Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Hero's Journey (their words, not mine!!!)

Every story consists, in one form or another, a selection of specific characters archetypes interwoven into a specific story arc. And what I’m about to tell you isn’t new…Joseph Campbell and Christopher Vogler have already covered this but I think they are amongst some of the most important writing lessons anyone could ever learn and should always bear in mind when constructing their plot. 

In fact, its probably something you already do and don’t even realsie. Don’t believe me? Okay, consider these:

1.) The hero is introduced in his/her ORDINARY WORLD


3.) The hero is reluctant at first. (REFUSAL OF THE CALL.)

4.) The hero is encouraged by the Wise Old Man or Woman. (MEETING WITH THE MENTOR.)

5.)  The hero passes the first threshold.  (CROSSING THE THRESHOLD.)

6.) The hero encounters tests and helpers. (TESTS, ALLIES, ENEMIES.)

7.)  The hero reaches the innermost cave.  (APPROACH TO THE INMOST CAVE.)

8.) The hero endures the supreme ORDEAL. 

9.) The hero seizes the sword. (SEIZING THE SWORD, REWARD)




Don’t think you can fit this around any story? Okay then….
We meet farm boy Luke Skywalker on Tatooine (ordinary world introduction). He meets R2D2, C3PO and Obi Wan Kenobi. Obi Wan tells him of his father who fought in the Clone Wars (call to adventure). Ask to accompany Obi Wan, Luke refuses until he discovers his aunt and uncle murdered which then persuades him (meeting with the mentor). Journeying to Mos Eisley, he meets Han Solo and Chewbacca (crossing the threshold) that leads to an encounter with Princess Leia, the Death Star and Darth Vader (tests, allies, enemies). He journeys deep in to the Death Star (approach to the innermost cave), but loses Obi Wan to Darth Vader (ordeal). Returning to join the Rebellion, he joins them in an attack on the Death Star (seizing the sword). Successful in blowing up the gigantic space station, he receives his reward alongside Han and Chewie (the road back). Indeed, in Return of the Jedi, he almost turns to the dark side whilst fighting his father (Darth Vader…see previous blog piece!) which is the resurrection. The lesson Luke has learnt throughout the entire Star Wars saga is about the light and dark sides of the force and how powerful friends and family can be (return with the elixir).

Everyone knows the old adage of ‘the villain makes the hero’. You need the overwhelming evil so that the most unlikely good can overcome it. Joseph Campbell knew this, which is why his construct for what makes the best stories can be seen over countless tales over countless years.  He also knew you needed specific character types, or archetypes as he called them, to make your stories truly come to life. And they were; heroes, shadows, mentors, heralds, threshold guardians, shape shifters, tricksters and allies.

Using Sherlock Holmes as an example – Holmes is the hero, Moriarty is the shadow or villain, Watson is the mentor with guiding principles, Irene Adler could be the herald who calls the hero to adventure, Lestrade could be the threshold guardian standing in the way of important points, the shape shifter could be Stapleton in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the trickster again Irene Adler/Moriarty and the allies, well Lestrade again, even Adler on some occasions if the circumstances suited her. The character types can be interchangeable. But the fact exists that they are always there in some respect.

Works with Doctor Who too…
The Doctor – hero.
Dalek/Cyberman/Sontaran/Weeping Angel – villain.
The Face of Boe– mentor.
Wilf (Donna’s uncle who ended up being the cause of the 10th Doctor’s regeneration)– threshold guardian
Captain Jack Harkness – shapeshifter
Missy/The Master - trickster
Amy/Sarah-Jane/Clara/Donna/Martha/Rose - allies

Think about it…it works with your story too. Granted, as with anything it may not have rigidly adhered to these guidelines. Stick to closely and your story will be stilted…deviate to far and you story will be lost in a mire of plot holes and inconsistencies. But use it as a skeleton framework to build your story around, and you can shuffle them about, retitle them, delete some, add others and discover the true power held within your story. Power to tell the most wonderful of tales that you hadn’t even realised.

Recommended reading - 

Monday, 15 December 2014

Paul Ferns Interview - author of 'The Element Order'

Hi Paul! Thank you for being the next of my Britain’s Next Bestseller colleagues to join me for an interview!! I’m hoping to chat to everyone from the site as we have all had similar but oddly different experiences with our campaigns. But for right now, Paul Ferns; dancer, teacher and author...tell me a little about ‘The Element Order?

What was your inspiration?
My inspiration for The Element Order series came mostly when I was a teenager (many years ago) I’d always had an interest in the prospect of alternate realms and that at the exact same time we exist in this world a parallel world could be happening! When writing, I tend to draw inspiration from paintings, sculpture, architecture that type of thing. The element of journey that is apparent throughout the series I drew mainly from ‘The Divine Comedy’ by Dante Alighieri or ‘Dante’s Inferno. The amazing journey he took whether fictional or non -fictional fascinated me, and the characters he met along the way I thought were ridiculously exciting.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

I’ve spent 23 years dancing and choreographing so creating something visual has been a huge part of my life. As a creative you are always looking for the next challenge and the bigger creation, but often budget isn’t available to create what is exactly in your mind. Writing a book gives you an unlimited budget. The biggest thing for me though was learning how to write, as I have never studied English at such a level as to write a book, I had to really do my homework and train myself along the way but loved the process.

How do you create your characters? Are they based on real life people you know or completely fictional?
Ella Jack Harriet & Oliver, the four teens in the story, are actually based on teens I have taught or still teach now. The other characters have an essence of many people I meet in my quite often, random life! One character is based on my mum, another based on my nan. The book is very personal and often areas of it reflect my own life metaphorically.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
Research was tricky at times, for instance I had to choose a building in Canterbury as the setting for Blackcrowns, the boarding school featured in the book. I also had to research numerology, which was an important factor to the age of the children in the book. The only psychological negative aspect I had was letting the book go in the end it was like giving a baby up for adoption I cried. In the book Cats and spiders are prominent, cats I adore, spiders I’m petrified of so you can imagine the tricks on my mind those areas played when writing.

Was it challenging to be creating a world amongst the Young Adult reader majority? It has definitely channelled the zeitgeist in regards to what readers are looking for.
I honestly never thought about the challenge of creating a world to appeal so much, I was more concerned in writing a world and characters that were away from current trends so no vampires, witches or werewolves are involved and as yet there are no love interests (as yet) I wanted to create a fairytale type adventure so influences there included The Goonies, The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe, Labyrinth. Classic and epic tales of adventure and escape.

This is the first book in a proposed trilogy. Can you tell us a little more about it?

It’s actually the 1st of four books with the 4th being in two parts. And the only thing I will tell you is that each book is plotted, the whole synopsis complete and the end has been decided. Even my partner knows nothing of each book or my mum.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I’m extremely disciplined when it comes to writing, actually with everything else as-well. Workaholic  my friends call me whatever that means! As I teach odd hours and teach so many dance classes a week I have to structure carefully so unfortunately for me my writing hours are 7-11am and then 10pm onwards until I fall asleep, that’s every day.

Where do the your ideas come from?

I once read a great article on creative writing, unfortunately I forget where it who it was by, but they spoke about drawing from your own hates and likes, like I mentioned above I have a genuinely terrifying phobia of spiders so I knew I could write the terrifying aspects of them in the book. I love cats I own 2 myself ‘Dante and Bunch’ Cats play a feature in their aswell, I find them to be very powerful animals, in the book there are ‘Lava Cats’ scary and ferocious animals that spit fire and swim in lava. I’m fascinated by powerful and strong, beautiful woman so again, some characters ‘Fire Sirens’ play an integral role.  Other influences in terms of the visual I like PS3 game characters and deviant art. Paintings and sculptures from the likes of Dali and Rodin influence me. I love high fashion and couture pieces on runway, any characters I write that need to appear powerful I love to dress them in couture looking outfits however fantastical.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I chapter plot 10 chapters at a time, I bullet point everything that needs to happen in each chapter and then flow through those bullet points, rarely I stick to the bullet points as sometimes an idea will pop in my head in another draft so it evolves as I go. I think it’s impossible to not improvise in each chapter. For instance in my 1st draft of book 1 I wrote a whole chapter about a spaceship in draft 2 I scrapped the whole idea.

Which part (if any) was the hardest part to write?
Battle scenes are a struggle for me, the point of view of various angles and characters can be tricky, often those chapters alone don’t complete for several drafts. I don’t write in 1st person or 3rd my style is omniscient , so this can be a more tricky way of writing, I stand in the room, or area the action is happening and describe everything that is going on around me.

Who are your favorite authors/books?

I love Dan Brown’s short cliffhanger chapters, J K Rowlings descriptive imagination and Stephen Kings warped brain, and of course Dante’s Inferno. This book for me has and always will influence everything I do whether writing or choreographing, this is a stand-alone book and will feed my inspiration for life with all of its elements (no pun intended)

If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Alive Madonna, she is the top of my list for anyone breaking boundaries in every area of art and culture. Dead, Dante of course.

If you could meet any of your own characters, who would it be?
That is an amazing question but it would have to be ‘Akasha’ I have 1 question that I would ask him but I can’t say what it is because that would spoil the final book.

And do you have a favourite character in ‘The Element Order’?
I have 4 favourite characters. Ella, Harriet, Jack and Oliver. I adore them like my own kids.

If you were going to go out of your comfort zone, what genre would you like to try?
That’s a tricky one, I currently have 2 adult books plotted in Horror and Thriller. These would be difficult for me however if I were to be given a complete challenge I would probably choose romance, I hate mushy stuff, yet romance affects me emotionally if its done in the right way, so I would probably be an emotional wreck writing it.

As ‘The Element Order’ is your first novel, what were the high points of getting it onto the page and published?
The biggest highlight for me was my mum receiving her copy, she bought me my notebook and pen when I told her I was writing my book, it’s still at home in my drawer filled with chapter plots notes and research.

And the low points?
I can honestly say I haven’t had any low points, of course any chance of a social life goes out of the window but it’s a small price to pay.

Do you have any advice for other writers who may be starting out?
Don’t edit as you go, take a break between drafts, don’t drink and write.

What are you working on at the minute?
I am currently working on Book 2 of the series

Do you have any special message you would like to say to your readers?
Pick up my book, open it and escape.

A huge thank you to Paul for taking the time out to speak to me. The first book in 'The Element Order' is now available for pre-order at these links on AmazonWaterstones, Britain's Nest Bestseller and all good online booksellers and is due for release on 5th January 2015.


Friday, 5 December 2014

Bekki Pate Interview, author of the fantastic debut novel The Willow Tree

Hi all,

For the first author interview on my blog I decided to go with one of my fellow Britain's Next Bestseller colleagues, Rebecca Anne Pate, or Bekki as she prefers to be known!

Talented, enthusiastic and an author to look out for, Bekki was happy to join me and tell me a little about her debut novel, "The Willow Tree' - Part 1 in the Fragment Trilogy, her inspirations and her plans for the future.

Hi Bekki! Thank you for being the first author to feature on my blog…and one of my Britain’s Next Bestseller colleagues to boot!! So, your debut novel ‘The Willow Tree’. Tell me a little about it? The floor is yours!!
Hi! Thank you for having me :) Basically my novel is a horror story with supernatural elements, and it follows the paths of several people – one of them is a girl who loses her memory, another is a man searching for his girlfriend, and another is a young girl with dangerous abilities who makes a terrible mistake.
‘The Willow Tree’ takes it’s readers down a fairly dark path. What was your inspiration?
Growing up I have always loved scary stories – my favourite books were 'Goosebumps' :) Later on I discovered the less known 'Shivers' and then as I grew older I moved to Stephen King and Richard Laymon. All these stories inspired me to write something of the genre myself, to see if I could write something scary.
What is your favourite genre to read? Is it supernatural and suspense or do you like to deviate from that path?
I would say my favourite genres change, at the moment I am really into horror, but I also love romantic novels, historical novels like those written by Sarah Waters, and authors such as Jodi Picoult and Sebastian Faulks.
What was your inspiration for the plot of ‘The Willow Tree’?
It was after watching the Chronicles of Riddick funnily enough – although my book didn't end up anything like it, I loved the story and the strong characters.
How do you create your characters? Are they based on real life people you know or completely fictional?
I think most of my characters are based on a mixture of friends and people I know – for example one of my characters, is based on the different attributes of three friends. 
When trying to imagine a character, it begins as a kind of shadow, no name, no face, just a feeling, and it slowly builds into someone who I could probably have a conversation with, someone who I know inside and out.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don't think so! It's more of an entertaining read than anything else I guess – I wanted to scare people. But the book itself is a testament to all struggling authors out there – if I can do it, anyone can!
If you were going to go out of your comfort zone, what genre would you like to try?
I would probably like to try and write some sort of erotic fiction (not Fifty Shades of Grey!) - or perhaps a crime novel.
As ‘The Willow Tree’ is your first novel, what were the high points of getting it onto the page and published?
In all honesty – feeling it with my hands! Just holding it and knowing it's my work, finally in print after all these years, knowing that people are going to read it – and whether they love it or hate it – I value their opinions.
And the low points?
It would definitely be trying to juggle demands of the publishers alongside the demands of a full time job – going to work all day and then coming home and spending hours on my campaign, or proofreading etc – but it's definitely worth a few months of stress to get the end product :)
Do you have any advice for other writers who may be starting out?
Keep going, try less traditional paths – a lot of agents nowadays might not take a chance on an unknown author unless you can prove there is a market, that you have fans etc – set up a facebook/twitter/instagram page – and gain followers – and then try and get your book out there. Create the interest first.
What are you working on at the minute?
I've turned to short stories at the moment – nothing fancy – I have written three novels and when I tried to write my fourth earlier this year, I just couldn't face it, so short stories are a way of exercising my writing muscle without the strain of a full blown novel.
What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
My biggest challenge was probably making sure that it made sense – of course it did to me, but I was so close to it, it all played out in my head perfectly – but on paper it was a struggle making sure that key bits of information weren't missed, or that characters' motives and actions weren't ambiguous.
Do you have any special message you would like to say to your readers?
Just thank you – thank you for taking the time to open the book and read it and recommend it to friends – this wouldn't have happened without you.

The Willow Tree is now available for pre-orders on Amazon and is released on 5th January 2015.
The Willow Tree is an enthralling and captivating thriller that draws you closely into the characters thoughts through suspenseful storytelling that is both mysterious and horrifying. --Jay Plemons, author of Last Light Falling series

The Willow Tree is an impressively frightening read. Bekki Pate's descriptive prose is hauntingly beautiful and will give even the most hardened of horror fans a chill. The nightmarish creatures that haunt the characters will have you trembling as you turn each page, leaving you with a thirst for more. --Ryan Mark, author of Tremor

Look out for more interviews in the near future with more of BNBS alumni!! 

Friday, 21 November 2014

Hellbound is entering the world!!!

Well, last week my Britain's Next Bestseller supporters started receiving their copies of Hellbound. Exciting and a little anxiety-provoking, wondering whether people will enjoy it, knowing that it won't be everyone's cup of tea, wondering if there is a typo I missed, curious as to whether readers will relate to the characters, believe the world I the words of The Riddler in Batman Forever "Too many questions!"

Looking at it myself, it is a little surreal as I can't even remember writing is a very strange feeling indeed reading your own work. Yet, at the same time, a wonderful feeling that it is finally done and can be held in people's hands for them to judge.

Good, bad or indifferent, I'm proud of Hellbound, the tale I tried to tell and the characters I placed into Obadiah Stark's world. It may not be perfect, but it is a good ol' yarn and I think people will be pleasantly surprised and enjoy their time with Joe, Obadiah, and...well, spoilers!!!!

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The Cusp of Darkness - a tale of madness

The Cusp of Darkness

1 hour ago…

As the guards finished chaining Erebus to the chair opposite and left the room, Dr. Aloeus Hart sat down and once again, opened the slim, manila folder in front of him. 
The circumstances of Erebus’s capture had been very strange. He had been found by the police at the scene of the murder he was currently charged with, covered in blood and making no attempt to hide the fact that he had almost certainly committed the crime.
After being charged at the police station, he had been transferred to St. Judeca’s Hospital for psychiatric evaluation and had ultimately ended up in this room, where they had spent the past seven days in lengthy assessment sessions. All of this took place without him ever uttering a single word, either in defense or acknowledgement of his accusations. As Aloeus re-read the file, he began to slowly consider that the individual before him was unlike any case he had been asked to review in his entire career.
The doctor looked up, unnerved to see Erebus continuing to stare unblinkingly at him. He cleared his throat and closed the folder.
‘Good morning again Erebus. How are you this morning?’
‘How long have you been a doctor? I meant to ask when we first met, but being a little absent minded, I forgot,’ came the reply.
Aloeus shifted uncomfortably in his seat. ‘I have been a practicing psychiatrist for the past twenty two years. 
‘Wow!’ Erebus exclaimed with a chuckle. ‘Twenty two years. Who would have thought it.’
As he finished speaking, he leaned as far forward as the shackles would allow him, so far that Aloeus could smell his breath, sweet and sickly, as if he had just eaten candy floss.
‘Okay, well,’ Aloeus stated nervously before continuing, ‘This session is really just a summary to my report that….’
‘That I’m not sane enough to stand trial. Is that the basic jist?’ Erebus interrupted with a lyrical lilt in his voice.
‘Well, yes. You could say that is the ‘jist’, as you put it.’
‘Okay then, paesano,’ Erebus exclaimed. ‘What are you going to suggest that they do with me?’
Aloeus shifted in his chair again, before glancing back down at his notes. ‘You do understand why you were sent here, don’t you Erebus,’ Aloeus asked rhetorically, without looking up, deliberately so as not to make eye contact. The emphasis which Erebus had placed on the word, you, had made him nervous.
‘Of course I do,’ came the reply. ‘I’m here because ‘they’ think I murdered all those people in some sort of satanic ritual.’
‘If by ‘they’, you mean the police, then yes, that is correct,’ Aloeus replied. ‘And because of that fact, I have to consider your treatment, one that will be in the best interests of not only yourself, but of others. Are you willing yet to explain to me your motives for killing them?’
Erebus settled back into his chair and placed his shackled hands on his lap, fiddling with the chain as he spoke. ‘Well, I was looking for someone. But then something occurred which made me reconsider my strategy.’
The casualness of his reply took Aloeus by surprise. ‘And what was it that made you reconsider your strategy?’
Erebus leaned forward again, never removing his eyes from the doctor.
‘I had a dream which made me realise who the person was I had been seeking all this time.’
‘Did this dream identify who this person might be?’ 
Erebus kept his gaze, but returned to a slouching position in the chair.
‘I think that that’s enough for one day, chief. Don’t want to spoil the main event by giving too much away, now do I?’ 
‘I do hope that you realise I’m here to help you. I appreciate the situation may not be how you expected it to be, but I know you understand that, given the crimes you are accused of, I’m only doing my job.’ 
Erebus suddenly shifted in his seat, causing Aloeus to jump slightly. ‘I know, doc. So am I. After all, do you really think that knowing you’re going to lobotomise me, I’m going to let you go through with it?’
‘Pardon?’ Aloeus questioned, feeling a panic he had never before experienced. 
Erebus replied without answering the question. ‘You know, we really can’t have any kind of meaningful discussion if these guards are going to stay stood outside the door, eavesdropping on our intimate conversation about your credentials and future plans.’
Aloeus was now the one who was leaning forward. The fact that his patient knew what he had written in his final report, summarising his assessment of Erebus’s state of mind and suggestion of the only course of action he felt could realistically remove such a dangerous threat from society, made the hairs on his arms and neck begin to prickle.
‘With all due respect, Erebus, you don’t know anything about my credentials or future plans.’
Erebus laughed loudly. ‘I beg to differ, doc. I know everything about you. You obtained your medical degree in 1978, worked as a foundation house officer for two years to achieve your registration, took basic specialist training in psychiatry for three years and then branched off in forensic psychiatry with a Certificate of Completition of specialist Training, which allowed you to apply for and obtain a specialist consultant‘s post in forensic psychiatry where you have work since 1988, all in this hospital. You’re also married to Victoria, who lives with you in a house in the countryside just outside town.’ 
Aloeus stood up abruptly, his mouth open incredulously. ‘How do you know that?’ he asked with a hint of panic in his voice.
‘Oh, I know everything that goes on around here. You would have to get up early to get one over on me.’
Aloeus sat back down abruptly, his chair rocking onto its back legs for a moment.
‘In fact,’ Erebus continued, ‘The only reason I am here is because of you.’
Aloeus frowned at the statement. ‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, you didn’t really think that bunch of incompetents actually caught me, do you? I let them get me, ‘cause I needed to see you. You have something I want, you see.’
Aloeus felt his skin prickle with gooseflesh, and though he was terrified to know what the answer to the question was, he had to ask it.
‘And what’s that?’ he asked leaning forward, unable to stop his hands from trembling from nervous energy. Unprofessional behaviour he realised, but he couldn’t control it.
Erebus stood up from his seat and grabbed the doctor’s hand. ‘I’ll tell you in a moment, doc’.
Aloeus felt a sharp prick in his hand and found himself almost immediately unable to speak. As everything around him began to turn black, he found himself considering how his patient had been able to remove his restraints and have in his possession a syringe with drugs in it. He found himself wondering how Erebus had known what he had written in his final report to the board regarding the proposed lobotomy. As he slumped forward onto the table, he also found himself wondering how Erebus knew his wife’s name as he slipped into darkness…. 


‘Wakey, wakey, doc,’ the voice says. ‘Time to be up with the best of them.’
He tries to move, but finds his arms are pinned down by his side. He is unable to move his head.
‘Oh, don’t try to talk or move, doc. That little jab I gave you was a small amount of neurotoxin, capable of causing your vocal cords and muscles to temporarily atrophy.’
Erebus, who now looked like the doctor who went by the name of Aloeus Hart, leaned down so that he was right beside his namesake’s ear.
‘During our little therapy sessions, you asked me if I knew why I was here and in your self-righteous tone told me how I needed to understand why you were doing what you were doing. Well, I took your advice, doc and I’m not only going to tell you why I’m here, but I’m going to try and understand what it is you do. And the best way to do that, is to be you. By the way,’ he said in a whisper. ‘Did you ever realise what my name stands for? In Greek mythology, Erebus was the personification of darkness. Dark should be a word you’re familiar with.’
He stood up and ran his hands over the front of his white coat, straightening out imaginary creases and touching his magically altered face, caressing it gently as one would if it were something they were not used to. 
‘Oh yes, before I forget,’ the man formerly know as Erebus said calmly. ‘Don’t worry about them not recognizing you when they enter the room. The little spell I conjured to make me look like you had a buy one get one free offer. Now you look like I did before all this silliness started. Cool, huh? That means you get to take full advantage of all my upcoming appointments.’
‘Oh my god,’ Aloeus thought. ‘The lobotomy’. Horror suddenly tore through the doctor and he tried to scream and call out, but found that it was still useless. He couldn’t even move enough arms enough to initiate something which would be akin to thrashing about. He simply had to lie there as the panic he now felt caused him to scream silently inside his head, a pitiful, primal howl. 
The Voice who now wore the doctor’s face banged on the door and called out. ‘Guards, I’m finished with Mr. Erebus. You can prep him for his procedure now.’
The man formerly known as Erebus leaned over again and whispered in the doctor’s ear. ‘Don’t you understand it yet? Have you not realised? The surname?’
Aloeus’s mind became frantic as the realisation dawned on him. Dark was his fiancĂ©e’s name and the name of all of Erebus’s previous victims. Every single one. His cries tore though his mind, but continued to remain unheard and unnoticed by the guards around him as they moved through the door. 
‘I’ll look in on your wife, by the way. She’ll be worried to death. And all this stress will have her drained.’
Aleous could swear he could hear him laughing as he was wheeled out the room, his silent scream deafening in his mind.