Tuesday 30 July 2019

That Nagging Inner Critic

New Books - Photo by Ellie Morris

“A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.”

 ̶  Franz Kafka
[Letter to Max Brod, July 5, 1922]

Lately, I’ve been a gloomy soul. More than a little gloomy, in fact. There’s just something about long summer days and weeks that stretch into months that makes being away from the routine of university almost unbearable.
Summer should be about relaxing and abandoning all cares to the wind. Well, I’ve tried. If I spent my days doing nothing but reading in the garden, going for walks, and visiting friends, my inner critic would still hunt me down and demand to know what I’m doing with my life. There’s always that little voice in the back of my mind: “You should be writing. You’re wasting time.”
Apparently, I can only be happy when I’m working. Even as a child I forced myself to draw something new every single day, when making art was my favourite pastime and future career ambition. Perhaps pushing myself into a state of burnout was what eventually caused me to pack away my pencils and paintbrushes; I very rarely draw and paint these days, and the thought of it makes me wary of following the same path with my writing. It’s about balance, but then sometimes you just have to give in to the critic that hounds you. It’s the only way to shut the damned thing up! I did, and my mood instantly improved.
Nothing much compares to the feeling of taking out my red biro and striking through the words that no longer fit my current manuscript! Editing the first chapter of my novel thrilled me more than I thought it would. I could see my old mistakes, and it was clear how much I have improved over the course of the year. The confidence boost was more than enough to get me working again. I even decided to submit my writing to a competition that caught my attention!
We’ll see how the competition goes (I’m pretty excited!), but for now, here are some of my tips to get back to work on your writing WIP:
  • Find some new books to read! Try out something from an author you've never read before.
  • Write a blog post.
  • Try for at least 500 words a day. Failing that, 200 works in a pinch. Just get something on the page. It doesn't even need to be good.
  • Find somebody to hold you accountable to your writing goals! Ask them to nag you every single day about your progress. 
  • Try writing a poem or script instead. 
  • If you are struggling to get back in touch with your characters, why not write diary entries from the character's perspective, detailing a week in their lives? Their week could be as hectic and stressful as possible - keep pushing them to their breaking point! Make them miserable! Perhaps you could write about an ordinary week in their lives? What kind of routine do they follow? How do they feel about their life? What is important enough to them to write down? Can your find their voice? 
  • Edit what you have already written. 
  • Why not enter a competition? 

Thursday 25 July 2019

Poem: Summer's End

Home Alone - Photo by Ellie Morris

Golden hour bathes my home in silence,
Family portraits stroked by nicotine yellow fingers.
The lizard’s cage emptied overnight,
His pale hooked claw buried in sand and scales.
Sunflowers nod
̶ ̶  drooping, senile women awaiting a daughter’s visit.
Sordid green paste oozes from the pool encrusted with flies.
Even the shrivelled, blackened burger left on the BBQ is bereft.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Short Story: Ball-Joints

'Ball-Joints' is a short story I wrote for my Introduction to Fiction module at university. I enjoyed writing it and still rather like it now, so I thought I would share it here as a glimpse at what I've been doing this past year. 

Ambrotypes - Photo by Ellie Morris

"The money’s in the teapot."
Of course it is. Only an idiot like Anne could think of such a thing. Girl said it like I was the fool. We could be twins, but that doesn’t mean I’m qualified in mindreading.
Imbécile,” I told her. I was grinning, but she couldn’t hear the grind of my gritted, pearly teeth.
“Just grab it,” said Anne. “My hands are full.”
Her arms were piled with fabric. Jacquard skirts, lacy underpinnings. She really did look the part of the fool, swimming in a sea of silk, though I was the one dressed as a Pierrot, white face and a tear drop on my cheek. I pushed her through the window where she hissed at me, her skirts riding up as she scrabbled for balance. The sound of china scraping against brick was muffled only by the abundance of fabric pooled about her knees.
There was a swimming pool below, flooded with lights, and shadows like devils dancing on the tiles. A party, brooding and deadly. People swigging whiskey in the foyer  ̶  they had long given up their nonchalant taste for champagne. Watching, waiting. Looking for any signs of movement. Music played in another room, but it was distant, dreamy, like the sickly pale moon above. Somebody sobbed by the pool: “I haven’t slept in days!”
Anne swayed, murmuring her fears. We had to get out, even if she shattered into shards on the concrete. In any case, her frock would act as a parachute. So I pushed and pulled her, up against the ledge. Her legs ground in their joints.
“Get off me! Down, Adelbert!” She tried to keep quiet. Her foot swung at my chest.
I grabbed the teapot, stuffed notes into my pants. Taking the silver gilded thing along with us was something I debated, but most of the damage had already been done. Fripperies would only delay us.
“Hurry, get out!”
“I’m trying. I’m stuck.”
Anne climbed onto the sill and balanced on the outside ledge. Creeping on her knees, fabric tied like a baby’s nappy around her rump. She wavered. Her gloved hands shook, and on the slab of stone she froze. Gasped. Rattled.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Can’t. Go. Adelbert, it’s like sandpaper on here!”
“You can, you can. And you better.”
“At least you’re wearing pants,” she griped.
We were fashioned from the finest materials available in a village atelier by the Black Forest; but poor Anne, her legs were moulded two inches shorter than my own, and the meringue-like attire she was given only hindered her further. While our brothers and sisters were jesters and country maidens, held up with strings and wires, we were strung together with elastic and porcelain ball-joints.
The pair of us were gifted to some spoilt little Biarritz girl. She took us home, and what a gift we turned out to be! Suzette’s face, when auntie’s coral earrings were found buried in the bottom of her bonbon dish, could’ve been painted by a master. The girl’s ears were boxed, and Anne was confiscated as an exercise in discipline.
“See how you like it, when something precious is taken from you!” said Suzette’s mother.
Anne being moved to another room was no heartbreak for Suzette  ̶  the girl had plenty of toys. Rather, it was a punishment for me. I’d sooner fling myself from the shelf than spend another day without my sister. And how Anne wailed, rattled, and sobbed in the night! They soon saw enough sense to keep us together, and reunited, our games turned to malice.
Earrings, silver, banknotes, signet rings, lockets… Filching small trinkets in the night was a decent enough way to pass the time. Anne had a penchant for the love letters passed between house guests; a cheating wife soon found her billets-doux in the hands of her husband. A couple of nights later, the wedding ring disappeared from her finger, although Anne never told me where she managed to hide it.
I liked heirlooms with sentimental value, and sapphires the shade of my sister’s eyes. But mostly, I liked the uproar that came from our adventures, the threats and booming, bellowing voices that echoed through old walls. If only I could stay! To hear the furious cries of Suzette’s family, when they find themselves bereft of a small fortune, would almost be worth the risk of separation.
 “I can’t see anybody down there, Adelbert,” said Anne. She teetered over the edge, spurred on by my hand on her back. “They’ve gone.”
“Then now’s our chance. Go!”
Anne’s stumpy legs wrapped around the drainpipe.
“Quick, quick!” she cried.
I clung to her back and we slid down together. Banknotes flowed through the air like confetti from my waistband, settling like lotus flowers on the surface of the pool. Anne grabbed my hand. We looked to one another. We ran. Through the trellis, our freedom appeared in vague nocturnal brushstrokes.

Saturday 16 February 2019

Forget-Me-Nottle: Why Write?

Hello everyone,

I thought I'd post here that I've recently started a new blog, specifically for my university creative writing. I'll also be posting reviews there, so that this space can be used for my personal writing and reflections, rather than becoming crowded with posts.

Books I collect - Photo by Ellie Morris

Please go to my new blog Forget-Me-Nottle to see my latest post; a reflection on why I write and a manifesto of my writing goals!

P.S. If anybody is curious about the name of my new blog, it's a play on a character's name from the Jeeves books by P.G. Wodehouse. Gussie Fink-Nottle's name amuses me when I read it, so I thought I'd give my blog a name that can make me smile, along with fitting in with the theme of nostalgia (forget me not flowers) and history that I like to incorporate in my work.


Sunday 7 October 2018

What is Your Favourite Type of Character?

I was tagged by a friend on Instagram recently, and asked to take part in a sharing a photo with the hashtag 'favourite female characters'. Coincidentally, one of my lectures that week was also about characters, their development, and what kind of characters readers like to spend time reading about... So I thought this post would be perfect to sum up my thoughts!

The Pool of Tears, Alice in Wonderland - photo by Ellie Morris

Answers in class were mixed, but for the most part people seemed to appreciate 'nice' characters. The genuinely kind, helpful, goodhearted sort (Bertie Wooster as written by P.G. Wodehouse is the first example that springs to my mind when I think of those qualities!). Characters that are witty were also generally well-received, according to my group discussion. Admittedly, there are only about twenty of us in that workshop, but I think there's some truth about the sweeter, more wholesome characters being popular.
When I think about who my favourite characters are, they also seem to fit with those traits for the most part, being characters easily sympathised with - and in Bertie Wooster's case, easy to laugh at and with, too!

Here are some of my favourite female characters, from the tag I responded to on Instagram:

Alice (Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll) ✧

Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz series, by Frank L. Baum) ✧

Mary Lennox (The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett) ✧

Claudia (The Vampire Chronicles, by Anne Rice) ✧

Manuela von Meinhardis (Mädchen in Uniform, or The Child Manuela, by Christa Winsloe) ✧

As a whole, I tend to like the whimsical characters that daydream a lot and go on adventures, those that are brave, curious, and aren't afraid to show their emotions - Alice, Dorothy and Mary fit those descriptions well. I also like the passionate but tragic characters, such as Manuela and Claudia. 

This weekend was dedicated mostly to developing a new character of my own. It's such an exciting feeling, putting together a new person with their own thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and interests... I can't say too much because I'm planning on using her for some university work, but I came up with her in the Scriptwriting workshop and really enjoyed creating the image of her in my mind (though I 'made' her in scriptwriting I think she may fit with the short story module a lot better). 

I will say that I used a new-to-me software to plan things out, and it made the whole compiling of information from different sources a lot easier! If you ever want to try a more visual way of fact-gathering, with images, text, links and videos all in one place, OneNote is a wonderful software. It's basically like a notebook, with different tabs for whatever subjects or projects you want, and you can add 'pages' to them. 
Okay, so I might be late to the party as always, but I know I'll be using OneNote a lot more often now that I've tried it out! 

Aside from building on my character and doing homework (can you hear me crying? I'm sat in a lake of coursebooks and notes right now) I visited some antique bookstores, and I may have gone a bit wild... I came home with six books, only two of which are related to my course. 
"The Power" by Naomi Alderman was purchased for a lecture, and "The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories" by Angela Carter was *kind of* to do with my course, in that I came across her works through some tangent while doing homework and I really wanted to read more. 
Then I bought a 1970's book on dollhouses and making art dolls in an antique bookshop, and three other books in another antique store. 
A couple of months ago I posted about a book I found by an author called L.T. Meade - well, I wanted to find more of her works since I enjoyed that one so much. Part of the attraction is the collectable aspect of her books, being made in the 1890's-early 1900's and having spines like elaborate, lacy rainbows held in glass cases. If I'd been brave enough to take a photo, you would have seen what I meant as that room filled with antique children's books was just a dream come true, but I managed to find two more of her books - "Marigold" and "Water Gipsies" - and another one by Louisa May Alcott, called "A Garland for Girls". 
I absolutely can't wait to read them, but I have so much other reading that I need to do before I even touch them! 

To fit with the topic of this post, what is your favourite kind of character, dear reader? Let me know in the comments!


Sunday 30 September 2018

Poem: Beloved Grave

I thought I'd try something different. I haven't written a poem for a while, but I've had an idea about making "cut-up word" poems with discarded film photographs and vintage books, and it wouldn't leave me alone all week - so I had to make it.

Beloved Grave - Ellie Morris

This particular poem was inspired by the hours I spent falling down a Royal family rabbit-hole on Wikipedia. I came across an article on Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine, who sadly died in 1903 at the age of eight; her death was caused by contracting typhoid fever at a family gathering with her cousins, and the details about her funeral and her father's devotion to her inspired me to write this.

I scribbled down my thoughts in my writing journal, then set to work finding the relevant words in an old torn book. Some letters had to be cobbled together as it was just taking far too long to find what I wanted, but I like the effect it gives!


Tuesday 28 August 2018

People (and sculpture) Watching

As writers we must look for inspiration all around. It's always important to read lots and lots, but taking influence from the real world, what we see and hear in our daily lives and environments is even more so. Overheard conversations can spark ideas, and the influence for your next main character could be just around the corner - literally!
Here I'm going to write about some of the curious people and things I have seen this summer, and the environments which I found them in, since I like to keep a record; the things I write are a mismatch of small aspects from everyday life, imagery and experiences found in dreams, and things I like in books and films - and I often like to write about young people, since it encompasses my own experiences, thoughts and feelings over the almost two decades I've been alive.

Football Match

I'm not usually a football fan, but since my younger brother is really passionate about it I decided to go see his match one sunny day in July. It's kind of interesting to see how kids interact with each other, especially in a competitive sport, which usually doesn't bring out the best in people... My brother's a good team player and I was pleased to see that everyone on both teams were pleasant too.

The surrounding area was quite unusual. Being a heatwave, the green fields were blazing hot and bleached by the sun, crunching underfoot. Behind me, where I sat watching, reading, writing and smiling, was the animal shelter where I volunteered since the beginning of the year, and an abandoned convent which was once the learning place of, shall I say "troubled kids" (I want to be nice about it because it's just one of those sad things, but working next door to that building I'd seen some kind of scary and unusual things!). The large metal crosses high up on the roofs would probably have burnt you if you were to touch them. Ants crawled over my arms and legs, over the picnic blanket and on top of my hat, trying to get near the apple which I did not want to share with six-legged friends.

The young footballers were red-faced and determined, sometimes getting accidentally tangled up with each other's legs on the pitch, being over-eager and clumsy. Babies murmured peacefully and spectators laughed, but what caught my attention was the repetitive, chime-like giggling of a group of siblings in the near distance.

Three girls and a small boy were playing with a flattened magpie, tossing it up into the air and laughing. Obviously it was dead - dead as a dodo, *coughs* - and they just didn't care or seem to mind. They threw it to one another and held it by its stiff, wide-spread wings as easily as a cardboard cut-out. The children were so innocent; death and bacteria did not bother them or send them scurrying away, but the latter notion scared me for sure. I wondered if I should get up and tell them to leave it alone, for it might've contained nasty germs and nobody else seemed to know of their game, but a parent beat me to it.
"Bye, dead bird," the children said softly as they went to go play hide and seek elsewhere.


My parents have told me that I seem to attract strange interactions with other people. Maybe it's true. I don't like speaking with people I don't know, especially if something seems off about them, but as a timid-looking girl I guess it can be hard to avoid them in public spaces... Liverpool is a busy place - not as bad as London, but there are certainly lots of people, and it takes all sorts to make the world.

I decided to visit an art gallery which I've been to a few times before, since it contains a rather striking room filled with Grecian and Romanesque marble figures, bathed in whites and cream and black, which I figured would be interesting to photograph on my new/old camera.
Well, my favourite statue in the entire room could be spotted at once. I do admire little Puck, the mischievous sprite from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". His grumpy face and devilish wings contrast greatly with his chubby-cheeked cherubic-ness, and despite the fact that he could not move or speak or do a single interesting thing, he was probably the best thing I encountered that day. I would have sketched him if I had time, but there was an 18th Century fashion exhibit in the next room!

One thing that soured the trip a little was the walk to and from the gallery. It was much longer than I remembered, especially since I'm battling some pretty bad fatigue at the moment, and with road works I had to walk a slightly different path. A man in an orange luminous vest was laid out across the narrow walkway, and so I had to step over him as there was nowhere else to go. Fair enough, I suppose he was tired too.
But walking that way, I caught the attention of a man on the other side of the road, who trudged through the traffic to approach me. He was drunk, and I was a little scared, though now I think back on it I find it a bit funny. When he spoke I couldn't understand him well, but I caught this:
"What colour are you?" I had no idea what he meant, since I'm obviously as white as a sheet and splotched red from embarrassment and exercise. "You can be any colour in the rainbow! Or all of them."
I ignored him since the only colour I could think of was 'leave-me-alone lavender,' but he continued to follow and pester me.
"Use your imagination. I'm sure you have one, don't you!" I ignored him more... then finally lost him at the crossing where he called me a "vampire" and then latched onto somebody else.

Well, that's people for you. When will any of this work its way into my writing? Probably not any time soon, but it was fun to write about my experiences!

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