Saturday, 18 July 2015

Tips for novelists, from a scriptwriter's toolkit. Part Two - plots

In the first part of this article I talked about why the best stories are archetypes, and where those archetypes came from. This time I want to talk about types of plot. Some people will argue there are 22 plots. Some will argue there are 36. Some, that there are 7. I am here to tell you that there is only one.

 The way I look at it is that every single story, no matter what it is, is a quest: a quest find true love, a quest to find the criminal, to escape from a desert island, to find the perfect recipe, to reveal the ghost, to travel across the country. It doesn't matter what the theme of your story is, the plot is a quest. Once you realise this then you can work out the various aspects accordingly. Writers get so hung up on fitting their story into one of the 22 or 36 or 7 types (or however many plots is the favourite number this week) that they end up confused and struggling to fit it into any kind of a plot. Couple this with the idea that novelists always seem to have, that they don't really need to know their characters, and that what they are actually doing is waiting for them to reveal themselves on the page, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Fact is, it is absolutely imperative that you know everything there is to know about your characters. Scriptwriters learn very early on in their 'training' that you have to do this, otherwise you cannot play out your story to its full potential. Then, there are all the others aspects of your story to take into consideration. For instance, will it be a slow burner, or will you leap straight into the action? Will it be plot led or character led? (If you can, make it both.) Have you worked out the beginning, and the end? Do you know which of your characters will carry the story, or will it be an ensemble piece? What's the location and era? Will it be first person or third? Past or present tense? Do you want it to be a page turner? Will it be action packed, or a drawn out emotive tale? All these aspects, and many more, must be carefully considered before you put pen to paper...or rather, these days, fingers to keyboard.

The thing is though, you don't need to worry about all the different types of plot there might be, if you just keep in mind that there is only one plot, and in fact, no matter the theme of that one plot, it is actually only about one thing. That one thing is survival. Everything in our life is about survival. So, if we are looking for the perfect partner, its about our survival in a potential relationship. If we are hoping to sail across the Atlantic, it's about whether we will survive that journey. If we are planning the perfect crime, it's about whether we will survive to commit more crimes (or end up in prison). Catch my drift?

Now, it may well be that you think I have over simplified things, but I assure you,you can throw stories at me until you are blue in the face, but I will show you how it fits this model. Scriptwriters know all these things because scripts are very carefully designed stories that model archtypes. Even those who argue otherwise, and attempt to write scripts outside the format, unconsciously conform. Even those scripts for stories that challenge everything we know about storytelling. This says a lot about how the human mind craves completion, and satisfaction.

More soon.

10 libertine and risqué novels you just have to read

If you are an avid reader, like I am, then you really need to check out these libertine and risqué novels. Strictly speaking, the libertine novel had its origins in France. Its heyday ended with the French Revolution. However, there are many brilliantly written novels from other parts of the world, each of which touch on the same subject matter. Here's my top ten selection, which should grace every avid readers shelves.

The 120 days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade

Where to begin?  He wrote this book in 37 days, whilst locked up in the Bastille in 1785 for sexual deviancy and blasphemy. His name is the reason we have the word 'sadist'. He wrote many other books, some just as scurrilous as this one. 120 days remains a work of supreme endeavour. You do not want to leave this off your shelf.
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Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery by John Wilmot, the Second Earl of Rochester

Sodom is an obscene closet drama published in 1684 and attributed to the randy old Earl of Rochester (played, quite wonderfully in the film Libertine, by Johnny Depp). In the play, the king is called Bolloxinian and the queen, Cuntigratia. Aside from the obvious, the play is actually also a satire on the court of Charles II and his toleration of the Catholic Church.

Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland 

Even randy little James Boswell called this book 'a most licentious and inflaming book'.  Ever since its publication in 1749, it has been shrouded in mystery and controversy. It was written whilst he was in debtors prison. It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books of all time.
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The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

Moll Flanders was one of the first novels written almost as social commentary. It follows poor Moll through her career in crime and prostitution, and her eventual transportation to the colony of Virginia.
Read the book

The Story of O by Pauline Réage 

An absolute classic of the erotic genre. Precedes Fifty Shades, and is way better, by 57 years. A beautiful young French woman, her lover. A splendid mansion near Paris. An elite secret society. Sexual fantasies abound.
Read the book

Lady Chatterley's Lover by DH Lawrence

DH Lawrence wrote, “I want men and women to be able to think about sex, fully, completely, honestly, and cleanly,”  in his introduction to Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The first edition was privately printed in Italy, and it wasn't available at all in the USA until 1959 - and yet it is undoubtably a classic.

Torture Garden by Octave Mirbeau

 Torture Garden

Mirbeau was a French journalist and playwright. The Torture Garden was published in 1899 at the height of the Dreyfus affair. The book sought to expose the corruption of colonialism and civilisation, wrapped up in deliciously tortuous S&M, all of which takes place in a beautiful Chinese garden. Not for the faint at heart.
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The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Photo: Kate Chopin

First published in 1899, The Awakening was contentious, right from the start. It explored female sexual desire and feminism. Insofar as it is almost exactly the same story as Ibsen's The Doll's House, it suffered from having been written by a woman who had already scaled literary heights. The Chicago Times Herald said of it: "It was not necessary for a writer of so great refinement and poetic grace to enter the over-worked field of sex-fiction".
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The Well of Loneliness by Radcliffe Hall  

When this novel came out in 1928, the then editor of the Sunday Express said that he would 'rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel." That said, there is only one, rather obtuse, sexual reference in it. Few critics rate it as a classic novel, however, it is a classic in terms of storyline, being the first novel of its kind to explore Lesbianism. Read The Guardian's report here
Read the book

Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller

Tropic of Cancer was "notorious for its candid sexuality". Published in 1934 in Paris, it was banned in the States and led to obscenity trials in the 1960s. It was not banned in the UK but the only copies that could be had were smuggled in. 
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Read Angela Elliott's book, The Finish, which is first in the Venus Squared series of novels about an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute on AmazonKobo,  ibooks and Google Play

Friday, 17 July 2015

6 of the best - 18th century houses you just have to see

There's nothing quite like the sights and sounds of the 18th century home to send you straight back in time. Try out these for size.

1. Dennis Severs' House, London

Dennis Severs' House describes itself as "breathtaking and an intimate portrait of the lives of a family of Huguenot silk-weavers from 1724 to the dawn of the 20th Century". All I can say is it is absolutely fabulous. (Photo used from wikipedia)
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 2. Clandon Park

A Palladian mansion house, much destroyed by fire in April 2015. Now closed, but it was once a fabulous house.
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3. Gainsborough's House

Birthplace Museum and Gallery of Thomas Gainsborough in Sudbury, Suffolk. (Photo from Gainsborough House twitter feed)
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4. Sarehole Mill, Hall Green


An 18th century working water mill and the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkein, who lived in Sarehole. (Photo via Sarehole Website)
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5. Georgian Dining Academy

I just had to include this. Not a house as such, but definitely worth attending one of their events if you get the chance
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6. Home House, private members club


Included because I love the idea of this, but I could never afford it. A private members club. Very 18th century, with a fabulous history all its own.
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Of course, this is just the tip of the 18th century iceberg as far as houses are concerned. More to come. Watch this space.

Buy, The Finish, the first in the Venus Squared series of novels about an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute on Amazon, Koboibooks and Google Play

18th Century Sex Toys - 6 ways

A number of 18th century sex toys, and similar items, have come to light in recent years. Here's a selection of the most interesting.

1. Polish Dildo unearthed in 18th century toilet

Found by an archealogist in Gdansk, Poland, whilst digging out an 18th century toilet, this dildo is made of leather, filled with bristles and has a wooden tip.
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2. Essex girls prefer....

Sold at an auction in Essex in 2010 and described in the catalogue as "An extraordinary and exceptionally rare 'Travel Godermiche' being a pair of wooden phallus contained within a fitted kid leather covered Treen case with strap fleurs-de-lys decoration, one phallus 10 inches and with testicles and the other 11 inches and without testicles."
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3. Ivory dildo
This magnificent article can be seen in the Science Museum, London. It is complete with plunger that simulates ejaculation. In 2012 it was part of an exhibition at the Wellcome Museum to explore items that make us superhuman.
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4. Beggar's Benison Prick Glass
 This novelty drinking glass is thought to be from around 1730 and was used by an erotic gentleman's club in Anstruther, Scotland.
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5. The Condom

No collection of sex toys would be complete without including a condom - not exactly a toy, but very necessary, given the prevalence of syphilis in the 18th century.
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6. Prostitutes
The ultimate sex toy, of course, was the prostitute. Mrs Phillips ran a sex shop in Half Moon Street, just off Covent Garden. Here, prostitutes and their clientèle could obtain every item above and more besides.
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If this has whet your appetite for more 18th century sexual titillation feel free to share, pin or general like elsewhere. 

Buy, The Finish, the first in the Venus Squared series of novels about an 18th century Covent Garden prostitute on Amazon, Koboibooks and Google Play

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Venus Squared - latest pin

Tips for novelists, from a Scriptwriters Tool Kit. Why learning the principles of scriptwriting is the best way of learning how to craft a novel.

Okay, so you are a novelist, and I can understand completely that you might think this will not apply to you. But wait just a cotton picking moment. I am a novelist, but I started out as a scriptwriter. That being the case, everything I ever learned about scriptwriting now applies to my novel writing.

Why is that, I hear you ask.

Well, I'll tell you.

Leap back a couple of thousand years ago. Bear with me; there's a purpose to this convolution. Okay, so we're sitting around our communal fire.
 Very few people can read or write, (probably no one, come to think of it), but one guy (or perhaps woman), is really good at storytelling. They have the ability to entrance their fellow tribe members with stories that help to explain the nature of life. These stories are handed down by word of mouth through the generations. The storytellers learn which stories work best at holding their audience's attention. They become experts in all the different aspects of storytelling. They hone their tales until eventually they form a collective conscience of myths and ancient folk tales.

These then, are archetypal stories and characters. The Greek myths of gods and goddesses are all stories like this. Theatre evolved from oral storytelling. Move forward in time and each generation reworks and retells the archetypes, often unknowingly. It's as if the best stories are encoded in our DNA. We just know when we have found something that resonates with us.

Then film comes along. At first, it's an adaptation of theatre, but with more scope for showing where and when. Film becomes adept at taking archetypal stories and spinning them round into those 'ah' moments; moments we experience when we know the story is all fitting together just right.

So, very early on in the history of film-making, scriptwriters learned how to put words on paper that could, not only be translated into a visual image, but tell the most perfect of archetypal stories. That's why, if you want to write novels, you might be best advised to learn first about all the tools and techniques in a scriptwriters tool kit.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of my most favourite authors of all time. Here's a handy little infogram about how he saw archetypal stories - Btw, he was originally an anthropologist.

Here too is the mother of all archetypal stories

Read more on this here

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A Very British Murder

The author of The Finish is pleased to have found A Very British Murder on the BBC by the inimitable Lucy Worsley, but so sad that it is no longer available to view. Although I missed it, both the first time round, and as a repeat in March, thankfully dear Lucy has written a book on the same subject, which I will have to go straight out and buy.