Outside the Comfort Zone

I wanted to write about reading outside of my comfort zone and it has got a bit weird. Firstly I tried to define what my personal comfort zone is and I couldn’t. If I say fantasy I have to immediately re-qualify it with not all fantasy and I guess that is the thing. Its easier for me to say what I am unlikely to touch which feels negative.

For the last few years I’ve binged mainly on Fantasy and SCience Fiction and all kinds of funky subgenres inside. I’ve dabbled with reading paranormal romance and enjoyed some of it but I struggle with some of the established tropes.

I guess that the above paragraph sums it up although it doesn’t do justice to the breadth and depth of what I do read. I adore ‘literary’ writing as well but nothing shocks me so much as when I dip a toe in a neglected genre and I find I enjoy the novel I’ve found.

I feel like I construct myself from the books I read. If I stay too long in an era or world I will start speaking like a character. I once told my old boss that I would be obliged if she would do something after reading the complete Jane Austen. I seek other times and other places because reading for me is the ultimate escape I regain energy by retreating from reality for a bit. And when I say I construct myself I have deliberately avoiding genres like Romance and Chick-lit because I don’t want to be defined by those elements. That said when I have been persuaded to read something from that area I have loved the novels but something stops me from pursuing more titles in that area. Likewise thrillers and detective novels and manly men grr books also put me off.

I should try and read more widely. I recently read something that would normally be way outside of my comfort zone. Gemini Cell by Myke Cole is probably best described as military fiction meets fantasy. Its set in a contemporary world but magic has been returning and the US government are using magic and jinn in order to create super soldiers. It really isn’t something I would ever have picked up but I’ve been following Myke Cole on twitter, heard him on Tea and Jeopardy’s podcast and he seems like a fascinating guy and so I picked up the book.

The book itself was good, strange because a lot of the tropes deployed were unfamiliar and it took a while to get used to the writing style.  A couple of moments I found somewhat difficult to deal with but for the most part it was well thought out and very enjoyable.

Will I read something like this again?  Yes but not straight away.

Thoughts on process

I’m not much of a planner –  but I need to be.  Why because my ideas fizzle out and when it gets hard I lose interest and want to do something else.

I’m still getting used to ways I can plan stories but the prep work is kind of daunting and I worry that I won’t be able to come up with something that anyone else would care to read.  There is a musical called Sunday in the Park with George which is about the artist George Seurat and his process.  There is a song called Move On which basically describes what everyone who is trying to be creative is trying to achieve.  I like to listen to it when I need a bit of inspiration.

The Video is of Mandy Patankin and Bernadette Peters singing at a Sondheim birthday celebration.

So lets go write something new and find some interesting pieces.


2014 my year of writing

Lets face it, the only way to get things written is to write. This last year I have not gotten enough done and this needs to change.  So this year I’m going to have a go at writing more.

January is going to be my idea generating month this means generating a shedload of ideas to develop over the year.

I’m also going to blog here more regularly to keep self motivated.

I shall be mind mapping, free writing and hopefully explaining a little more about it as I go along mainly this year is about producing writing I am proud of.

Character pt 2

So my last blog post I was talking about characters and how I have one rattling round in my head that I need to get to know a little better.

I’ve done a little bit of work on her since then and I’m trying to work out some depth to her. I’ve set myself the task of writing a conversation between her and an interviewer. The interviewer is unimportant; they are just a means to an end in getting the girl to talk to me.

My other ‘rule’ for this is that I am writing from an external point of view. No describing her thoughts, just her actions and speech. I need a sense of how she reacts to things where she is and what she might say. Think of what follows as an extension of the initial description in the last post.


The interviewer remained seated throughout. Her only movements a hand dashing notes across a yellow-leafed legal pad and a slight incline of the head as she tracked the girl around the room.

‘So why am I here?’ she asked. She had stopped pacing and had fixed her gaze to a defect in the wallpaper pattern. ‘Why do you want to speak to me?’
‘We just want to know a little more about you?’

‘ Why?’

‘ You are interesting and we want to get to talk to you more.’

The girl worried at a piece of dead skin at the edge of her cuticle on her index finger. Face still mostly obscured.

‘I don’t like this,’ she said, biting away the hangnail.

‘I know and I can wait.’

The silence stretched out between them. She started pacing again from the fireplace to the window and back. The interviewer placed her hands in her lap and waited.

‘ When I speak, people don’t get me. They don’t hear what I say. I get misrepresented, how do I know you won’t do that to me?’ She said pausing at the fireplace and straightening a small silver figurine.
‘I will let you read over my notes, you can correct things – make them clearer’.

She stopped and looked at the interviewer for the first time,’Will you listen?’

‘It is what I do best.’

‘Okay,’ she said. She came closer, and stood behind an armchair, her hands kneaded at the fabric like a cat. ‘So what do you want to know?’

‘Start with a name.’

‘You already know that.’

‘Humour me.’

Eyes rolled, ‘I am Martha Coppice.’

‘Take a seat Martha,’ said the interviewer, gesturing towards a series of chairs.
Martha picked the armchair she was standing behind. Sitting in it she drew her legs up underneath her and crossed her arms. She wriggled her shoulders but there was still tension running through them and into her neck.

‘Thank you, now tell me about how you came to be here.’

‘I am here because I am not welcome anywhere else.’ Martha stated, eyes boring into the carpet. ‘I am different, I stick out. The others found me hard work. They didn’t like the way things needed to be, they made it impossible to remain.’

’They chased you off,’ asked the interviewer.

‘Not exactly,’ Martha replied. ‘I don’t like talking about it.’

The interviewer leaned forward and flicked over a page of notes.

‘Okay then, tell me something positive.’

‘Something positive,’ Martha stared upwards as her brain raced to retrieve a memory she might classify as such. ‘That is going to take a while.’


I’m thinking a lot about creating characters at the moment.  I feel like there is someone I want to get to know just hovering beyond my perception.  There are a couple in fact, I’m hoping to tell their stories soon.

My creative process is image based.  Sometimes a single image gives me a character and the story grows from that.  Often the image and idea spark and off I go.

Character is the imperative, I try and give my characters a sense of place and weight.  Details that flesh them out and bring them to life.  There are many stories out there which fail to work because the characters are not driving the action, the plot is imposing stupid choices on the characters.  But that is a whole other post.

Some writers know everything about  their characters, create playlists which can be fun, I tend to write conversations my characters might have, get them to talk to me.  It might sound crazy and I am half convinced a good proportion of writers tend towards crazy.

The girl with flint flecked shale eyes, watched the door. She paced each measured stride an attempt to stifle her need to be anywhere but here. Childish hands fidgetted like a pair of angry birds.  She pushed her thumbnails into the soft pads of her index fingers.  A thick cascade of almost black hair masked most of her expression.

So who is she? I can’t wait to find out.

Why no nano?

I’m not doing Nanowrimo this year for a number of reasons.  First the stress I cannot handle the stress of a new job panto rehearsals and committing to writing nearly 1700 words per day for thirty days.

Written like that it doesn’t seem many but at the moment for me it really is.  The creative juices that should be flowing are barely rippling in the breeze.  I do know a lot of people who are tackling the marathon that is Nano and good luck to every single one of you, may the words flow from your fingers like dandelion heads in the wind.

Part of me wishes I could commit, that I should make the time and just blooming well write something, anything, even if it is utter bilge,  Well this is where the blogging comes in.  In order to get used to the rhythm of producing something regularly again I am using this blog as a way forward.

There are ideas in my head, nebulous things made of magic, shadows and desire.  They are lacking in substance.  I need to meet a new character who has firm ideas of what they want and then perhaps there would be some things to explore. They are close, but this character is shy, they don’t want to reveal themselves yet.  They are very private and I will have to gain their trust…

Beginnings and Middles

I’m currently in a bit of a mire.  I should be writing, I should be writing lots but I’m not.  I’m stuck.  The way my life is going is that I have recently started a new job, one that requires me to use more brain in day to day functions than I’ve had to in the past and I simply cannot find the energy spare to write.

This is making me anxious.  Writing has been as natural as breathing so when the ability to do so is reduced for whatever reason then I get jittery.

Life is ridiculously busy, in addition to work there are rehearsals for a pantomime I am involved in and the pressure from both ends is making me struggle.

I am proposing to write things, poems, scenes, short stories anything to get my brain feeling creative again. I’ll write about my process here and share things that I think are useful.