Posted in How to Write

Anonymity and the Author

So, anonymity and the author? And more importantly, the question as to whether it’s possible to be an anonymous author in the modern age? But firstly, you may ask as an aspiring author why would you want to be anonymous? Why wouldn’t you want your name to be recognized?

            And, yes, that’s fine. If you enjoy the idea of having your name in the limelight—making it special, signing it with pride at the end of your hard-work, then do it. I am speaking today for people in my position; the people who dread the idea of having their name recognizable, the people who feel that pit of sickness in their stomach every time they think of gathering attention for their very personal works, the people who love their works but have little confidence themselves and the people who want to keep an element of privacy in their lives. For whatever reason you’d prefer to be anonymous, in this post I’m going to talk about whether, even if you really want to be, you can actually be anonymous.

            Okay—so, this may be an odd choice but the first (well, I suppose second now) thing I’m going to talk about is an old episode of ‘Arthur’, the children’s cartoon, I remember from when I was younger. In this episode Fern, an aspiring author and Agatha Christie/Mary Shelley lover, seeks advice about writing from a ‘Lemony Snicket’ style character who gives her the advice that the most important thing for her to do is go by a penname (Agatha Shelly is what she chooses) and remain anonymous. She finds this hard because when people criticise her work she can’t argue back with full effect, but that’s not the reason I’ve brought this up.

            In the episode this ‘Lemony Snicket figure’ leads a double life. He appears to remain anonymous because he lives an adventurous life with many enemies to hide from, but this is all something that has escaped from a child’s imagination, surely? Yes, it was written by an adult but is that kind of life practical from an author’s perspective in reality? The answer is—most likely, no.

            The truth is, as taught to me at University, that although you can remain anonymous as an author—if you actually want to sell your books, it’s preferable that you don’t attempt it. You need to go out and sell your book by selling yourself. You need to do readings, talk on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram, go to events, book clubs, book signings and promote everything that you’ve written and everything you’re writing. This is what I was taught at university and is the main thing I dreaded as a professional writer. It was the part that put me off being a professional writer, more than criticisms or the hard work ever could. I still dread it to this day.

            But, sadly, I think that they’re most likely right. A long time ago (okay, not that long ago, but long from the perspective of someone who’s not been around as long) you could promote yourself through your work and a penname, without the need to attend anywhere to sell yourself. The Brontes’, George Eliot, even Jane Austen—they all had pennames at some point in their lives, many of them men’s so of course they couldn’t show up anywhere to promote themselves—according to the world they were all men.

            You may ask then, why could they get away with not selling themselves in the past? I think the answer’s quite simple: money and status. They were all wealthy or related to someone wealthy. Their main readers were wealthy as the middle class either didn’t exist or had just come to exist. There was a limited choice of books, since so few could read (let alone write). In the modern western world and beyond we all at least have some formal education (in most places at least) and as seen from the stories told by the poorer folk in history we’ve always had some capability of imagination. This combined to mean that there is a lot more competition in the modern world and, with authors who have less money, we actually need to sell our work to live.

            However, my friends with a pit-in-your-stomach, don’t lose faith in the power of anonymity. Just think, what do you actually know about me? I share my name, some stories, but for the most part I am anonymous still. I have an obscure penname and the power of the internet at my fingertips. If you need it, use it. You may not be able to do traditional publishing; self-publishing may be a hard push if you have to sell them yourself—but use the internet. Share yourself, anonymously, on story-sharing sites. I have a friend who posts stories on Tumblr, collaborating with other authors who are also on there. Write FanFiciton and post those (you are more likely to find followers with this one too).

            Can you make money doing it this way? Well, that’s still to be seen (she says, attempting to do this herself), but why not give it a shot anyway? Eventually, maybe, we’ll all be able to stand tall and throw ourselves into the limelight but for now, let’s stay a little bit anonymous and find our footing.

I could’ve made a pun about ‘lime’ light– but I have some restraint (sometimes).

Bullet Points:

  • I wanted to be anonymous. You don’t have to be ashamed if you do too, or if you want to be known either.
  • Look up ‘The Power of an Author’s Name’ by Foucault. It states his belief that the author’s name is actually what sells the book, more than the actual books themselves. Think about it—people buy Dickens for the author, not for the titles they don’t know whether they like or not.
  • I was told at university it’s no longer possible to be anonymous.
  • Needing to market in person.
  • Power of the Internet for an anonymous author.
  • Is it an archaic practice? (George Elliot, the Brontes—many females used to use male pennames. Pseudonyms do still exist though).
  • J.K. Rowling kept her name for a different genre, P.L. Travers didn’t.
Posted in How to Write

The Importance of An Omniscient

Yes, I’m quoting younger me now. She was smarter than ‘now’ me, apparently.

‘There’s no ‘i’ in narrator. There’s also no ‘i’ in narrate. There’s technically an ‘i’ in narration, and two in omniscient, but we’ll ignore that for now. What’s important for you to know before we start this story is that this story belongs to you, not to me. Enjoy your time here and welcome to the School of Omniscience.’ – Copyright, ‘School Of Omniscience’, written by a younger me.

            Omniscient narrators: the most powerful tool in a writer’s arsenal. Due to their position of power, their knowledge of everything that happens in the book and their almost god-like presence they have the power to persuade your readers that everything you say is true. Everything they say is a fact. Everything they say is important to the story that they’re telling. Or at least that’s the trust and belief that your readers will give to them. Sometimes, as in the case of ‘The Hobbit’ by Tolkien, the omniscient feels somewhat untrustworthy, helping to add a feeling of un-ease to your reader. Whether you find his attempt successful or not, it’s using your omniscient to its full capabilities.

            It’s obvious how important I think an omniscient is. When I was nineteen/twenty I started writing a novel which would help people in creating their own, quoted above. When asked what I find to be the most important part of writing a novel (during writers groups, retreats or university) I would always answer ‘the narrator’. However, I didn’t ever put characters as a secondary importance as I believe, and I think at this point it’s going to be hard to dissuade me from this, that narrators are a form of character themselves. Even if they’re not a first person POV (point of view, if you’re new to this), they still have some from of personality or views that control how they tell the story.

            So instead of the usual, instead of thinking of an omniscient narrator as merely a god-like being, I want you to imagine them as an Ancient-Greek-God-Like being. What’s the difference? Okay—comparison. A Christian God, which is closer to what people believe when they think God-like being, is barely known. They’re perfect, untouched and a benevolent figure we can’t even try to comprehend. A Greek God? Think Zeus. We know his entire story. We know how many women he raped, how much he was adored as a boy, that his father ate his siblings, that he was raised by a goat. He’s hardly a mysterious figure but the Ancient Greeks still looked at him as a God. This is what you’re omniscient should be. They should be flawed, overjoyed about some things and miserable about others; like Zeus and his favourites (mainly women from everything I’ve read), your omniscient will have favourite characters (just as you’ll probably have yourself); your omniscient will have lived a full life, they’ll be a real person… and that is how you gain a reader’s interest.

Make Your Omniscient More Real.

            So, if this is that important, how do you go about it? Well, take it back to my first blog post. Design a character. Create a personality. Operate with the iceberg theory. Realise their motivations, their favourites. If it happens to tie in with your own, that’s fine, go for it. Nobody’s really going to know any difference, as long as it feels like a real person is telling the story. If you want to bring up politics, then do so. As long as your narrator has a consistent interest in politics, then it’s fine.

            My narrator’s name is Hattie. I know what she wears (tatty brown trousers with an even tattier brown top and a large white sun hat—with a piece of cloth dripping down her back to protect her neck); I know her favourite things in life (family, friends, time travel, her pet); I even know the people around her somewhat intimately (it helps that she’s also a character in one of my stories—but why shouldn’t she be? I know her intimately and with her storyline it makes sense that she could be an omniscient).

            Let your imagination run wild. Create an entire character for yourself, get to know them intimately and when you eventually find your voice you’re on your way to a great book/poem/short story/play.

Bullet Points:

  • Omniscient narrators are characters in their own right.
  • Remember, an omniscient is a god-like being who knows everything that happens.
  • Also remember that you can play with the trustworthiness of an omniscient like you can a character. If you want to put people at unease use your omniscient.
  • Take time to find your narrator voice. Every omniscient is different, opinionated and sits in a certain time period. Think political comments from Dickens, Hugo etc. Jane Austen’s omniscient is sarcastic, seething etc.
  • An Omniscient can get away with a lot more than a first person. They not only see more but can state things as fact, making your reader believe what they’re saying (this is why historical fiction is complicated to write—if you are wrong, uninformed people on the time can be persuaded that it’s correct—don’t spread false information).
  • My Omniscient is Hattie. Just as I would a character I gave her a whole backstory so that I knew her inside and out.

Still struggling? Try using this prompt to better understand omniscient narrators and their roles:

Describe the Voice

Below are quotes from famous novels etc. One at a time, take a quote and make a list of the qualities you think this voice has as a character.

For example, ‘A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise’, by A. A. Milne: factual, grown-up but with childish imagination/speaking, funny, a father, slow speaker, fairly musical, relaxed/relaxing, calm.

‘Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you’—Dr. Seuss

‘I like large parties. They’re so intimate. At small parties, there isn’t any privacy’—F. Scott Fitzgerald

‘I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart: I am, I am, I am’—Sylvia Plath

‘Get busy living or get busy dying’—Stephen King

‘He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same’—Emily Bronte

‘There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights’—Bram Stroker

‘The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid’—Jane Austen

Try doing this with other books you read and your own writing. Even a narrator, omniscient or first person, has a character and the more you know your narrator the easier it will be to keep your voice natural and well-defined.

Posted in How to Write

How To Write Characters.

From Stick Men to Humans to Everything In-Between

Sitting down and thinking through my ideas for blog posts (of which there was a horrendously long list, so apologies) I had to move this idea to the top of my pile. Characters are, for me, the most important parts of a story—and I don’t feel like I’m exaggerating to say that in some way, characters are the main things you should focus on in your planning stages.     Let me explain myself. There was a vague theory I remember agreeing with whilst I was studying for my degree, in which it was suggested that there were actually only a small handful of plots available to the hard-working author. Although these plots could blend into each other, try to make a difference with their twists and turns and blend of genres, there could never be really anything new to come out of them. So, how, if a plot has been read so many times over the centuries of human existence, do they feel fresh and invigorating every time? My answer: the characters.

            Think about your favourite books. What’s the main thing you remember from them? If I asked you—what happened on page… 63, let’s say, could you tell me the important plot point that was happening? I’m assuming, and honestly hoping, you’re saying no (although if you do remember, kudos to you, my friend). Now, if I ask you to tell me the name of the lead character? ……. Did you get it? If I asked what s/he was like? … If I continued to ask what you liked about them? … And then, if I asked you what they got up to in the book? Could you now answer what the plot was? Can you get closer to what may have happened on or near the theoretical page 63.

            Now, you see, plot doesn’t drive characters—characters drive the plot. They are the only difference to a plot and so they are the integral part to the story. But, how do you write them effectively?

            Well, the key is in how well you as the author know them. Now, you may or may not have been told about the iceberg theory (if you have, I’m sorry, as you’re going to have to sit through it again). The iceberg theory includes a drawing of an iceberg—the tip is showing above the sea (we’ll say 15 to 20 percent) and then there is a giant bulbous piece of iceberg underneath the water (the rest of the percentage, of course). Now a ship coming towards this iceberg will only be able to see the tip, a primitive mind may think that’s all there is, but a good navigator—a proper seaman or woman, will know that there’s plenty more that they can’t see. It’s a feeling, a suggestion that the tip gives.

            To explain the metaphoric rambling: the tip is the amount of information you share about your character in the story, it’s the amount that the reader (or ship) will receive and that you have to steer them towards. The bottom of the iceberg is the large quantity you as the author should know about each one of your characters. The proper seaman/woman, the readers of your work, they need to feel the rest without you blatantly showing it. You do this by using your tip to hint at more—give your character a complexity, a hypocritic quality, a fault, a background that affects everything that they do.

            Don’t sit there and make a list of all their attributes. Okay, okay, let me give you an example:

            ‘Annie was brave, yet gentle and calming. She had long pink and brown hair and her smile was very white. She often went to get them whitened at a local dentist called Hollingbrook’s. She was always willing to go on an adventure and was the complete opposite of Anne in her favourite book ‘The Famous Five’. She liked this book because…’

            You see how this information deluge is bad? How is knowing this adding anything to what Annie is doing? In fact, it will, it all will, but it’s not important enough to spill in your work. You should know it, but the reader should only get the suggestion that they exist. And then one day, when Annie is seen reading a Famous Five book or going to the dentist to her weekly teeth-whitening appointment it will make complete sense because you have built that up in the tip.

            ‘Annie smiled at the man sat across from her, her dazzling white, almost plastic teeth, blinding him as she bent over the map of the island. Her little scarred finger leant on the drawing of the compass at the top and her pink-streaked brown hair laid playfully, sprawled across the coffee table. She reached out a bold, determined hand and rubbed the sweat from his cheeks. ‘It’ll be okay,’ she told him.’

The Iceberg Theory in Doodle Form!

            Now, I’m not going to say it’s a perfect example, as I don’t know this Annie that well yet but it is getting closer to the correct way to write. You see how the things mentioned at the top are almost inferred here? She has shown herself to be kind as she comforts him, brave as she looks at the map, her teeth are even brought into the action and develops their relationship. I’ve even added an extra detail, a flaw of a scarred finger, which suggests something else that’s happened in her past. This excites your reader’s imagination, helps them form their own interpretation of Annie, and isn’t that what makes reading lovely? Even though it’s written by one person and given to many, the many can make their own story as they read it. It’s truly amazing, and the main difference between the written word and visual interpretations of words (films, televisions etc.).

            What else is important for a character? As I’ve shown, flaws often help to make them more well-rounded. Even the Ancient Greeks, some of our earliest known writers, knew this—making their Gods flawed and interesting. Zeus a womaniser, Hera’s jealousy, Aphrodite’s cheating ways and narcissism, Athena’s blunt manner. Even Kronos, a Titan, is afraid of his children and of them copying what he did to his own Father. Give your character a flaw and they become realistic—they become something your readers can understand. It doesn’t even have to be anything big to be a good choice. And again, don’t blatantly say what the fault is, but show it to your readers at the opportune moment.

            To finish, as this is getting a bit lengthy, here’s a few bullet-points which should help you get an idea of how complex this area of writing actually is:

  • Remember that flaws are important.
  • Build a backstory. Spend time with your characters (if you love them it’s easier to connect).
  • Act like they’re your imaginary friends.
  • Characters are what fuel a story. There are only so many plots but there are millions of characters.
  • Remember that real people tend to be hypocritical. There is no such thing as entirely bad or good. People are confusing.
  • Think about social pressures. People change their character in real life depending on the situation and where they are.
  • If doing it from first person or from close-up third person, remember that people often think one thing/one way and act completely different. A timid person is often confident in their head because they’re used to speaking there. An open extrovert may be more likely to speak whatever they’re thinking before they even get a chance to think it.
  • Iceberg theory—show 20% but know 100%. I cannot reiterate enough times how important this theory is.
  • Write some practice short stories with those characters to figure them out. Put them in different situations.
  • And remember, a name will be the first guide to their personality (more on this in another blog post).
  • A narrator is always a character, including an omniscient, which moves us onto next week’s post—‘The Importance of an Omniscient’.

Thank you for reading and…

A Bientot, les ecrivians.

Posted in Uncategorized

Welcome to Imagination Industries!

So, welcome to my new blog. My name is Amy, formerly known (and continuing to be known) as the Literary Onion. Only now, I’m not just the Literary Onion, food creator and book lover, but I’m also my second blog ‘Literary Scribbles’. I know, I know, I really don’t have to mention that, if you’re reading this you’re already here. You already know me as Literary Scribbles. Oh well, a little bit of context can go a long way, because we want a good relationship you and I. If you’re going to read my painstakingly and lovingly creative works of art (apologies for the sarcasm) and sit there and take in any lessons about writing I can give you to help you write your own masterpieces, I want you and I to get off on the right foot.

Okay to start off, I have been writing since, I believe even before I could. As a child I was a little attention seeker who was afraid of every single thing in this big, bad world: the dark, heights, dentists, doctors, small spaces, large spaces, thugs, thieves and murderers. My imagination was rife with dangers and, thankfully, also rife with friends. Together with my real-life human friends I would lead them into stories unknown, create characters unlike they’d ever heard of (many of them with more dangers than I care to admit… Children’s imaginations are darker than I think anyone would ever dare say).

I wrote my first proper story at, I assume perhaps the age of six or seven based on the legibility of the writing and my friend’s drawing skills. It was titled ‘Snowy’s Adventures’ and detailed my teddy dog, Snowy’s, believe it or not ‘adventures’. All I can really recall about those events where that a very-kind woman who worked at the Nursery (where it was written) stuck the pages together with a staple-gun in the wrong order and by the way I reacted you’d think that she’d destroyed Snowy teddy herself.

 Since then I’ve started many projects, finished a small handful, self-published a monstrosity written at eleven-years-old at fourteen-years-old (regretted, but I truly only wanted a copy for myself) and achieved a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing (along with many other, not-important-to-this-situation qualifications).

I’ve worked a handful of jobs, all very distracting to my writing. I’ve seen many therapists etc. about my constant anxiety and fear of, although less than I was a child, still a considerable number of things. And now, my wonderful and supportive parents, putting up with me in the way that only parents can, have decided to help support my dreams of moving to France to open a Writers’ Retreat, far away from the outside world.

 It was a big step, a terrifying step, but also a much needed one. My anxiety, although focused on other things, has died down. I feel a considerable amount better and I’m taking the steps to actually do something I’ve always been afraid of—sharing my beauties, my babies, with other people. You see, that’s what a novel or short story or poem is to a writer. Non-writers wouldn’t understand that because, well, it’s weird to be so attached to a piece of paper. But you can’t tell me that Dickens didn’t sit there after spending so long on Hard Times and think, ‘Wow, this is amazing. I love this. I’m so proud of how it’s grown from a little idea to a novel all its own’.

 To all the authors and writers out there, consider that the first lesson I’ll teach you on this blog, if you don’t love what you’re writing—alla Conan-Doyle and Sherlock Holmes—then stop writing it. Move onto something that does make you happy, something that makes you excited again. Trust me, one day you’ll feel that pull again and you’ll move back to it, but a work without love is like an artist without paint—it’ll be blank, dull, without life.

 Alright, alright, I think I’ve talked long enough for my first blog post. This was only meant to be a getting to know me segment, after all. I hope you enjoy all that’s to come: poetry, plays, short stories and serial stories; along with weekly posts to help you with your own writing: how to create characters, ‘show, don’t tell’ and editing old pieces, to name a few.

I hope you’re enjoying National Novel Writing Month, if you’re taking part and I look forward to taking part in it next year. A Bientot, mes amis.

Non.

A Bientot, les ecrivians.