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Posts Tagged ‘famous’

I had never heard of the author, Ken Bruen. Perhaps not the best of starts, but I honestly don’t know where to begin with reviewing this book.

I picked ‘Blitz’ from the book shelf purely because it had Jason Statham on the cover. Okay, so I’m shallow, but Statham’s rugged stance was too persuasive and I buckled in a moment of weakness. It would appear this 2002 book was picked up by Hollywood and hit our screens in June of this year. I confess I totally slept though this period, but the promo on YouTube looks pretty good.

So, what’s this book about?

Basically, a tough cop has to find and stop a psychpath from killing police officers. It’s neat and it’s simple.

Then, I turned to Chapter One. The first paragraph reads:

THE PSYCHIATRIST STARED at Brant. All round the office were signs that thanked you for not smoking.

      The psychiatrist wore a tweed jacket with patches on the sleeves. He had limp, fair hair that fell into his eyes, thus causing him to flick it back every few seconds. This doctor was convinced he had Brant’s measure.

So, nothing wrong with that. Then it continued –

    He was wrong.
    Said:
    ‘Now, Sergeant, I’d like you to tell me again about your violent urges.’

‘Huh?’ I had to back up and re-read. I’d never seen a layout like this before and it threw me. In fact, for the first thirty pages it kept throwing me. Eventually, I came around to Bruen’s way but it wasn’t without a fight.

So, what kept me interested?

The story. There are three stories going on here. Well, actually there are four if you count the killer. And each story lets its character have its own point of view. There is Brant, who I thought would be the main character given the picture on the cover and the blurb on the back. How wrong was I! It’s a bit like Tarantion’s Pulp Fiction and, fortunately, I like this format. Plus the stories drew me in.

What I didn’t like was the ending. I won’t reveal what happens, but I felt very let down.

Would I read another Ken Bruen book? I would have to say ‘yes’. The strange layout aside, I found the story engaging, fast paced and the characters very real. I just hope the next Bruen novel I choose finishes with more of a bang.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read any other Ken Bruen novels? Have you seen the movie version? Let me know.

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We often forget about the things we did as kids, maybe because our memories are not as sharp as they used to be when we hit middle age, but probably because these memories are so embarrassing, we choose to block them from our minds.

A couple of days ago, I was searching for some photographs. Now, if your parents are like mine, your whole life is packed into boxes and stored in the attic, and when I say your whole life I mean it. From the love letters you wrote to your first crush in maths class to the hideous video footage of your first sports day when you won the 100 metre sprint but all you really see are my skinny legs and knobbly knees. Anyway, my mum retrieved some of these boxes and, together, we began to go through them. I can tell you, while a mystery to me at the time, I look back at my school photos and now fully understand why I couldn’t get a boyfriend! Just when I didn’t think I could feel any worse about myself, I found something I really couldn’t remember writing. Of course, my hubby quickly took a photograph of it and threatened to publish it on Facebook…Who said a relationship stales after marriage?

So as a bit of fun (and I wanted to beat him to it), I thought I would share it with you.

 

In case you cannot read it, it says, “Dear John Travolta. I like your records very much and I like Grease. Love Donna. xxxxx”

Oh, how I can feel myself regretting this already. Notice there is no date. This is so I can adamantly deny I was older than five when I wrote it. Unfortunately I was 8 when Grease hit our cinemas, so I reckon I had to be 8 or 9 when I penned it. It reads a little like my query letters now, actually.

Ok, that’s enough laughing at me. I want you to comment with an equally embarrassing story or memory from your childhood. If I get over 15 replies, I will tell you of another TV couple who I do remember writing to, and I was a lot older too. 😀

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The UK has had an amazing amount of snow this winter. I frequently found myself standing in the kitchen and just looking out the window at the white covered fields that surround my house – hey, I’ll use any excuse not to do the washing up and snow seemed to be the excuse everyone was using for not working. 😀

One thing is for sure. Snow is beautiful. It can transform even the most horrid of places into a serene and peaceful area befitting any Christmas card.

But then it struck me. Snow is extremely cunning and deceitful. It lures you in with the promise of fun but in reality, it has claimed the lives of so many people. In fact, snow is a real killer and its sister, the wicked Ice Queen, is worse. She is just pure evil and will stop at nothing to make our lives a misery, particularly the ones who don’t take up arms and prepare for her arrival. Frozen pipes, black ice, and have you ever been hit with an iced snow ball? That will draw blood, guaranteed.

So, then I started thinking of other items that lure us in with their perfect beauty, only to attack when we least expect it.

Roses are classed as one of the most elegant and beautiful flowers. Their aroma is intoxicating and they are arguably the most stunning flower created. They draw you in. You have to smell that rose, to touch its silky petals….and then, BAM! Either a thorn stabs you through the thumb or a big, fat bee flies out from the hidden depths of the flower and stings you on the nose. I mean, these flowers are given on Valentines Day as a sign of love for crying out loud. What you’re really getting is a box of thorns hidden by silk petals. If you love me, send me daisies. They won’t draw blood and there’s nowhere for any killer bugs to hide.

So I guess what I am really saying is this. If it happens to snow on Valentines Day, and you have to walk the length of your pathway to collect a box of roses from your post box, just stop and think of the senders real intentions.

Okay, so this was just a fun post, but can you think of any other perfections that have flaws?

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When I look back at the first book I wrote, I feel a twinge of guilt for my characters; all five of them to be precise, if I want to be picky and count the minions.

Why do I feel guilty? Because, unforgivably, I neglected to give them a life. I just dumped them on the wintery London streets of Shad Thames and said “Right, off you go and do this.”

To their credit, they did what I asked, but not to the best of their ability, and that is solely down to me, because I did not spend the time in getting to know them. A year ago, I would have sworn different. I would have told you my heroine was an independent woman, owned a bar and lived a relatively normal life with only her handsome neighbour next door for support. The hero, and her love interest, was an actor who was quiet and thoughtful and ……. Oh my God, so boring!!!

Then I met Kristen Lamb. She told me to write a back story for my antagonist, so I did. I proudly wrote four pages and emailed them over to her. Her reply? “Crap, do it again.” I was mortified. How could it be rubbish? (Yeah, ok, you can stop laughing.) But she was right. It was absolute tosh. Oh, how naïve I was back then.

The reason it was rubbish, and it’s so clear now that I cringe every time I think about letting Kristen read it, was this. My first antagonist was a nice, wholesome, little rich girl who went nuts because the guy she liked was in love with someone else. There was no venom about her. She was kind to others, well liked, popular at school – you get the picture. But my reasoning for creating this totally unrealistic girl, who went off the deep end, was because Glenn Close had done it in Fatal Attraction. If a block busting movie could do it, why couldn’t I? The problem was, Glenn Close was not the normal, hard working, successful woman she appeared to be before Michael Douglas slept with her. If you look closely, she was actually a borderline psychotic and her back story would have backed this up with actions, events and certainly haunting issues.

I was guilty of analysing the plot of a story too much and just letting the characters roll along for the ride. Now, however, and much to my husbands annoyance, I analyse and pick holes in everything on TV. Still, men are there for us women to annoy so I think it is a win-win situation. 😀

So, this is what I have been taught, and would strongly recommend to anyone creating a character:

It starts with their creation. They need a look, a height, and a style. Personally, I look for a picture of an actor or actress and go from there. Then give them a home, a childhood, parents, siblings, pets, school proms, jobs, friends, enemies, lovers, fears, stressors.…. you get the picture. What they do with them after that is then up to you. They can use them, annoy them, play with them or kill them. They can go to jail or become President, but their back story must lead them to the moment you start your book. You cannot have, like I did, a nice antagonist who turns in to a crazy, killing machine, because it is convenient to the plot.

If you are stuck, then I would suggest writing your own biography first. Start with where you were born, who your parents were, if you have any siblings. Remember your childhood memories, relationships, good and bad. Jobs you’ve liked and jobs you’ve hated. Gravesides you have stood at. Tragedies you’ve had the misfortune to bear. All these things define who you are now.

Oh, and one really important thing I have learnt is this. Your protagonist does not have to be perfect. Perfect is BORING! Give her a flaw. Make her human. I guarantee your reader will not dislike them for it.

Look at Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon – he was a suicidal drunk. And Frasier, from the TV show of the same name, has serious commitment issues, but do we hate either of these characters? Do we ‘eck. In fact we become more compassionate towards them.

Now, as always, I want to know something. I want to know who your favourite protagonist is and what flaw they have. Hmmmm….. has that got you thinking?

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I thought it would be fun to see if it was possible to write a story in no more than six sentences. This is what I come up with…

The Wrong Path :

He stood at the crossroads at the tender age of seventeen where, as predicted, he had received his first criminal record. He could have walked to the left and stayed on its disastrous path, ending up just another statistical drain on today’s society. But he chose the path to the right, working hard to reclaim his dignity and self respect. He cherished this path, gaining a rewarding job, loving girlfriend and loyal friends. He awoke on the day of his 22nd birthday not knowing that today he would be honoured a hero. Today he would rescue the life of a young child from a burning building, sacrificing his own life in the process.

NOW, it’s your turn. I want to read your 6 sentence stories. Good luck!

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Being as it was Halloween ‘an all, I had planned to write a blog last week about the creepy village I live in, but I changed my mind when I watched Halloween Resurrection on Saturday night. Now it is no secret that Michael Myers rates number 2 on my list of things I fear the most, right after spiders, which I find totally alien (there is absolutely no justification why they need eight horrible, hairy legs). Anyway, I snuggled under my duvet and, with hubby snoring next to me, I watched the whole movie. Anyone who has seen ‘Resurrection’ will no doubt agree with me when I say it doesn’t hold a torch to the original Halloween film. In fact I have no idea what number in the franchise this one is and, to be honest, I don’t care enough to spend the two minutes needed to Google it, but my god, does Michael Myers scare the crap out of me.

 A little piece of information you should know about me before I continue. Not much will frighten me. If I hear a noise during the night, I will go and investigate. Yeah sure, I thought I was going to have a heart attack while I walked alone (walked you hear, and I rebuke all rumours that say I nervously edged my screaming self round) the House of Horrors in LA’s Universal Studios, but the adrenaline rush was amazing!

Well, after the film finished I wanted to go to the loo (that means ‘toilet’ to my American friends) and, as always after I watch Michael Myers for 90 minutes, I was scared to leave my bedroom.

This got me thinking. What was it about his character that scared me so much? I’ve watched all kinds of horror films and none of them have this effect on me, Vacancy, Wrong Turn, Friday 13th, The Crazies, and Tremors. Ok, I am kidding with the last one, although will admit to loving it. I thought it could be because there are many Michael Myers out there for real. No? How many stories do we read in newspapers of people being butchered in their own homes or knife wielding maniacs dragging women off to their death? Way too many to mention on my small and mere blog, I can tell you. Then I watched another film called ‘The Strangers’. For the entire film my heart beat so hard against my chest I actually questioned whether this is what it felt like before someone died of fright – I kid you not! But why had this film also scared me to such a point that I would think this?

I’ve pondered over this for a while now and this is what I’ve finally come up with. In both Halloween and The Strangers, all the killers are wearing masks. You cannot see their faces, only the blacks of their eyes. These masks stop me from seeing any emotion shown on their faces, hence I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking or planning to do next. This to me is utterly frightening.

My husband cannot watch paranormal/ghost films, heck he struggles to get through an episode of Supernatural, and yet these films do not scare me. Why is that? Why does one film scare me and another scare someone else?

So, as an experiment, I want to know who or what scares you and more specifically, why.

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When I write magazine articles, one of the first things I do is jot down a list of key topic points I want to include. So, when I decided to write my first novel, it seemed obvious to use the same formula throughout the initial plotting stages. I already had an idea for the story, knew which characters I needed and had a rough plan how I wanted it to end. From there I bullet pointed each scene and then each action within that scene. Voila! Easy peasey. I now had a template to use when writing my story.

So why didn’t it occur to me to do the same thing with my characters? Characters are the core of any story. It doesn’t matter how good your novel idea may be, if your characters are weak, boring and unrealistic then you are not going to hold your readers interest. Characters need to be exciting and giving your protagonist flaws and making them argumentative or even a little nasty doesn’t mean they will be unlikable. Look at Bella from the Twilight series. Stephanie Meyer has her vampire loving butt flitting back and forth between Jacob and Edward, almost playing them off one and other. She pouts, she moans and she never listens to anyone and yet the fans love her. Why is that? Is it because she is strong willed and willing to fight for those around her? It’s certainly not because we are told to like her. Readers are clever and will make up their own minds about what they like, even if they are swept up in the sea of phenomenon that is Robert Pattison.

One of the most resourceful things I’ve learnt, and therefore apply before plotting any story, is to thoroughly create my characters. They are, after all, what we are going to be writing about for the next 6 – 12 months so it makes sense that we should know them better than the back of our hand, right? Of course it does.

Now, let me ask you a question. If you were to write your own autobiography, where would you start? At age ten when you took your first piano lesson? Think again. You would start from the moment you were born. Second question: Would you write only about yourself? *Shakes head*. You would include your parents, siblings and relevant friends, wouldn’t you? Say ‘yes Donna’. It probably seems obvious when you are thinking about yourself, but maybe not so obvious when you are thinking about your characters. Be nice, give them a past and bring them to life. You’ll soon see they are no longer untouchable but have in fact become a real life living person.

Now thrashing out your characters is no quick process, although you will get quicker as time passes, and it is vital that you keep them consistent. If you are inventing a villain with a lisp, keep him as villain with a lisp. If you are writing about a sociopath with absolutely no conscious, don’t suddenly make him feel sorry for the neighbour’s dog when the owner beats it for barking all the time. Think about all the characters you’ve either read about or watched on the television. In the good movies they’re all consistent. How many times have you seen Michael Myers about to kill someone only to have second thoughts at the last minute and guiltily break down? Never (well apart from one of the sequels where he hesitates in killing his niece, but that was rubbish so it doesn’t count). He is a killer and his back story supports that. He killed animals as a kid and famously killed his sister. He is a psychopath and has absolutely no conscience. On the other side we have our heroes. Let’s look at the well loved Dean Winchester from TV’s Supernatural. He is strong and tough and scared of nothing. He fights and kills demons, vampires and witches without any hesitation, but does all this killing make him a psychopath too? Hell no! Dean has a conscious for a start plus he loves Sam (his brother) and even sacrifices his own life to bring Sam back from the dead. He is conflicted. He wants to experience what a normal, loving family could be like and yet knows he has to continue being a demon hunter to protect mankind. He can be arrogant, flippant and a womaniser. He drinks and won’t let anybody touch his car. But do we hate him? Do we heck. No, we love him even more because every flaw is counteracted with an emotion. We’ve seen him cry and struggle with death and loss. He is that real person we either all want to be or all want to know. And why is this? Because right at beginning, before the pilot was even written, the writer sat down and worked out who Dean was going to be. Plus he is easy on the eye, which always helps. It worked for Daniel Craig’s portrayal of James Bond as we finally saw the hard nosed spy with a heart and that is how we like our heros to be.

Having said all that, tell me who your favourite character is and why?

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