Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A night of fright

Happy Halloween!

What do you when you’re off sick on Halloween?  You snuggle up on the sofa and watch a film!

I’ve got quite a few horror films on the old Sky planner but due to the reasons for which I was off sick, I didn’t want anything too heavy so I chose Fright Night, the 2011 remake of the 1985 Fright Night, billed as a horror-comedy.

Staring Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin, David Tennant and Toni Collette among others, I wasn’t sure about Fright Night (hence not watching it until now) but I was very pleasantly surprised.  When Charlie (Yelchin) discovers that his new neighbour is a vampire named Jerry (Yelchin), he fights hard to protect his girlfriend and mother (Collette), turning to vampire expert Peter Vincent (Tennant) for help.

Fright Night successfully pulls off a vampire movie that isn’t too scary but is interesting and tense enough to not be boring.  Sure, it has romance and the vampires are fairly traditional – garlic, crosses, holy water, etc – which does make it a little cliché in places and yet the romance isn’t overbearing and the clichés are subtle enough to work harmoniously with the characters and plot to make this a modern, fast paced vampire flick.

It may be considered that Colin Farrell would be a strange choice for the vampire but he is actually brilliant.  As all vampires should be, he is sexy and suave but he also manages to pull off an original, dangerous aura with strange head gestures and a dark confidence.  In other words, he is a believable vampire without being yet another clone straight from the vampire mould.

The special effects were also good.  Often less is more and this film keeps a lot of the vampire effects until the climax which means that there is an build up of tension throughout.  While the vampire effects were good and creepy, they were not particularly horrifying although the squealing, animalistic noises and actions were brilliantly original and spine tingling.
What is especially enjoyable is the seemingly painful transition that the vampires experience between humanoid and monster and the build up that the vampire has to go through before feeding, giving a new insight into the monster that I haven’t seen in other vampire flicks.

David Tennant was a breath of fresh air and such a good choice for the character of Peter Vincent when the casting people could have easily chosen Russell Brand and completely ruined the character.  At first Vincent is Russell Brand but Tennant is able to add layer upon layer to Vincent to make him go from an arrogant prick to bumbling, drunken vampire hunter, in order words you dislike him and then you love him. him, well...emphasise with him.

Yelchin (Kyle Reese in Terminator Salvation and Chekov in Star Trek, if you were wondering) was flawless.  What was especially interesting about his character is that he starts the film as a bubbly teenager and towards the end he is pale and ruffled and has a look of Twilight’s Edward - the vampire prey becomes the vampire of a poetic fashion.  Whether the irony of this was on purpose or not, it works wonders and helps to show the realistic horror of what he is facing.  This is particularly important in modern vampire films in a world where vampires have become so common place and almost boring.

While dubbed as a horror comedy, Fright Night is not particularly funny.  It is light hearted in places and more creepy then scary but there were no laugh out loud moments.  I did, however, enjoy Charlie attempting to break into Jerry’s house using his smart phone to get instructions on picking locks.  I enjoyed the fact that it worked even more!  Seriously, is there an app for that?

Fright Night is a fast paced, modern vampire film which is effectively creepy and light hearted at the same time.  There is not one weak link in the cast and there are even some original moments (bearing in mind I haven’t seen the 1985 film) which makes the whole experience refreshing.  If one was to be picky, the weakest part would be the romance but even this is done gently.  There’s no slush to be found in this film, although perhaps this could have been done without the strong emphasis on sex/the losing of virginity but this again was a bit different.

Fright Night is definitely worth a watch.  It isn’t amazing but it is enjoyable with interesting characters.  Who’s ever heard of a vampire called Jerry, anyway?

“This is real. He's a real monster and he's not brooding, or lovesick, or noble. He's the fucking shark from Jaws. He kills, he feeds, and he doesn't stop until everybody around him is dead. And I seriously am so angry you think I read Twilight.”

Thursday, 25 October 2012

How many inspiration hits can you get in 24 hours?

Oops, it’s been over a week since I last did a blog post.  Naughty me.  In my defence it has been a jam packed week of terrible news, awful days, social activity and wonderful, unique experiences.  All of that and it’s a week off work! 
Anyway, I wanted to share two of these days with you, none of the awfulness of this week but some of the grimy moments and the most wonderful moments (cut down otherwise the post would be huge).  This post stands as evidence that inspiration can be found everywhere and those moments are picked out in bold.

We arrived at the hotel in the early evening.  The sun had recently set and darkness had settled over the city bringing with it heavy clouds and drizzle.  After having a rest, we made our way downstairs to the restaurant, eyelids already drooping.
The restaurant was tiny compared to what we were used to, and it was heaving.  Thankfully there wasn’t a queue but there was still a good deal of time between a waiter spotting us, saying he’d be right with us and actually being shown to our table.  Beside us, two gentlemen (who were these men?  Where had they come from?  Where were they going?  What did they think of the situation?) asked for the bill as we settled with our menus.
Our drinks arrived but my husband had been brought the wrong one.  It was taken away and brought back some time later.  Eventually our order was also taken.  The gentlemen beside us still hadn’t paid, my husband whispered to me.
‘Hmm,’ I muttered back.  ‘Looks like that might be the case with everyone.  They do that to us, we’ll just walk out.’
Our food arrived and still the gentlemen beside hadn’t paid.  As an entirely different waiter who had taken our order, completely different still from the waitress who had brought the drinks, laid our food before us, the gentlemen to the side took the opportunity to ask for the bill once more.  Forty-five minutes later.  They finally paid and were able to go on their way.
Dinner was spent watching the people around us.  Watching the three members of staff running from table to table without any sign of organisation. (Did they think it was disorganised?  How was their shift going?  Who were they?)
We ordered our desserts.
‘Can I have the chocolate brownie sundae, please?’
‘The chocolate brownie?’
‘The sundae.’
‘Oh, yes, the special?’
‘Yes please.’  I watched him leave knowing full well I wouldn’t be getting the sundae.  We waited and waited, watching families come and go.  Just as I was considering venturing into the kitchen myself to make my own dessert, they were brought out to us.  Low and behold, I was given a chocolate brownie.
‘No, no.  I ordered the sundae.  The special.’
‘Oh,’ the waitress sighed.  ‘Sorry.’  She turned and took it back.  I sat back and watched more families come and go, my husband munching away at his apple crumble, scraping the plate clean.  The waitress appeared with a bowl, the chocolate brownie placed inside with two scoops of ice cream dumped on top. 
‘Thank you,’ I said without much enthusiasm, picking up the spoon she had given me.  It was dirty.  I could have banged my head on the table, or stood and screamed, but instead I got out of my chair and found the waitress.  She brought me a new spoon, her face now a scowl.

We managed to pay quickly by standing in front of the waitress and not allowing her to move until she had dealt with us, and made a quick retreat back to our room.  A faint scent of urine hit us as we opened the door.
‘Lovely,’ my husband remarked, making for the bed and kicking his shoes off.  I disappeared into the en suite to wash the sticky ice cream from my fingers.  The sink filled quickly despite the plug not being in and sat there. 
‘Wonderful,’ I muttered.

I was kept awake that night by the constant thrum of traffic.  Until midnight, there were sirens and flashing lights every few minutes (the hotel was surrounded by hospitals, we found out later.  Who was in those ambulances?  Who was driving them?) and eventually I fell asleep purely out of exhaustion, my dreams haunted by the din.
We woke to a city sat in fog.  We walked down the street, the skyscrapers on either side only coming into view as we approached.
‘Like an old computer game,’ my husband said with a grin.  We dodged the suits and crossed roads at a run, not trusting pedestrian or driver.  The skyscrapers gave way to beautiful old terraced houses and we turned off the main road, heading for the gate to the park.

What a contrast!  The road noise vanished, to be replaced with bird song.  Golden and red leaves surrounded us as we walked down the path, following the signs to the zoo.  The gardens were immaculate, trimmed hedges and elegant fountains emerged from foggy entrails.  Business people cut through, striding down the wide paths.  Joggers and dog walkers were more relaxed and we walked hand in hand, beaming at the beauty.  We watched a dog running full speed down an area of grass, utterly joyful in the presence of mud and seagulls and other dogs to be chased and sniffed. (While his owner screamed at him to come back.  His name was Cookie.  He was obviously enjoying himself but what sort of day was his owner having?  Was she taking a walk to get away and have a think about something?)
We passed a group of four men sat on a bench, a four pack of cheap lager by their feet, unshaven and dirty and engrossed in a tale being told by one with great hand gestures.  (Who were they?  Were they homeless?  And what tales of adventure or retribution was being told?)

As we reached the top of the park, a strange noise was heard.  A shrill cry that was repeated.  We had reached the boundary of the zoo.  The cry followed us down the path and along the road as we searched for the main entrance.  Desperate to know what that cry was, it fell silent for the rest of the day as soon as we stepped foot inside the zoo boundaries.  (What the hell was it?!)

The reptile house inside London Zoo is among the original buildings and not yet fully renovated.  We met with a friend who gave us a wonderful tour of the animals she cared for, giving us a truly incredible and unique experience.  As she led us out of the reptile house, we went through the centre and down into the space between enclosures.  All around us were venomous snakes, locked away behind metal and locks, accessible only by old wooden planks.
‘They say it’s haunted,’ my friend said (ghost story alert!  Move to red alert!) and a shiver ran through me.  ‘A keeper who was bitten by a cobra.  It’s a bit freaky being the last one here and closing up for the night!’  We laughed nervously, as she closed and locked the door behind us, letting us back out into the foggy world of the city zoo.

A friend I made at London Zoo.  Got to love intelligent birds...
Tired, aching but beaming, we returned to the hotel and ventured back down the restaurant.  We were too tired to find somewhere else and an early morning beckoned.  There were more staff and we were seen much quicker.  We were still served by each of the staff with no semblance of organisation but at least we were given the right dishes.  My husband ordered the special chocolate brownie sundae to finish and I was enraged to see he was given something very different to my own sundae of the previous night.
While listening to me wittering on, my husband watched those sat behind me, nodding and murmuring where he felt it was appropriate.  He watched a blonde woman enter the restaurant and sit behind us.  She took out her mobile, pressed some buttons, stood and walked out.  He thought nothing of it.
As we were finishing our desserts, a woman and her daughter approached the table.  Some commotion followed, where she brought some of the waiting staff over. 
‘My bag.  Where is my bag?  I left it here by accident and now it’s gone.’ (Who was the thief?  Why did she steal it and how long had she been watching the restaurant?  Who were the woman and daughter?  Why were they staying at the hotel?)
The staff shrugged, they hadn’t seen it.  Exasperated and without answer, the woman and daughter left the restaurant. 
‘She had her bag stolen?’  I hissed at my husband, pulled my own bag closer.  I watched then as a gentleman sat behind my husband described the blonde woman to a waitress.  She nodded and shrugged.  The woman would be long gone.  What could they do?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

The write time

I feel the need to apologise for the quality of my posts recently.  They just haven’t been up to standard.  I blame this entirely on myself and my busy schedule.  The whole point of this blog was to ensure I wrote regularly, practise writing non-fiction and establish a platform for an eventual published book.  Lately, things have been slipping.

I haven’t been writing either.  Fiction, I mean.  The bread and butter of my writing.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot, but then I’m always thinking about it.  I’ve gotten to that stage where I’ve been doing so much thinking and not a lot of doing that I’ve become frustrated at still being in the same position as a few months ago.  There’s that short story, still half finished despite having finished it in my head, and there’s that novel, still unedited and incomplete despite all of the ideas and apprehension to sitting down and working on it.

There are so many things that can come between a writer and their work:
  •  Work – especially a full time job.
  • Social life
  • Television and other distractions – did anyone see the final of the Great British Bake Off last night?
  • Family – especially small children
That’s not including the ad-hoc obstacles; family/relationship issues, that job interview coming up, the big project deadline looming…

One of the first things that all writers learn is how to find time to write.  This changes regularly throughout a writer’s life as circumstances change.

When I was at school, I would sit in my bedroom writing from the time I got home to eleven at night with only a break to eat.  Those were the days!  I didn’t have to think about cooking or tidying the house or stresses at work.  I just came home from school or my part time job, sat down and wrote until my eyes closed.  I have to give full credit to my parents for that one and am very grateful that they gave me that opportunity.

At university I stopped writing until I nearly burst.  Then I would write randomly and whenever I could.  University work and my social life came first.  I still managed to finish a novella, but over the course of three years!  Happily, I did get to write short stories for some of my modules so not all was lost and anyway, I was out experiencing life.  I was learning and giving myself something to write about.  It never really bothered me that I didn’t make time for the actual writing.

Writing in the time between graduation and becoming settled is a blur.  There was a mixture of relationship break ups, the full time day job, interviews and a rebuilding of the social life.  I have no idea how I found time to write but by the time I fell in love and moved across the country, I had written half a novel.

In the five years I have been in Bristol, I have written three novels.  On discovering that I am now an adult and following my belief that adults can get published, I am now very strict about my writing schedule.  I actually have a schedule for one thing!  It also helps to be settled, a routine can be established and more thought can be given to the work of writing.

So as an adult, who is fully entitled to be published after years of learning and working, how do you find the time to write?  The days of carefree studenthood are over and the responsibilities seem endless...
  • Make a schedule!  In order to find time to write, you must make time.  I keep trying this and it works for a while.  Maybe the key is to keep updating it. 
  • Give yourself realistic deadlines.
  • Create a space just for yourself where you can write without distraction (so make sure it has a door if you have children)
  • If you have small children, try and create a compromise with your other half.  You'll be with the kids while they do something they want to do, and they'll watch them while you write.  Make sure it's for equal lengths of time!
  • Give yourself a realistic daily word count.  I aim for 1000 words a day.  It doesn't matter how much you aim for, just don't be too ambitious.
  • Disconnect the internet!  And yes, I did hear that gasping.  But this works.  Remove all temptation and distraction.  
  • Treat yourself.  Did you meet a deadline?  Did you do those 500 words after a particularly tiring and stressful day?  Then treat yourself to something good. It means that you'll put writing before watching television (in my case).
  • And on that note, do some writing before you go to work, or do the housework, or cook, or write as soon as you finish work.  Write before you get into anything big to get yourself started for the day or before you stop and settle down for the evening.
There are so many tricks to finding time to write, I'm sure I've missed many.

I really don't have an excuse not to write at the moment.  I don't have children, me and my husband encourage one another to have separate hobbies and I'm still young and should have plenty of energy (and I'd really appreciate it if someone would remind my body of that).  In the future, when I have a day job with more responsibilities and little ones to look after I imagine I'll be revisiting this list and creating new ways of finding those precious minutes with which to settle down with a notepad or my laptop.

How do you make time to write?  And better yet, does anyone have any tips on finding time to edit (something I am still to conquer)?

Look what I found, who remembers Kenan and Kel?!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Better the devil you know


The Walking Dead season 3 begins in the UK on FX this Friday 19th October at 10pm!!

Put it in your Sky planners!  Mark it on your calendar!  Or, if you’re not like me and don’t care one little bit about the zombie apocalypse and Rick Grimes’ survival, ignore this and scroll down to today’s post…

 How was your weekend?  Mine was very relaxing, full of shopping, lunch and sleep.  We caught up on the weeks TV (I am now fully up to date on Modern Family and terrified of flying after The Plane Crash) and even watched this weeks Sky Premier, Horrible Bosses.

Horrible Bosses is one of those that I wanted to see at the cinema, but not quite enough to actually go and see it.  I adore Jennifer Anniston and am growing rather fond of Jason Bateman, not to mention it boasts the names of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell.

Not only that but this comedy speaks to everyone.  Who hasn’t had a horrible boss?  I’ve had the boss who blames everyone but himself, the ambitious, headstrong boss who doesn’t listen or care, the flirty and slightly pervy boss and the utterly clueless boss.  Not all of these are different people!
Horrible Bosses focuses on three types of bosses; the amibitious out-for-himselfer, the sexual harasser and the drugged up clueless.  All of which are utter extremes.

That was the main problem I had with this film.  The script was funny, the acting flawless but the premise was just that tiny bit unbelievable.  You hate your boss?  Your boss is ruining your life?  Quit!

Nick (Jason Bateman) couldn’t quit because he didn’t want to start all over again and Harken (Spacey) had made it clear he would ruin him if he left.  Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) couldn’t quit because Pellitt (Farrell) was going to inadvertently kill thousands of people.  Dale (Charlie Day) couldn’t quit because he was a registered sex offender and who else would employ him but sex obsessed Julia (Anniston)? 

Fine, all good reasons, if not slightly far fetched in places, but still, your work is making your life that much of a misery?  Quit!
They don’t quit, instead they decide that their bosses must die.  Who hasn’t considered this before?  Well, me, for one.  I’ve had just as many horrible bosses as I have nice ones but I’ve never once thought of killing them.  Punching them maybe, telling them what I think of them, but ultimately I just quit and moved on.

While the film was enjoyable, the silliness was just a little too much.  A very important lesson can be learnt from this – whatever your story, make it believable!
It doesn’t matter if it is fantasy, science fiction, romance or a comedy about three men with horrible bosses, it must be believable or your readers will lose interest and your story will begin to disappoint.

Another important lesson from Horrible Bosses is a reality check – how to deal with your own horrible boss.  What impressed me the most about these three men was that they each confronted their horrible boss.  Personally, I would have just quietly quit and turned my back, but each of them attempted to make amends and improve their situation.  Of course, they all failed.

That printer scene in Officespace
At the end of the film, each character has his own closure with his boss, one way or another.  What they learn is that just because you get rid of one horrible boss, doesn’t mean that the next one will be any better.

The one thing I love about ‘workplace’ films is that they can speak to you.  Officespace is a brilliant example of this.  Just the printer scenes alone made me laugh so hard I nearly cried and in this age of the recession, if you haven’t been privy to some redundancies then you’re very lucky.  It was the end of Officespace that secured this as one of the best films in my collection.  It was very personal to me; I know I’m in the wrong job when I begin driving into work hoping to find what they found when they arrived at work right at the end.  But the ending also gives hope, that there is a job that you will enjoy out there.  You just have to find it.
Horrible Bosses did have a closing message but it wasn’t one of hope and it didn’t hit a nerve.  It was just the message that life goes on.

So the next time you think about killing your boss (or just smacking them), consider this; better the devil you know.  You never know who might be waiting in the wings ready to replace them.  It could be Harken, ready to work you into the ground and not giving you anything to show for it, or Julia, making your life an utter misery and shattering your nerves, or Pellitt, simply someone irresponsible who has the job that you could do with your eyes shut.

Give Horrible Bosses a go, it's good fun and a laugh, but don’t expect too much.  If you fancy a good workplace film, why not try Officespace (also with Anniston) or, if you’re of a female persuasion, I would highly recommend The Devil Wears Prada.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Are you sure Sir? It does mean changing the bulb

The leaves at my local leisure centre

I feel like I’m spinning out of control (the spinning class was horrendous by the way, thanks for asking).  It’s Autumn, my favourite time of the year.  The leaves are changing colour, the nights are drawing in, I’ve dug out my favourite jumper and thick bed socks and my fingers are hovering over the thermostat ready to put the heating on. 
It’s also time for all the good television to come on.  New series’ are springing up everywhere; Modern Family, Spy, The Walking Dead (more news coming next week), Cuckoo, Red Dwarf X...

Last night, the second episode of Red Dwarf X aired.  The first episode is nerve wracking, the second episode is only slightly less nerve wracking.  Will it still be funny?  Will all of the effort have been put into the first episode and the other episodes ignored?

The second episode featured time travel, the father and son relationship and a new ships computer.  It was a full bodied episode.
There were fewer laugh out loud moments, in fact I think I only laughed out loud once (the guitar moment was brilliant) but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it.

I am delighted to say that I didn’t cringe as much.  Lister still feels a bit forced, as does the dialogue between him and the Cat but this seemed to ease as time went on.  It made me think about the first series and how effortless Dave Lister was back then.  I wondered if our original Lister would ever return but by the end of this episode Lister felt a lot more comfortable.  The issue here is that some of Lister’s characteristics have been muddled, or temporarily lost.  Lister is intelligent, he just chooses not to use it, he’s a good man and quick witted, he’s kind, he enjoys annoying Rimmer and he’s a slob. As Red Dwarf has evolved Lister has become less about the intelligence and frustration and more about the slobbiness.  This episode showed a new insight into that lost intelligence and quick wit.  Welcome back Lister, I hope you’re back to stay.

Rimmer is still my favourite character.  He remains to be the most effortless character and we had a good reminder of his character, his poor technician skills and taste in women.   By the way, does anyone know what that strange noise business at the beginning of the episode was about?

The Cat is still very forced, although I hope he will soften as time goes on.  Kryten, although spending a lot of time with Rimmer in this episode, also has his own storyline with the Cat featuring Chinese Whispers which promised to be very funny.  Sadly this seemed to dissipate into forced and silly gags and was lost in the climax.

In this episode, Kryten and Rimmer install a new computer, Pree, who has predictive powers.  These predictive powers can become very complicated, as with time travel, and here is an episode that features both!  This means that the ending is questionable.  It felt rushed.  I understand that they are near death and in a panic but it felt that the magic was lost because of this.   I found myself waiting for the ‘are you sure sir?  It does mean changing the bulb’ moment but none was forthcoming.  Not only should Pree have known what Lister did before he did it, but even if we ignore that fact his details were not with the medi bot at that time (were they?) so he still didn’t count as a crew member as he had no way of escaping to complete these details.
Don’t get me started on the medi bot.  Utterly terrifying!  I miss the old Red Dwarf ship, I miss the scutters and I miss Holly but I don’t miss them enough for it to ruin my enjoyment of the show.  After having a sneak peak of the third episode, I’m really looking forward to it.

So great television has returned to our screens, the day job has gotten very busy as the summer is now definitely over and I have more writing projects on now than ever before.  Something might have to give...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Let’s get physical

Oh woe is the writer!

The majority of us have to suffer day jobs to pay the bills, enjoy time with our wonderful families and write (naturally), as well as a million other little things.  Just how do you fit everything into seven days every week?  It’s exhausting and such a headache.

On the other hand, you have enormous passion for something incredible, you exercise your mind on a regular basis and, if you’re up for the challenge, you can have two careers!  Who else can say that?

I am embarking on the two career route, I’m at the beginning of the family path, I seem to have already stumbled down the housewife road (how did I manage that?) and now I’m about to start a new challenge to get fit, all while writing, editing and reading my way to being published.


Marriage has taken its toll on me.  After a year of wedded bliss I have put on weight.  Unfortunately this came at the same time as the clothing retailers silently changing their sizes (it’s a conspiracy), both of which have resulted in me going up a trouser size.
Well, no more!  I cry.

Yesterday I wrote out a schedule incorporating my day job (career 1), my writing (career 2), my wifely duties (cleaning, food shopping, cooking, oh the joy) and exercise.  I even colour coded it.

I’ve done this before without success but this time will be different.  My first ever spinning class is booked for tomorrow (gulp) and I’ve told you all about it.  So now I have to go through with it.

You see, that is another problem with writers.  Besides the fact that there is never enough time in the day (or night), writing is very much a sitting occupation.  Oh we might be running in our heads, but in reality we sit at our computer, day in, night out, tapping away.  If your day job is an office job, chances are you’re sat for over seven hours a day before you even get to any writing.

Physical exercise can clear the cobwebs from your mind.  It can help you solve problems and allow for a new or clear way of thinking.  Exercise is not just about your body, it’s about your mind.  Even if you’re just taking the dog for a walk, it all helps the creative mind to function, not to mention a breath of fresh air always makes you feel better.

Sadly, dog walking and housework is no match for my marriage weight and so I am bound for the leisure centre.  You never know, it might just improve my writing.  Wish me luck!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Why so series-us?

What do Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowling, Terry Pratchett and Paul Magrs all have in common?

They’ve all written a series!

When I was researching, believing myself ready to submit a fantasy novel to publishers and agents, I came across one thing, over and over.  Publishers love their fantasy in threes.  The general notion seemed to be that if you can make your story into a trilogy, it is more likely to sell.

As a reader, I disagree with this.  I would rather read one stand alone book then a trilogy.  I thoroughly enjoyed Northern Lights of the His Dark Materials trilogy (Phillip Pullman), for example, but The Amber Spyglass actually annoyed me and was a battle to finish.  I adore The Blade Itself of the The First Law trilogy (Joe Abercrombie) but couldn’t for the life of me tell you what happened in The Last Argument of Kings.  I couldn’t even remember off hand the titles of these third books!

On the other hand, I am an ardent fan of the Discworld series (Terry Pratchett), the Brenda and Effie series (Paul Magrs) and Joe Abercrombie in general who’s novels all feature the same world and reoccurring characters (I read with longing that Logan Ninefingers and/or Glokta will reappear).

Yes, I dislike trilogies but love a good series.  What’s the difference?

A trilogy tells the same story over the course of three books.  While I have repeatedly read that all trilogy books should be able to stand alone, this simply isn’t true and if you want any closure for your new favourite characters, you must read all three.  Three books are not many, but have you noticed that many trilogies grow in size as they go on?  The final book is always the thickest and suddenly gaining that closure becomes a marathon.

A series tells the story or stories of a set of characters in the same location.  This can be as varied as the writer wants and can make work.  It may be that a series stretches across a whole world (Pratchett’s Discworld), a country or two (George R. R. Martin’s Westoros and across the Narrow Sea) or a town (Whitby in Magrs’ Brenda and Effie series).  It could focus on a small set of characters (Brenda, Effie and friends) or a whole cast full (Rincewind, Vimes, Vetinari, The Librarian, Susan, Death, Colon, Nobby Nobbs, Carrot, Tiffany, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg to name a few and that is not counting the one off characters through the whole series).

A series is something special, it is something that readers become loyal to.  It is the equivalent of joining a group of friends on a new adventure.  You live and breathe there with them and look forward to when you can return to them.

A series is also a sure fire way to make a publisher a lot of money.  Once one book has a readership, the whole series has a readership and the longevity of the books relies on the number of books in the series.  Not to mention that someone may discover a book fairly late and then catch up through the backlog, resulting in more sales and an ever increasing customer base.

Whatever the series you hope to create, there are some constants which must remain throughout;

  • Locations must remain familiar.  Feel free to introduce new locations, of course, but make sure they are repeated throughout the series.
  • Have a cast of reoccurring protagonists.
  • How about some reoccurring antagonists?  This will differ depending on the series.  Crime stories will require different protagonists throughout, but how about that serial killer that got away?

While a series should have constants, it is also very important that each book work as a stand alone story.  This is where it becomes tricky!  A series can/should have a main issue or story that is worked on throughout (the game of thrones in A Song of Fire and Ice, Brenda’s fight for a normal life in the Brenda and Effies books) but each book must have its own story with a beginning, middle and ending giving the reader closure.
You also want to ensure that anyone can dip into the middle of your series and still be immediately hooked without wondering what the hell is going on and being forced to find the first book.

How about a sub series?  Within the Discworld series there are the City Watch series, the Witch series, the Wizard series…if you have a large cast of characters this might be one way of dividing stories.  It also gives way to marketing opportunities – which is your favourite Discworld sub series?

Why not experiment?  Both of my current novels are the beginnings of series’.  One will rely on three main characters with some minor reoccurring characters.  The other will rely on a world, with reoccurring characters but a new story and point of view each time.  I’m actually very excited to see where both will lead me.

As with all writing, there are exceptions to all of these rules.  When it comes down to it, write what you love but make sure it works.

Fancy a bit more?  Check these links out -