Why People Have Favourites

I always say that my favourite colour is purple.

It’s been purple for as long as I can remember. But I don’t own anything purple, and at work I secretly prefer the red mug. (It’s too late to admit the truth.)

If I stop to think about it, the truth is obvious: I don’t have a favourite.

How can purple be better than green or orange? While I prefer different colours in different contexts, no single shade stands out as supreme. So why do I cling onto my childhood answer instead of owning up?

Some writing advice I once read stated that in order to write believable characters, you need to understand them. You need to get into their skull. Write their diary entries. And list their favourites.

Knowing someone’s favourites is portrayed as an indication of knowing a person. But what does it actually tell you about them?

Perhaps I’m looking at this the wrong way.

Discussing favourites is a conversation starter, a way to find common ground. And, in writing, it’s a way to discover what truly matters to your character.

The important question isn’t what their favourite colour is — but why.

Does your character love red because it reminds them of blood, or because it’s the colour of love? Does green make them think of deathly poison, or of newly grown grass? Pinpointing your character’s thought processes is the best way to get to know them.

And if your character turns out like me, and doesn’t have favourites? At least you know they’re comfortable with ambiguity.

My Top 9 Writing Posts

I’ve been traipsing down memory lane.

What started as a leisurely browse through my archives morphed into a thorough hunt for posts about writing. Once I’d found all my victims, what else could I do but pick out the best?

My Top Nine Writing Posts

  1. 11 Rules For Writing Fiction
    Before learning about characters and craft, there’s one BIG writing obstacle to overcome: finding the time (and motivation) to write.

  2. Putting Pen to Paper
    If you write with pen and paper, you’ll spend less time fussing over the first draft and just get on with it.

  3. Burn Out
    Everyone burns out – and this is where I admitted I had. The post still resonates on a deeply personal level; every time I read it, I feel reassured.

  4. How To Start Writing Again
    The secret to rediscovering the joy of writing is to manage your own expectations.

  5. 7 Ways To Start Writing Again
    If you’ve abandoned a story, how do you get back into the habit of writing?

  6. How To Find The Time To Write
    Ten ways to find 10 minutes to write.

  7. Plotting vs Pantsing
    What’s the point in picking sides?

  8. 11 Rules For Editing Fiction
    Editing is fun. It’s like scrubbing off the dirt from your novel’s little face. But where do you start?

  9. First Impressions
    If the first thing a character does is poo in front of the reader, the reader will think of him as the Pooing Character forevermore.

Clearly, the areas that I struggle with — motivation and productivity — feature the most in my posts.

While I’m not the most prolific of bloggers, it’s reassuring to realise that I occasionally produce more than dribble.

Share your best writing-related blog post in the comments!

6 Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

Writing Above Ground took four drafts, five different outlines, and several years.

But when I published it I thought: that’s it.

I’ve done it once, so I can do it again — and now that I’ve learnt 6 lessons from my first novel, the second time will be easier. Faster.

I was wrong.

For the last year, I’ve spent hours toiling away at Darksight. It’s the reason why I’ve been rubbish at blogging (and tweeting, and facebooking…). I wanted to finish the novel by August 2015. Then August came around, and I pushed the deadline to December. And now, mid-January, I’m still not done.

Sure, what I found difficult the first time is easier today.

But I’ve stumbled across a whole new can of worms…

So here is a revised list of lessons learnt from writing novels:

Lessons Learnt From Writing My Second Novel

  1. The first time’s the hardest — or is it?
    When writing my first novel, I didn’t know whether I could finish a novel. But I also didn’t have the pressure to outperform my previous work. In some respects, it’s more frustrating now that I know I can do it, yet am struggling regardless.

  2. Perseverance is key — and it’s harder alone
    The webfiction community helped me push on through the first draft of Above Ground, with no time to agonise over each chapter. With Darksight, I’ve opted to write it all offline — and realised how much harder it is without the community support (and pressure to post).

  3. It’ll never be perfect — but when should you stop?
    I rewrote Above Ground countless times, watching my writing style develop, thinking it would be perfect the next time. I have rewritten and edited Darksight much less, mostly because I’ve taken a lot more time to get it right the first time. I’m not sure which method is worse: in either case, I need to remember to let go.

  4. Outline, outline, outline — in moderation
    I pantsed Above Ground. The first draft was a mess, and I swore never to put myself through that again. With Darksight, after the initial splurge I sat down and outlined the entire novel. I tried different outlining techniques and layouts, used index cards and excel sheets, tables in Word and bullet point lists. I have barely had to rewrite or edit, but have I outlined the life out of the story?

  5. You get better at it — kind of
    Plot construction, pacing, character development? I get it. Being able to write a novel quickly without running into writer’s block, whilst juggling work and social commitments? On this front, I still have much to learn.

  6. You never stop learning
    And you’ll always want to be a better writer than you are today. Just don’t forget to look back now and then, and recognise how far you’ve come.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress…

Blog Tour: Beyond The Wail

BeyondTheWail What is it about fear and the unknown that pulls so passionately at the human heart? Perhaps we are drawn not to the darkness itself, but to the resolution, the overcoming of what we most deeply dread. After all, the more terrible the struggle, the greater the victory when it comes at last. Presented in this anthology are twelve remarkable stories of the darkness that overshadows us, and the resolution that may be found beyond them. They are stories of fear and oppression, but ultimately stories of hope, stories that will take you BEYOND THE WAIL.

Everyone, meet Tirzah Duncan: NaNoWriMo enthusiast, headgear-wearer and knife-fighting-expert.

Tirzah Duncan is one of the 12 authors featured in the brand new BEYOND THE WAIL anthology. OF MICE AND MONSTERS, Tirzah’s contribution, follows Benjamin, whose attempts to help his timid girlfriend are impeded by his inner demons… and a ghost from his violent past.

Today, she’s kindly stopped by my blog to answer a few questions.

Did I mention there are PRIZES?

Tirzah, how did you come up with the concept of your short story?

There is a man who twists the necks of caged mice.” The first sentence popped into my head, and it drew me on from there, one sentence, one paragraph at a time. The heavy pall of darkness fascinated me, filled me with fear, but also with hope. I wrote without knowing where the story would go, without even knowing what the next sentence would be before I wrote it.

This is the only story I’ve written longhand in a notebook, the only story I’ve ever written quite like this. The only story I never had to force myself to keep writing, because it sank in its hooks and called me on, word by word.

Tell us a dark secret about your story.

The moment Benjamin slams down the glove, scaring his pet mouse? The moment the creature cowers, and he feels that rush of power go to his head?

I had that same moment in my childhood, with one of my rats. I felt the rush, and, even as an eight/nine-year-old, it frightened me. I could feel the darkness in it, the monstrosity, and I never did it again. But I remembered.

That is, fortunately, the only part of this work which is in any way autobiographic.

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When it was misery and I still loved it.

Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members.

I’ve gotta give credit to two: Danielle Shipley, and Syawn Birk. One is my bestie, and I’m on the phone with her way too near to 24/7. Our characters party, talk, bond, and fight together just as much as we do. Somehow, we both manage to get a lot of writing done anyhow, her more than me.

Sy, though, is muse and main character, life coach and captain, friend and priest. He’s almost always at my side when I need inspiration or advice, a confessional or a sermon. I’ve loved him, I’ve hated him, I’ve wrestled over plot points with him, and I don’t know where I’d be without him.

What’s up next for you?

I’m creating an anthology of my own works, as it happens. Not sure what I’m going to call it yet, but I believe Danielle suggested “Tirzah tries to write love stories and fails pretty badly”.

The tales vary from urban fantasy to myth, swords-and-sorcery to psycho-punk, but they’re all centered around love.

In and among internal conflicts, passion, murder, magic, and good old-fashioned vigilantism, each story seeks to question what love really is, what it does, and what, in love, is most important.

Also, Death meets Santa Claus.

Tirzah Duncan Find out more about Tirzah on twitter or facebook. More information about the other stories included in BEYOND THE WAIL can be found on Goodreads.

ENTER THE BEYOND THE WAIL GIVEAWAY NOW!


Beyond The Wail

Saturday 10th October | Featured author: Danielle E. Shipley
Are you Afraid of the Dark?
John’s Writing
Spreading the Writer’s Word

Sunday 11th October | Featured author: Alex McGilvery
Ash Krafton: Emotion Between the Lines
Scott E. Tarbet, Author
Writer’s Law of Motion

Monday 12th October | Featured author: T.N. PAYNE
Melissa McShane, Author
Sarah’s Secret Stash
Notes from Author Ginger C. Mann

Tuesday 13th October | Featured Author: Ginger C. Mann
L.K. McIntosh
J S Brown
Fairies & Pirates

Wednesday 14th October | Featured author: L.K. McIntosh
Rampant Games
Scotty Watty Doodle All The Day
Terra Luft — View From the Crystal Ball

Thursday 15th October | Featured author: Jay Barnson
A Storyteller’s Journey
Creativity from Chaos
Christine Haggerty

Friday 16th October | Featured author: A. F. Stewart
Tales by Julie
Perpetual Chaos of a Wandering Mind

Saturday 17th October | Featured author: Amanda Banker
Sebastian Bendix
Alex Campbell
Semi Short chic

Sunday 18th October | Featured author: Julie Barnson
The Ink Caster
The Road to Nowhere

Monday 19th October | Featured author: Sebastian Bendix
The J. Aurel Guay Archive
:DandiFluff…

Tuesday 20th October | Featured author: Tirzah Duncan
Alex McGilvery’s World
A.M.Harte

Wednesday 21st October | Featured author: F.M. Longo
Ever On Word
The Cult of Me

The Boiler Identity: Part Two

(Read part one first if you haven’t yet!)

With no money, memory, or shoes, Steve had no choice: he went to the bank.

As soon as the cold glass doors slid shut behind him he knew it was a mistake.

He hesitated on the threshold, crumpling the cheque in his hand. One thousand pounds. It would see him through the next couple of weeks while he tried to remember who he was. Whatever crime he had committed to earn the money didn’t matter for now… right?

Before he could change his mind, Steve joined the queue. When it was his turn, he slid the cheque onto the counter with a mumbled apology.

“I’m sorry, sir,” the teller said. He was tall and thin, aggravatingly cheery behind the layers of bullet-proof glass. The font on his name badge was intentionally small. “We need proof of ID to cash your cheque.

“And shoes,” he added pointedly, peering over the counter at Steve’s feet. “Health and safety regulations, you see.”

The queue behind Steve was growing, members of the general public leaning in to eavesdrop.

“But I’ve been mugged,” Steve lied, pushing the cheque against the glass. “They took everything!”

“I can call the police if you want…?” The teller’s eyebrow lifted as if he were contemplating calling the police regardless of Steve’s answer.

Steve shook his head, backing out of the queue. He stood outside in the weak sunshine, woollen socks sticking to the pavement, and wondered what his life was coming to.

By the time he retraced his steps to the house he’d woken up in, Steve was resigned to being arrested. The flashing blue lights ricocheted down the street, luring him to the scene of the crime.

Despite his resolve, Steve’s footsteps slowed when he spotted not one but two police cars–and an ambulance. Who had he hurt? Were they still alive?

A small woman with a blanket around her shoulders was standing at the front door, talking to the police, her red hair shimmering in the daylight. When she saw Steve, all colour fled from her face, as she lifted a shaky hand to point.

“There he is,” she said shakily.

Steve didn’t even bother to run. There was nowhere to run to anyway.