but it hadn’t been done thoroughly.

I’ll forever be grateful to Alison Williams for pointing out these errors in my novel and for her patience and advice while editing the following two novels.

An author knows and expects that not every reader will enjoy their novel, for numerous reasons, style, characters, plot, etc. and that’s acceptable and to be expected, but what is unacceptable is to have editing errors.

All novels whether self-published or traditionally published should be professionally edited.

There are many editors available, and I’m really not an expert on finding the right one, I was just lucky I found her, or rather she was kind enough to find me, just a few a months after I published All Hallows at Eyre Hall, in May 2014.

I cringe when I think of those few months when my novel wasn’t in perfect condition. The good news is that amazon makes it really quick and easy to update your new version for both kindle and print.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, what pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid before publication?

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#IWSG ‘Celebrations’ #amwriting #InternationalWomensDay #ProudWoman

This month’s IWSG question for debate is, ‘How do you celebrate when you achieve a writing goal/ finish a story?’ comes just a day before International Women’s Day, so I’m combining both ideas in this post, that is celebrating writing goals, personal goals and celebrations in general.

Pride in our lives and work, and the celebration of goals we’ve reached, is relevant every day, but especially today, which is a day for celebrating our achievements as women.

As a part-time writer (I wish I could be full-time), I don’t set goals in stone, because I don’t want to feel frustrated if I don’t reach them on any given day, so, as I wrote in one of my previous posts, I write short notes to myself after spending some time writing.

Most recent Writer’s Journal, on the right.

 

My notes, which could be called my Writing Journal, include four points:

  • A summary of what I’ve been doing, writing, editing, finishing a chapter, researching, rereading, etc.
  • I might include a word count, especially when I’m starting off, but now that I’m at the editing stage, I’m actually cutting out words, so I write down the total manuscript word count, just to keep a check on it, but it’s no big deal. Sometimes a word or a sentence takes days, and others you cut out 300 words, or write 5,000. My overall goal is to be working on my manuscript for as long as I can as often as I can. 
  • Thirdly, I remind myself what to do the next time I sit down to write, which could be the following day, or the following week. It’s usually something like, ‘finish editing chapter 10’, ‘have a nother look at the end of the first chapter,’ ‘check the dates for….’ etc.
  • The final point is important, I write how I feel about what I’ve been doing. It might look something life, ‘I feel so pleased I finally sorted out chapter X’, or ‘I’m still not sure about….’, etc.

The first thing I do when I sit down to write is read my last diary entry and take it from there. However, it really depends on my mood. I might not follow my own suggestions, although I usually do. It helps me to stay focussed.

One of my ‘stellar moments’

I’ve had some wonderful moments as a writer, such as when I hit publish on Amazon for my first novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall. Then when it was an Amazon Bestseller lists on several occasions, and I can say the same for Twelfth Night and Midsummer. The mostly good reviews and some successful blog tours, also made me feel very optimistic and infused with courage.

Another fabulous moment was having my books in my hands in the CreateSpace print edition for the first time, and my one and only book presentation of All Hallows, was also a unique day.

I celebrate these occasions as I suppose most people do. with those of my family and friends who can share the moment with me (my family and friends are all over the world, so it’s not easy), either going for a drink or a meal.

Overall, my first three novels have brought me untold hours of joy, frustration, happiness, and fulfillment. It’s been a learning process and even a struggle, at times.

I’m proud of my achievements and I celebrate every day I write as a good day, because I love the freedom, creativity and satisfaction it brings. I’m a simple creature, that’s really enough for me.

However, the best is yet to come. I hope My fourth novel, now in the rewriting/editing phase, which is a contemporary, romantic suspense, will bring me more reasons to celebrate, hopefully this time in the traditional publishing route. This is my provisional cover and title.

I’m also proud to celebrate being a happy woman almost every day. Todays’ a little different because instead of taking it for granted I can spell it out and reinforce the joy being alive, being a person and being a woman brings me.

I’m proud and thankful to be a mother, grandmother, daughter, cousin, wife, teacher, mentor, friend, writer, blogger, poet, photographer, dreamer, person, and alive… every day.

#IWSG Surprising Writing #amwriting #WWWBlogs

The IWSG is a fabulous site for authors to share and encourage ech other by expressing doubts and concerns and looking for advice and guidance in our writing life. It’s a safe haven and meeting place for insecure writers of all kinds!
The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day when we post our thoughts on our own blogs. Check it out and join in here! 
Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG
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I’m taking part by answering this week’s optional Question: 
Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn’t think you’d be comfortable in?)

I surprise myself every time I pick up my pen, because I (almost) always jot down my ideas on paper before I sit down to the ‘real’ work of giving shape to my untidy notes on my laptop.

I always carry a pen and notebook, ready to capture the idea on the spur of the moment, before it escapes forever… Many of those ideas are never transformed into complete stories, although they may become part of a story. I use the same notebook until all the pages have been used up, which usually takes about a month, and I keep them at hand, just in case, for years.

This was sitting on a plane, but my favourite place to write is in the car, when I’m not driving!

I’ve written three historical novels and have started a fourth, but my heart isn’t in this fourth novel, at least not yet, so it’s resting on my shelf for the time being, because I wanted to write something different, but I haven’t known what for a long time.

I felt lost, not knowing what kind of novel I wanted to write. I kept filling notebooks full of  ideas which never came to fruition. It wasn’t writer’s block, because I had plenty of random creative ideas, but I felt I lacked purpose. I needed to find a project that would absorb all my creative thoughts and energy. I was getting worried. Although there were many ideas, not one pulled me obsessively, which is what I need to immerse myself in a novel completely.

It has taken me about a year to feel overwhelmed by a new project, but it has finally happened, when I least expected it, on a long car journey, as co-pilot, the seed of an idea dropped and flourished. When I arrived, I had a rough outline, main characters, setting, and a sense that ‘this was it at last’.

Throughout the following month of August, at a holiday flat by the sea, the plot grew and the characters came to life. It’s not a historical novel and it’s not a family saga. It’s a type of novel I never thought I’d write. A contemporary, romantic thriller simmered for 30 days, in a whole notebook of ideas. I’m back home now, and the proper, chapter by chapter outline is almost complete.

I’m a plotter, mostly, although I enjoy improvising, too. I love it when a character I hadn’t planned surprises me by popping into my mind and taking over, or when a plot twist happens unexpectedly as my characters are thinking or speaking. I can deal with these surprising characters and events and rework my original plan. On the other hand, I find it impossible to write without a destination, and that’s where plotting helps me focus.

I welcome surprises as a writer. I never know when or how a creative idea will take root in my mind, and I love the challenge of continued surprises as the novel unfolds.

Antonio Machado (1875 – 1939), drawing by Leandro Oroz Lacalle (1883 – 1933)

A famous Spanish poet, Antonio Machado (1975-1939), wrote, “Traveler, there is no road; you make your path as you walk.” I agree with Machado’s idea, but I also like to know where my destination lies.

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Do you like surprises as a writer?

Have you ever surprised yourself?

#IWSG ‘Weird Research’ ‘The Sin Eater’ #amwriting #Histfic

It’s the first Wednesday of the month when we, Insecure Writers, share our insecurities with each other and the blogosphere in the Insecure Writers Support Group monthly blog hop. Join in here and tell us all about yours.

There’s an optional question every month, this May it’s: 

What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

My work in progress is a contemporary thriller, but so far I’ve written historical fiction set in Victorian England, and although I already knew a great deal before I started, I’ve had to do a lot of extra and specific research, which I greatly enjoyed.

I’ve researched clothes and accessories, recipes for food, household management, furniture and household ornaments, cookery books, working conditions, poor houses, funerals, novels of the period, theatres and plays performed, opium addiction, most frequent illnesses, sea voyages and everything to do with ships sailing to America from the UK, and plenty more details to make the readers feel they were immersed in the 19th century.

If I have to choose one aspect as the weirdest, I’d have to choose the Sin eater, a sinister character in my novels, who is based on real people who carried out this disgusting chore, in order to have a morsel to eat, or occasionally because they had a macabre interest in being close to death and dead people.

Sin eaters existed in England up to the end of the 19th century. They would be summoned to a deceased person’s bedside to perform a ritual usually including eating food from a plate on the dead person’s body, symbolising the eating of their sins, so the dead could pass on to the next world in a sinless state, while the sin eater absorbed their sins.

Many sin-eaters were beggars, and the custom was carried out in different parts of the British Isles, including Yorkshire and Wales, until mid-19th century. The last Sin-eater reportedly died in Shropshire, in 1906.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy is not a horror story, but there gothic elements and some sinister characters and events in the novels, which are set in Victorian England. 

I originally introduced th Sin eater in my first novel as a gothic element of mystery surrounding a funeral. My Sin eater was more evil than eccentric, and as there were several funerals of nasty and sinful characters throughout the trilogy, I realised his presence would be required more than once.

As the trilogy progressed, the Sin eater became a recurring and even essential part of the main plot of the novel, as his character grew from an eccentric or macabre person to an evil and sinister one, more akin to the devil’s servant, or even the Devil himself.

Many of my readers are surprised and even shocked by his presence, which adds a paranormal and sinister element. Mr. Isaac Das Junot, originally from the Netherlands, claims to be a descendent of Judas Iscariot, and member of an evil clan who search funerals of the evil to absorb their sins and grow even stronger in their wickedness. 

However, Junot cannot influence or make use of good people. He has no use for goodness. He is only attracted to evil, which is why Jane Eyre is not afraid of him, although she is aware that he is evil and respects his powers of evil.  

Here is part of a scene in which he has a conversation with Jane Eyre, who is now Mrs. Mason, in Twelfth Night at Eyre Hall. This is their second meeting and the second time he appears in the trilogy. Junot narrates this chapter.

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“Why do you not fear me, Mrs. Mason?”

She stopped outside Mr. Mason’s door to answer my question. “Because I know that good and evil are two sides of the same coin, just as happiness and sadness, and beauty and ugliness are all part of our nature. There is no good without evil. Each of us has both. All our lives the fight goes on between them, and one of them must conquer. You chose evil, so you make the rest of us your opposite: good. Why should I fear you?”

“You are unwise not to fear me,” I said as we walked into the same room I had entered the last time. The corpse was laid out, dressed, and blackened. The smell was the most nauseating I had ever encountered. Was he already decomposing? Had his soul escaped before my arrival?

“When did his body perish?”

“Five days ago.”

“Close your eyes and turn away. He has been expelled from the flesh, which has already been taken over by the corpse eaters, but he is not far, yet. I hope I am still on time, for my sake and yours, Mrs. Mason.”

She turned to face the door. “Do what you have to do quickly.”

I proceeded with my incantation. He was indeed still there, naked and petrified, unable to return, and yet unwilling to leave, so I stole his sins and left his carcass to wither.

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Have you ever heard of Sin eaters?

Which is yor wierdest character?

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#IWSG #AtoZChallenge @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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April 5 Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

This is my third year taking part in the AtoZ challenge. My first year 2015 featured an author spotlight and a book review every day. It was exhausting, but I planned well ahead and it worked out perfectly. If you want to check it out here it is.

Last year, my theme was All About Jane Eyre, and I didn’t complete the challenge. I think it was because I didn’t plan ahead enough, and the posts themselves were demanding and time-consuming to research and write. If you want to check it out here it is.

This year, I wasn’t sure if I’d be taking part, because I hadn’t planned anything, but I’ve been inspired to write a lot of poetry in the last few months, and it occurred to me, more or less on the spur of the moment, to write a poem a day. However, I needed some kind of prompt, and I thought I could use another poem written by my favourite poets, include it in the post too, and use it as a prompt for my own poem.

This year to celebrate National Poetry Month and to take part in the April A-Z Blogging Challenge, I’ll be posting two poems a day, one written by me and another poem written by one of my favourite poets. The title or first word of both poems will begin with the corresponding letter in the Blogging Challenge. I’ve more or less planned the famous poems and poets I’m including, but I haven’t yet written my own poems, that’s the real challenge. I’m not always inspired. I may have bitten more than I can chew… Here are my first posts so far.

In the past two years I met a lot of people doing the challenge, hopping around the linkys and on twitter, but this year, without the linky, and having to do a complex (for me) process to comment and activate my wordpress link, it all seems much more of a hassle, and I haven’t checked out many other bloggers. I’m mostly following the AtoZ posts of those I’m already following. I haven’t noticed many new followers, although it’s early days yet, I suppose, but I’m not sure it’s going to work as well, at least not for wordpress blogs. I aim to keep taking part in any case, because I enjoy the challenge.

My posts aren’t directly related to my books, and although my books are visible in my posts, I haven’t observed more sales in April. In fact, although I love my blog and interacting with other bloggers,  I’m not really sure if my blog actually sells any books, but it’s part of an author platform I need to maintain, and I suppose it’s publicity for my books, but that’s not the main reason I carry on blogging.

My reasons for blogging are to meet and interact with other writers, learn more about and improve my craft, and provide the outlet I need for my creativity. I’m also keen on sharing information about literature in general and Jane Eyre and Victorian literature, which is my passion.

Rereading the post, it sounds like more of a stream-of-consciousness rant than an IWSG post, but that’s where the question has led me.

What about you, how has taking part in the AtoZ helped you as a writer?

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#IWSG Reworking Old Stories @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

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Every month there’s an optional question to discuss.

March 1 Question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Some people think we live in chaos.

I don’t believe in chaos. There is order in nature, in the universe and in our comparatively small lives, because every cell in our bodies is both part of the universe and contains the universe.

There is no chaos.

The sun doesn’t rise every now and again, the moon doesn’t spin and show its dark side whenever it pleases, leaves don’t turn blue if it’s cold, people don’t have two noses. There are exceptions to some rules; it might be hot on a spring day, someone may claim to have seen a heavy snowfall in the middle of summer, really? But when exceptional events do occur, it doesn’t mean there’s chaos, it’s only a tiny glitch.

The universe works like clockwork.

And nothing happens quite by chance. I mean there’s always a reason for everything that happens, although we might not realise at the time, or ever, in fact, but that needn’t worry us; there’s so much we’ll never understand.

The IWSG question resonates with me this week because, quite by chance, I’ve been rereading the beginning of a novel written by my sister twenty-eight years ago. Of course, you all know by now, that I don’t believe this happened by chance, at all. It was meant to happen.

My sister died, twenty-eight years ago. It seems like yesterday, every day, but still, the calendar says it happened twenty-eight years ago.

Last week, one of my sister’s friends ‘found’ me on Facebook and we started chatting. I’m afraid I didn’t remember her very well, she and my sister were five years younger than me, which isn’t a lot when you’re over thirty, but is a great deal when you’re under twenty!

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She was intrigued that I had become a writer, and I mentioned that it must run in the family, because my sister was writing a novel when she died. Her friend knew, but she had no idea what the novel was about. Elsa, my sister, was very secretive about it. I myself found out about it after she died.

She lived in Harrow, London, just around the corner from where she had been born twenty-five years earlier, and I was married and had moved to Spain, where I lived with my husband and three children, so we only saw each other once or twice a year, although we often spoke on our landline phone and wrote letters, as people used to do twenty-eight years ago.

Elsa had only just started her novel when she died, unexpectedly and tragically. 

I have a prologue and one chapter printed out on an old dot matrix printer, and obviously corrected. There are a few more chapters, but although they’re also typed, these were typed on an old typewriter and it’s obviously a first draft, which hadn’t been edited yet, in fact, it may not even be part of the same novel.

Unfortunately, there was no outline, no handwritten notes, or any other evidence of how she meant the novel should progress, and nobody knew about it, because she hadn’t discussed it with anyone, at least not with anyone I knew. This leads me to believe she was obviously a pantser and it was all in her mind, or there might have been a plan, but it has been lost.

I’m not a pantser, but I have nothing against panters, yet I don’t believe she wrote without a plan, because it was some kind of intricate thriller, so she must have written notes somewhere. And, in the 80s, people used pen and paper a lot, I was there, and I remember.

The novel is called ‘One Woman’s Story’, which may be a working title, and starts out with a woman who dreams about her own murder, death and funeral. She tells her best friend about her recurring and distressing nightmare. Shortly after, she is murdered and everything happens just as she had told her friend it would. There it stops.

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The few pages I have of my sister’s novel, One Woman’s Story.

I have no idea at all what she had in mind for the rest of the novel, but it was obviously going to be either a detective or psychological thriller, which would have required at least some notes, and a brief story line, yet, there is nothing at all to go on.

Elsa had no first hand knowledge of police procedure, that’s why I’m inclined to believe it was more of a psychological thriller, but that’s a hunch. We both loved reading Ruth Rendell novels at the time, and psychological thrillers weren’t as popular in the 80s, as they are now, but who knows?

I’ve often wondered whether I should continue her novel or not.

Last week, after speaking to her friend,  I reread it once again and tried to imagine a novel of my own, unsuccessfully. My version would probably look nothing like hers would have, because I have no idea what she had in mind.

Yesterday, reading the IWSG question, I started to think about continuing my sister’s novel, again. Is that a coincidence? But I don’t believe in coincidences, do I?

Any suggestions or ideas? Should I go for it or forget about it?

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