“How was your day, Lilly?”
“Tell me about it.”
“No-one wants to play with me and they call me names.”
“So, what are you doing about it?”
“Crying, mostly. Sometimes hiding. I don’t want to go to school.”
“Lil, listen to me. You’ll get good marks, make wonderful friends, be a great teacher and have your own family one day.”
She stamped her foot. “I’m ugly and silly!”
I held the picture of my younger self to the mirror.
“Look at me, Lil. You can and will do it. Anything you want is there for the asking.”
Lilly or sometimes Lil was my nick name at home when I was a child. My sister couldn’t say Lucy, so she named me Lilly. Elsa died many years ago, and nobody has called me Lilly since, but I know Lilly’s still with me. I encourage her and remind her not to worry and believe in herself, every day. I think it’s working, Lilly is healing and Lucy is happier every day.
We all have hang ups from our youth. Speak to pictures of your younger self, tell her not to worry because it will work out. Believe me, it works. We can heal the child within.
This post was written in response to Norah Colvin’s prompt on Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest, coordinated and inspired by Charli Mills.You can take part in the contest or just post your flash on your blog, which is what I’m doing.
Norah asks us to cast ourselves back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.
Geoff Lepard is hosting the challenge this week at his blog. Check it out if you’d like to join in.
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
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!
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.
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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I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.
There are two days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.
Day two is all about genre. The Eyre Hal Trilogy is a Victorian Gothic Romance, but what exactly is that? Read on to find out.
The first word in my genre description is straightforward. A Victorian novel is a novel that is set in Victorian England, roughly between the 1830s and 1900, although many scholars extend it to the encompass the end of the 18th century, too. Most Victorian novels were written in Victorian times, but many others, sometimes called neo-Victorian novels, were written in the 20th and especially in the 21st century. There is more information on the characteristics, themes and style of Victorian and neo-Victorian novels, and why I write them in these other posts in my blog:
The Eyre Hall Trilogy is set in Victorian England between 1865 and 1879, although some of the events included as back story occurred in the 1850s and before.
The third word is also relatively easy to define. A Romance is a novel whose central concern is a love story. Romance novels are immensely diverse. Apart from the central theme of love, the rest of the characteristics are infinite, except for the presence of some kind of conflict, which must be resolved (remember Aristotle and Vonnegut; someone get’s into trouble and out of it…).
That’s the sum of common characteristics of romance. There are endless types of conflict and endless types of love stories. They can be set in any time period and in any setting or location. The ending is generally satisfactory, optimistic or downright happy ever after, although it can be partially or totally unhappy, too, see for example: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte, 1846), Love Story (Erich Segal 1970), or The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks, 1996).
The Eyre Hall Trilogy is a Romance, because it includes several love stories, and romantic love and the conflicts brought about as a result of the characters’ love interests are central to the plot and the sub-plots.
The genre which is going to prove most complex to define is ‘Gothic’, especially because there are many subgenres. In my case I’ll be discussing the Victorian Gothic Romance genre.
It’s origins are attributed to Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto, which he himself subtitled ‘A Gothic Story’.
The name of the genre is derived from gothic architecture, specifically from the gothic neo-medieval buildings emulating the architecture which flourished in Europe between the 12th and the 16th century, including pointed arches and vaults, flying buttresses, narrow spires, stained glass windows, latticed windows on the exterior, and dungeons, secret passages, ghosts, long winding corridors, dark furnishings and a gloomy atmosphere in the inside.
Not surprisingly, one of the salient features of this genre is the setting, which must include an isolated and spooky, gothic mansion or castle. Think of The Castle of Otranto, Thornfield hall in Jane Eyre, Satis House in Great Expectations, Dracula’s Castle in Dracula, The House of Usher, Manderlay in Rebecca (20th century), Hundred’s Hall in The Little Stranger.
In the case of The Eyre Hall Trilogy there is a large country house, Eyre Hall. Jane Eyre rebuilt a house on the site of Thornfield Hall, which had been burnt down by Bertha Mason in Jane Eyre. Jane purposefully made sure that Eyre Hall didn’t have an attic, a rookery, vaults, or a flying buttress, in an aim to make its appearance less gothic than Thornfield Hall, and although it was a more modern building, there were plenty of nooks and crannies to hide unspeakable secrets…
There are plenty of characteristics which are common to gothic novels. Naturally, the more elements the novel contains, the more gothic it is! Here are a few of the most recurrent, apart from the house, in no particular order:
A mystery and a secret, often a family secret or mystery including murder, torture, or illegal confinement.
A prophecy or ancestral curse on a family.
Omens and paranormal situations.
A persecuted heroine, or damsel in distress, who is generally innocent or naive and easy to fool, by…
An evil character, or villain, who causes havoc in the heroine’s life, often including a seduction, rape or forced marriage. This person is often seeking financial gain and social status.
A supernatural element, which may be a ghost or any other type of unearthly being, such as a devil or a vampire.
Macabre situations such as death, decay, graveyards, churches, exhumation, etc.
Situations which terrorise or frighten the characters.
A dark and gloomy atmosphere, including foggy, dark, cold weather.
Complex plots with secrets and scheming characters.
Strong emotions of love, hate, fear, distress, etc.
Dangerous journeys in carriages, often at night.
One of the essential elements is the opposition between good and evil. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are prime examples. The writer is concerned with the description of the spiritual and psychological challenges of the human soul in extreme situations.
The wicked are usually punished, although they may be redeemed if they learn their lesson and change their evil ways. The good yet physically weaker characters are often empowered due to their moral superiority.
Endings vary widely. Gothic Romance usually has happy endings, whereas Gothic Horror may have unhappier endings.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy must be a very gothic novel, because it contains all the elements I’ve named in spades!
I’ve tried my best to transport the modern reader to Victorian England and experience a gothic romance. There is adventure, suspense, the mystery and magic, dark family secrets, including murder, kidnapping, child theft, blackmail, exhumation, supernatural elements, journeys, asylums, villains, scheming, twisting plots, and plenty of conflict and obstacles for all pairs of lovers in the diverse love stories.
I’ve had great fun researching, planning and writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy, and I hope my readers also enjoy the ride!
Which is your favourite gothic romance?
I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.
There are three days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.
Day three is all about Intertextuality.
Intertextuality is a literary device which creates interrelationship between two or more texts.
The term was coined by Julia Kristeva in the 1960s and has been widely used by poststructuralist and postmodern literary scholars.
The most frequent form is when one book refers to another book’s characters, plot, or scenes.
This reference can be simple or complex. The simple form may reference the title, or a famous character. The complex form may adapt a complete storyline or various characters from another book.
It can be an accidental, subconscious, casual, or deliberate endeavour. It can also be explicit or obvious or implicit, so the reader or scholar will need to delve into the text.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy employs simple and complex forms of intertextuality deliberately and explicitly.
The simple form of intertextuality is employed by most writers. Charlotte Bronte mentions Gulliver’s Travels, The Bible, among other texts in Jane Eyre, for example.
I mention Victorian writers, their works and their characters throughout my trilogy. Some examples are, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, Dr. Watson from Sherlock Holmes by Conan Doyle, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Emily Bronte, among others.
The complex form of intertextuality in The Eyre Hall Trilogy includes the use of many characters and back story from both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea.
On the other hand the plots and most of the characters in the three novels which make up the trilogy are my own.
Intertextuality can be carried out using any or several of the following literary devices: allusion, quotation, parody, paraphrase, mimesis, expansion, transfer, among others.
The Eyre Hall Trilogy makes use of all of them, there are direct allusions to other works, including quotations. Some of the original characters are parodied. Events which took place in Jane Eyre are paraphrased as back story for the reader. I have also attempted to emulate the literary style, although I have adapted it for a modern audience. The original work is expanded and many events and characters have been transferred.
Many writers borrow ideas from the works they have read. Scholars call this literary sources, and all authors from Shakespeare to Joyce have done so in their works. It’s nothing new, and nothing to be ashamed of.
I wrote another post on sequels, prequels, reinterpretations, rewritings and writing back which explains my intentions in writing a sequel to Jane Eyre.
I also wrote a post on why Jane Eyre needs a sequel on author Shani Struther’s blog earlier this year.
There are plenty of examples of writers using this literary. James Joyce retold The Odyssey in Ulysses. Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, is based on two characters from Hamlet. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys is based on Bertha Mason’s story from Jane Eyre.
The purpose is to modify the readers’ understanding of the primary text by adding another perspective or layer of meaning to the original text leading to a reinterpretation of both texts.
My main aim in writing The Eyre Hall Trilogy was to invite the readers to rethink their opinions of Mr, Rochester, and expose Rochester as the tyrant he was and reinstate his victim, Bertha Mason.
Another aim was to honour the Victorian writers whom I consider my literary Masters, by referencing their works for contemporary readers.
Few readers have never read Jane Eyre or seen a film or television series based on this novel. Most of those who have never done so directly, have heard the story of the poor governess who falls in love with the owner of the house and discovers that his mad wife is locked in his attic.
For those few who have absolutely no idea of who Jane Eyre was, there’s plenty of back story in book 1, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, to help fill in the blanks.
I hope my readers will enjoy a fascinating journey into Victorian England when they read The Eyre Hall Trilogy
I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.
There are four days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.
Day four is all about plotting all the scenes into a three part structure.
Plotting From Aristotle to Vonnegut.
Most novels combine engaging characters and a compelling plot to varying degrees, however some novels are more concerned with how and external conflict is solved. A prime example is a detective novel concerned with a criminal case and its solution. Other novels focus on personal conflict and the relationships between the characters. In this case, the outcome is often a change of attitude, or a new situation in the characters’ lives, not the solution of a specific incident.
I’m more of a character-driven writer than a plotter, because I’m more concerned with how my characters feel about their problems, and the processes they undergo to overcome them.
Nevertheless, I do plot and my plot is also important, it’s just not more important than my characters personal journey of self-discovery.
In this post I’m going to tell you about my plot structure for The Eyre Hall Trilogy.
According to Aristotle’s Poetics, all drama has three basic acts corresponding to the beginning, the middle, and the end of a story.
Three thousand years later, Kurt Vonnegut told us that a good story has a hero who gets into trouble and then out of trouble, everyone loves that story.
Screen writer David Trottier put it like this, ‘Put your hero in a tree, throw rocks at him, and get him out.’
There are few surprises to this basic structure, which has been used over and over again, of course, the fun is in the way it’s presented.
Basically, the first part presents the conflict, the middle complicates it even more, and the end resolves it.
I use this basic 3-part structure in my novels, too.
My three novels have three parts with ten chapters per part.
Each chapter has one scene and some have two related scenes.
Part I includes the setting, main characters and first crisis. I start throwing the rocks as soon as possible. In fact the first crisis happens in chapter I in the three books. I thrust both readers and characters into the situation without warning. This event changes the main character’s life drastically and unexpectedly, to such an extent that Jane literally loses control of her life.
This first crisis is sometimes referred to as enticing incident. It’s what sets the ball rolling.
The rest of the novel is spent dealing with and sorting out this situation, which is partially resolved in books 1 and 2 and finally tied up in part 3.
Part II, also called the midpoint, the central character takes stronger actions, the conflict intensifies, or more conflict appears, and the pace quickens. The main character is at a point of no return. Jane must go forward even if she’s walking straight into another crisis at midpoint, and she knows it. When all seems lost, things take a turn for the better, leading up to part three on an optimistic note.
Part III starts well, but there is another major turning point, which is usually referred to as the crisis or dilemma, occurring towards the end of the novel. It usually involves making a decision aimed at solving the initial problem. It’s often a low point where all seems lost. It is followed by the climax, which is the result of the choices made and leads to the final outcome.
If the novel is part of a trilogy, as my case, there can be no satisfactory solution to the crisis in book I, or there would be no reason for a further book, so it ends on an unsatisfactory ending, sometimes called a cliffhanger if it’s more dramatic, so the reader will want to know what happens in book II.
Book two starts with the same structure all over again, leading to book three, which has a more satisfactory ending. I say satisfactory, because the ends are partially tied up, not because it is totally happy. But more about happy-endings tomorrow.
Each of the thirty chapters include scenes.
These scenes include crisis, turning points, surprises, complications, revelations plot twists and turns, and a climax, and a resolution along the way, otherwise it would be a very boring ride!
Scenes are vital, because they drive the story forward. Each scene must have a purpose within the novel, which will move the plot forward or give us some vital information about the characters or back-story.
I give each of the three parts a name, and each chapter a number and a name, too. It helps me in the planning stage, and it signposts the action for the reader (by the way, these names undergo multiple changes throughout the writing process).
This is the Index of Midsummer at Eyre Hall
Part One: Season of Darkness
Chapter I – Abodes of Horror
Chapter II – The Best of Times
Chapter III – Betrayal
Chapter IV – Winter of Despair
Chapter V – The Worst of Times
Chapter VI – Fugitives
Chapter VII – Nothing Before Us
Chapter VIII – Hell is Empty
Chapter IX – The Age of Foolishness
Chapter X – Wrath
Part Two: Spring of Hope
Chapter XI – Locked out of Heaven
Chapter XII– Everything before Us
Chapter XIII – Epoch of Incredulity
Chapter XIV – Stairway to Heaven
Chapter XV Pride, Greed, and Lust.
Chapter XVI – The Agony and the Ecstasy
Chapter XVII Manderley
Chapter XVIII – In Search of Helen
Chapter XIX The Road to Hell
Chapter XX – First Love
Part Three: Season of Light
Chapter XXI – Persuasion
Chapter XXII – Seashells and Puppies
Chapter XXIII – Present Blessings
Chapter XXIV – Mr. de Winter’s Request
Chapter XXV – Thunder Moon at Eyre Hall
Chapter XXVI – Susan’s Inferno
Chapter XXVII – James Eyre Kirkpatrick
Chapter XXVIII – Max and Helen
Chapter XXIX – The Light and the Darkness
Chapter XXX – Return to Eyre Hall
I didn’t plan it all before I started. I started book one with some characters and a situation and let them speak and act. A third of the way through, I planed it all, loosely. I didn’t consciously use Aristotle’s proposal, although it may have been ingrained in my subconscious due to my literary background as a graduate in literature.
This plotting structure has worked for me with the Eyre Hall Trilogy. It helped me to organize my erratic thoughts into coherent scenes, but I honestly have no idea whether it would work with any other novels I’ll be writing. There are lots more methods for plotting a novel.
How do you plot your novels?
I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.
There are five days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.
Day five is all about the transition from the scene I’ve seen in my mind to the written version.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, once I’ve visualised the scene and run through it in my mind’s eye, I start my writing process.
The first thing I do is pick up a pen and a writing pad (I prefer large ones, but sometimes I use smaller ones I can carry in my handbag) and jot down my thoughts.
This first draft looks nothing like the final version and works like this:
First I write some loose ideas or instructions, like detailed playwright’s stage directions. I might add some snippets of dialogue, and some instructions or notes to myself, like ‘remember to make sure the reader knows it’s late afternoon and the journey will take four hours.’ I’m sure nobody would make any sense of it, except myself!
A few days ago, I learnt that this technique is called ‘Freewriting’ and is very useful for writers thanks to a post by Icy Sedwick How can freewriting help writers with plotting or blocks? Read this fascinating article if you want to know more about how this process can help writers.
Next, I usually do some more visualisation, because writing it all down has sparked my imagination and raised more questions or included more people or actions in the scene. I might have to do some research or rethink the whole scene.
The second time I take up the scene, I start writing all over again, using my first notes and any new ideas I’ve come up with. At this stage it is usually a much more coherent text, but it’s still nowhere near finished.
At this point, I usually stop using my pen and take up my keyboard. This is the most productive part, five or six handwritten pages, about 1,000 words, easily become 5,000. And the best thing is that once I get to this stage, the words flow like a waterfall.
When I finish my first typewritten draft of a scene, I know there’s more work to be done on it in the future, but I move on to another scene, for the time being.
Although I move on, I reread and edit what I’ve already written regularly, expanding, cutting out, and modifying as I go along.
I follow this process this with every scene, and each scene usually becomes a chapter, although some chapters have more than one scene, but more about my scenes tomorrow.
Do you your pen before your keyboard too?
Do you ‘freewrite’?