and then there were none

I have always loved detective stories, from a young age I was reading Anthony Horowitz’s Diamond Brothers series – still one of the best detective series for young people I’ve found – and as I got older I started reading Sherlock Holmes and other such famous detective novels. But something that I never managed to read was Agatha Christie but now that has been rectified.

I bought And Then There Were None from the bookshop and finished it in a single night. I simply could not put it down! The story itself is fascinating and the writing, simply perfect. I fell in love with the fast-paced intellect of it all, rushing ahead to try and solve the mystery before they did… I didn’t manage it but anyone that has read it will probably understand why!

Detective stories are one of the most difficult thing to write because you need to have be able to not only have the motive for the actual culprit but everyone else also needs a valid enough motive to make it feel like there truly is an element of suspense. So I have so much respect and admiration for the people that write them.

But Agatha Christie is the undisputed queen of detective stories. Her characters are phenomenal, the detectives Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot are brilliant and the characters in And Then There Were None are some of the most well-written ones I’ve ever encountered. Vera was excellent, quick-witted and sharp and yet still vulnerable. Philip Lombard, the mercenary with a softer side. The stiff-lipped judge and the dismissive socialite. They all have a place in my heart. As does the great Agatha Christie.

I think that one of the things that I loved the most about And Then There Were None was the use of the poem throughout, it was  interesting and really should have given me the clue that I needed to work it out! But it didn’t because everything else was so cleverly designed.

The crux of the matter is, if you haven’t read this book then give it a try and if you have then let me know if you worked it out before the epilogue!

 

 

 

 

 

book vs. movie

There is always a sense of trepidation and almost fear when you hear that your favourite novel is being made into a film. Will they get the characters right? Will they cut out something important? Will the casting be good? Or will it just be generally awful?

These were the thoughts flashing through my head when I heard on the grapevine about a film in the works set to come out next year. A film version of my favourite book, like, I really love this book, I’ve read it at least fifty times and have loved it every single time… you could say that my love for this book is ‘like a heartbeat, soft and persistent, underlying everything’ (a beautiful quote from an equally beautiful book). Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli is an excellent book that will make an equally as excellent film… as long as it is done right.

Simon is not a perfect hero that knows all, in fact, there are so many things he doesn’t know that I’m surprised he actually manages to work anything out! But perhaps worse – but also what made me love him so much the first time I read it – he thinks that he knows a lot more than he does, he thinks that he has worked out the answer before he’s even had any clues and it is this lovable optimism that makes this character so great.

But anyway, this was not a post for me to wax lyrical about this book – though if you haven’t read it, you definitely should – but in fact to discuss the idea of turning books into films.

Some books to films are brilliant, like personally, I think that the Harry Potter films are excellent and very close to the books, that’s not to say that they’re perfect (I too have an issue with their loose idea of the word ‘calmly’ and the fact that Ron’s character was reduced to mere comic relief) but they are still a lot better than some attempts!

Attempts like the absolute disasters of the Percy Jackson films… which as films go aren’t awful but as films of the books? They were an absolute catastrophe!

Not only was the casting some of the worse I’ve ever seen, the ages and appearances were completely wrong and some characters were just omitted completely, but the plot was also changed drastically – and not for the better! Basically, when even the writer of the books that you’re butchering tells you to stop… you should probably stop.

Drop your favourite (and least favourite!) movie adaptations in the comments and tell me why!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April

Despite the fact that three months have already passed, April always feels like a beginning to me. Perhaps it is because it is the real beginning of spring, the flowers are blooming, the lambs are out and the sun is actually shining! Or perhaps it’s because my birthday falls at the end of March and so April feels like something special. byu

I don’t know why but I do that the first days of April always feel like a new beginning and this year I am embracing that even more fully than I have before. I have started on a new writing project, I have picked my journal back up and I am even looking into eating more healthily… let’s see how long that lasts!

But the main point of this post is to say that people often want to make a change in their lives but they feel like they have to wait until they have a reason to do so, be it Lent or the new year, yet I am here to say that if you want to make a change then just make it! Don’t decide that you have to leave it until you have a ‘reason’ to do it because by then you might not want to!

Make April your month to start something new, or May, or June, or simply tomorrow. Because every day is the first day of the rest of your life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

writing update

Recently I started writing again, I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had time for anything (including this, my most sincere apologies)! But in the last few weeks I have picked up my pen and started writing again and it is brilliant!

It began because I was discussing with my friend the difficulty that comes with trying to write a classic whodunit and decided to set myself a challenge of writing one… because obviously, after discussing how difficult something is, one cannot help but try it! It is still in its very early stages yet but I have  a murderer and a victim so really, what more do I need?

You know, apart from a detective, a plot, alibis, clues, a motive, other characters and a setting! But I’m getting there and Eloise Betjemen is coming to life – my wonderful, Holmes-esque protagonist – and a motive can’t be that hard to work out!

I have always loved detective stories and it has been a dream of mine to write one for ages so, despite the difficulties, I decided to give it a go! But I wanted something a bit more fun and thus, the murder mystery dinner was born. Because where’s the last place someone would expect a murder? One where a fake one has already been committed, of course!

I don’t know, I thought it was a fun idea! I’ll try to keep you all updated on Eloise and her crime-solving abilities!

 

 

 

 

“He never went out without a book under his arm, and he often came back with two.” – Les Misérables, Victor Hugo

I used to read constantly, I never left the house without a book and any spare time I had was spent poring over them. But then school started getting in the way, then college and the next thing I knew the only thing I’d read in nearly two months was stuff for college.

Yes, I was still reading, it’s kind of a big part of English Literature but I hadn’t read anything simply to read it. I hadn’t picked up a book and been so enthralled by it that I couldn’t put it down. And when reading becomes something you have to do, you stop enjoying it. It stops being something you can’t wait to do and becomes something you can’t wait to finish. Every book feels like an epic saga that you don’t have time for, regardless of length or difficulty.

I wanted to get out of this reading rut so I decided to set myself a challenge, in 2017 I want to read at least 24 books. This sounds like quite a small number in comparison to how much I used to read but I also do have to think about college and university so I thought that I would start small and work my way back up. And by 24 books, I mean books that I haven’t read, ones that I have read before don’t count so the actual number will probably be higher than that! I just knew that I needed to do something to force myself to actually start reading again. And a competition against myself? That sounded like a good a way as any.

And it really has made a difference, in the last two months I’ve read three books which is more than I read in six months last year. It’s a mixture of classics and not-classics but that doesn’t matter, as long as they are books that I haven’t read before they count.

So far, I have read:

  • One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

and

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

So… I guess I’m doing pretty well.

Let me know what books YOU want to read this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“I cannot live without my soul”

The first time I read Wuthering Heights, I will admit, I hated it. It felt clunky and dragged out, the characters were completely unlikeable and the plot? Dull at best.

Having now studied it for a year and reread it three times, my opinion has changed. The plot isn’t dragged out, the two halves of the novel reflect each other. It’s not clunky, I just wasn’t reading it properly. Symbolism always looks clunky if you only think of the simplest thing. And the characters? Still completely unlikeable. But that isn’t a bad thing, you can see a character as a horrible person without them being an awful character.

There are many examples of this in literature throughout time, from Emily Brontë’s Heathcliff to J.K Rowling’s Snape. These are characters that do awful things and you know that if they were a real person they would be terrible, terrible people. But as characters? They can be fascinating. You just have to accept that the two are not linked. A character can be a terrible person but an interesting character. In fact, perfect characters that never do anything wrong are actually extremely dull.

As a culture, we find horrible people fascinating. Just look at how many films, tv shows and even documentaries there are about serial killers or life on Death Row. We understand that these are people that have done horrific, unimaginable things but we still find their stories fascinating. This is why characters like Heathcliff are so adored by some people, and yet abhorred by others. As a person, he is awful. As a character? Fascinating.

Anyway, this is not a post about our culture’s morbid curiousity  and odd fascination with serial killers. It is a post about Wuthering Heights and why it is important to give novels (particularly the classics) a proper chance.

Wuthering Heights is a quintessentially Victorian novel, but it is heavily influenced by the Gothic era of literature which had come before, this is clear with Brontë’s use of ghosts and spirits. It is a much darker novel than most written at the time and this is part of its charm. The plot is not dull, I was just reading it too simply. The first half of the novel is still my favourite half but I have a newfound respect for the second half now that I understand what she was trying to convey. The characters in the second half of the novel are reflections of the characters in the first. Brontë is using this to show the way that their lives could have gone, particularly at the end with Hareton and Cathy.

Catherine is obviously the reflection of her mother, Cathy, but it is also important to note that she is also a reflection of Isabella. She is a wealthy, young woman who falls in love with a ‘rough young man’ – as Isabella does with Heathcliff – fortunately, Catherine is much luckier than Isabella as the man she falls in love with isn’t using her as part of his intricate revenge plot. But Catherine embodies all of the positive attributes that Cathy had with less of the negatives. She is excitable and high-spirited but not as spiteful and vindictive. She adores her father and truly does care for Linton, despite the awful way that he treats her. This is showing the happy life that Cathy could have had if she had been kinder to those who loved her and had chosen love over money.

Hareton is a reflection of Heathcliff. Despite being Hindley’s son, he is incredibly similar to Heathcliff. It is also a reflection of Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff – he refused to let him join Cathy in her lessons and generally treated him as a servant. This is, in turn, how Heathcliff treats Hareton. He is, however, better than them both because unlike them, he is kind and loving and he begins teaching himself to read in order to be able to talk to Catherine. He has all of the best parts of Heathcliff – of which there are some – he feels passionately and honestly – unlike most of the characters! – and shows how Heathcliff’s life could have been if a) he cared less about revenge and b) his love for Cathy had been less obsessive and more, well… loving.

And Linton… I don’t have much to say about Linton. If any of the characters in Wuthering Heights are truly dull. It’s Linton – and Mr Lockwood, but he hardly counts. He is the reflection of Edgar Linton but he embodies the negative parts of all of the characters. He has Edgar’s childhood sense of entitlement and his lack of backbone, Cathy’s spite, Isabella’s frailty and submissive nature and Heathcliff’s vengeful malevolence. He is, in short, a horrible person and also a dull character. He spends the entire time whining about how unfair his life is – his life isn’t easy, I understand that, his father is awful and he is seen as nothing more than a pawn in Heathcliff’s game of revenge, but still… – and refusing to go outside for fear of the cold. He says that he loves Catherine but has no qualms about helping his father regardless of what that means for her. It is partly out of fear but also partly out of spite and his generally vindictive attitude.

When I read it for the third time after having studied it for nearly a year, I appreciated more what Brontë what trying to do and realised that actually… it was extremely clever and I had misjudged her and her novel.

So basically, despite this being the longest post I’ve ever made, all that I’m trying to say is that if you have ever started a novel and not finished it or had to read a book for a class and hated it then pick the book back up and give it another shot. Seriously, you might really enjoy it the second time! And if you don’t? Then at least you’ve given it a shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

flash fiction made simple

 

Flash Fiction –
noun

very short works of fiction that are typically no longer than a couple of pages and may be as short as one paragraph.

 

Flash fiction is an incredibly clever and nuanced art, to tell a full story in so few words suggests a skill that I am yet to cultivate. It never really occurred to me that it was possible to do so but I am learning and it is working.

My first attempt may have started as a piece of flash fiction but the next thing I knew it had sprawled across most of a notebook and was pushing 10,000 words with fully-fledged characters and a couple of subplots… not so much a short story then.

But, I persevered and my second attempt was better, it ended up at only 5,000 words…

So I decided to read some other people’s attempts and see what advice they gave for writing flash fiction, it was an enlightening experience! Apparently flash fiction only needs a couple of characters, who knew? But after reading many (MANY!) different pieces of flash fiction, everything from a love story at a laundrette to a horror story about writer’s block, I decided to give it another go. And this time?

It worked.

1,000 words exactly (well… give or take a couple!).

This was a massive achievement, a complete plot in only 1,000 words? It’s such an incredibly clever way of writing as it relies so much on subtlety and reading between the lines at the rest of the novel the writer didn’t put into words. As it was (and is still, really) something I struggled with, I thought I would share my tips for writing flash fiction for beginners!

  1. CHOOSE YOUR GENRE
    • It’s important to choose one that you can fully do justice in less than 1,000 words, horror or romance work well but probably don’t attempt fantasy or a crime thriller because you just do not have words to flesh it out
    • This is something I struggled with as I usually write fantasy or thriller, it was an interesting experience for me – I chose romance, not something I write very often.
  2.  NO SUBPLOTS
    • Focus on the main story and don’t go off on a tangent for anything else, the plot is the single plot that tells the story, we don’t need to know anything extra.
    • Again, something I struggled with, as soon as I get an idea I want to write about it, develop that too, but that’s absolutely not viable in flash fiction, you have to limit yourself to one thing. I’m sure that this has also made my other writing more readable and less Victor Hugo-esque (the king of irrelevant tangents!).
  3. YOU ONLY NEED A COUPLE OF CHARACTERS
    • Seriously, be really strict with yourself, you need two – maybe three – characters and that’s it.
    • If you try and include too many characters you end up in subplot-heaven but flash fiction-hell.
    • I found that forcing my two main characters into a situation where they were alone was one of the only ways to stop me adding more characters and plot-points… either physically (broken lifts work well) or  emotionally (the middle of an argument perhaps).
  4. NARRATIVE VOICE
    • Go for either 1st person or 3rd person focalised.
    • Do not try to do 3rd person omniscient, there is always too much going on with too few words to do it all justice, it’ll just end up feeling messy and rushed (that’s what I’ve found anyway… maybe you’re all a lot better at it than I am!)
    • Just focus on the emotions of one character – 3rd person focalised still shows all of the action, it just shows it through the perspective of a single character.
    • Another interesting one to try is the ‘onlooker’ approach where your story is narrated (in either 1st or 3rd person) by an outsider not actually involved in the action which, whilst not the easiest to pull off, is a brilliant way of keeping the tangents to a minimum.
  5. THE END
    • Leave the ending ambiguous, leave the reader with a cliffhanger, end it on a question or a single action that makes everything clear.
    • Just because it’s short doesn’t mean that it has to have a clear end in 1,000 words, leave it open-ended, suggest that these characters have lives outside of your snapshot.

 

Here are a few ideas to help you get started! Good luck and if you do publish anything, drop them in the comments so I read them all! Because who doesn’t want a story you can read in ten minutes?