On Originality

(Or, its existence, which if is, is scarce)

What makes your novel unique?

They say it a lot, as if originality is a rite of passage a novel must go through. Chances are, though, not much. We all know the problem the modern writer faces: of writing the novel of our heart only to find that someone’s got there first or got their ‘big break’ with something so similar to yours.

It is devastating.

Recently, I was watching an old Doctor Who – The Time of Angels, in fact – for River Song kicks, when The Doctor mentioned the phrase ‘time energy’. Time-energy. What rather ravels the threads of my novel. Of the trilogy.

What’s more, there was a crack in time and people disappeared from memory.

‘Hang on,’ I said to myself, ‘wasn’t that the premise of my novel, the first draft of which I wrote five years ago…? Three before Doctor Who used it.’

It happens, and it’s a ruddy pain.

So, what’s a budding author to do? Well, for starters, consider the differences. Don’t get hung up on those similarities that must indeed stick out for you. My novel is set in an alternat/ive timeline, not the future. There is no one in Doctor Who who is trying to harvest the time-energy; it is purely wild. And, though, I mean my time-energy is wild, unpredictable, and partly antagonist, it can also be tangible when it wants to be.

It’s an entity, yo.

For others in a similar position to me – don’t give up! Don’t abandon your projects simply because there are others on the market with similar faces to yours.

That’s my advice, in any case. Make your novel yours, not anyone else’s.

Further, look with respect to those books and films and materials that are similar to yours. They help, they train – and you can support those who keep your genre and ideas thriving.

I wouldn’t even say the issue is genre-related; romance novels, for instance, still fall under the issue of the same plot, over and over. But, of course, a novel or fictitious story is not made solely of plot. For romance, it’s a little simpler to focus on the personality and quirks of your characters, but for science-fiction fantasy you could also give interesting traits that a reader wouldn’t suspect.

Don’t stick to stereotypes. That’s what the unoriginal is made of. I personally like subverting the tropes.

The writing, too, is the glamorous essence of reading a new novel. Voice. Imagery. Style. Those aren’t just buzzwords. And, unfortunately, voice is not something we can ever put words to so precisely. It’s the communication between the writer and their characters – a dash of each to the recipe that crafts the tone, vocabulary, even syntax of the story. 

The way a story is told can change anything. Make us forget what was similar.

It’s an unfortunate situation, I know – more than anyone, so it feels with my passion in temporal science, when every inciting incident is of people disappearing from time – but for writers facing this same problem, all I can say is that, though your story might not be the most original, you can paint something new with your characters and settings.

IMAG6151

 

‘Heaven Sent’ Review with Nevillegirl

This series 9 of Doctor Who, I’ve been part of the review team over at Nevillegirl’s blog. Last year, we did a similar system, and one of the episodes I’ve been reviewing this year has been episode 11, Heaven Sent.

doctor who heaven sent poster

Wow, that’s was one wild ride of an episode. I had a lot of thoughts and a lot to say about it with Nevillegirl:

Alex: I liked this episode a lot. Although it was Doctor-heavy, it didn’t feel that way. I love the visual setting, the CGI of the castle turning. The inside of it was skipped over, but I think this leaves more room for viewer imaginations to create more of this world… if you can call it a “world,” as such. The conflict/threat to the Doctor was tangible. Personally, I felt for him, and this made the episode all the scarier. Capaldi subtly showed the fear. Again, great acting!

Alex: However, I think there were a few predictable elements in the episode, particularly the Doctor loop. We’ve had episodes before – I don’t know if they were written by Moffat or not – where the Doctor has been setting himself up; and that’s something I like to imagine (and write) in temporal fiction.

Engie: I loved this episode. No, wait – I looooooooooooooooooooved it. PETER CAPALDI IS SUCH A GREAT ACTOR OH MY GOD. And I was so pleased to see that my prediction came true!

To read more of this review, find it at Nevillegirl’s blog, Musing From Neville’s Navel.

‘Face the Raven’ Review With NevilleGirl

This series 9 of Doctor Who, I’ve been part of the review team over at Nevillegirl’s blog. Last year, we did a similar system, and one of the episodes I’ve been reviewing this year has been episode 10, Face the Raven.

face the raven poster

Alex: On the other hand… I don’t like how Clara’s death makes the Doctor angry. The thing is… that’s been done before. With every companion. It’s kind of… boring. Yes, it’s nice to see him have these memorable relationships and lose friends just like humans do, but… why always the anger or the desperate acts? Even Ten only acted this way when he thought he was going to die.

Engie: I agree. I do like how she told him not to be angry, though – or rather, that he can be both sad and mad, but that he shouldn’t take that out on anyone else because this was her choice. We’ll have to see if he actually listened to her, though.

Engie: Now that Clara’s story is over, how satisfied are you with her characterization? Do you think she could have been written better?

Alex: I definitely think Clara could have been written better, though she works as a better companion to Twelve than she did to Eleven. She’s like a sensible niece to her grumpy uncle! It’s difficult to know if she was used just right or not, since I didn’t like her from how she was written at the beginning – and first impressions are hard to break.

To read more of this review, find it at Nevillegirl’s blog, Musing From Neville’s Navel.

Ten Episodes of New Who I’d Like to Rewatch

I’ve been watching a lot of Doctor Who clips on YouTube recently. Not of this year’s, or even last year’s, episodes, but of the ‘old’ New Whos. Makes me a little nostalgic. But then it occurred to me how many I know very little actually of – you could give me a name, and I could guess, but I’d not have half the plot from the top of my head.

So, I put a little thought together and created my top ten (in ascending order) of New Who episodes I want to watch again.

Of course, I’m omitting my favourite episodes, which I’d rewatch without saying – such as The Unicorn and the Wasp or Blink or Turn Left; these mentioned are episodes that I dismissed on first encountering them, but am tempted to give a second chance, going by concept and hook. I’m using criteria of curiosity, stickability, and general possibly-good plot, and most are Eleven episodes, as those are the ones that haven’t stuck in my mind and I could do with going back simply to remember how I experienced them at the beginning.

Oddly, episodes like The Crimson Horror or Deep Breath don’t feature, possibly because I don’t feel I need to watch them again to appreciate them. So, whilst some episodes aren’t here because I didn’t like them, others are missing because I did like them. Somewhat.

And, yes, I’ve counted two-parters as one episode here. Those are noted, but having two parts changes nothing about the way I experience them.

Stick around, Pond.

  1. Victory of the Daleks

Don’t shoot me! It was a poor episode, and it barely makes it onto the list anyway, but these historical figure episodes slip from my mind (I remember Let’s Kill Hitler, but, boy, I wish I didn’t) as if the Silence were involved, and I’d like to revisit them to experience them again to re-experience the plots. Let’s face it, there have been worse.

  1. The Impossible Astronaut (two episodes)

Speaking of the Silence… I’m not actually sure what happened in this/these episode(s). I should expect to see tally marks on my arms soon. Uhh… But it was good, yeah? Also, River rather shines in this one, even if Amy is pretty weak and mopey. #OhAmy

  1. The Girl Who Waited

For #8, I had to go through the list of episodes to encounter ones that I remember going “ooh, that was pretty cool” but have actually all but forgotten now. Out of several, I settled on The Girl Who Waited, because of the use of dual timelines that so reminds me of my own novel. From as much as I can remember, it has plagues, sterile white rooms, and is Doctor-lite. I do have a fondness for Doctor-lite episodes, which is bizarre, seeing as I’m watching a programme about the time-travelling alien.

  1. The Big Bang 2 (two episodes)

I know more of this plot than I would were it not my favourite Chameleon Circuit song, but it still leaves me perplexed. What actually happened? Why is Mini!Pond involved? How did all of The Doctor’s enemies managed to gang up on him? It wasn’t a great episode, but it’s one that I’d watch again to understand what was quite a clever plot, in terms of complexity.

  1. The Time of Angels (two episodes)

There aren’t many Amy episodes that I actually like, but this one was rather clever. The Weeping Angels were great in Blink, so it was nice to see them return here (even if they became overdone in The Angels Take Manhattan). But this episode, I believe, introduced the concept of the angels taking possession of one’s body through gaze, which I thought was an interesting addition to bring the plot forward.

  1. Nightmare in Silver

I remember thinking this one was pretty good when I first watched it – it’s built mostly on characters, but the setting was pretty nifty, too. Another one I can’t remember much about, but the clips I’ve been seeing on YouTube – Mr. Clever and their interaction inside The Doctor’s head – make me want to watch it again.

  1. The Rebel Flesh (two episodes)

I kept missing the beginning of this one whenever it was on TV, so I always get confused at The Doctor’s “I wanted to check out the signal to the flesh“ at the end and the whole Amy-has-been-a-ganger storyline, which I don’t know was ever explained properly in the series. In addition, I liked the whole consideration of ethics and whether the Gangers were people. They’re pretty creepy monsters, too.

  1. The Christmas Invasion

I could always rewatch this one, but it’s never made it into my favourites. The dialogue is great, and, despite not being conscious for most of the episode, Ten’s experiences provides a spark of colour and excitement that no one else could. Yet, the Tylers and Mickey give credit to humankind – whilst Harriet Jones shows her darker side of power. This episode is fun, but it has touches of morality that a lot of Eleven and Twelve’s episodes have had.

  1. Rose

Don’t you just want to go back to the beginning? There are so many feels in this episode, but there is also a great storyline, character— and a light-heartedness that I feel we lost in Eleven’s puppy moments. Plus, Rose comes into her own right away – she doesn’t think much of herself, but still manages to help The Doctor with the skills she has.

  1. New Earth

I saw a clip of this on YouTube and it triggered that I didn’t know much of the plot, despite knowing I’d liked that episode when I first saw it. I’d forgotten how much I liked this episode – the classic Ten-and-Rose days. There are so many great one-liners, especially from Cassandra in Rose’s body, and the acting is, again, so much fun. How could you not like New Earth? 😀

Tell me, are there any episodes with which you’d go through that first-time experience again?

DOCTOR WHO Series Eight Review: “Mummy On The Orient Express” (Co-written With Alexandrina Brant @ Miss Alexandrina)

As promised, a reblog of Engie’s official post of Mummy on the Orient Express review #2. It’s pretty overview-y, but we quote a few things and watch a few things, and, as usual, I say a lot. Enjoy. 😉

Musings From Neville's Navel

Good evening! I’m a lizard woman from the dawn of time and this is my wife and I’m* reviewing the latest episode of Doctor Who, “Mummy on the Orient Express,” with Alexandrina Brant from Miss Alexandrina. She’s a pretty cool blogger and we have more than a few interests in common, including books, photography, and Quidditch!

*SORRY NOT SORRY. I saw my chance and I took it, all right?

P.S. You can find previous collaborative reviews of Doctor Who‘s eighth series here.

-~-

Alexandrina Brant is a second-year psychology and philosophy student at Reading University, England, which means she alternates between planning experiments and critiquing history. When not polishing her fantasy romance novel about time travel, she’s cosplaying steampunk, singing, and playing Quidditch for the university team. She has authority in writing this review because she’s River Song’s doppelganger, hair and all. You can catch her blogging at Miss Alexandrina

View original post 1,768 more words

“It’s hardly a perfect 20s recreation if Queen is playing!” (Mummy on the Orient Express Review #1)

My Private Notebook

Fair warning, this is long – but you are treated to gifs along the way. If you don’t like gifs… *shrugs* – though I have now taken from it most of the remarks and paragraphs made in the shared review. Too, it’s rough, but that the entire idea: my random spontaneous bizarre thoughts as I experience what I’ve now decided was a bizarre episode of cult favourite Doctor Who. If you want to see more of my thoughts, go to Nevillegirl’s post.

I originally tallied down my thoughts for Engie whilst watching Mummy on the Orient Express, but they got so rhetoric, dry (as in dry wit) and random that I decided not to share them with the review I was doing with her. A silly sense of humour that requires spontaneity is awesome, but not when one has to be in pair. Hence, review #1. #2 I’ll repost that sometime this week. Sundays are meant to be my days off… #toomuchtodo

Obviously spoilers. As with my review of Into the Dalek, I also had my good friend and Doctor Who conversationalist @EmuCat live tweeting alongside me, which made for some interesting tweets, the conversations of which I’ve included. Then we’re good to go! Without any further ado…

Oh, sorry, wrong fandom.

A bit overdramatic a pre-titles opening, though the concept of the ticking clock is interesting.

“Is there a Doctor?” Here’s where I expect The Doctor to jump out. Oh, look, a wild TARDIS appears.

I still love those opening titles. A perfect balance between Classic and new Who, me thinks.

“But in space.” You don’t say.

Don’t Stop Me Now. How appropriate. Are they really travelling at the speed of light? I doubt it. Give me proofs and figures.

CoNVER1

Indeed he was. I haven’t talked about the setting here, but you can find it in the other review.

Oh, hi Clara. *not impressed* But is this just an ulterior Clara? “It’s like you’re malfunctioning.” Four for you for the robot reference – I’d actually be interested in seeing a version of Clara that’s actually a robot. It would make the frequent death/resurrection interesting.

Oh, okay, it’s her last trip. I see. Interesting conversational dynamics between them – anger, but restrained and kept together, in the way Clara is great at doing. Plus, there’s that scene of talking whilst trapped in the carriage. This is almost a third draft I’d write. Okay, cruel comment. But the thought stands – Doctor Who gripped me more when there were less emotional complications. Even Martha put the alien-fighting before her feelings.

The Doctor is doing his best to avoid the conversation again.

convolasthur

Thought I recognised it. Nevertheless, it’s a very 30s phrase.

Ooh, some science. This makes me happy. Excelsior Life-Helping 😀 I’m not gonna say I want one, ‘cause that would be Playing God, but I’ll admit that it sounds like a cool piece of tech, especially for the context.

Perkins! Oh, hey, Frank Skinner. *waves* Great character. Very rounded. Very witty. His choice to walk away is very poignant – reflects Clara, and foils every past companion. The not-companions. He’s a great intelligent mechanic, too, and it’s been a while since there’s been a side-character with such attributes, even if he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with The Doctor on so many levels.

This is almost Dieselpunk in itself – technology and electronics in a world run by steam(ish) and gorgeous archaic decoration. Otherwise, the world would be dark and cold, I suppose, and that would be poor evening TV performances.

That smile ❤

Call me Gus!

I liked Gus. I like optimism in death. I like computer voices, disembodied souls, even if they leave obvious doubt in everyone’s minds as to their Good-Sinful orientation. Will we ever meet Gus again? I hope so. I want to know the history of this train.

But the sonic isn’t working! Oh, hi, I was right: transportation of artefacts. Funny that it’s here because of the mummy, rather than t’other way around.

convo2

Now I wans’t convinced by the sacrifices. They didn’t give us long enough to know the captain or the expert – “can we get a new expert?” yes please. I don’t even remember his name – before they were claimed by The Foretold.

Clara’s dress is nice. Good choice of muted colours, even if they match her hair. Call it cliché of the era, but I want that dress. So pretty! And it suits her. If only life had costume designers.

I didn’t like Maisie. She irritated me. I didn’t see much point to her character but that of ‘the one to save’ or ‘Clara’s friend’. Umm… Bechdel test anyone? I know, I know, it’s been commented that some characters do need to get things off their chest this way – but I, a girl who often fails the Bechdel test in life, was sitting there, thinking “can we please move on now? I’m bored.”

Her makeup. It’s terrible, and I mean that it’s deliberately so. It reflects her life – and what a twisted, non-paranoid life that was! It also suggests more of the falsity behind the entire set up of the train. Not only are the guests playing dress-up with their imaginary, faulty 1934, but the train is playing dress-up with them, right down to the holographic passengers. That begs the question, though – what role was Maisie meant to be in the scientific investigations? She must’ve had some mind on her, but with the trauma, she was shown to be nothing but weak, and the stress of her overdone makeup showed that.

But I couldn’t connect to her. I didn’t see the depth beyond her exterior, and isn’t that writers are meant to make us see?

The occasional cutting back and forth to the clock in the corner was disorientating.

Conflict: you can’t run from The Foretold (which makes sense if one retrospects to the phase-shifting science). Good. Another time-pressure level.

It’s almost 11.30 in the captain’s cabin.

Okay, that was an interesting – if a Christie-esque cliché – turn of ‘who is the one behind this?’. This is the peak in the story, the pick up of pace in a slow episode. And, of course Gus is morally questionable. You’re aiming to catch and/or kill this phase-shifting creature, after all.

Oh, wow, it’s not a train. And, oh look, more fake scenes. This seems to be a running line of interest – a possible link to Missy and the final episodes? So who invited them onto the train? And they didn’t know? A bit of continuity stuff here. Give me facts, numbers, eras!

A good use of the lab and lab-rat settings, though gruesome. I prefer the idea now that’s a set experimental scene, rather a façade where nothing fits. Is that a homage to At Bertram’s Hotel? It also pokes some fun at the forced falseness of the 30s class system, even when the times are changing I guess, for links like that, this episode gets cookies, but links and references are not enough to sustain me.

The use of The Doctor to work out the pattern – and now the pace does increase. Randomness. Or not. But the Mummy is trying to help…? Oh, no. He’s just trying to kill the enemy.

Ooh, phase shifting (not musical). I knew that if they explained science they’d do it well. The addition time pressure that they will all eventually die is worth it, I think, but, for me, it’s a little too late. I wonder if The Doctor, having two hearts, would be the last to die in that situation.

The implication of picking off the weakest – now, is that hardly fair? I mean, good tactic – we sometime video-game players use it to slaughter the enemy, but in real war, one’d probably want to try and knock out the big man first. One swipe from him and you’d be dead. Just kick away the mini men at your ankles.

Okay, I’ll admit those are pretty sharp. *cymbal crash somewhere far in the distance*

Oh, no, Clara don’t go off on one. Not now, when people have 66 seconds to describe a being that will consume their entire energies at the end of that minute-six.

Cinematography: beautiful, luscious train, in contrast with the haggard, bandaged brown-grey of the mummy. The deep, dark colours of the captain’s cabin intrigues me – does it reflect his darker past and personality? I don’t like him personally, but I like the arc his character faces.

And the brown of the mechanical bay – a reverse reflection of the lab atmosphere, which is surprisingly bright against the dark under-train discoveries…almost as if the more the characters learn about the creature and their position, the more their surroundings reflect the growing knowledge. The blue and whites of the lab are very…stark. Cold, but a safe kind of cold. The use of light is great, too, especially in those final scenes. Another stark change. Unsettling. Irritating.

The TARDIS too is looking very blue today. Electronic. In a nice way. That’s a nice bookcase. Gets points for space symmetry.

The ending… I don’t know what to say. I’m kind of gaping at the screen. Clara’s ‘wobble’. Hmph. She’s still there. I’m not convinced.

CONVO3

The Doctor. He lies. Of course. I guess it would be interesting to know whether he did or did not save those people, and the idea of him being a monster again. I feel this episode nevertheless veiled its darker moments, so that one could enjoy the science and the sci-fi without, for the most part, having to contemplate the social and ethical dilemmas nearly all of the characters go through… Clara and her want to leave; the captain and his desire to ignore what’s in front of his nose, probably a symptom of his PTSD; Maisie, who’s bottled up her dislike of her gran for so long (she’d be a good Christie murder suspect); The Doctor and his cold, harsh nature here. Can I just point out how quickly the scientists walked away from the window after the cooking team was decompressed? I know they have to work for their lives and not mourn, but nobody says two words about Gus’ methods of persuasion and lack of mercy, least of all The Doctor.

Who is the greatest monster in Mummy on the Orient Express? I don’t think we will ever know.

People have been saying about this reference/foreshadowing:

I’m not sure about that being a foretelling, though. Goddess. After all, the other Christie-esque episode had ‘foreshadowing’ where The Doctor says to Martha just before she leaves him that they should visit Mrs. Christie.

The more I think about Mummy, the more I want to write huge paragraphs of why I didn’t like it. My biggest criticism/disappointment was that it wasn’t fun. Sure, it was entertaining and there were a selection of passable one-liners, but I didn’t find it fun in the way I did the Unicorn and the Wasp.

Dark, though. Dark and deep.

Overall, a very weird episode. Not what I expected at all, but impressive. 3.5/5. I’m sure you’ll find loads of other blogger reviews if you Google. Two analytic ones I liked were New Who For You Too!’s live Tumble of the episode and Doctor Who TV’s look at the 12 Great Moments from it. Do check both of them out, as they look at the episode in a much more positive light (I’ve tried and I do think it was very clever, I simply couldn’t get myself to enjoy it, as sad as that was, and one must go with the gut instinct on a review), whilst also touching on some of the more in-depth points and themes that I, in either of my reviews, have not spent enough time on to pull apart. Oh, and do check out the Doctor Who Extra program on YouTube. This, of course, allows for admiration of costume, set, lighting, filmography etc without my questioning of the overall arc and plot and me with my analytic magnifying glass 😀

Mummy on the Orient Express will certainly be one of those episodes that stands more as a stepping stone to the characters’ actions and overarching series plot than one that I’d watch for its solo merits (contra Unicorn and the Wasp).

Have a good day.

lJL5fa

Predictions on The Orient Express

She's waiting for the Express

She’s waiting for the Express

*Greeterings, my name is Lady Summer Chronaire and I’ll be your Dieselpunk conductrice for this journey. Your exits are here, here, and here, but please, ladies and gentlemen, do not open the carriage door whilst in flight. The Orient Express will take your breath away. Literally.*

I wrote that after I saw the episode trailer for this week’s Doctor Who episode, and, yes, I’m fully aware it’s packed with clichés. My first thought was actually – Oh, my gosh, Space Train! Can I just steal that idea, please? *big eyes* Please? It would go so well with the Steampunk novella I want to plan. TRAINNNNSSS.

Yes, I got in the flailing gif! This is so me, actually. Just get me the face-paint for Hallowe’en. Sprague is one of the league of golden haired people, like me and Alex Kingston. #socool

In preparation for reviewing this week’s Doctor Who episode with Nevillegirl, I’ve put together some thoughts. Obviously, I’ve only seen the trailer, so these are more general things.

I’m looking forward to:

The Doctor alone. Whilst Ten and Eleven tended to go wild when left on their own, Twelve has that ‘loner’ aura that means he operates as well without a companion as well (though, bear in mind Twelve’s only had Clara).

Also – slight deviant case in point, it wad nice to see the companion get sick of The Doctor before something outside them stole them away.

66 Seconds to live… I love time as a conflict because it’s out of anyone’s control, even a Time Lord’s. DW has previously followed the line of time being at least semi sentient, and, though not the point in this particular episode,

The Orient Express itself and her aesthetics. It’s still on my bucket list to travel the entirety of The Orient Express route, especially if I get to do it in costume. By naming their episode in homage to that famous book, the producers have set the bar high. Just like The Unicorn and the Wasp, which divided audiences, I’ll be looking at the fun and Christie-fangirl factor of this episode, as well as how it fits into the rest of the series.

The science. I want to see how they explain a mummy on a space train – though, it’ll probably be an artefact being transported for some dubious reason.

My not-so-impressed face looks a lot like this.

Or maybe it’s this. This one has a flying machine in it. #toomanygifs, not enough references.

I didn’t draw explicit parallels with Voyage of the Damned until Nevillegirl pointed it out, but I’m hoping that it won’t be another ‘experience the past in the future!’. Highly unlikely an idea, but I’d enjoy seeing people secretly transported into space in the 30s (see my Dieselpunk idea above). I’m not going to try and second-guess the episode, though. With the great lack of double episodes except the finale this series, one-off and spontaneous episodes like these have more gravitas. On the other hand, they can also be quite rushed or dry, as a couple of the previous episodes this series have been to me.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for the time-being. We’ll just have to see how things turn out tonight. I’m waiting in anticipation. 🙂