Writing Dialogue

*N.B: Warning, contains offensive language.

 

“Good morning readers, and welcome to another post on Flailing Through Life.”

“Hi! Another day, another post!”

“Hey! You! Yes you! Come and read this, no, don’t look over there, look here!”

 

As dialogue, which is preferable? Which grabs attention quickest? Which is most appropriate for your scene? Some of you are experienced writers, so you already have a handle on this aspect of the craft, but we can all do with a little extra topping on the ice-cream sundae of the written word – couldn’t we?

There are a few successful novels and novellas that contain no dialogue whatsoever, Shikasta by Doris Lessing being one of them; the story is presented in a series of reports from an alien who inhabits earth. Another is Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, which is created through diary entries. However today, let’s look at how we make people talk.

Dialogue exists to bring your characters to life, it makes them appear ‘real’, it allows for interaction between characters, it reveals what sort of person he or she is. And if done well, it can make your writing come alive.

I am a massive movie fan, I watch films all of the time, I spent many hours in my childhood sitting indoors on a sunny day, with the curtains partially drawn, watching old black and white movies; mostly British or French. I am a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino films – and his dialogue is perfect.

Take a look at this section from Reservoir Dogs – Mr White does not want to tip the waitress when everyone else has done so:

                          

            NICE GUY EDDIE

                Okay, everybody cough up green for

                the little lady.

       Everybody whips out a buck, and throws it on the table.

       Everybody, that is, except Mr. White.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 C’mon, throw in a buck.

                        WHITE

                 Uh-uh.  I don’t tip.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 Whaddaya mean you don’t tip?

                        WHITE

                 I don’t believe in it.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 You don’t believe in tipping?

                      PINK

                         (laughing)

                 I love this kid, he’s a madman,

                 this guy.

                      BLONDE

                 Do you have any idea what these

                 ladies make?  They make shit.

                     WHITE

                 Don’t give me that.  She don’t

                 make enough money, she can quit.

       Everybody laughs.

                              NICE GUY EDDIE

                 I don’t even know a Jew who’d have

                 the balls to say that.  So let’s

                 get this straight. You never ever

                 tip?

                    WHITE

                 I don’t tip because society says I

                 gotta.  I tip when somebody

                 deserves a tip.  When somebody

                 really puts forth an effort, they

                 deserve a little something extra.

                 But this tipping automatically,

                 that shit’s for the birds.  As far

                 as I’m concerned, they’re just

                 doin their job.

                           BLUE

                 Our girl was nice.

                           WHITE

                 Our girl was okay.  She didn’t do

                 anything special.

                          BLONDE

                 What’s something special, take ya

                 in the kitchen and suck your dick?

ReservoirDogsTipping

So what sort of people are they? Sure, when you watch the movie you can see them all sat around in their matching black and white, but what does this little section tell us about Mr. White? The dialogue is about a mundane subject; tipping, but it is interesting because of the people who are having the conversation as much as anything else; makes it kind of weird (and if you’re like me, then comical) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4sbYy0WdGQ&list=RDV4sbYy0WdGQ#t=0

Tarantino does this repeatedly in his films. We get two or more characters who we know, as the audience, are awful people; killers, murderer’s, punks, criminals and so forth. Then he gives them this dialogue about everyday stuff, it is the Juxtapositioning of dialogue and character expectation that creates interest and tension.

Here’s another. In Pulp Fiction, Jules and Vincent, hit-men for Marcellus Wallace, are in the apartment of some college kids who tried to pull one over on Wallace. It’s payback time. We the audience kind of know this, but what happens is this –

 

                                    JULES

                         Good for you. Looks like me and

                         Vincent caught you at breakfast,

                         sorry ’bout that.  What’cha eatin’?

                                     BRETT

                         Hamburgers.

                                     JULES

                         Hamburgers. The cornerstone of any

                         nutritious breakfast. What kinda

                         hamburgers?

                                     BRETT

                         Cheeseburgers.

                                     JULES

                         No, I mean where did you get’em?

                         MacDonald’s, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-

                         Box, where?

                                     BRETT

                         Big Kahuna Burger.

                                     JULES

                         Big Kahuna Burger. That’s that

                         Hawaiian burger joint. I heard they

                         got some tasty burgers. I ain’t never

                         had one myself, how are they?

                                     BRETT

                         They’re good.

                                     JULES

                         Mind if I try one of yours?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Yours is this one, right?

                                     BRETT

                         Yeah.

               Jules grabs the burger and take a bite of it.

                                     JULES

                         Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.

                              (to Vincent)

                         Vince, you ever try a Big Kahuna

                         Burger?

                                     VINCENT

                         No.

               Jules holds out the Big Kahuna.

                                     JULES

                         You wanna bite, they’re real good.

                                     VINCENT

                         I ain’t hungry.

                                     JULES

                         Well, if you like hamburgers give

                         ’em a try sometime. Me, I can’t

                         usually eat ’em ’cause my girlfriend’s

                         a vegetarian. Which more or less

                         makes me a vegetarian, but I sure

                         love the taste of a good burger.

                              (to Brett)

                         You know what they call a Quarter

                         Pounder with Cheese in France?

                                     BRETT

                         No.

                                     JULES

                         Tell ’em, Vincent.

                                     VINCENT

                         Royale with Cheese.

                                     JULES

                         Royale with Cheese, you know why

                         they call it that?

                                     BRETT

                         Because of the metric system?

                                     JULES

                         Check out the big brain on Brett.

                         You’a smart motherfucker, that’s

                         right. The metric system.

                              (he points to a fast

                              food drink cup)

                         What’s in this?

                                     BRETT

                         Sprite.

                                     JULES

                         Sprite, good, mind if I have some of

                         your tasty beverage to wash this

                         down with?

                                     BRETT

                         Sure.

               Jules grabs the cup and takes a sip.

                                     JULES

                         Uuuuummmm, hit’s the spot!

                              (to Roger)

                         You, Flock of Seagulls, you know

                         what we’re here for?

               Roger nods his head: “Yes.”

                                     JULES

                         Then why don’t you tell my boy here

                         Vince, where you got the shit hid.

                                     MARVIN

                         It’s under the be –

                                    JULES

                         – I don’t remember askin’ you a

                         goddamn thing.

                              (to Roger)

                         You were sayin’?

 

Jules is scary even on the page; he swings from calm burger gourmet to dangerous aggressor and back again in two sentences. Everyone is caught off-guard, which is great for story-telling tension. Why does Tarantino write this dialogue? Why doesn’t he just have Vincent and Jules come in, blow the boys away and search for the drugs? We all know; Vince, Jules, the unfortunate college kids, and us the audience, we all know this isn’t going to end well and the everyday subject of the dialogue draws out the moment until all hell breaks loose.

Tarantino Pulp Fiction

“Uuummmm, that’s a tasty burger.”

Looking to the dialogue of film-makers, directors and producers and analysing what they have written, why they have written it and the effect it has on the audience, can help revitalise a novelists approach.

And let’s not forget comic/graphic novel writers. They have to get that dialogue to lift off the page as much as the artwork. They often bring controversial ideas to the page, dialogue that can be poetic, or both as is the case with Alan Moore’s,  V For Vendetta.

v for vendetta

V: Voilà! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran, cast vicariously as both victim and villain by the vicissitudes of Fate. This visage, no mere veneer of vanity, is a vestige of the vox populi, now vacant, vanished. However, this valorous visitation of a by-gone vexation, stands vivified and has vowed to vanquish these venal and virulent vermin vanguarding vice and vouchsafing the violently vicious and voracious violation of volition.

In this scene where V introduces himself to Evey, we learn a lot about V – he is poetic, an actor, misunderstood and a freedom fighter, all V’s dialogue.

The comic book writer is a subversive creature, lurking in the darkening corners of publishing houses and saying the things we wish we had said ourselves. Frank Miller takes us into the dark with the likes of Sin City and Batman: The dark Knight Returns. Other comic book writers with snappy dialogue are the ‘cast’ of 2000AD writers, including John Wagner, Pat Mills, Alan Grant, Garth Ennis; some of the writers for Judge Dredd;

Chief Judge: Sink or swim. Chuck her in the deep end.
Dredd: It’s ALL the deep end.

Even without any images, we know that Dredd is a hard-nosed, Lawful, humourless son-of-a-bitch, and he kicks criminal ass big time. Forget what you may have heard about kids and comics, if you have never read one, go and buy one or two and read them  and study that dialogue.

2000ad-is-the-black-mirror-of-british-comics-body-image-1449762931-size_1000

Some quick tips –

  • INSTEAD OF SAID. I know, it’s a bitch isn’t it? You have a section of long-running dialogue and you get tired of writing he said, she said. Find an alternative to express their tone, emotions and attitude. A helpful site I like to use is – Over 200 Words to use Instead of Said – http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/#demurred
  • LISTEN to how people speak to each other in real life – BUT – do not copy it, because in real life, we um and ah, and er and pause and repeat and so on and so on… put yourself in the head of your character, BE the serial killer with a penchant for growing prize-winning roses, BE the put upon clerk who adores his/her boss regardless of how they’re treated.
  • “MORNING DORIS.” “Hi Doris.” “Yo bitch!” Use colloquialisms to tell the reader about the relationship between characters. After all, you do not all speak the same as each other, the way you speak to your mother is quite different from how you chat with your friends/homies/home girls/pals.
  • SPEAK UP. Read your dialogue out loud (you should do this with all your work anyway, you can hear the mistakes!) Act the parts of your protagonists; does it sound ‘real’?
  • RESEARCH – especially if your setting is alien to you, or historical. In the 17th century, Doris’ neighbour would never have said “Yo bitch!” or even “Hi, Doris.” More like, “Good morning to you Mistress Doris.” Keep it real – for the world you’re writing for.
  • KEEP A NOTEBOOK to hand, ALWAYS. Listen to people talking at bus stops, on trains, at work/school. You can pick up some juicy titbits. I once heard someone say of Alan Bennet (British playwright, screenwriter, author), that he noted down what a fellow actor said, then had her repeat it in his plays. Sounds true, possibly is, but he did not regurgitate directly what she said, he adapted it for the viewing audience so that we came to know the character.
  • KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. Would our lovely Doris really say “I don’t give a crap about waitresses!”?  You don’t need to, but you might want to write biographies for your characters, it will help you to determine, not only where they come from and what accents they have, but also how they speak; their specific word choices such as slang, speech patterns, and rhythms.

 

Authors who I think give good dialogue!

Douglas Adams

The author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series marries the fantastical with the prosaic –

‘Drink up,’ said Ford, ‘you’ve got three pints to get through.’

‘Three pints?” said Arthur. ‘At lunchtime?’ 

The man next to Ford grinned and nodded happily. Ford ignored him. He said, ‘Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.’

‘Very deep,’ said Arthur, ‘you should send that in to the Reader’s Digest. They’ve got a page for people like you.’

‘Drink up.’

 

Elmore Leonard

The crime novelist’s dialogue is catchy and snappy, many of his novels have been made into films – Get Shorty, Jackie Brown and  3:10 to Yuma

‘You sure have a lot of shit in here. What’s all this stuff? Handcuffs, chains…What’s this can?’

‘For your breath,’ Karen said. ‘You could use it. Squirt some in your mouth.’

‘You devil, it’s Mace, huh? What’ve you got here, a billy? Use it on poor unfortunate offenders…Where’s your gun, your pistol?’

‘In my bag, in the car.’ She felt his hand slip from her arm to her hip and rest there and she said, ‘You know you don’t have a chance of making it. Guards are out here already, they’ll stop the car.’

‘They’re off in the cane by now chasing Cubans.’

His tone quiet, unhurried, and it surprised her.

John Steinbeck

Worlds peopled with memorable characters with dialogue that a reader can hear it as if spoken aloud.

‘I forgot,’ Lennie said softly. ‘I tried not to forget. Honest to God I did, George.’

‘O.K.—O.K. I’ll tell ya again. I ain’t got nothing to do. Might jus’ as well spen’ all my time tell’n you things and then you forget ‘em, and I tell you again.’

‘Tried and tried,’ said Lennie, ‘but it didn’t do no good. I remember about the rabbits, George.’

‘The hell with the rabbits. That’s all you ever can remember is them rabbits. O.K.! Now you listen and this time you got to remember so we don’t get in no trouble. You remember settin’ in that gutter on Howard street and watchin’ that blackboard?’

Lennies’s face broke into a delighted smile. ‘Why sure, George, I remember that…but…what’d we do then? I remember some girls come by and you says…you say…’

Hope you enjoyed today’s post. Now go and write some wonderful dialogue people!

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The Kit Cox Interview

Ladies and Gentlemen! Pull up a pew, pour yourself a jot of gin. For your delight and delectation, a Steampunk celebrity with a faithful following, a charming chap charading as compact killer cad. A pa, a pantomimist, a penman, I give you “your own, your very own”….Kit Cox!

Author, illustrator, creator of  the Steve Jackson game “Evil Ted”, stand-up comic, actor, and host for Hendrick’s Gin (!); Kit Cox writes under his own name and that of Major Jack Union – the title character of his sci-fi series. The Union-verse books are set in an alternate universe where history and literature exist alongside each other with the presence of monsters being kept secret by agents of the British Empire.

blogKitCoxDr-Tripps-380x0

Hi Kit, Good morning and Welcome, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

Me: And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?  

Kit: I very rarely flail; as is the case with most creatives I have what is often referred to as a mental illness and in my case I am a sociopath. First off it’s one of those great mental illnesses that allow me to not see it as such, although I am aware my actions are sometimes hurtful or harmful to those around me it is difficult to connect those problems to myself. I also don’t panic or flail as I see no reason or point to it.
I’m a great fan of Procrastination but I avoid the flail.

 

Me: Kit, you’re very involved in the world of Steampunk – having hosted events at The Asylum, Lincoln, and your earlier books dipped into this genre. For readers who may not have heard of Steampunk (I know! Can you believe such beings exist!), could you give a ‘general’ explanation in relation to your writing?    

Kit: In my mind steampunk is a fantastical spirit of adventure and invention that manifests in a neo-Victorian aesthetic (is that suitably poncy enough? Me: Absolutely!) I do appreciate it means different things to different people but I do hate the idea that in certain minds literature has no place in the genre, which is a developing trend.

 

Me: When you’re working on a novel or idea, do you have a ‘special place’ you work in; like a shed at the bottom of the garden, or a ‘den’ in the deepest cellar of your house? And is it important to have such a place? 

Kit: I have two places I write, a very comfortable armchair that faces a picture window, because I love being able to just stare at the sky when I think (I’d prefer an ocean but that would mean the biblical flooding of my home town…or a move) the second place is my study, a subterranean man cave full of trinkets, Lego and reference books.

 

Me: I know that you’re a fan of the comic genre. Tell me, what is your writing Kryptonite?  

Kit: Procrastination is the main thing that stops me from writing; I get distracted by shiny objects.

 

Me: And do you ‘channel’ the spirit of anyone or thing when you write? (I’m thinking Harry Flashman) If not, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?  

Kit: When I wrote my Jack Union books I certainly had Flashman held tight to my thoughts but the Ben Gaul books are my life made fantasy and Dr Tripps’ my joy of Japanese B movies. My most recent books set on a fantasy 2nd earth are homage to Saturday morning cinema and Edger Rice Burroughs; so in short no single muse but always an inspiration lurks.

blogKitCoxHTBAJ

Me: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing your own pieces?

Kit: I’ve never had a book make me cry before; sad certainly but never to the point of tears. Books for me often bring stupid amounts of laughter or that weird suppressed giggling you sometimes hear on trains (I used to love listening to my father laugh whilst he was reading Tom Sharpe books). Books have made me stupidly turned on and in one case one made me gag quite violently, i honestly thought I’d vomit but never tears.

 

Me: What other authors are you friends with, and do they help you become a better writer?

Kit: As authors you spend a lot of time talking to other authors; normally before panels. I don’t think any have actually helped me become a better author as I write books for me not others so take little advice (apart from on spelling and punctuation from my editors). I’ve actually taken umbrage at an author once trying to give me advice; the desire to tell them to make their own books more readable first was high in my mind. That being said I do occasionally adapt my writing based on what my readers tell me, as their words are often conversation rather than advice “I wish I knew what this character was thinking?” for instance as a comment made me start adding more internal dialogue for supporting cast rather than just the main cast.

 

Me: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Kit: I didn’t write as a youngster. I started writing out of illustrator frustration and a need to escape a job with a very serious agenda.

 

Me: So what advice would you give your ‘non-writing’ younger self?

Kit:  I’d tell my younger self. You won’t always be the cute little brother or the fugly teen, you’ll blossom into a handsome eagle and tear the throats out of your enemies. Also you won’t go blind and it won’t fall off…enjoy it. Me: smilie

 

Me: Which authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

Kit: Terry Pratchett  I certainly had to grow into; I hated the first two books (I don’t really do high fantasy. Never liked the Lord of the Rings either, read it twice thinking I was missing something. I still don’t believe I am; the hobbit was great but LotR needs a damn good edit in my opinion) that being said Mort became one of my all time favourites.

 

Me: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Kit: I have two unpublished and one half finished book. The First unpublished book was written by request of my publisher who then decided to release a different book of mine first and then they retired leaving the fully written and illustrated sequel to “How to Bag a Jabberwock” unwanted by other publishers (who rarely touch a sequel). The second unpublished book is my masterpiece; I love it so much and won’t let it go for anything other than to the highest bidder. I’m so proud of it I’d happily keep it to myself like a dragons hoard if the price isn’t right; I’ve released two books since its creation.

I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t always have a book on the go and at least three more ideas in waiting.

 

Me: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?                                                          

Kit: Didn’t have one; I was a doodler not a reader, my brother was the reader. ‘2000AD’ was the only thing I read and this went well into my twenties.

blogKitCoxBGMH blogKitCoxBGMH2

blogKitCoxSP

 

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Kit Cox.

You can find Kit at http://cpeacey.wixsite.com/kitcox  and buy his books at Waterstones , Amazon and http://cpeacey.wixsite.com/kitcox/books .

 

Next time; join me for another chat with Craig Hallam; author of Greaveburn.

 

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…

…that is the question… that I am posing today.

Way back when I was at school, nerds were the really intelligent kids (not me!), who were excellent at Maths and Science in particular. They couldn’t throw, or kick, a ball, they shied away from crowds, cool kids, hockey sticks, pubs, clubs and bars, even their own shadow at times. Nerds were, well, nerdy!

nerd2

Then along came this other word – Geek – it infiltrated to the UK from the ‘good ole US of A’. And we were confused, so this geek was like a nerd but had something to do with technology, both intelligent in academic ways, but stupid socially, neither had any dress sense (many wore spectacles) and you certainly did NOT want to get trapped with one who then regaled you with their favourite topic, no sir!

nerd1

 

For older readers, the difference between nerds and geeks is purely a matter of lexical semantics – they’re both weird. For younger readers, there is a whole pile of difference , and don’t you dare call me a nerd when I’m a geek!!! And then they stomp off to read their comics (because, as we all know, nerds/geeks read comics, don’t they?)

So let us have a little stroll through the history, and meaning, of the world of Nerds and Geeks. Got your notebook and mismatched attire? Then let’s go…

A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities. Additionally, many so-called nerds are described as being shy, quirky, pedantic, and unattractive, and may have difficulty participating in, or even following, sports.

Though originally derogatory, nerd is a stereotypical term, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity.

The first documented appearance of the word nerd is as the name of a creature in Dr. Seuss‘s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950), in which the narrator Gerald McGrew claims that he would collect “a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too” for his imaginary zoo.The slang meaning of the term dates to the next year, 1951, when Newsweek magazine reported on its popular use as a synonym for drip or square in Detroit, Michigan.  By the early 1960s, usage of the term had spread throughout the United States, and even as far as Scotland. At some point, the word took on connotations of bookishness and social ineptitude

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerd

The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.

Although often considered as a pejorative, the term is also used self-referentially without malice or as a source of pride. Its meaning has evolved to refer to “someone who is interested in a subject (usually intellectual or complex) for its own sake”.

This word comes from English dialect geek or geck (meaning a “fool” or “freak“; from Middle Low German Geck). “Geck” is a standard term in modern German and means “fool” or “fop”.The root also survives in the Dutch and Afrikaans adjective gek (“crazy”), as well as some German dialects, and in the Alsatian word Gickeleshut (“jester‘s hat”; used during carnival).[1] In 18th century Austria, Gecken were freaks on display in some circuses. In 19th century North America, the term geek referred to a performer in a geek show in a circus, traveling carnival or travelling funfair sideshows (see also freak show). The 1976 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary included only the definition regarding geek shows. This variation of the term was used to comic effect in an episode of popular 1970s TV show Sanford & Son. Professional wrestling manager “Classy” Freddie Blassie recorded a song in the 1970s called “Pencil-Necked Geek”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek

Hang on, let’s pause here – so nerds are shy – so fucking what!? Most shy people I know are also the most strong-minded individuals I have ever met. They read fantasy fiction? Co-o-o-l.  And geeks are enthusiasts? Where would we be without people who are enthusiastic about something, anything? Aren’t creative types enthusiastic to the point of obsession? William Turner, Auguste Rodin, Frida Kahlo, Barbara Hepworth, H P Lovecraft, Prince!? They would never have produced the paintings, sculpture, books or music that they did, without having at least a hint of geekiness/nerdiness.

So what happened?

Lets see if we can identify the ‘accusers’ and the ‘supporters’…

1974: The Fonz, a character on an American TV show; Happy Days, referred to socially awkward kids interested in science and math as nerds. The world gave him a big thumbs up and nerds a big thumbs down. NB: this was a guy in his late twenties(at least!) who seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging out with teen schoolkids!!! *J’accuse The Fonz.

1978: Eugene Felsnic, a character in Grease was shrill voice, had poor social skills, thick glasses, and was generally considered embarrassing. He was the butt of a lot of jokes. poo Eugene was just overly keen. *J’accuse the T-Birds, The Pink Ladies and Producers,  Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood.

1984: The movie, Revenge of the Nerds was released, and amazingly,people delighted in a movie where the nerds get to win. The film does not actually portray nerds positively, but they were the stars! “We have news for the beautiful people. There’s a lot more of us then there are of you!” Nerd appreciation went up slightly. *Kudos to Director Jeff Kanew.

1985: Movie; Weird Science by John Hughes came out, (also Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hughes humanized the nerds that audiences had made fun of before. Audiences were made to understand that nerds have feelings too. They were no longer the butt of jokes. Nerd appreciation was beginning to climb. *Kudos to Director John Hughes.

1991: Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, was a fairly accurate stereotype, and though an enjoyable character, he does not help the cause of geeks and nerds. Ever. Not sure if he was appreciated or jeered. *Nada.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I was released. And so began the biggest nerd growth in the history of mankind. Nerds were popping up all over the show; watching the films, talking about the films, buying merchandise that appeared in those comic shops that started popping up everywhere. (Being a cynic, I am apt to believe the supreme marketing of this franchise is what has created a cycle of movie-nerd-merchandise-tie ins-geek-movie-nerd ad infinitum.) However, the profile, appreciation/acceptance of nerds and geeks has risen tenfold. *Kudos  to creator George Lucas.

2007: The Big Bang Theory, American TV show arrived. It has been and continues to be, a massive hit. It portrays nerds/geeks as being not only super intelligent but, know-it-alls’ who are indeed socially adept, who are terrified of women, often pedantic and in one instance (Sheldon) possibly lean towards Asperger’s. What initially appear to be stereotypes, and to a degree they are, they also reflect what the vast majority have concerns with; friendship, work, and problems with both. The first nerds to get their very own show! Hurrah! *Kudos to writers, Chuck Lorre, Bill Prady, Maria Ferrari, Steven Molaro and the rest.

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2010: It wasn’t enough anymore, to visit comic book shops, sit on the side-line and discuss girls who would never look at you, it was time to get physical – enter Kick-Ass, the movie! This was a nerd who was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it anymore! This was the skinny, ‘little’ guy who no-one looked at, the guy who hung out with his two equally nerdy pals and spent too much time with comics – it is an homage to the comic superhero, stop just reading about it, and do something. Kick-Ass hailed the rise of a new nerd – Super-Hero-Nerd! *Kudos to writers/Director Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman.

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Well there you have it. Or do we?

Before you go, can you see anything missing from this picture so far?????

Notice an absence from the list???

Still not got it??

I’ll give you a clue – what is the gender of the writer of this blog?!

Where are the women?! It is an odd thing, females have been noticeably missing from the nerd/geek history. If you type female nerd into your search engine, you will more than likely get an image of a ‘sexy’ woman in tight shirt and spectacles that she probably doesn’t wear in her ‘real’ life!

1995: Hackers starred Angelina Jolie as a young hacker alongside Jonny Lee Miller. It wasn’t a terrifically good film and did little for nerds and geeks, even though their IT skills were at the cutting edge! *Nada.

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1996: Saw Matilda making a hit, (with children and some parents). Matilda was not only very well read and intelligent, she got the better of her bullying teacher; Miss Trunchbull. It was cool in the playground for a short while, then the boys came back with their footballs and sense of entitlement. *Kudos to Roald Dahl (and Director Danny De Vito for trying.)

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1997: J.K. Rowling brought us the best girl-nerd ever! Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone, was published. Then it was made into a film! It was a HUGE success. She wrote 6 more! We got more films! Hermione Granger was the new hero of young women and girls right across the planet, she had to fight extreme prejudice from, not only classmates, but teachers. She is from a Muggle family, she is well-read, she is intelligent(more than any of the other characters), she is brave, she is loyal – she is the driving force behind Harry and Ron and without her, I believe, Lord Voldemort would have won!!

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Girl nerds are just as cool as boy nerds, perhaps more so, as they have to work harder. In what way, I hear you ask? Well, if you’re a boy, and a nerd, it can still be a battle to get respect from people. If you’re a girl nerd, you not only have that battle, but another with the boy nerds, who are just like the rest of their species when it come to females!

To Be (a nerd), Or Not To Be (a nerd)…that was the question. Or are you a geek?

I have decided I am a mix of both. It needs a new word, I propose NEEK!

The Mike Wood Interview

Good morning Readers, as promised, another author interview. Today I have Mike Wood talking about music, Blyton and understanding that the reader cannot read the authors mind.

Mike is an active member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA); a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres. He has won a number of awards including, Writers of the Future 2008 and the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest 2007. His SF short stories have appeared in Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Lamplight, Ray Gun Revival, The Best of Jim Baen’s Universe II, Murky Depths and on StarShipSofa. He also, on occasion, writes travel articles in UK camping magazines. He lives on the Wirral with his wife who is an artist.

I first met Mike about two or three years ago, when I joined Wirral Writer’s. He has, I believe, the rare combination of skills – being able to listen, properly, and diplomacy.

 

Hi Mike, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

Me:And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Mike:Ha! Always thought I’d reach an end to the ‘flailing’ part of life when I retired from my day job. I’d have lots of time to get on top of my reading and spend most of the day writing, that sort of thing. I’m six months on from retirement now, and it’s as hard as ever to carve out enough time to do all the things. Now I have added book marketing to the mix it seems harder to fit it all in than before.

Me: For readers who don’t know, Mike plays sax in a swing band; is that correct Mike? Does your music have any influence on your writing or vice-versa?

Mike:There has been a lot of study about how music helps the learning process. Something about how the brain is wired. I do find that when I’m stuck with a plot point or I’m at a juncture in a story where I don’t know which way to turn, a night out with the band seems to put everything right, and the solutions to problems just drop into place. Or maybe it’s just the night’s sleep afterwards that does that.

One aspect where writing and music mesh, though, is in performance. I write a story. I read it. Edit it. Submit it somewhere. After it’s rejected I’ll submit it again… and again. When the story ends up in print it can often be months or years old. The feedback from readers, while always welcomed, arrives long after the creative process has ended. It is extreme delayed gratification. On the plus side, however, that story is out there, and the feedback endures.

Music is the opposite. I might play, for instance, an improvised solo. I can sense if it’s working or not through the notes I’m playing and through the instant and continuous feedback from the audience. When the music ends there is applause (or they throw things) and I know how it went. But the solo is over. The notes are gone, evaporated, and will never be heard again. It’s nice to have the creative validation happen both ways.

Me: When you’re working on a novel or idea, do you have a ‘special place’ you work in; like a shed at the bottom of the garden, or a ‘den’ in the deepest cellar of your house? (Or caravan?!) And is it important to have such a place?

Mike: I have a room at home that is mine and I write there every day. There’s a desk, a wonderful office chair that I bought with my retirement whip-round, and I have a 24 inch screen that I use with my laptop, which is kinder to the eyes. It is a perfect work space and I love it.

But I also go away in a touring caravan. A lot! In the ‘van I’m working on my small laptop that’s balanced on a cushion while I perch on a bunk, with no flat surfaces to use a mouse, and I’m on a perpetual quest for electricity for recharging. And it’s funny, I write more and I write better when I’m away in the ‘van. I suppose The built-in thinking times help, such as those moments when the water runs out and I have to go out for more before I can put the kettle on, or the toilet needs emptying (and perhaps you don’t need to know the details of that one). It could be that when I want to gaze into the distance and ponder, there’s always something new to look at. I don’t know. It works for me, and that’s all I can say.

Me: You write sci-fi novels, but you also write travel books. These are two very different genres, do you see any disparity or correlation between these two?

Mike:That’s a really good question. Yes, there is massive disparity. In hindsight I have taken a road that only a lunatic would travel. I have separate author names: Mike Wood for Travel and Mjke Wood for Sci-fi. I maintain separate Twitter accounts and separate blogs. It is often said that you don’t make money in Indie publishing with a first book, and that you need patience to build a catalogue. Well I have two first books. Whatever possessed me? I suppose it is because I love to write Sci-fi and I love to write Travel (It’s not real travel – I don’t go very far, and my blog tag line describes me as ‘probably the world’s most un-travelled travel writer’.) What’s for sure is that the indie writing world lets me do this. A traditional publisher would forbid it and call me a *&%*# idiot. They’d be right.

But yes, there is occasional cross-over. The sci-fi book I’m working on now has a scene where the protagonist uses his camping skills with unfortunate consequences. There is misfortune and comedy. Sometimes you just have to shoehorn the ideas into place.

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Me: In ‘Deep Space Accountant’, the hero is, well, an accountant! Is Elton based on anyone in particular? And do you see accountants as the secret heroes of the universe?!

Mike: You would think that my being an accountant in the old day-job would have provided at least some of the characters and story. But the truth is, I came up with the original idea for Deep Space Accountant long before I ever worked in finance, back when I was a bus scheduler. The inspiration actually came from a Gary Larson cartoon: Seymour Frishberg, Accountant of the Wild Frontier. Google it and you’ll see what I mean. It was an image of an accountant standing on a rocky promontory out in the old Wild West. I wanted to try it in a Sci-fi setting. I wrote the first draft. Then I became an accountant. Then I did the edit/rewrite. So maybe in the rewrite stage some of my colleagues might have made the odd cameo appearance. I’ll say no more.

And the second part of your question, about accountants being the secret heroes of the universe – well, that’s certainly my marketing pitch, so I’m sticking to it.

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Me: Thinking about everything you have written so far – What was your hardest scene to write? And why?

Mike: I wrote a story a few years ago called “The Third Attractor”. I did it to push myself into new areas and put myself into the shoes of characters with whom I had little in common. The story was essentially a single scene, a conversation between a female mathematician and a priest. Well, I know nothing of maths, I’m male, and I’m an atheist, and in the story the female atheist mathematician proves the existence of God, to the priest, via mathematics. Yeah, I’d pretty much set myself up for a fall on that one. As it turned out it became one of my best short stories up to that time, and it was published in Abyss and Apex magazine. It was a tough story to write. I had to research theology, and I went to a lecture on Chaos theory at Liverpool university to try and get my head around all the maths problems. I loved writing it though, and I was chuffed with the result

Me: What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Mike: Realising that what I see in my head cannot be seen by readers unless I go to the effort of describing them. This is a trap I fall into again and again. I can see the setting, and can feel the wind and smell the new-cut grass. I can see and hear the characters, know how they move, and recognise their accents. Then I make the assumption that my readers all have the same vision from some kind of telepathy. But they don’t. So I have to go back and fix it. And if I don’t, the story fails. It is a blind spot. One day I’ll learn to think about it before my editor points it out.

Mike: I’m going to give a second answer, because another thing that I find hard, very hard, is turning an idea into a story. I have lots of ideas, my notebooks are full of them, but they are not stories. Stories are characters overcoming problems. Okay, let me open an old notebook to any random page, now, and read… yes. ‘What if we could eliminate all risk?’ It is an idea, but it doesn’t say who the story is about. What is their problem? How do they resolve the problem, if at all? What pitfalls will they meet along the way and how will they overcome them? All these things combine to make a story. Getting from idea to story is hard, and always a challenge. That particular example became one of my longer short stories, “Risqueman”, and it won me a trip to Los Angeles. The journey from idea to story, though, was tortuous and I gave up and abandoned the idea many times before the outline of a story clicked, and even then I changed the Point of View character and the ending two or three times.

Me: How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Mike: My best for a first draft novel is four weeks. But then I start to fiddle with it. I find this part the slowest. My personal record for the longest ‘fiddling about’ stage is for Deep Space Accountant, which evolved and changed over thirty years. I wrote other things in the meantime, but DSA was always there to draw me back in. Then I rewrote it, with different characters, different title, different plot and different settings. I did the rewrite, without looking at the original, in four months. So, ha! I can write fast, but I haven’t lost the ability to procrastinate at a world class level.

Me: How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Mike: I had to think about this, because really, not so many. Apart from the second travel book that is still a work in progress, I have just two novel-length books that didn’t go beyond first draft, and not because they couldn’t have worked with some further effort, but because they were projects with which I fell out of love. About half of my short stories haven’t made it into print and some are now trunked. Others are still in play, though. I tend to wrestle with projects until they work. Sometimes it takes a few years to find the right market, but I find it is worth persisting. Most projects will get there in the end. I’m a firm adherent to Heinlein’s rules, and rule 4 says: put your story on the market and keep it there until it sells.

Me: And finally, what is your favourite childhood book?

Mike: I make no apology, I loved “The Famous Five” and “The … of Adventure” books by Enid Blyton. No single book stands out above the others. I loved both series and read some of them in single all-night reading sessions. These were my gateway drug into reading, and probably contributed to wrecked eyes, too, because I read a lot of them under the covers with a torch until two in the morning. These books took me through to around age ten, until I discovered my Dad’s yellow-and-black-jacketed Analog Short Story anthologies that he used to borrow from the grown-up library and, well, that was that. Sci-fi hooked me from then on.

And that concludes today’s interview; I know, it is all over too soon isn’t it? Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed, Mike.

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You can find Mjke at mjkewood.com, mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk  and his books on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo and Nook.

*At the time of interviewing, the anthology Tick Tock, was going to press, in which Mike was not only a contributing author, but the compiler. 

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Join me next time with Kit Cox – creator of Jack Union and the Union-verse books and short stories.

Until then, Ta Ta.

 

‘Good Mo-orning, e-ev’ryone!’

Yes, I know it’s a misquote – (my blog!)

So, I was thinking about how we misquote or remember famous lines incorrectly and decided that I would seek out the correct one’s, just for you dear readers – I spent some time rewatching old movies, sections of movies and looking up literary passages.

I suppose it depends where in the world you are, whether or not these famous lines have become part of general usage, you know when you wake and say “I love the smell of coffee in the morning.” ? Do you know who you’re mis-quoting? Ever get the urge to say, “You lookin’ at me?” ? – I do, ALL of the time, that’s just me then is it? O-Kay…

For your delectation I’ve compiled an eclectic mix of movie and book lines, said by characters, that have entered our current zeitgeist, you might be surprised how your memory played tricks…

 

“You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!” Charlie Croker – The Italian Job.

“Play it!” Rick Blaine – Casablanca.

“You talkin’ to me?” Travis Bickle – Taxi Driver.

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“Elementary.” Sherlock Holmes – The Crooked Man.

“I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore – Apocalypse Now

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“Alright, Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close up.” – Norma Desmond – Sunset Boulevard

“I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Blanche Dubois – A Streetcar Named Desire.

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“Please sir, I want some more.” Oliver Twist – Oliver.

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Rhett Butler – Gone With The Wind.

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“There is no place like home.” Dorothy Gale – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“Mine’s Bond- James Bond.” James Bond – Casino Royale.

“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” Howard Beale – Network.

“Live long and prosper.” Lieutenant Spock – Star Trek.

“Call me Ishmael.” Ishmael – Moby Dick.

“You’ve got to ask yourself one question. Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Harry Callahan – Dirty Harry.

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“He-e-e-e-re’s Johnny!” Jack Torrence – The Shining.

Stupid is as stupid does”, Forrest Gump – Forrest Gump.

“Say hello to my little friend!” Tony Montana – Scarface.

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And pretty much anything said by any character from Shakespeare’s plays!

I think I selected these because, at one time or another, I have used these lines (albeit a little crookedly and adapted to the occassion).

Feeling irked at a colleague? Put your best Rhett Butler face on and say the line! Go on I dare you! You might even want to go all Oliver on your boss!

So until next time, go and hunt out your favourite quotes, try them out on some unsuspecting sap and enjoy the results, in the words of The Terminator –

“I’ll be back!”

A Poem…

I’m not sure what happens when I write (try to write) poetry, but I seem to lose my sense of humour! Previous postings of poetry included ‘Blackbird’, about growing old, time running out, and of how short our lives really are; and since published in Tick Tock.

This one is no cheerier!

 

Sometimes the Sun Rises

 

Sometimes the sun rises and,

You’re filled with a warming glow and

Smile at passing strangers.

A babbling brook runs through your veins

Frolicking like children at play.

A glassful of tickling like hares skittering the meadow.

Vision bright as stars, crystal unveiled.

I see your hot gold, heart gold,

Mother’s arms around a child gold.

And against the laws of physics an umbilical cord unseen,

Ties me to you

 

 

Sometimes it is darkness

Your innards rent like a scud missile

A sour, wet blanket of bleak mid-winter

Freezing your tears before they emerge

(Ashes cling to those that do).

Insides collapse and tumble.

The terrorist lurks in cloudy folds,

Scratching, picking, stabbing, pecking the sore.

Lost time, flat-line, black bells chime,

No safety line to pull you to the shore.

And the unseen cord,

Ties me to you

 

 

But Sometimes, the Sun rises and,

Your cheeks shine with roses,

At the chuckle of an infant.

Joy like a swelling tide floods your limbs.

Wagging the dog’s tail.

Rolling of giggling piglets in the slippering mud.

Comfortable as a sausage in its skin,

I feel your tender warm, sweet warm

Lover’s arms around a dearest warm.

And against the laws of physics,

No matter how far away,

An umbilical cord unseen,

Ties me to you.

 

END

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So there you go, Have a Nice Day!

 

 

The Alan Gibbons Interview

 

Alan Gibbons  is an English writer of children’s books who has won a Blue Peter Book Award. He lives in LiverpoolEngland, where he used to teach in a primary school. His father was a farm labourer, but was hurt in an accident when Alan was eight years old.  The family had to move to Crewe, Cheshire. He began to write for his pupils as a teacher, but never tried to get any of his work published.                                      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Gibbons)

In 2016, I attended a writer’s workshop run by Alan, he managed to fit a heck of a lot into that 4-hour session, from how to write catchy opening lines to setting a scenario;  we all had to create our own ‘good guy finally comes up against the bad guy’ scene. We were encouraged to focus on detail; through the eyes of a person immobilised in bed, to imagining being trapped in the room we were writing in and writing a first person account of meeting the villain of the piece. He worked fast, gave honest feedback and provided a fresh angle on, what the industry calls, Young Adult literature.

He has over 70 published books!

I am extremely grateful to Alan, for taking time out of his, evidently very busy schedule, to be interviewed. And as you will see, as well as being no slouch when it comes to writing, he has definite views on politics, and is no cry baby!

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Hi Alan, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog; Flailing Through Life…

And talking about flailing; Do you ever find yourself ‘flailing through life’?

Alan: Always. When you are young, you think you are on a journey and one day you will reach the promised land. Later, you realise you are already in the promised land and you have been wandering round in it without knowing.

Me: Your books often have political leanings; in An Act of Love (2011), two childhood friends are tested by the onset of the war in Afghanistan, in Whose Side Are You On? (1991), you tackle racism. Would you describe yourself as a ‘political animal’?

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Alan: I am, definitely. I am on the Left, but spend most of my time arguing with what I perceive to be the moral and political failings of my own tribe.

Too many people on the Left are trapped within the mindset of the past, the sclerotic failings of Stalinism or lack of courage to adopt truly radical political positions.

Me: Do you see any disparity, or connection, between those books that are based in the ‘real’ world, and those of a more ‘fantastical’ nature; such as The Legendeer Trilogy?

Alan: Not really. Fantasy is just as capable of insights into power structures, class relationships and issues of oppression as more naturalistic work.

It is the quality of the ideas behind the book and their artistic execution that matter.

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Me: What is the first book (another author) that made you cry? And have you ever shed any tears when writing yourself?

Alan: Nothing makes me cry. De nada. Among the books that have moved me are Jane Eyre and Grapes of Wrath, Alex Wheatle’s Island Songs, Bali Rai’s City of Ghosts and Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses.

Me: What’s with your obsession with football?

Alan: Growing up as a working-class boy in a white bread and tinned veg part of the North West, we didn’t do feelings so we found an emotional outlet at football grounds. It offered tribal loyalties, heroes and a sense of common values. It was a myth of course. Racism and violence stalked the terraces too.

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Me: What other authors are you friends with, and do they help you become a better writer?

Alan: I know people like Bali Rai, Alex Wheatle, Andy Seed, Cathy Cassidy, Steve Barlow, Steve Skidmore and Paul Cookson. I wouldn’t say I discuss writing much with these guys, but I learn from their work and their outlook on the world.

Me: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Alan: No bullshit.

You fall in love with somebody? Don’t hang back. Tell them.

You think somebody’s a clown? Don’t waste time on them.

You want to say that kind of thing in fiction? Don’t self-censor. Do it.

Me: How many unpublished and/or half-finished books do you have?

Alan: Maybe four. I have been lucky that most of my stuff has been published. That is getting less true. With the modern day obsession with the market and shifting ‘units’ and the celebrity culture, writers are facing new pressures.

Me: How long, on average, does it take you to write a book?

Alan: A short novel takes a month, a longer one six months.

Me: And finally, What is your favourite childhood book?

Alan: For younger kids Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are.

For older kids Treasure Island. Most books could do with losing a good fifty pages. In this book, every word is needed.

 

You can find Alan Gibbons at www.alangibbons.com or www.alangibbons.net

To book Alan for a school visit email mygibbo@gmail.com

 

Next time – Mike Wood on Sci-Fi, music, and Travel.