Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


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Character #totalrunningmonologue

(I honestly meant to write this a while ago and it has lingered in my Word document for too long. Again.)

A Tale To Tell

I suspect I am not alone when I say that I find internal monologue a tricky thing. I, having had issues with voice (ironically, the teenage voice escapes me unless I exaggerate the British qualities of my own #totalrunningmonologue), have struggled to know what to do with certain tenses and sincerities and a whole bunch of other random things that make up the reactions to actions surrounding my protagonist(s).

In ‘How Not to Write a Novel’, by Newman and Mittlemark, there are examples of when a character fails to react – and also when she fails to stop reacting. It’s appropriateness.

However, as I experiment with monologue and internalisation, I fear I am erring on the side of overexaggeration.

I have a personal Twitter hashtag that I use to try and express the random thoughts that my mind submits to; it is this I call the #totalrunningmonologue. These are, I guess, my own reactions to the world around me, though maybe so not as extreme as a character’s could be. A few months ago, I posted about my personal internal monologue of thoughts and sayings pressing their ways through my mind – the psychological term is ‘subvocalisation’ – and it occurred to me that this is easily applicable to writing and character-building, namely, in the use of internalised thoughts.

I used to use this technique all the time, especially as I wrote a lot in first person when I started writing than when I write now; it was a handy way of having my teen narrator snap at someone inside her head.

‘Inspector Leonard stood, with two burly male police-guards beside him; they were giving me that unimpressed glance, as though it had always been my intention to take over the case.

I’m not ‘taking anything over’! I added to myself, taking my eyes off Mr. Smith for a minute so that my glare was transformed to the men in uniform.’ (Early draft of OJAP)

The illustrated version of A. King from the last book

The illustrated version of A. King

That’s all well and good for Agnetha. That’s how she thinks. Man, that’s sometimes how I think. But I don’t think I could apply the technique to any of my other novels. For the first point, the other two three (more on this soon) complete ones are third person. ‘Ezme’ is in first and might well benefit from lines of inner thought, especially as the narrator is not also the protagonist, so she often feels distanced from the events.

It’s one thing I should think about, at least.

But now I’m not so sure whether I should. I know I wouldn’t use it as a writing tool so much, because I am practised in a different style now, but the idea has some gravitas for The Agnetha King books. It’s using present tense and the characters’ present thoughts to expression their reactions to the situation.

That brings the reader in and gets them better acquainted with the main character – for better or for worse. Positives. Negatives: it makes tenses a little more difficult, and makes italics as an emphatic expression a little less clear.

Characters emerge from the page with internal monologue.

Characters emerge from the page with internal monologue.

And it’s not just whether I should have thoughts like these affecting my characters in present tense – it’s also whether I should have them in italics. I used to, but now they only appear in the Agnetha King Trilogy, which seems rather, well, arbitrary. I’m not going to make myself have italicised character #totalrunningmonologue just for the sake of it!

It happens in life, though, that the writer is plagued by characters that narrate their ex corpore experiences in their own voice in my head. I use that to help me write; it’s no as if there is no voice or subvocalisation. Normally, I don’t have to apply this technique too hard, but sometimes I do: thinking ‘what would another writer put?’ or ‘this is a male voice; what would my male friends add if they were editing this?’ The possibilities are wide enough, but it does help me ‘lock onto’ the better passage of prose that might be otherwise escaping me.

I don’t doubt that the characters have thoughts raging through the heads all day as I have, but I do wonder if there is much point vocalising the haphazard.


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Rewriting

 How does one begin to rewrite something so bad, so cringe-worthy that one can barely look at it? This is one question I am faced with on my pursuit of re-crafting the novella ‘Ezme’. Each present ‘chapter’ is about six-hundred words as a maximum, the entire thing is in present tense, there is little description so as to not set the scene, or too much description and focus on one character, it generally feels as if there are chunks missing. Ah.

So how do I begin? With the bases of the chapters I have, yes, but I must find some way to fill them in with information and scene-setting without going overboard. Though I have rewritten and edited before, I have never had to on such a scale; even my first novella ‘Of Jackets and Phones’ had a coherent line of a moving plot, rather than dots of significant events!

First of all, I’ve decided, I must have a more dynamic cast. I have the protagonist, Ezme Winters, and the narrator, Jess, and their ‘supporting’ characters (with whom I shall have to work on developing their personalities stronger and background more credible). On the other hand, my antagonists are rather vague, especially in the first ‘year’ of the flashback, where Ezme is bullied by a selection of random students who do not occur in the story after their one or two chapters, or are always referred to by group: ‘the Fourth Years’.

So, I guess that is what I will have to spent time picking at as I work on the rewrite, crafting stronger enemies from those who are already there, and eliminating the random ‘extras’ who yo-yo in and out of chapters just to annoy present me.

Next task? Tone, atmosphere and pace…

Sometimes, with this rewrite, it feels as if I am rolling the dice, waiting to see which characters will emerge from their positions on the gameboard of life.

 

Thank goodness I’m not making this metaphor with a murder mystery!


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Still At It…

With the end of the school term comes a load of different work, writing-work, that is. This, although made more difficult by the sudden ‘death’ of my laptop, means, for me, focusing on the novella I intend to turn into an ebook. I don’t expect much to happen with it, since this was something I wrote in my ‘baby years’ as a writer (you know what I mean), but I still want it to be available to life.

And so… I am still working on rewriting ‘Ezme’.

In fairness, I’ve been very lax about this project, not only because of school, but because my mind has been elsewhere emotionally- and because of the various ideas I have been trying to create for various online competitions. I am a writer, I have to strive somehow.

Poetry, too, has been both a hinder and a flourishing tool; my mind has lately been overrun by millions of snippets of lines, which I must weave together, and I have also been working on expanding a Protagonize.com-based anthology of poems with a fantasy/abstract theme to them.

You could say that I’m actually procrastinating. One of the greatest hindrances of ‘Ezme’ is that, as well as having to change the whole story into past tense, I have to, somehow, connect up what began as not diary entries but dated scenes over four years, rarely intertwining. And that is a scary task. Especially as most begin or end with dialogue, a nasty habit I once had.

Logistically, there’s also the ‘admin’ to sort out. No, not the Amazon-ebook stuff itself, but the admin of the facts in the book. Location: unknown. So, school years? I have decided to go by the First to Seven Year system, as it seems relatively universal.

On the other hand, there are so many things I haven’t yet decided, such as whether there are going to be any major themes or morals in the book, aside from that usual one of ‘friendship conquers all’, et cetera.

 

Strangely, my words of the week are both nouns: ‘dell’ and ‘audacity’. They both roll off the tongue!


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Ezme- When?

“Hey, Ezme, is it true that you’re on the internet?”

“Shut up!” Ezme yelled, a firm authority in her voice that the others responded to without question, that tone that our teachers were accustomed to using. For a mouse-girl, she sure had a loud voice.

As though reading my mind, Ezme turned and gave me her as-wide-as-sky grin.

“It comes with being an actress and singer.”

“I still think ya should have done the Christmas Talent Show, doll. It’s good publicity,” Daniel piped up.

“I don’t want that type of publicity!” Ezme snapped.

Emma squinted down to Ezme’s hands whizzing over the keys of a keyboard. Both girls’ faces were full of concentration, Ezme’s from the effort of writing so much in such a little box.

“So it is true that you’re on the internet?”

The click of Ezme’s computer mouse was loud. She indicated the website there in front of our eyes.

“A ‘V-Blog’, where I can post videos of me singing,” she explained in a low voice.

 “The rest of our year- you know how much they liked your recorded preview- will love it! I don’t know why you haven’t tried anymore previews…”

“You know why,” Ezme snapped once more, grinding her teeth in my direction. “We don’t have the time or the equipment-”

(An extract from the first revision of ‘Summer 2009’, “chapter” 16 of the Protagonize draft)

 ~

When I first posted the introduction to one of my stories, ‘Ezme’, it was the beginning of Feb 2010, though the story itself was set a few years behind, in the autumn of 2007. Nevertheless, I fully intended to continue and complete the tale by the end of the year. In the end, however, it didn’t happen as smoothly as I believed it would. I had been writing little projects, perhaps working on ‘Of Jackets and Phones’ again, and Ezme’s story had been pushed ever further down the line. When ‘Ezme’ was finally finished, it was the autumn of 2010, and Ezme’s story, having been running over four years, had caught up with the times, despite the fact that I had not mentioned much machinery in detail. It’s something I’ll need to work on during my summer re-write of it.

Back at the beginning, 2007, believe me, technology was not so advanced. Seriously- in the space of five years, technology has found itself amazingly sparkling. So Ezme is still vlogging from her computer at home and a portable video-camera, no laptop or detailed phone-cameras for teenagers back then (okay, I exaggerate; the above extract clearly states that Ezme has a laptop at school, but that might just as easily go when I re-write properly).

However, thus comes my problem: I could update, giving the school a Twitter page for their performing-updates and Jess (the narrator, Ezme’s closest friend) an iPad* instead of a notebook to write her novel in. I feel this would bring the story closer to my readers, especially as it will be an ebook; on the other hand, I could keep the dates the same, therefore leaving the technology too, since iPads did not exist in 2007.

The one example that comes to mind when I discuss this problem with myself is Harry Potter. Yes, I was the generation that grew up with the films- but, technically, according to the books, I didn’t grow up ‘with’ Harry, since Bloomsbury published The Philosopher’s [Sorceror’s] Stone the year I was born. This alienates me from the characters rather; like most little girls, I wanted to be Harry’s love-interest at some stage, but this bubble, already burst, was further split by the fact that he is (relatively) OLD…well, some may give that opinion.

What are your opinions on what I should do? It’s a difficult decision for me to make, since I am writing from the barrier beyond the end of the narrations. Would much change if I updated it? And, as another question, would the school syllabus change? As it has done so drastically over the last few years in my own school?

Alex :)

*I know technology has definitely moved quickly when I am adding the word ‘iPad’ to my Microsoft Word dictionary, whereas my phone would accept the word with no extraneous comment.


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The Adventures of Agnetha King

Recently (before the last post’s story decide to intervene), I’ve been focused on the continual writing of one of my novels, ‘A Tale of Moscow Mysteries’ (OMM in my notes for short), the sequel to a story that lies close to my heart: ‘A Tale of Jackets and Phones’ (OJAP), the first ‘proper’ story I finished. Although I was thirteen and the first draft was utterly lacking in, well…grammar and pizzazz, it still became something I could be proud of. After all, it was a story in the sense that it had a clear beginning, middle and end, focusing on the colourful protagonist’s attempts to thwart the antagonist; in this case, that was a teen amateur sleuth on the path of her friend/teacher’s unknown murderer.

 

  

Those who’ve read the short story ‘A Rosary, a Fume Cabinet, and a Music Book’, published in the e-book here ( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scream-for-Charity-ebook/dp/B006PFCEBC/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1), might recognise aspects of Genevra in OJAP’s protagonist Agnetha King, especially the whole breaking-and-entering of school, and in the science-lab scene. In a way, Agnetha is a blown-up version of me; and Genevra is a blown-up version of Agnetha. That would be where Genevra’s resemblance to me ends, though; you can rest assured that I don’t obsess over my teachers!

The current word count of the current draft of OJAP is 27-thousand-words (beforehand it probably only constituted a short story), whilst OMM, above three-quarters of the way through is already 33-thousand-words. Ah. Ironically, a bit of the Word Document in which I’m writing OMM, also contains my notes for the next book: ‘A Tale of One London Eye’ (OOLE, of course!) However, those notes I did not count in my check of the word-count. I hope to do a couple of follow-up posts on the subjects and ideas in Agnetha King’s adventures. To explain everything, unprompted, here and now would be too much for me! I need to organise my thoughts, to know where to start with my explanation.

Though my progress has been going slowly, due to various interruptions, such as the editing of ‘When The Clock Broke…’ and focusing on short stories for publication, I believe it is going surely. There might be some realism in the hope that I’ll finish OMM before Christmas, but time will never bend to suit me- I don’t know what shall go on between those times, especially if my idea to re-write Ezme and publish it as an e-book goes ahead.

At least I have something. I have the motivation, and I have the last three chapters (yes, I frequently write from the end backwards, as is the temptation with murder mysteries!), I just need to fill in those gaps. OMM was far more prepared than its older sibling, and my ideas for the end of the trilogy are already building themselves up, putting themselves in forts, and preparing to sneer at me. Let the writing commence!


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Reinventing Ezme

She stands at the brink of destruction, worlds collapsing at the feet. One step forward and her path could crumble beneath her step, one step back and she could be watching another star shoot to the sky- and boiling up inside herself like a dormant volcano…

All metaphorically of course.

Ezme is nothing but a lonely wannabee, sitting at both her musical, and computered, keyboards with ideas overflowing from her mind and spilling out via her hands, creating the beautiful notes that we hear now, ethereal on the wind.

I’ve seen Ezme beforehand, seen the way she pretends to be something she’s not; seen the way she folds to their requests, just like a piece of paper, even when she knows what they are truly saying. We all see it: their backstabbing laughs and the way that they can manipulate others into thinking what they want.

Of course, Ezme is different. She is gentle, kind, intelligent, talented and, most of all, mature. She knows she can rise above all their foul words… What I want to know is whether she can rise above herself. Fly high above her fear of failure and pull her head out of its sea of dreams.

I wonder, most of all, whether she can make the right decision for the man she loves. Can she fight the overwhelming fixation to show them all, especially him, that she is better than she makes out at first?

And it was he who started it all in the first place…

 ***

So begins the short story ‘Ezme’, a coming-of-age story about a young girl with big dreams and even bigger problems. Beginning in our present day, Ezme flashes back four years to a new girl at school, rebelling against the name her parents gave her.

As you may be able to tell from the above extract, I began Ezme at the start of my experimentation with writing, in Feb 2nd 2010, almost two years ago from the present. I had no idea where I was heading, and I had foolishly chosen to write the story in present tense- a mistake which I will never forget. 
Now, after touching the edge of the fabric of publishing, I’ve decided that, although I will never realise it as a ‘proper’ book, I can still re-write it and publish it as an e-book, for whomever wishes to see it.

I have my Unofficial Editor on board, now all I need is to create some time I don’t have! 

For Ezme, I have been influenced by Lewis Carroll’s work(s) ‘Sylvie and Bruno’ (and ‘Sylvie and Bruno Concluded’) where the first-person narrator is never truly named and often lost in the midst of the other characters’ interactions. Lewis Carroll and I also share a love of brackets in places where the parenthesis probably shouldn’t be!

An extract from ‘Sylvie and Bruno’, typical of Lewis Carroll’s madness:

The children got down off his knees, each secured a hand, and the happy trio set off for the Library- followed by me. I had come to the conclusion, by this time, that none of the party (except, for a few moments, the Lord Chancellor) was in the least be able to see me.

Sylvie and Bruno with their father, the Warden, and the Professor

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