Saturday, 9 June 2018

What's Left Behind in the Graveyard Maze

There's something really fascinating about instant cameras in this day and age. The fact that it prints immediately, and that you only have a limited amount of shots on the film roll make the moments more memorable, in a way. For a while I have wanted to go back to this particular graveyard in my town, which was once a place that I saw everyday from my bedroom window. Even when I moved house, the graveyard seemed to follow me, at least subconsciously. 

I have always found it a place of tranquillity and beauty, nothing sinister about it. As a child, it was just there, a part of everyday life, but in recent years I have dreamt of it on an almost regular basis. I have quite a few recurring dreams, so this was not distressing to me. In fact, the dreamy version of this cemetery is something that I can recall vividly; it sprawls across the hills for miles and miles - hundreds of acres, even - with each tombstone a work of art, packed in like sardines, and the early morning sky a dusky blue. 
Every dream has a different landscape, shifting into new things in each one, but somehow I know it is the same place, presenting a different guise. It is lush and crowded, covered with green. Unearthly, yet radiating peacefulness and a distant sense of melancholy, which doesn't quite touch me. Time stands still. It always does in the graveyard.
Eventually the sun begins to set, and a whole day has passed with me wandering the grounds or propped up against a tombstone. The sky is cast with buttermilk yellow clouds, and I lie down to rest. There is no point trying to get home, for I have walked too far to get back before nightfall. Yet somehow this doesn't worry me, I'm languid and calm. 

You can perhaps see why I was eager to get back. I find it a very interesting and pretty place, and although I don't know what my recurring dreams mean, I rather like them. It changes every time I visit, so this time I came armed with my Instax camera and a phone to take video footage.

I was not disappointed at all to find that due to the current weather, the entire place has been sun-bleached, adding to the sense of overgrowth and decay; one time years and years ago, I actually got a bit dizzy and fell as I walked through the grass. It was also summertime, in the midst of the ragged, angel-strewn paths. I was a bit stunned, so I just laid there, feeling the sun on my skin. The grass was dead, just as it was when I visited yesterday, and felt more like straw, scratching my arms and clinging to my hair and clothes. The heat and vast blue sky (which didn't quite make it into my photos, for some reason) reminded me of that day.

Perhaps due to budget cuts in my area, the graveyard seems to have withered and decayed even more since the last time I saw it. The church is boarded up, its peeling green doors double padlocked and coated with webs, and the caretaker's house has long been deserted, probably as long as I have been alive. The windows once had lace curtains, but now they have been torn down and replaced with wood painted black. Tombs have fallen from their foundations due to the recent snow, and the angels are bound with thorny branches. I found a pink silk rose, thrown nonchalantly to the statue of Jesus. Nearby, a bush had been dislodged from its roots and looked as though it had fallen from the sky, sitting next to the grave of a woman called Margaret. But despite the decline in care, wild poppies have sprouted in clusters around the entrance, and swallows dart through the air like missiles.

Last night I spent a few hours learning how to use a video editing software so that I could make this very short film. It is not perfect, or even good, by any means, but I had a lot of fun cutting clips and editing it all together! Here is the result:

The angel headstones are probably my favourite part of the place, which gave the name to my blog: "Nocturne des Anges". It can either mean a Nocturne piece of music, since I love classical music (especially Satie), or a nighttime scene, bringing to mind angels singing in the night.
If you watch, I hope you enjoy seeing the features of the graveyard as much as I enjoyed filming them!


Thursday, 31 May 2018

Remnants: Heatwave, Snapshots, Collections

I apologise for the long delay in posting here on the blog! The past month or so have soared by, just as a cloud sails through the sky; it may appear slow to those laying in the long grass and pointing out peculiar shapes, but much higher up, closer to what is really happening, the wind is pushing the cloud at a surprisingly fast speed. That is how time feels for me, as of late. Things are slow and peaceful in the moment, but when I really think about it, the days are escaping me, as it is June already! I totally forgot to post this month, even though I had a couple of ideas.

There isn't much news to report from the writing front. I did, however, get a new laptop that I'm hoping will see me through university (I accepted my place for Creative Writing this month, too). My last one was very old, slow and heavy - much like myself lately, so who can blame it? - and seemed to suffer with fainting spells, overheating and then blacking out. This naturally made chronicling Maxime's life quite difficult, so it was high time to dive into my savings for a new laptop to abuse.

Whilst dallying around the chore of copying everything from my deceased laptop to my brand spanking new one, and installing Scrivener once again (why all the little tiny files, Scrivener?) I began some more research for Maxime, which was a great distraction from basically everything else. Armed with highlighters and gel pens, I can make some damn good notes. Unfortunately I become so absorbed in research that I forget to write the actual story, so I'm still on 32,000+ words right now. The story is starting to get pretty intense though, so perhaps my characters needed a little rest... (or maybe I just need a kick up the bum).

I've been very into photography lately, which has also become a nice diversion from what I should be doing. Both digital and film are interesting to me, so I have been experimenting with film cameras (mostly an Instax mini 9 as a starter camera, and then a Kodak funsaver disposable which I picked up on a whim to see if I like it).
I will show a couple of pics here; the first few are of a trip I took to Leamington-spa and Warwick Castle in early April, then there is a photo of the wildflowers I gathered on the banks of a bridge outside my grandmother's house. The last one was taken today, on a country trail.

Jephson Gardens, Leamington-Spa - Ellie Morris

More of Jephson Gardens and an urn at Warwick Castle - Ellie Morris

Warwick Castle - Ellie Morris

I've also taken up scrapbooking again, pressing flowers between my heavy dressmaking books and tearing up old leaflets. It's really the little things that make me happy, such as taking photos and finding beautiful flowers and plants on walks. Currently there is a heatwave in England, which I mostly stay inside to avoid, but the summer sunshine and rain really bring out the beauty of what lies outside my closed curtains and locked door.

A Posy of Forget-me-nots - Ellie Morris

I suppose I have a huge case of wanderlust, wanting to see and do everything I can. This may be why I take my camera everywhere and come up with a never ending list of places I wish to go. From my bedroom everything seems so far away, especially since I'm sick a lot of the time, but it's nice to take things slowly sometimes.

A bench covered in nettles on a country trail in Cheshire - Ellie Morris

I was very glad to hear this week that my family have finally decided where we will be going on holiday this summer - we're going to Portugal for the first time! Portugal has been on my dream travel list for a while now, and although it isn't Lisbon as I planned, it will be very exciting!
I have started collecting Victorian CDVs (Carte de Visites, or 'visiting cards' in English, which are basically small studio photographic portraits that people used to exchange and collect in albums, taken of family members and friends). Hopefully I can find some in Portugal, too, in some antique shop or market... There is something strange but fulfilling about collecting the portraits of long-gone strangers from all around the world, gathering people together that most likely never would have breathed the same air.

I'm just going completely mad about my collections lately. Small, meaningless things that don't have much value, but that I love to pour over and seek out, such as postcards, photos, antique and vintage books and magazines, etc. When I was younger I used to collect rocks and crystals rather than play with toys, so I suppose collecting is just one of those creature comforts that I always fall back on when I'm not feeling very creative.

The Painter (I decided to call him Edwin) - Ellie Morris

Swedish boy from 1906, whom I named Alexander - Ellie Morris

Well-dressed siblings, named Tobias and Louisa - Ellie Morris

Hopefully I can get out of this rut soon, and it will be business as usual, both for my novels, and for this blog!


Sunday, 29 April 2018

Maxime Illustrations Part I

Unfortunately I haven't had much opportunity or desire to draw or paint much, until just recently. It's been a dream of mine for a while now to make a very special edition of one of my stories, complete with glossy illustrations dotted throughout the chapters, hardback, with a lovely dust jacket and gold lettering... (I could even paste in the Ex Libris that my dear friend's sister inked for me... *sighs dreamily*) 
Naturally, when the urge to draw came over me again, my thoughts turned to Maxime, the character of my upcoming novel! 

Hiding - © Ellie Morris

In this case, I wanted to sketch out how certain characters looked, what they were wearing, and their expressions in particular scenes. What I intended to just be a character design of Maxime, turned into a fully-shaded illustration, also featuring Leopold and the dastardly Monsieur Dalle! I was having far too much fun adding details, shadows, and more characters to it. 

It shows a scene from Chapter 2, where Maxime is caught in an awkward situation, listening to his new co-star, Leopold, and his director, Dalle, talking about him. He hides in the bathroom to avoid them (Dalle especially, since he makes him deeply uncomfortable from day one), but in this picture I had him hiding behind the boxes of props and cameras to avoid detection, since the set is disorganised and in a messy state.  
I wrote the chapters first, then drew from how I imagined it. 

A Night Alone - © Ellie Morris

 I'm pretty pleased with how my design for Maxime came out, as it is happily just as I imagined him to look. I usually struggle to draw men/boys a lot, so the facial features on Leo and Dalle might not be the best, but I had fun with designing them, too. The more I dislike Dalle, the more wrinkles I add to his face!
Drawing out characters and scenes is a good way to build on ideas, from my experience. It helps to imagine the angles and where everything is situated, as well as mood, expressions, body language, and colours. I'm a very visual person, so it works for me!

In the second image, poor Maxime is collapsing on his hotel room bed after a long first day at work. He'd been awfully nervous and excited all day, so his tiredness caught up with him, and the poor boy has the flu, to boot! His parents and sister could not make it to Paris with him for his first day at the film studio, so he had to go alone, and dreaded staying in a faraway city at night, all alone.
I just want to give him a big hug - and I know my friend that has been reading the chapters so far, does too.

I'll update with more illustrations as I finish them, as I have quite a few planned.


Monday, 9 April 2018

Fashion and Fiction: Dressing Your Characters

Here's a confession: I sometimes go a bit overboard when writing about clothes/costumes in my books. Loving historical costume (or just dressing up in general, heh) is a passion that really puts its mark on my characters.
For example, Aika from When the Summer Ends is considered odd because she loves dressing in clothes from other eras, even just to potter around in her garden. She is a lonely, quite isolated character that doesn't fit in much anywhere, whether it is America or France, with her mother or father, or at school... I thought the fact that she wears unusual clothes in everyday life would be a way to illustrate how alienated from people and places she feels, as though she longs for the past, which she views through rose-tinted glasses, and nostalgic fantasy.
In my latest story, Maxime is an actor. He loves wearing costumes, as it is a perfect way for him to get into character; to be forced to move, sit, and have the posture of his protagonist, and to feel the fabrics and tactile sensations that the character he plays would have felt in the days before polyester and synthetic fabrics.

With the arrival of a new dress for my BJD version of Aika, how she relates to the clothes she wears must have been playing on my mind, so I turned some simple photos into a story of sorts, using original text from my novel, When the Summer Ends. I hope you enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed making them!

Aika's Wardrobe I - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe II - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe III - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe IV - © Ellie Morris

Aika's Wardrobe V - © Ellie Morris

In my story, Aika wears historical-inspired fashions that she either commissions or makes; she has a strong love for 18th and 19th Century fashions! But she also has a wardrobe of stylish but modest late-1950's-early-1960's clothes, to befit her family and lifestyle. Some people say that she dresses very eccentrically.
On an unrelated note, I thought it was kind of funny how Aika and Maxime's stories are different, but still contain similar elements. Aika was born eight years before Max, but I wonder if they would like each other, should their paths cross. (It wouldn't happen, but it's interesting to think about).

Clothing, although sometimes it can be very discrete, does have a way of expressing things about the wearer. I'm not exactly talking about how wearing ripped skinny jeans makes one a slob or a punk or whatever, but that it can show things that words and actions may not.
Whether it is intentionally or not, the way a character dresses can express any of the following:

If a character is confident, they may wear somewhat more revealing, or even wacky clothing -- especially if that confidence is also based around their appearance.
An example that springs to mind is Vince Noir, from the TV series "The Mighty Boosh", since I watched it recently. Part of his personality is focused around his almost constant sunny disposition and laid-back attitude. But he is also very intent on following and being ahead of the current trends, jumping from one sub-culture to the next, whether it be mod, goth, punk, or something else. Therefore, he isn't afraid to express himself through clothing that is outlandish and unusual - and also very form-fitting on occasion - due to his relaxed and confident personality.
On the other hand, a more shy character may wear something subdued and modest in order to not draw attention to themselves; but alternately, they could also wear something more alternative and fitting to their aesthetics to give themselves a boost of confidence! It's all up to your character and circumstance.

When you are feeling unhappy, do you decide to wear dark colours when you get dressed that day? Sometimes I do, as sporting an obnoxious shade of pink when I'm feeling down can irritate me; I don't feel pretty on the inside, so why should I bother on the outside? I've also heard some people say that intentionally putting on colourful clothes when in a dark mood is a way of trying to boost their spirits.
Wearing black when in a dark mood, or when you want to be invisible, can also be accidental. If your character is going through some hard times, maybe the first thing they throw on is a black T-shirt, or a change of pyjamas, without even thinking of the reasons why. 

Maybe they don't even want to change their clothes, if they are deeply depressed. An example of that which I will always remember is in Stephen King's "Misery", where his character Annie Wilkes suffered from painful mood swings; in her happier moods she would wear pretty but still practical clothes with light colours, but when she became severely depressed and angry, Paul Sheldon noticed that she rarely changed her attire, and that her dressing gown was covered with food stains. 

Is your character a part of any particular scene? Do they express themselves through pins, badges and patches on their clothing, or carry a bag with the logo of their favourite bands/ musicians/football teams? Are they a part of an important cause? - such as human or animal rights, global warming, or a particular charity - which could be a reason to wear T-shirts with slogans relating to those passions.
Very often, I see people that wear merchandise of their hobbies, fandoms, and celebrity crushes. It can frequently be the first thing people notice about them, and a way to strike up conversation with like-minded people. In high school, the girls in my form often knew who was 'Team Edward' and who was 'Team Jacob' just through giving a quick glance to their backpacks, coats, jumpers or stationary (for the record, I was neither, and would always answer "Team Voldemort" as a joke when asked who I supported!).
Interests can also be shown through makeup, accessories, body modifications, and certain haircuts. Somebody may wear earrings of their favourite animal, or shave certain designs into their hair, if their hair is short.

There is a time and a place for everything, and sometimes dress codes are important. If clothing for a formal occasion is warranted, a character may have to dress themselves accordingly, whether it is for a wedding, funeral, a Sunday service in church, or a particularly grueling meeting with a loathsome individual like a strict relative, an ex that they are wanting to outdo, or an enemy that needs taking down a peg or two. 
Would your character worry endlessly over what to wear to an impromptu date or night out? Perhaps the situation has taken them by surprise, and they have no idea what would be suitable to wear. Or maybe they are a rebel and just don't care about convention! 

Religious beliefs can often be expressed through attire such as jewellery or ceremonial clothes and headwear. Sometimes you can even spot or guess which organisation a person belongs to through the type of pendant they wear, or which saint or idol they look up to.
Another idea I thought of was inspired by some people I used to know at college and online, who wore eco-friendly clothing made of hemp or recycled fabrics, or wore vintage to avoid fast-fashion and preserve heritage. These clothes are also influenced by beliefs about society, the environment, and how things are produced in the modern age.

I can easily tell when a film, novel, or photograph was set or produced, simply based on the clothing that characters wear. Fashion is very transitional, and varies wildly, even just in the past fifteen years. The 20th Century is a very good example, as so much changed in those 100 years!
Hemlines rose and fell dramatically (think of how showing legs was considered scandalous in the years before the 1920's, and how women of the 20's embraced shorter dresses that enabled new dances and trends; the Mini skirt of the 1960's, and then the outrage in the 1970's when the Maxi skirt came into fashion).
Casual wear such as jeans, and trousers for women became gradually more acceptable in those decades. Fabrics also went through big transformations in 20th Century, with synthetics and rationing contributing to different trends over the years. The colours and patterns of clothing is also a good way to show what era something is set in (and ditto for home interiors, too).

If your character lives in a really hot country, it is likely that they will dress in a way that enables them to stay cool - and vice versa. Does their location have a specialty for a certain type of fabric, such as tartan wool, silk, or cotton, which is easier to wear since it is local (I think this applies more to historical novels than ones set in the modern day)? Do they have events where they wear national costume? Do they take pride in their country by wearing patriotic gear? Do they own a T-shirt from a country that they visited?

All of these can show a reader things about a character, without having to tell them directly.

It will be interesting to hear what readers think, so please leave a comment on what you or your characters like to wear, and if you have a reason for it!
And why not give some short (or long) descriptions of your character's sense of style a try, if you haven't written about that kind of thing before? It could possibly add a subtle hint of symbolism to your story!


Saturday, 24 March 2018

Maxime: So What's It all About?

For 'Nocturne des Anges' being the blog of an author, I don't seem to write much about what I'm actually writing book-wise, on here. I might have made some vague statements here and there since October last year, about who Maxime is and what his story is about, but I haven't exactly expanded on anything publicly. Heck, on my blog and social media I simply end up blabbing about how much I adore him as my latest writing companion, and that he's very lovable to me, and is my current ticket to running around 1960's Paris and the darker parts of my mind...

It seems a bit silly to be so quiet on a subject that I'm passionate about, and that, in my opinion, should be expressed as a means of gaining interest.
A point that I saw on a blog post for maximising creativity offered an interesting idea: write a pitch or artist statement explaining why your project is so important. The idea was to read it through every day and remind yourself why you're passionate about it, and want to meet the goal - more of a personal motivator than something professional to hand in to an editor or publisher, I expect. I already know that the story is important to me, and that I'm going to see it through to the end, but I thought writing an informal statement and posting it here would be a good way of expressing the story and message to others, too. 

Medal from Rock n Rose, I'm planning some Maxime-related photography soon...

“Maxime” is set in 1960’s France, and is a mixture of historical, romantic, drama, and LGBT fictional genres. 

Maxime de Faye is a child-star, trapped in an adult’s world. Twelve and naive, he falls into a nest of vipers when his beauty, vivacity, and natural talent captures the interest of a director, giving him the opportunity to begin his dream cinema career in Paris. First came the excitement of his impending fame and fortune, but he is soon knocked flat on his back, to the mercy of the city and all those that would surround and tower over him, when he realises that his role brings about more than just the ordinary admiration and applause that he craved in the beginning… 
Despite being disgusted by and afraid of the older men that would not hesitate to prey on him in his new and unusual environment, Maxime finds himself very attracted to and curious about his co-star, Leopold Ronis, an older boy of eighteen years. In turn, his puppy love is requited by Ronis, who despite keeping the boy out of harm’s way and ensuring that the relationship between them on set is chaste, secretly lusts after him just as much as the other men in their circle. 
Maxime’s films and performance may be otherworldly, but reality can be jarring in the head space of young teenage boy who is overworked, bombarded with the responsibility of an adult three times his age, and forced to smile despite feeling lonely in a world filled with countless names and faces. 
Only the support and love of his younger sister, Leone, and boyfriend, Leopold, manages to drag him from deep despair and broken confidence, and Maxime realises that dreams and ambitions can be outgrown.

If my character Aika was a reflection of the emotions I felt at the age of fourteen, and Carrie/Cherry (both from the "When the Summer Ends"/"Mansions of Glass" duology) was built upon the type of person I wanted to meet and become friends with, Maxime feels more like a son to me; we are not very like each other - as the Myer-Briggs test clearly illustrated, in a previous post -  yet I feel very protective of him.
He starts off as around the same age as my previous protagonists, but this type of bold and passionate  (yet tortured) character is different to what I've written before, and is what makes me excited to continue with his story. 
Max almost writes himself in a way, as he runs from scene to scene (both literally and figuratively, as he is an actor), yelling "come on, come on!" despite his initial trepidation, and it's hard to keep up with him. As a result, I'm up at all hours scribbling down ideas, and flinging plot points at him, and in turn, he flings ideas back at me, saying "I'd like this to happen, I have to have some good times, too," or "what about this? It's very likely". As I said, he tends to write himself, and is very eager to do so.

Medal from Rock n Rose, I'm planning some Maxime-related photography soon...
Due to just wanting to write, write, write in order to keep up, rather than blog, and constantly thinking of what will happen next in his adventures in minute detail, I had been rather worried about writing a pitch, or summary of sorts, just in case some things should change. See, Maxime is an impulsive kind of beast, and as I'm learning new things about him and his life story every day, when I thought I knew it all, I wanted to see how it goes before committing to certain things... As I get new ideas every day, it seems like a very big project, and is almost overwhelming at times. 
I also kept things pretty secret because of shyness, too; I always worry that people will laugh at my ideas, or think that I'm too dark and sinister or controversial in my content. 
Talking to my close friend, who is also a writer, really helped to solidify things that I was worried about, however, and now that things are very clear about the story, I'm trying to get over the nerves of gathering everything together and putting my ideas out there to other people.

Along with how much I enjoy creating the world of my new protagonists, this story gives me a lot of enthusiasm and the characters are quite divergent to what I've written before, so I have a lot of high hopes for it. Sometimes that can be quite intimidating, but I'm using what I learned through re-reading When the Summer Ends and advice from my friends, family and beta readers, to better myself and hopefully achieve something really meaningful. 

I hope that my story will be as interesting for people to read as it is for me to write! 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Jan & Feb Monthly Logs: Better Things, Happy Mail, and Opportunities

If you've been following my posts on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, I recently posted a picture of my area's weather in a more peaceful, picturesque state (and I will post it here too, as it's rather pretty).

Winter in March - Ellie Morris

Imagine my surprise when I opened the curtains to find everywhere covered in frosty white blankets, a fairytale image of bliss that we rarely get in our damp and blustery town by the sea. Snow falling from the sky, it was a happy day for most; my brother experienced a snowball fight and building a snowman for the first time, and I know he wasn't the only one that enjoyed this change in weather.
Now, I never used to be such a Scrooge, as I have fond memories of snowball fights in the fields and my sister's good aim and timing, which ended up with a snowball inside my mouth! But I have to confess that snow, these days, is an anxious nightmare for me. I have issues with my balance and walking, and if I slip on the ice, I could potentially get injured. So I mostly stayed inside, which isn't necessarily depressing... until the boiler broke down within a few hours of The Beast from the East coming to the UK!
I'll tell you, this week has been an absolute challenge! The highlight was definitely having no central heating or warm water for three days (it turned out that the pipes had been frozen solid, so it was an easy fix, thankfully), but some other trials turned this week from bad to worse. Other annoying things included strange dreams and little sleep; a meeting (it wasn't too bad, but I just dislike that sort of thing); baking disasters that ultimately ended up being okay, but was very trying and I had to make three separate attempts; embarrassing myself in public; a blood test that ended up with blood running all down my arm; and finally, to top things off, as soon as I got to the restaurant for my sister's birthday, I realised that I had forgotten something very important... Underwear.
It's been a crazy week, but at least it ended on a funny note! And there were so many good things that happened within the past two months.
So on a more positive note...


Such a wonderful thing happened on the first day of this month! My lovely friend, Vivi, opened her own indie Lolita fashion business!! We'd chatted about such a thing for some time, and she is such a talented, sweet and dedicated soul that I'm so incredibly proud of her; you go, girl! She works in a team of three to produce historically-inspired, lacy, intricate, dreamy designs, along with her sister and mother. Their brand name is Viviana Iris, and I want to buy their entire store and future collections until I can hardly breathe due to my room being filled to the ceiling with ruffles, lace, and silk.
In fact, as soon as I could, I snapped up a pair of bloomers and a bonnet for my dolls, which was a dream come true, and I'm thrilled with the quality and love that goes into the clothing.
Please take a look at their Facebook page and Storenvy, and if you're inclined, follow them on her new Instagram! @vivianairisfashions

Beautiful things from Viviana Iris

Another exciting mail day was when I received my parcel from China, containing my first ever BJD! She is Myou Delia, and I decided to name her Aika, after my main character from my previous two novels, "When the Summer Ends" and "Mansions of Glass". She is a character that I felt incredibly close to throughout the writing, and even today she remains one of my favourites, as we have a lot in common - so a physical representation of my first 'proper' novel character is wonderful to have!
I'd always wanted a BJD, maybe for six years, and I had decided long ago that my first one would be Aika. I wonder if anybody else has a doll or figurine of their characters, as a way of inspiring and rewarding oneself for artwork or writing? Let me know in the comments if you have one, or if you're planning one!
(I don't have a great picture yet, as I'm still styling her and waiting for decent light and her official outfit - but she's too pretty to leave without an image, haha. The bluebell dress she is wearing, I bought from Cath Kidston and altered and customised. Perfect for Spring!)

Aika in her new dress - Ellie Morris

One of the achievements for January was hitting 20,000 words of "Tiger Lily Maxime"! Obviously I was very behind on NaNoWriMo to only reach that goal now, but it's still incredibly pleasing, nevertheless! Some nights I write 4,000+ words in one sitting, and only realise that it is past midnight when I start getting thirsty, and it's that kind of concentration and enthusiasm that really adds a significant amount to my word count. Otherwise, I think about it more than I actually spend time doing it, haha. I'm always getting new ideas and inspiration for this story, and it's been so enjoyable every time I find enough brain cells and hours to write!


Another busy month, also with some exciting opportunities.

I found out early on, that I received an unconditional offer for my Creative Writing course at university! Of course, I already had my qualifications from last year, so I didn't need to wait on exam results to receive my place - but I was still extremely happy to get an offer like that! Nerves almost always accompanies excitement, but I celebrated by travelling down to Liverpool on the train to meet my dad out of work, where we went to a Vietnamese restaurant that I like (I discovered Vietnamese pho in January, and found that I can't get enough of it!), and did some shopping.

Mint Turntable and Morricone - Ellie Morris

It was a really lovely evening, and I bought myself a record player in HMV! I've been interested in record players, as a lot of the music I like is quite old, but I'm so glad that I took the plunge and actually got one. Usually if I want something, I sit around and think about it for a long while, and it's probably a few months before I actually get my paws on whatever it is I'm thinking of getting - but this was a relatively quick decision, and not at all a bad one!

First two Vinyls - Ellie Morris

The first vinyl I bought was a live album of Ennio Morricone in Santa Cecilia. It was really fun to listen to, and sometimes as I drift off to sleep, it feels like I'm in a spaghetti western movie.
The next day, I bought an album by another artist that I admire, Clothilde, a young singer in the late 1960's who was famous for her sweet voice but cynical and strange lyrics. I'm so glad to own this record too, as I listen to her "French Swinging Mademoiselle" album a lot.
Since my dad was very pleased about my record player, he told his cousin, who dropped off two huge boxes of his late mother's records; I found some real treasures in there, including Siouxsie and the Banshee's "Once Upon a Time" album, and a Glen Miller compilation, along with a LOT of Elvis and other rock n' roll artists. This week I'm going through them all, working out what I can sell, and which ones I will keep. There must be over 200, so it's going to take a while!

Aside from that, I also started a small, part-time volunteering job at an animal shelter for small pets! It's early days, as I've only been once so far, but I enjoyed looking after the animals. There are two rabbits, two guinea pigs, a cage of degus, and three African Grey parrots! Holding the parrot for the first time was kind of scary, as they're so big and have massive, sharp beaks, but I'd never done that before, so it was a great experience. Part of the duties include cleaning the hutches, doing small health checks on the animals, sweeping the hay, keeping them clean, and generally making a fuss over them with lots of attention and cuddles! I hope that I can meet some of the dogs soon, also, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out.

Thank you if you've read this far, and please feel free to follow or comment if you'd like! I've been a bit behind on my posts recently, but I'm trying to get back into it.


Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Become Best Buddies with Your Character, and Ways to Build Characters and get Ideas!

Inspiration comes from all over, as many people know. For characters in creative writing, ideas can start off as very vague - a distant memory of the nasally way an old neighbor would complain about the state of the drains, or the unusual gold-flecked eyes of a childhood friend as they played in the sunshine, for example.
But sometimes these little friends or despicable villains that we come to know as characters, just pop into your head as you're walking to school, and from there their personalities, stories, quirks and opinions simply build up and up until they feel as realistic as your best friend or least favourite teacher. Seemingly, they then take it upon themselves to walk to school by your side, talking your ear off about themselves and offering opinions about the state of this world, Marmite, and cats; speculating how they would react to situation A or B; and explaining what they desire more than anything else in the universe.
It could be whilst taking a shower or walking the dog, as routine activities are good idea-boosting methods; keeping the body active in mundane tasks whilst daydreaming is more effective than sitting still and forcing yourself to think up a multidimensional being.

Other methods of conjuring up a main character could be any or all of the following!

Real-life Examples
I remember a lot of my earlier characters were inspired by people I used to know at school, sometimes intentionally and sometimes accidentally, i.e. I didn't set out to write a story that featured somebody I knew from French class as a major player, but they just worked their way into being the spitting image of a beloved character, even if reality and imagination did grow apart or completely separated!
Look at people you know in day-to-day life, and those that interest you. What features do you like about them? What don't you like? If you don't know them well, what do you imagine their life is like?
Study the way interesting people react to certain things, such as a stressful meeting, or how they recount their weekend date on a Monday morning. Listen to the way they speak as well as what they say, watch their smiles and frowns, the way they raise their eyebrows at a silly joke, and how they walk. Does she make the room light up when she walks in, or does she carry an air of gloom or mystery everywhere she goes? As for interests and quirks, do you know if she has a special interest in stag beetles, or enjoys five-star cuisine? Be a fly on the wall and pay attention to both friends and strangers, but don't make things weird or intrusive.
Important: I probably don't have to say this, but - people-watching and inwardly speculating is fine, but spying on or harassing somebody is not. Please don't feed the rumor mill or picture speculations as the truth! It's always better to know someone before jumping to wild conclusions; however, for writing, the guessing game is okay - as long as the inspiration source is discrete and changed up a bit, which takes us to the next point...

Character art - © Nami (left), Ellie Morris (right)

Recycling and Frankenstein-ing
And lots of it. This is mostly how I - and I suppose a lot of other authors - come up with decent ideas. There are so many imaginary people buzzing about in my thoughts, that it would be very difficult to write about them all (unless they decide to chain me to my laptop one day, close all the curtains, and tell everyone that I died in a mysterious incident). So, to save myself from that grizzly fate, I try to appease them all and merge characters together, Frankenstein-style. Like one of those online dressing-up games that I used to play as a kid, you can chop and choose favourite aspects of all these different characters. Do you like the attitude of an older character from a couple of years ago, but know that you won't write their tale due to their backstory being weak? Do you like the history of a more recent character begging to be written, but don't think they'll win any favours with readers due to a lifeless personality? Add one character's personality to the history of another potential-hero by merging them together with others, and you might just make a winner. Or a monster... At any rate, there's no shame in recycling.

Myer-Briggs Personality Types
Once you know the outlines of a character well enough, using online sources can flesh them out a bit. I have used Myer-Briggs in my most recent writing project, and found that it came in very useful for finding out their personality type, and how they would react to certain things. The results of the test don't need to determine absolutely everything about the character, but I found that it helps for finding out more about the different types of people (I have a habit of splitting people into the "introvert" or "extrovert" categories without thinking more about other key traits).
Once you can answer how your character would do certain things - i.e. do they initiate conversations easily, or how do they organise their living spaces? - you can compare the personality group answer that you receive, with those of real-life people that you know.
For example, I received these results for my main characters:
Maxime - ESFP
Leopold - INFJ
Leone - ENFJ
... And then I compared it with my own results: INFJ. So, in that case, I am in exactly the same group as my character Leopold. It is likely that we would act and react in similar ways, depending on the circumstance. Using those insights into the X-type personality, you can understand more about what drives, worries and inspires those types of people, and what motivates yourself or others.
You can also get a wide range of questions that you can consider from your character's perspective, which would give you more answers on behavior in certain plot points.
Alongside the tests you can take, there is also lots of information about personality traits in general, which could inspire a certain type of character to grow from just a couple of lines about "analytical people".
The website I like to use for information like this is 16 Personalities. There are lots of details to look through, and the pictures are very cute.

Trait Generators
I don't use these often myself, but others may find this a good way to get the mind working. Just Googling "character trait generator" can come up with a whole load of results. The first one I clicked on gave me a button to press for three traits, and I got "bold, secretive, depressed". Some of the traits might not sit easily together and seem like a bit of a strange and unlikely combination, but through looking at it in different ways and thinking outside the box a bit, maybe an interesting protagonist can be discovered.
For example, clicking the button again, I received "easy-going, devious, helpful". "Easy-going" and "helpful" doesn't seem to mesh well with "devious", and could be dismissed for another click of the button. But perhaps there are two sides to this person, and they are two-faced. Perhaps they are an anti-hero, or somebody that pretends to help others, but in reality they are working towards their own goals, which are actually something quite sinister. They hide their unsavory motivations behind an easy-going facade, and pretend to help others when actually it's just a mean to an end...
Like the splitting before with introvert-versus-extrovert, I also tend to split people/characters into the "good or evil" categories. I tend to have very black-and-white thinking patterns. But with this, it can get you to consider different sides to one character. Nobody is 100% good or 100% bad, as there are many faces and goals to one person. Perhaps the 'good character' that everybody loves is actually manipulative and fake, or the 'bad character' has had his reputation besmirched and is actually just misunderstood. There are so many possible ways to think about this... and the "easy-going, devious, helpful" combination is just one result.

This is quite similar to the "people" one, in that looking at a photo or painting of somebody can cause all sorts of thoughts and emotions to arise. There could be a painting of a tearful old man; what could have broken his heart, and what emotion does that give the viewer? What kind of life has he lived? Or, a photo of a smiling child playing in a garden; where is the garden? Is it large and filled with lush flowers, or small, tatty and filled with rubbish? Is it her garden, or was she invited to play, or even trespassing? Who is she playing with, or is she happy alone?
Even an image more focused on the location than the subject herself can get the mind whirring. You can imagine what kind of life they live, how they live, and who they live with. Some artwork can be very emotive, with hidden meanings and symbolism that relate to the person in the image. Visual clues can be very powerful, even if you get the meaning wrong.
Take a trip to an art gallery, or look at a friend's photography portfolio. Study images carefully, and before reading descriptions or explanations behind the artist's choices, let your thoughts run wild. Online galleries can be great resources too! Find an artist that really resonates with you, and provides inspiration.

In history, we mostly hear about the queens and kings, the rich and powerful, and the very evil and terrible things that have happened in the history of this world. But what about normal people? How did everyday people live, not just very well-known historical figures such as dictators or royalty? Do you know how your ancestors lived, where they came from, what they believed in, and who they knew?
As well as the resources about "general history", finding out local history of the people who once lived in your area, or great-great-great-grandmas, can be equally as interesting. Maybe your living relatives have some very funny or thought-provoking stories to tell about "the good old days" or their distant cousins.
Aside from that, social history about all the different classes and ways of life long ago can inspire ideas that could also be applicable to modern-day settings. The issues that humankind had in the past can often still be issues that we continue to have today. And people have and probably will always be motivated by similar things, such as fear, greed, love, religion, etc.

When the Summer Ends covers - © Nami

TV Tropes
I've spent many a happy hour on TV Tropes, reading what insights and common themes other people see with a certain character, book, or TV series. If there is one trope that catches your attention, after seeing it in a favourite piece of literature or film, you could consider using it as inspiration for a certain character in your upcoming story.
The great thing (or perhaps a bad thing) is that looking through TV Tropes is like falling into a wormhole and getting sucked into spending hours and hours looking at different aspects of all sorts of things. There are an incredible amount of links to keep clicking through, each with different ideas that can be applied and considered.
However, here is a note about originality: Nobody can be 100% original with characters due to the way the mind works, scooping things up along the way and mashing them together like leaves and grime on a trailing coat, often without any idea where the ideas come from. Somebody may think that their work is a new concept that nobody has thought of before, but in a lot of cases, as my old art teacher would tell the class, "everything in art has been done before, nothing is entirely new in this age" (I'm paraphrasing, of course, but you get the gist). As long as nobody is plagiarising, you shouldn't feel bad for having a "predictable" or "slightly familiar" character. So I think that TV Tropes is an acceptable way of garnering inspiration. Of course, don't let that stop you from being creative!

Don't Force it
Constant thought is how the character matures and becomes as complex or detailed as you like, and it's a hard thing to rush. In a way, I find it like a new friend. You find somebody to connect with, and everything is new and exciting, and you wish to spend a lot of time with them. Over time, they open up to you, telling you their secrets, innermost thoughts and dreams, and gradually revealing what kind of person they are. Once you get a good idea who they are, the relationship grows, and you're constantly learning new things about the person and what makes them tick. You've got a lot (or not a lot) in common, so he or she is now one of your best friends! The important thing is that the friendship wasn't rushed or forced, and that you put thought into nurturing and growing it, working with the person and supporting them with new ideas, fun, and inspiration.
So, I challenge you to become best friends with your new protagonist, even if they are a bit of a battleaxe!

There are many other ways to get character ideas, and these are just a few. If you have any other ideas, comment them below and I'll add them to a list!


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