This image came up on a Facebook Page, I follow. It is a photo of Yarra House in Cleethorpes. Built around 1840 by a clergyman, I am really intrigued by how it got its name. Was it the first owner or one of its many subsequent owners? It must have been fairly early because they named the road after the house. Also, the house is built in the colonial style, notice the wrought iron balconies, so redolent of houses in Sydney and elsewhere in Australia. What’s so strange about it, you may ask? As far as I am aware it’s the only road with the name Yarra in the UK and Yarra is the name of the river which runs through Melbourne. Here’s the coincidence. Stanley Timms joins the Australian army in 1915. He grew up in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne. He is seconded to the British army in Egypt and joined the Manchester Regiment. They were sent to Cleethorpes in 1916 before being sent to the Somme. Stanley would have been billeted in the Officer’s Mess which is in Yarra House. This house named after the River Yarra which ran through the bottom of his garden. I feel a scene coming in my WIP with a letter being sent home about this coincidence.
With my first three books, I researched, did minimal planning and set off writing. Yes, there were points in the story when I was unsure how to proceed but I usually sorted it out within a day or two. A walk on the beach is good for clearing your head. Having begun my fourth
book at a random chapter, I have been struggling and now have five random chapters, separated by years and beginning to think it should be two books because I couldn’t see the way through the woods. I know the story because once again the inspiration is a real person.
In these circumstances, what you should do is to go back to first principles. Get the instruction book out (as I keep telling my husband when something doesn’t work). in reality – it means google it.
So, for the first time, I have created a story arc and guess what – it works. I have the beginnings of structure and I’m also clearer about motivation How much of what I have already written will go in the bin, I’m not sure. Some of it will need reworking but I can see how book 3 in the Currency Girls series will work.
To prove the point that it is better to have low expectations and be pleasantly surprised, as a late entrant, I had to take the workshops that were left. My afternoon one was on Screenwriting – something I have no interest in. Let me qualify that; my only interest would be if someone wanted to adapt my books for film. Flags would fly then.
Julie Everton, a professional screenwriter, playwright and lecturer at Brighton University, gave us a masterclass which, both confirmed my view that I would never make a screenwriter but which will inform my writing for ever.
The fundamental differences –
1. All character thoughts have to be visualised – obvious when you think about it.
2. The screenplay has to be written in the present tense
3. Active verbs rather than adjectives or adverbs (yes, I know -authors should be doing that too).
4. Objects can be used to plant ideas or clues which can be paid off later
5. Paint a picture of the environment so that the director can visualise it
6. Camera angles should never be specified but implicit – when to use close-up or panning.
Julie used various exercises to help all this sink in. First, we had to write a premise which could be used to approach film makers. This must contain 4 things.
- The main character and their problem
- The location
- Obstacles the character faces
- The hook
Think blurb – could it be distilled down into these four elements? I think so.
Our second exercise was to think of an opening scene in two colours and write down the elements which could be described by those colours. – How simple, how useful. I am most certainly one who needs to be taught such tricks.
Finally, Julie gave us an example of screenplay writing – Misery by Stephen King, screenplay by William Goldman. We had to write our opening scene based on this and using what we had learnt so far. It made me think far more visually which I hope I can bring to my writing.
Ninety minutes of pure gold.
I joined West Sussex Writers in time for their 80th birthday Workshop celebration yesterday, complete with cake. Am I glad I did! My only gripe with the day was that too much time was spent on teas and lunch. I would have loved to fit in another workshop.
The two which I attended were both inspirational. Stephanie Norgate, poet and lecturer and the University of Chichester asked us to examine poems and a piece of prose about the sea. With these in mind, we drew upon our own experiences of the sea, its sounds, smells, shapes and colours etc. Using Derek Walcott’s poem, Midsomer Tobago as an example, she asked us to write our own poem based on a seaside place we knew. I was amazed at the quality of writing within the group, which put my small effort to shame.
Inspired by my previous post, I worked on this poem I have called.
Shell strewn strand, soft underfoot
Echoes of laughter and innocence
Distant ships await the tide
By brooding wartime forts
Sweep of light fades,
Morphs into plaintive foghorn
Seafret encompasses, swallows, dulls
the cries of the lost
Forever burnt into memory,
Our hearts ache with loss
A Haar or a Fret is a cold sea fog, mostly occurring on the East Coast between April and September according to Wikipedia. A sea fret doesn’t sound particularly dangerous. It has a pleasant Anglo-Saxon ring to it or maybe even Viking. I have driven through this kind of fog after evening meetings and it’s scary.
But a tragedy that happened in September 1969 has stayed with me over the years. I found out about it, at first by chance. My future husband, Richard, had his Lambretta scooter stolen that night and went to the police station to report it. He found it in disarray, his scooter theft was a pimple on the back of the horror happening on the beach. While he was there a man came in to say that a horse had been found in the local dock. Knowing no more, Richard returned to my house. I don’t remember how he got home that night.
In the morning we woke to the devastating news that three girls had gone riding with their instructor on the beach. Something, I used to do myself. Unfortunately, a fog came in and it appeared that they had lost their bearings. The tide was also coming in. Imagine their terror, riding as the sea overtook them but with no idea which way was the shore and safety. The three girls, their instructor and three horses drowned that night. You can read the full story here.
I am looking forward to attending my first West Sussex Writers’ Conference a week on Saturday in Worthing. When I was working, I attended many conferences on teaching and learning and all things librarian related. Some good, some bad and some indifferent. But it is a chance to network and meet other writers. Sometimes I wonder if I can really believe that I am now actually a writer.
The last time I attended a conference was in Hobart, Tasmania, for the Female Convicts Research Group in 2015. It was great to meet people I have only ever met virtually before. I wish I could attend the next one partly because I fell in love with Tasmania on my first visit in 2010/11.
The one I would love most to attend in the Historical Novelists Australia Conference to be held in Melbourne this September. I read the line up of papers and novelists and I drool with envy.
I have just finished reading The Dry by Jane Harper because I am reading anything and everything
about Australia as I begin to get my teeth into the third book in The Currency Girls Series. It is indeed a great first novel. Not perfect, but very good. Her sense of place is excellent. The interior of Australia is to live life on the edge, whether it be in the north, south east or west. Away from the coast and even on the coast, you are at the mercy of the weather. The effects of the drought on the people in this crime novel are woven into the story. You feel the heat, the danger and the desperation on every page just as you get to know the unhealthy, social dynamics of the small town setting. Prejudice, jealousy and vindictiveness abound as the two policemen attempt to unravel who killed the Hadler family. A page-turner for sure.
The book I am looking forward to is Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar which is not out on Kindle yet. It is set in the 1850s in South Australia from the point of view of a woman living in Chichester, thinking back on her life. Sounds perfect for me. Lucy Treloar is one of the speakers at that Melbourne Conference. Here’s wishing.
I came across this poster today. The list was compiled from the admissions log from a
WestVirginia for the Insane. In Ranter’s Wharf, I touch on one reason, Novel Reading but some of the others are fascinating. Presumably, the relatives described what they thought had sent their relative insane, or could the reason just have been an excuse to get rid os someone inconvenient.
Some you can understand, such as shooting of daughter or exposure in army (assuming that might mean shell shock or PTSD).
Some I don’t understand such as Gathering in the Head or Hard Study.
I am going to imagine these admissions below were for women/
Consider Medicine to Prevent Conception – what was the story there? Was she terrified of childbirth or already thought she had enough children. How about laziness? Did she not clean to her husband’s satisfaction? Political Excitement – did she campaign for the vote? Each of these, are worthy of a novel in themselves.