Wednesday, 17 December 2008

New Year, Theoretically New Start...

As my first post of the New Year, I think I'd better put down a few resolutions to look at later. It always makes me laugh to look at the things I consistently fail to do over the year - but I fall for the 'fresh start attitude' . It makes me think I'll stand a better chance of actually doing the things I 'll avoid doing for the rest of the year.

Numero Un: Remain Tolerant of the Twilight Series.
My sister has got the Stephanie Meyer virus. It's everywhere, I guess - the movie, with a rather gloomy Cedric Diggory, the merchandise, the books - the many, many books. I was eventually persuaded, through alternate pleading and dire threats by my little sister, to read the Twilight series. Three books later I was still bemusedly wondering how something which would have been unanimously flamed on has caught the hearts and minds of the goth inclined teenagers of the world.
Oh dear. Where to begin? A heroine you want to drop-kick out of a window for being so saccharine, a hero who's decidedly ... well, "perfect," "gorgeous" and all the rest of it, but who has as much charisma as a shop mannequin and who wallows in angst at every available opportunity. Plus the vampires/werewolves/ ordinary townsfolk are all so nice. So absolutely in love with Bella! I don't actually know what high school is like in the US, but if it's anything like high schools here, I'm willing to bet not everyone automatically falls in love with the new girl on her very first day.
However, try and discreetly mention some of the plot flaws to a Twilight fan, and the exchange ends up something like the council of war scene from Kingdom of Heaven...

Twilight Fan: " a teenager who is in loooove with Edward Cullen can never be defeated in pursuit of true loooove!"

Moi: 'But it's nothing like real life at all! And Edward Cullen is not attractive or charismatic!!!'

Twilight Fan:BLASPHEMY!!!!!

So... in light of being pounced on with howls of fury when I make any criticism of Stephanie Meyer's, talent, I have decided on tolerance. I shall nod my head and fervently agree with anyone who is a Twilighter, and then consider whether t'is a far far better thing to lower my standards and send raving Mary-Sues to the publishers instead of a worthy novel. Hmm. Jury's out on that one...

Monday, 8 December 2008

How Wondrous Parlous is an Inner Critic

I've been shamefully neglectful of late on blog postings - mostly because of the bleak midwinter depression that sets in for Lit students just before the Christmas holidays. Exams, exhausting essays, miserable weather and the forced merriment of Christmas student parties take quite a toll! But before I succumb to the dissipations of the season and lose all coherent writing ability, I thought I'd write about that little internal mechanism that takes over when I'm writing. I wonder if it's true for all authors? Whether the characters sit on your shoulder, offer little critques - often downright insults - and when benignly inclined send darts of inspiration that let the story go on?

There's a very famous painting of Dickens called Dickens' Dream where the great man himself sits with thousands of tiny tableaux - figures, characters, sketches from his work, all sit about him. Some look up at him, some aren't aware of his existence. It's as though only a select few are there to inspire. Of course, it would be a wonderful thought if one's characters could do that , although it certainly doesn't happen in any of my original creations. They quiver with feeble life and then sink back down into apathy.

But there are definitely select guardians for my fanfiction. For instance, my very first Les Miserables fic was guarded by the taciturn Javert. He initially looked something like Geoffrey Rush from the 1998 movie - but he seemed to improve much on being dead, and within a few months of writing it had taken on a far more benign personality - like an irritable Parisian Sherlock Holmes. (I did once attempt to write Holmes fanfiction, by the way - before I was even aware fanfiction existed. I was eleven, and Mary Sues abounded. There was this blonde, logical, damsel in distress, and a jealous quarrel between Holmes and Mycroft. Needless to say, that's buried on an island somewhere out of reach of mortal man).

I hardly like to mention the present guardian of Tu Salus Fidelium, in case he becomes offended and disappears, but the good Lord of Tripoli has practically written himself. I'm not quite sure where the reckless drinking habit came from - nor the hesitant insecurities, and in retrospect Tiberias could very well be medieval noir - a twelfth century version of the cynical, hard-drinking detective in a dog-eat-dog world. But he's an affectionate character underneath it all, and when he chooses to exercise his influence the story flows like a dream.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Christmas - or the Joys of Sparkly Things

Well, it's been a long while since I posted -through terminal essay stress, the joys of slush (not snow - the best we get is sleet, apparently, in Manchester - to my eternal annoyance there's six inches of snow on the ground in my home town of Bury, not half an hour's journey away, for the first time in twelve years! It WOULD snow whilst I'm at uni, wouldn't it) - and the always fun prospect of revising unkown medieval somethings for an exam in January. But I thought I'd take time out of writing depressing essays about post-modern theatre to write about Christmas.
Christmas - or rather, December, is my month. It's cold, miserable, the darkest time of the year - and then right in the middle of it all we have a bright festival of glittery lights and sparkly things to cheer everyone up. Everyone gets tired, yes - but we also get hopeful. Even competitive - in halls the competition is vicious about who has the best decorated flat. My dad's enthusiastically offered 100-foot string of shiny snowflakes was, perhaps, a bit overdoing it - our hall looks like a shrine to the Norse ice giants - but the thought's there. I'm even in a campus Nativity Play this year, for the first time since I was five years old.
What IS interesting, though, is a theory my mother put forward about Christmas. That we need the glitter to fend off the darkness. I mean, technically, Christmas on the 25th December tactfully covered all the old pagan festivals with good old human sacrifice and huge bonfires - but even before Christmas, practically every ancient civilisation has some sort of winter festival where lights are lit and the dull blankness of the ordinary world outside fought off for at least another day. And round about now, there's a patch of damp depression (and colds) that needs to be fought off with a little bit of snow, magic, lights, and Christmas.
This year we're having a fancy-dress 'Tim Burton' Christmas - mainly to humour my little sister, who has recently bought into the 'Twilight' obsessives. It should be fun - not least with a patch of dark ghoulish fun riding alongside the Christmas merriment. An interesting mix for everyone...