Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist

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Quick Takes Friday About Gaining Dual POV, Generating Poetry and Glueing Rhinestones

Join me and the other Catholic bloggers over at ConversionDiary for our weekly Quick Takes summaries.


Firstly, in case you missed it, yesterday was my 500th post here, so I did some summing up of the past 2.5 years I’ve been working. I can’t really add anything more to that other than the hope that I can up the output and reachability of the blog over the next three years, and that people will continue to join me (and hopefully find me useful/interesting/worthy).


Lincoln tomorrow!!! That is all.

Okay, it’s also kind of funny trying to make my 21st Century gadgets into retrofuturistic objects I can use without heading too far out of character. Also, I currently have a centre parting. The right side of my forehead feels icky. It’s not used to hair.



On Monday, we went to see the animals in the local garden centre, and the weather decided to cheer a bit more than the typical British weather we had creeping in the end of the summer. Yes! *air punch* I can’t say I’ve gone out of my way to leave the house this week – and who can blame me? The outside world is scary – but I have been trying to vary my routine. This week, I’ve mostly been about writing.


Writing: I managed to do some serious paragraph threading-together for chapter one, and the first fifty pages have been my priority for this week’s editing. I haven’t really dealt with OJAP this week – though, after the weekend, I hope to actually work out what I’m doing with chapters 8, 9 and 10 now that Carrie’s not in the Josh’s-bedroom scene, and whether I can manipulate her meeting with Agnetha later in the novel to include certain lines.

I mean, some things are telling about her character, not in terms of the plot, but in terms of what I figure is important for Carrie as a wounded soul, such as, “Yeah, my parents didn’t get along, either.”


I wrote my first poem for months and months. Although I’m not going to share it yet, it’s my typical metaphorical and metaphysical, metadescriptive stuff. Yeah, I made that last word up.


Reading – this sounds like it’s randomly-placed, but it’s connected to the below – Nicole Helm’s TOO CLOSE TO RESIST. I’m about a quarter of the way through, and am really absorbed into the characters. The writing’s not as elaborate as I’m used to – but that comes from moving from fantasy to contemporary, and it’s good practise for me for my contemporary romances.


Annoyingly, I did manage to distract myself and write some new stuff – for UTC, and suddenly I have dual POV when I’d not consciously made the decision to look from Laurie’s POV to begin with. I think this is chapter two or whatever.

After waving Ceriwyn into her own room through a hollow doorway that pointlessly split A block in half, Laurie trudged to his room. September’s full moon was already reflected high in the window he passed, and it was no doubt gone 2am. Laurie always kept Ceri company as the freshers seeped out of the bar – a habit that had started the day she’d got the job in the final term last year. The same time he’d got his job organising formals, posting on the Wellington Facebook page and welcoming foreign students into their rooms at any time in the term.

Thank goodness for his childhood habit of not getting to sleep until the downstairs noises had stopped.

Laurie spun his key in the door, and shouldered his way in. A block was on the older side of Wellington, in its main quad, and thus everything had been made sound-proof and out of pre-WW1 stone.

I like Laurie. He’s a History second-year and friendly despite being sensible/not-crazy. Although he grew up in a moneyed house, he’s learnt to take events beyond their face value, which makes him a useful ally because you know what you’re getting when Laurie turns up.

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About Narrative Focus

My writing has a tendency to go off topic. In fact, this is an extension of my general thought-patterns, I believe. It’s difficult to concentrate on a single topic at the rate that they flit through my head. No wonder my degree is bipartite.

Despite how important it is, only recently did I learn of narrative focus as by its term, and many writers might still not be utilising focus to its full extent.

What is Narrative Focus?

As complicated as the term might seem, narrative focus is simply the way the writer, through use of a character first-person narrator or third-person abstract narrator, guides the reader through a set of events.

Narrative focus might be used to describe that sense of flow between paragraphs – the way the narrator mentions a certain event and holds that event to task for a page or so. ‘Narrative focus’ also applies to the character focus in scenes and the overall flow between chapters and scenes, especially if they are narrated or in the perspective of different characters.

How Can One Hone Narrative Focus?

In short – like everything in writing – practice. And reading. Chances are that most published books have a narrative focused and directed towards the MC(s). In addition, when editing, you might also concentrate on the flow of where not only your sentences are going but also how the paragraphs flow together to tell your story. What’s the most important thing your main character sees in a scene? How do they react?

As fun as squirrels are, there’s no room for them in your manuscript. In the same way that you must weak out the weak verbs and phrases, you must banish the pieces of description or that do not help the story flow from event to event.

What’s Tricky About Narrative Focus?

The problem, especially in first drafts, is that the writer can easily get side-tracked by the generous setting in their head. Each character has an opinion worth listening to, and so a lot of what they see is transferred to the POV character’s narration.

In contrast with headhopping, these slips of focus are viable in writing – but the question is whether they are necessary. Do you want your reader to notice or care that Bill frowns after Mary raises her eyebrows. Mary might indeed see Bill’s reaction, but does that add to the story or is it simply a line that draws the reader out of the scene?
In the end, it’s up the writer.

I asked writers on Twitter which of first or third person they thought created trickier narrative focus, and the general response was third. Understandably, writers of third person have to enter a certain character’s head whilst still keeping their narration fixed on the prose. Writers of first person already tend to have voice, and have the allowance of stepping fully into a characters’ head as they retell the action and reaction. (I write both so I feel qualified to make these observations.)

What might be interesting is the case of narrative focus in accord with second person. Already rather disjointed in general focus, second person requires the reader to be fully transported into the scene.

Narrative focus is not only used for fiction. Many academic papers, in particular precise scientific results with need for replicability, utilise narrative focus.

Thus, focus in prose is important to guide a reader through what needs to be mentioned in a scene and what doesn’t.

Some useful sites: Janice Hardy’s fiction university

Psychology in narrative focus

Wikipedia-like page

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The Bookcase Tag

Time for one of these bookish posts, considering that I’ve done a creative and a thoughtful, and I’m going to do a reblog tomorrow and a link-up on Friday.


What can you spot? ;)*

Apart from this picture, which is of my makeshift bookshelf under my bed (my ‘portable’ one, too), be prepared for lousy-webcam pics. I’m working on improving this.

The Rules

Answer the following questions about books and then tag five other bloggers**. You can answer the questions any way you want, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so they can read it.

You can read NevilleGirl’s post, which is where I first saw the tag.

I should say: this is my series bookcase, charged with keeping together the sacredness that are print book series. The sharp-eyed of you who can work through the shoddy photos will see Harry Potter, Jacqueline Wilson book after Jacqueline Wilson book, The Princess Diaries (minus book six, which I sadly lost when I was nine), Sophie Mackenzies, all the Hitchiker’s Guide books (including And Another Thing) and too many Rainbow Magic books than I’d like to admit, amongst others. Judging by this, I used to really like quick reads. Shame on you, Alex.


  1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?

Not many books actually make me cry, and generally these sorts of things leap on me when I’m not looking/expecting them.

  1. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.

Mm, I’m going by this bookcase. One of the books I remember reading when I was a child was Harry Potter, but, after that, I moved onto contemporary in a pretty straight-genre way. I certainly didn’t read heavy fantasies like I do these days – any fantasies and they were at least urban/contemporary fantasy or with familiar settings.

Anyway, I certainly never read historical books – I made it clear from a young age that history as a school subject was as dull as black bricks – and yet the entire Lady Grace Mysteries series lies on this bookcase. Nowadays, I have a huge soft spot for historical mysteries (and, uh, have written a couple of my own).

  1. Find a book that you want to reread.

Although I don’t reread a lot (moving on, and all that), this bookcase does well for books that I’d reread. When I am a free person, I’d like to spend time rereading all of the Series of Unfortunate Events, cover to cover, with a mature writer’s eye to spot the references and quirky style. I envy Handler’s post-modernism.

That’ll make me cry, but more from sentiment than anything.

  1. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?

That question sounds rather harsh for my liking. I can work with it… I’ve pretty much DNF-ed The 13 Secrets, the last in the 13 Treasures trilogy, but I suspect I outgrew the stories surrounding a teen who can see bad faeries. Conversely, I always felt that the books were a weaker version of The Spiderwick Chronicles (which are not present…begging the dire question: where are they?). Sadly, I think I continued reading out of loyalty.

  1. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?

Considering that I have the complete works of Shakespeare, Conan Doyle and Carroll in anthologies, I’d be rather stuck. I think probably the last, seeing as I’m partway through various stories. Besides, that hardback is illustrated and a glorious green pattern.

  1. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?

In one way or another, every cover on this ‘case brings back fond memories. That’s one thing I love about print books – that one forms better memories of that moment when… because the brain is utilising more than one sensory input. On Kindle, reading is scanning a computer screen, and, as such, can be less memorable.

For the question in point, I’ll choose Armed and Magical, the second of the Raine Benares series (another series I need to get back on top of reading – especially after how awesome the Nelson agency is – but the books in print are more difficult to get hold of in the UK) about a half-elven woman with the gift of finding who gets bound to a stone that sucks souls. I remember sitting in my father’s garden on a hammock reading in the sun. Classical English memory gunk.

  1. Find a book that has inspired you the most.

The collection of four Christie plays there proves that mysteries can be done onstage and still have the simplicity and complexity that one adores in her works. I only acquired and read the collection two years ago (I remember because I was studying Theatre Studies at the time anyway, which sent me into the bookshops in search of set text plays), but, as I started out writing stage scripts, I admired Christie’s ability to balance setting and stage direction with the dialogue. I mean, as much as I love Priestly’s stage directions that are almost descriptive prose in themselves, I understand that no modern actor or director really wants to be faced with a block of text describing the exact way to behave. (I could/should write a whole post on this topic).

  1. Do you have any autographed books?

Three books in Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries Series, The Secrets of Vesuvius, The Sirens of Surrentum, and The Slave-Girl From Jerusalem, which I treasure, since she was an inspiration to twelve-year-old me when she came to our school. (Though I’ve still not read the final book in the series – I keep forgetting to buy it, and time passes…)

I can’t find them at the moment, but I’m pretty sure I have a couple of other autographed books, whether in this ‘case of not. I met enough authors through school that some of the autographs are a tad arbitrary, yet… *shrugs*

Ah, the old ‘Fortune favours the bold’. (I know  The other two inscriptions are the classical Latin of poetry phrases ‘the greatest good’ and ‘ h’

Ah, the old ‘Fortune favours the bold’. The other two inscriptions are the classical Latin of poetry phrases ‘the greatest good’ and ‘ short life’

  1. Find the book that you have owned the longest. 

I’m going by personal ownership here, for I have a couple of secondhand books in this bookcase, in particular translations of Ovid and Virgil texts. But the ones I’ve owned/have been in my possession the longest are probably the Roald Dahl books. I can’t list them all, but we’ve got The Twits, George’s Marvellous Medicine and both Charlie and the… books.

I forgot he wrote so prolifically and in such a quick-read way. I think Esio Trot was always a favourite to read through. Nobody questions the concepts and settings Dahl creates. Nobody raises a single eyebrow at the validity and realism. They just are.


Bottom shelf. From right to left… Rainbow Magic books stacked, topped with Redwall books and a couple of Faerie Wars books. Roald Dahl books x13, Hazel by Julie Hearn, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide ‘Trilogy’.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?

I went to school with Julie Hearn’s niece, and whilst I didn’t know Julie so personally, I got an arc of Hazel through the school. I’d enjoyed another of her books, The Merrybegot, because of its almost magical realism feel (it’s set around the time of witch-hunting), but Hazel is much more traditional pre-war  historical – sent to live on her grandfather’s Caribbean plantation with slaves of colour, Hazel discovers things about her family’s past that will change her perception of the future.

And I thought it was a clever plot, if a little slow to build. You see, another historical that took me by surprise.

*An interesting collection and that most pertaining to my life and tastes at the moment. This also begs the interesting question of whether we are able to surmise what a person is like by their bookcase.

**I suspect that everybody I would tag has already done the tag (I am rather late to the scene), but if you haven’t, feel free to do the tag and link back here. :)


7 Quick Takes about Interviews, Anniversaries, and Arranging Swing

Time for trading the seven things of the week with the bloggers over at ConversionDiary. Join us. :)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes about back to school, veggie choppers, a great DC event, and recording radio spots under dicey circumstances


It’s weird to read all those posts about people going back to school these past couple of weeks. I know so many US bloggers that it’s easy to forget that British students don’t get back to school until September, and I for one, don’t go back to academic work in Reading until almost October.


I’ve been moving between houses this week, and my schedule has been a little off kilter, but not so worse for wear. It’s only been a change of walking around and observing the scenery.


Last Sunday, I went to one of my greatest friend’s parents’ anniversary. It was a nice evening, and good to see my friend again.


And her boyfriend mucking about…


As you’ll see by yesterday’s post, Ready. Set. Write! is now over *weeps at sudden lack of schedule* I’m deep in looking for CP and betas from this and the other conventions that have been around…virtually, but I’m aware that my time-freedom is running out*.


I also had the chance this week to start my Steampunk Spotlight segment about alt-history fantasy authors by interviewing Cindy Spencer Pape. Authors, flock to me! I am very interested in this topic, and I find the best way to learn is through studying others (says the Psychology student). Sadly, I’m still waiting for Cindy’s book to come through the post, but I’m sure it’s awesome. In fact, I’m still waiting for a good few things through the post, so yeah… T_T


A lot of what I’m doing at the moment is actually behind the scenes work – writing, as you know, is generally an input-output imbalance type of work, as is being a musician and creating costumes, but in addition to that, I’ve been helping out the Reading Uni Swing Dance society, and we’re currently trying to sort the meal for our first big social of the academic year.


Still editing. I guess I’m making slow progress, but I hit the 55K mark (with the prologue and epilogue letters), so I’m somewhat on track. This week I’ll be polishing chapters 10 and 11 for my primary CP and pushing on through the last five chapters, which, in terms of prose, are a bit messy, despite being more polished, in terms of how much they’ve changed, than the others.


*Random psych point: did you know that women are more aware of their bodyclock when exposed to audible ticking? I can’t find the link to the news article at the moment, so you’ll have to find the evidence yerselves ;)

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Beta/CP Match-Up

To cap off the summer long Ready. Set. Write! initiative, hosted by Alison MillerKaty UppermanJaime Morrow, and Erin Funk, a mixer for potential critique partners and beta readers is being held. Today we’ve been invited to talk about our WIP and MSs, so without further ado…



Genre: YA Mystery (contemporary)

Approx. wordcount: 55,000 words

Standalone or series? First of a trilogy. Second book – first draft written; third book – planned, a few chapters written, on hold.

Ready for CPs? On fifth draft editing. Most chapters ready now, but might rewrite a couple of the chapters, so sometimes chapters might not be insta-available.

Small house like Agnetha's

Betas or CPs? Primarily beta(s), as I won’t be able to critique once the academic term starts (Oct), but I’m happy to have a CP or two if they don’t mind intermittent critiques/don’t need

Warnings? Mentions of drug use, but no explicit use in scenes. Murder, obviously, but again no explicit description or gruesome blood and guts stuff.

Elevator pitch: 14-year-old Agnetha fights the police to bring her favourite teacher’s murderer to justice – for better or worse, even when she and the greatest link to the truth are the next targets on the shadowy killer’s list.

body outline


“I do remember talking. But that feeling!”

I glanced at Ms. Peterson. She blinked, wincing as she rubbed a raw temple. It must’ve collided with the corner of the table, and a trail of blood began snaking its way down the side of her thin face. Her speech settled to a rough breath, exhaled in a frustrated puff.

“It’s no use,” she remarked. “I can’t remember a word after that. Fuzziness.”

I nodded to her with a sigh. In a half-twist, I circled around, surveying the room: the glass and the ceramic blown apart, scattering their guts against the opposite wall, and the floor was a bed of plaster. Dishwasher-style disturbed. Dishevelled. Disgusting.

At least three walls and a door hung on their hinges. I shoved the remains of the table against the innermost wall, and, ignoring a bright bruise on my arm, pushed through the stray books.

skull bookcase

I hope this has at least piqued your interest. I am totally up to trading first chapters only to get a feel for each other’s style and voice. (I can’t think of anything else relevant right now…)


TCWT: Who am I? AKA Companions, Robots, and…Hats

It’s Teen’s Can Write, Too! blog chain for this month, and the prompt was

“What characters are you most like?”

Once again, you have a lot of freedom with this topic. While the character(s) you choose should hopefully come from a published work, it can be from pretty much any type; book, movie, musical, short story, poem, etc. characters are all fair game.

I seem to have gained an automatic sign-up for every other month because no character instantly springs to mind at the question. And, yes, I’m meant to be tomorrow, but I’m part of the beta/CP seek run by the ladies of Ready. Set. Write! so I’ve got tomorrow’s slot filled already.

What characters am I most like? Arguably, one way of interpreting the question is to go via what characters I’d like to spent time with and be my inner circle (my blogging friend Jae addressed this issue a while ago) – after all, there are certain sayings that address that people surround themselves with who they want to be.

The problem is that I can’t think of a certain character who’d represent me. None I guess stand out so much more than their attributes.

But, rather, it’s a question of who am I? Or, at least, what qualities do I have that can be linked to characters. One might interpret the question by asking what sorts of characters.

Uhh… I doesn’t count if I argue I’m modest, ‘cause that defeats paradoxes the modesty, yes? So, I can’t use that excuse. Well, if we accord with my degree, I’m creative but analytic, like a piece of music, rigid yet open to interpretation.

I guess I’m more likely to stand and calculate what exactly a monster is, rather than running from it. Running is effort, you know? If I had to pick a Companion most like me, I’d say probably Martha. Quietly clever interesting and willing to go on an adventure as long as there’s not too much harm, yet willing to vouch for self-sacrifice if the world is a better place.

I’m definitely on the side of thinking rather than doing, and that’s not a bad thing, but it means that there aren’t many characters from books I’ve read that react rather than act. Give me the nerdy one who hovers (metaphorically or literally!) in the background any day. Conversely, the great thing about steampunk (oh, here she goes again!) is that these characters with their interests in science and sitting working at mechanisms, like Wellington from Phoenix Rising or Simeon from Encante.

On the other hand, I remember feeling quite a deep connection to Paige Mahoney from Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season, and when I say that I liked the book, I always add that the MC annoyed me – because she did. But perhaps that was because she reminded me of me.

This is the official trailer that was out with TBS last year. Paige has my hair…and a hat. The hat is vital. We’ll come onto that later.

In the same vein, I get along better with male characters. Female characters witter too much. They complain and have their moments of girliness. I mean, girliness is cool in a character (in fact, I have protested that women should be weak), but it’s hard to relate to a character who goes shopping, does her hair or struggles to find matching clothes.

Okay, maybe not the last one. Putting on clothes is difficult anyway.

So, to conclude: the character I’m like changes depending on my mood or the books I’ve recently read. Some stay with me, but mostly it’s the attributes that I take and combust into something of mine. And today’s winner?


The Spine.

Sensible, suited, stoic, and a little bit philosophical. When the world is crumbling around you, sometimes the best thing to do is pull a funny face and say “Is that right?” and take things at face-value.


Plus, I admire someone who can look good in a hat. Most women can’t look good in hats. That’s not the women’s fault; it’s the hat’s fault. (Ivy Hisselpenny of Soulless, I’m looking at you and yours.)

And ten points for playing the guitar. *The similarities are striking* xD

And sometimes people say things or do things that do not compute. I’m all:



I’m sorry, that was a bit of an underhand pass to squeeze in some SPG references.

…I’ll stop now.


Don’t forget – this is a blog chain. Check out the wise and educated answers of the other TCWT bloggers:

5th – http:// semilegacy.blogspot.com/
6th – http://thelittleenginethatcouldnt.wordpress.com/
7th – http://nasrielsfanfics.wordpress.com/
8th – http://sammitalk.wordpress.com/
9th – http://musingsfromnevillesnavel.wordpress.com/
10th – http://irisbloomsblog.wordpress.com/
11th – http://www.brookeharrison.com/
12th – http://miriamjoywrites.com/
13th – http://uniquelyanonymous.wordpress.com/
14th – http://erinkenobi2893.wordpress.com/
15th – http://novelexemplar.wordpress.com/
16th – http://nutfreenerd.wordpress.com/
17th – http://unikkelyfe.wordpress.com/
18th – http://writers-place-for-you.blogspot.de/
19th – http://roomble.wordpress.com/
20th – https://taratherese.wordpress.com/
21st – http://thependanttrilogy.wordpress.com/
22nd – http://freeasagirlwithwings.wordpress.com/
23rd – http://butterfliesoftheimagination.wordpress.com/
24th – http://theweirdystation.wordpress.com/
25th – http://teenageink.wordpress.com/
26th – http://www.adventuringthroughpages.wordpress.com/
27th – http://randommorbidinsanity.blogspot.com/
28th – http://missalexandrinabrant.wordpress.com/ <Take a left at tomorrow and you will be here>
29th – http://dynamicramblings.wordpress.com/
and http://thelonglifeofalifelongfangirl.wordpress.com/
30th – http://fantasiesofapockethuman.blogspot.com/
and http://www.turtlesinmysoup.blogspot.com/
31st – http://theedfiles.blogspot.com/
and http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com/ (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain)

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Ready. Set. Write! Final Update

I can’t believe it’s the last of these already. It’s been two and a half months, but the time has whizzed by – ten/eleven weeks and all. I may not have managed to leave an update every week, but I’m going to miss talking about my writing on Mondays!

Last week’s goals

Edit OJAP. Editing in progress.

Write more of fantasy-horror short story. Working on it. I’ve so far 1800 of about 7000, but I’m not finding much energy to actually write, preferring to edit and all it entails. I’m really into OJAP and getting a more final edit in place.

A word/phrase that sums up what I revised:

Insertion. A lot of this week’s editing has been either directly chapter-based for my CP, or taking new paragraphs of important/interesting information and finding where they ought to fit in amongst the old prose.

Challenges I’ve faced this week:

In parts of my mind, I can hear the voice of doubt arguing that pieces I’m editing will be removed, chopped and wiped out later anyway. The problem with following a Christie-esque reveal of clues (a piece by piece) is that my characters have a lot of exposition through dialogue and I’m so worried that the pacing is off.

Something I love about my WIP:

The converse of the challenges: I love some of the new dialogue I’ve slipped in because it works. I need to organise the Pinterest board because I could grab some cool scenes to display there.

An idea of St. Christopher's school exterior; St. Edmund's School, Summertown

Overall goals:

Complete my short story/novella <Unnamed Steampunk>. Also, come up with a neat name for it. I finished The Incidents at Cavendish Mechanics at 13138 words, but may be turning it into a full novella (30-40K) when I have the chance, since the short story category frustrates me with what I feel is a lack of a full plot and character arc.

Finish reading over the summer at least three of the books I’ve started reading this year. I finished Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men, Soulless, Stardust, The Iron Wyrm Affair, and novella Encante, as well as starting tons more. So, yeah, I count that as complete.

Complete another round of tightening of Fantasy Romance WTCB. Yeah? I did a round of revisions and I’m putting it in cold storage for now. I just…bleh.

Make progress rewriting YA contemporary mystery, Of Jackets and Phones, to make it Beta/CP-ready. Yes. In progress, but making greater leeway than in term-time and weekly sending chapters to one CP. Soon, I intend to have another.

Complete July’s CampNaNo with the first draft of ‘H’ and at least start NA contemporary uni romance, Under the Carrington. Horology’s finished at 73K; UTC has about 5K at the moment, but that’s good after saying I wasn’t going to be writing more of it, and still I do.

So, pretty successful all in all, but with still more to be done. How has your writing summer?


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