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!!