General

Ten Fun and Spooky Activities for Writers this Halloween

It’s October! And that means that legally, we are all required to be at least 20% spookier than normal. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop writing! Here are ten fun things you can do as a writer to get into the spirit of the season.

  1. Sell your Soul in Exchange for the Ability to Write the Perfect Draft

Look OK I know this seems like a big step but think about it. You could write the perfect draft on the first go every single time. Every single time! You wouldn’t have to cut out repeated words or work out where objects are in physical space because you magically have that power! Yes, you do theoretically need your soul, but also – think of how easy the copyedit would be.

I mean I’m pretty tempted… (image: giphy.com)
  1. Summon a Ghost and Get Them to Give You Accurate Details for Your Historical Setting

We’re all busy people. Hitting the books for historical research takes time and notebook space and the prices at the library café are always marked up by a couple of quid at least. Why not take the easy way out and ask the restless dead? Will you get haunted – well, maybe a bit. But you’ll also know that your setting is on point, so swings and roundabouts.

  1. Make Out with a Vampire

They are the bad boy love interests in a solid 45% of YA novels so technically this counts as research.

  1. Predict Your Sales with a Crystal Ball

It’s totally possible to predict your sales without a crystal ball, of course, but that is a skill set I do not possess. And yes, I could learn about data and market trends and reaching new marketplaces OR – and hear me out – I could buy this crystal ball, which would also look nice on my bookshelf.

  1. Pet a Black Cat

Because he is a good boy.

SUCH a good boy.
  1. Find a Spell that will stop you getting RSI

Writing has a lot of physical effects on the body. Whether you write on a laptop or with pen and ink, you can often wind up getting some kind of hand or wrist strain and you usually end up all hunched over at some point. OK, you could just get a wrist support and make yourself a proper little writing area with a desk and a chair to help your posture, but you could also solve your problems with magic, which has never gone wrong even once.

  1. Hang Out in a Graveyard for the Aesthetic

When writers do it, it’s called “soaking up the atmosphere”. When other people do it, it’s called “loitering”. As an author, it is very important that you make this distinction clear by carrying a little notebook even if you don’t write in it and by saying the word “liminal” a lot.

  1. Learn How to Brood like the Sinister Yet Attractive Villain

Again, a very important skill. It’s important to get into the mindset of all your characters and fortunately this is an easy one to practice. You just sit in a shadowy corner or stare into the fireplace with your hands clasped behind your back, making grumpy faces until someone timidly interrupts you. Bonus points if you respond by snarling “leave me to my work” or “bring them to me” or something else equally sinister.

  1. Pet TWO Black Cats

Because they are TWO good boys.

SUCH GOOD BOYS
  1. Read from Every Spooky Tome you Find

And make sure you do it out loud. Even if it’s in Latin. They always say that the best writers are readers, anyway, and it probably won’t backfire.

General

How to Survive a Christmas Rom-Com

OK guys, we all know the drill. It’s December, and we’ve all got to come back from the high-flying big cities we live in to the quaint small towns we grew up in. And I don’t know about you but I’m just sick of all those charming yet straightforward lumberjacks/Christmas tree farmers/professional knitwear models who keep trying to teach me the meaning of Christmas every year.* What a gal needs is a handy-dandy guide to get through the Christmas season without inconveniently falling in love, so we can all fly back to our fancy city jobs just in time for the big presentation.

Aren’t you guys so lucky I’m here??

*I am absolutely not sick of this, please call me.

  1. If your small town’s candy cane factory is about to close down, just tell the mayor how to set up a GoFundMe. It is not your job to save Christmas, that sounds exhausting.
  2. You must never be seen without your knitwear. It is December.
  3. For God’s sake bring a pair of trainers, or better yet, boots. Fancy business shoes will only ever break for the sake of hilarious japes.
  4. Never, ever be mean to the old guy in the red jacket, we all know he’s Santa.
  5. Invest in some ice packs, because you are going to slip and fall in the snow at least three times.
  6. AVOID THE HOLIDAY TALENT SHOW AT ALL COSTS. You’ll either fall over or have to sing in public. Or be proposed to by someone you met literally two days ago, which is only ever going to be awkward.
Could we just not. (image: giphy.com)
  1. Learn some basic car repair tricks, because your car is going to break down in a snowstorm at least once.
  2. Look, it’s totally fine to put on an out of office for your work email. The big presentation isn’t ‘til January, and you deserve a break.
  3. You will get tangled up in Christmas lights or tinsel, so practice some escape artistry before you go home. You never know if it’ll come in handy!
  4. Why not give martial arts a try as well? They’re dead handy when it’s Christmas Eve, you forgot to buy presents and THERE IS ONLY ONE TOY IN THE WHOLE SHOP.
  5. There is only one weather, and it is snow.
  6. There are two acceptable ways to dress: bundled up in a big coat OR hideous holiday jumper. There are no exceptions.
Unless you have this specific outfit, in which case: GIMME. (image: tumblr.com)
  1. Do not be tricked by the adorable small child who asks you leading questions about why you haven’t come home more often. I can guarantee you a sweetie-waving relative has bribed them.
  2. I’m not here to tell you not to make out with the charming yet straightforward lumberjack/Christmas tree farmer/professional knitwear model. You do you! I’m just saying, don’t make any spontaneous life decisions if you’ve only known them for two days. LDRs can work!
  3. If you’re going to make a magnificent fancy pudding, always make two. You will drop one.
  4. If you’re introducing your big-city fiancé to your family for the first time, see how they respond to non-business-related tasks. If they go all sneery, save yourself some time and dump them immediately. If they roll up their sleeves and knuckle down, congrats, you’ve picked a good’un.
  5. Do not question the Christmas traditions. We all know they don’t make sense.
  6. Learn how to fake a convincing sore throat to get out of the inevitable holiday singalong.
  7. If you volunteer to cook the big Christmas dinner, I’m sorry to tell you that you are going to burn it for comedy reasons. Or your mixer will break and make a giant mess. Have a ready meal in the fridge for back up.
  8. Resign yourself to the fact that you will be heartwarmed.

And there you have it! One foolproof guide to making a fool of yourself at Christmas. Sort of.

And on that note, that’s me done for 2020! I’ll be taking a break over Christmas and the New Year and will be back some point in January. I’m not sure when exactly, it’ll be when I feel like it. But I can promise there will be some book content – my debut novel, The Shadow in the Glass, releases on the 18th of March 2021 and I shall be getting HYPE about it in the New Year. But until then, have good holidays, and feel free to fall in love with all the knitwear-wearing lumberjacks you want, as long as they support your career.

General

Simply the Best: My Top Ten Favourite Tropes and Clichés

So I’ve talked about clichés a lot on this blog. Like, A Lot. As a general rule of thumb they’re something that most writers try and avoid, and usually that’s with good reason. They can be really lazy, they can come at the expense of something more original and interesting, and in worst case scenarios they can also come with a lot of harmful real-world baggage attached.

However, sometimes they’re just really fun.

Clichés are there for a reason – part of why they became clichés is because many different writers have recognised all the ways that they work. If they’re done well they can be the literary equivalent of eating a really cheesy pizza: you know you should be eating something healthier but it just tastes so good. There’s loads of very overdone clichés that I really enjoy and today, because I’ve been struggling manfully through a chest infection this week and don’t have a lot of brain capacity left, I’m going to list my favourites.

It’s about to get contrived up in here.

 

  1. Fake Married

I love this trope. There’s one of two ways it can play out and both are great. The first is where the couple have some unresolved sexual tension and pretending to be married forces them to confront it, which usually results in me yelling ‘NOW KISS!’ at the TV screen. The second is where they have no interest in each other and have to fake a chemistry that isn’t there, which usually results in me laughing myself silly and yelling ‘NOW KISS!’ at the TV screen, because it’d be funny. I am a simple soul.

 

  1. The Plot Requires Us to Sneak into this Fancy Party

Picture this. Your plucky protagonists have to sneak into a really swish castle, to get a thing/rescue a princess/do a crime. It’s guarded on all sides so you can’t attempt a full-frontal assault. However, it just so happens that in two weeks’ time there’s going to be a super-fancy party at the castle which would be the perfect cover you guys, also I have a tiara ready for just such an occasion, get your tuxes. It’s great.

 

  1. Tense Dancing

Often combined with sneaking into the fancy party. This is basically when your protagonists meet an antagonist at a fancy party, and because everyone involved appreciates a good shindig, they must dance with each other because not to do so would be suspicious/rude/a total mood-killer. I love this one so much. There’s always a tense conversation, maybe there’s a dip, maybe they talk about betrayal or something, maybe they’re trying not to be recognised – whatever’s going on I’m 100% On Board.

tumblr_pii953Ns521rgdbhdo2_500
See also: ‘NOW KISS!’ (image: tumblr.com)

 

  1. A Hooded Cape Makes You Invisible

I touched on this in my Robin Hood Book Recipe post. This is the stupidest trope in the world and I love it. Put on any cape with a hood, even if it barely covers the rest of your body and/or face, and no-one will recognise your protagonist. They’ll just wave them out of the Stronghold of Evil’s front door calling “Have a nice day, mysterious stranger!” and no-one will be any the wiser.

 

  1. Lovers to Enemies

Enemies to lovers is having a bit of a moment right now, especially in YA. Personally, I’ve never really got that. However I absolutely love it when it’s the other way around. As a trope, lovers to enemies has everything:

  • Tons of juicy backstory
  • Secrets
  • A really loaded betrayal, which I love
  • Grudges deeper than the Grand Canyon
  • A ‘But I still love you!’ / ‘How could you??’ conversation, which is tons of fun
  • GRUDGE MATCH GRUDGE MATCH GRUDGE MATCH
  • Possibly a last-minute redemption at the end

What more could a girl ask for in a cliché?

giphy-pizza
Pizza? (image: giphy.com)

 

  1. The Villainous Monologue

I love a good villainous monologue, especially if it’s laying out all the behind-the-scenes work that set up a sudden betrayal. Tell me those evil plans, baby.

 

  1. Gasp, Drop, Smash

A character receives a sudden shock while holding something fragile. They gasp. They drop their fragile thingy. It falls to the floor and breaks.

Such poetry.

giphy chef
Parfait. (image: giphy.com)

 

  1. And There Was Only One Bed

I already said I was a simple soul earlier, do you really need me to point that out twice?

 

  1. Hiding in Plain Sight

This is my absolute favourite of the sneaky tropes. For whatever reason our plucky protagonist has had to disguise themselves and sneak into the evil villain’s compound when who should they come across but the Big Bad. For a moment it looks like all is lost, but then the Big Bad doesn’t recognise them, believes their incredibly transparent excuse for holding the Maguffin of Power, and sends them on their way with a magnanimously evil nod.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did it best, I think:

 

  1. Shoot the Noose

This is another one that tends to pop up in Robin Hood stories, although I didn’t talk about it in my Book Recipe. What usually happens is this: some poor sap is ascending the scaffold, about to be executed for a crime that they definitely didn’t commit (or if they did, it was one of the least crimey crimes, like stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, killing someone else in self-defence, or liberating puppies from people who want to make them into coats). The hangman puts the noose around their neck, the crowd goes quiet, and for a moment, all seems lost. The hangman pulls the lever, opening the trapdoor, and the victim starts to drop.

But then!

An arrow (or bullet, or knife, or just something else, it doesn’t really matter) comes flying out of nowhere, splits the rope in two and our hapless executionee is free and safe! Never mind the fact that it would almost certainly not work like that, or that long-drop hanging would kill you by breaking your neck instead of strangulation so Robin Hood is going to have to time that shot really well, or that hitting the ground could still kill the victim – they’re free! Free and safe and just in time to join in with the heroic final battle. It’s the least logical trope on my list (with the exception of the hooded cape) but boy, do I love it.

 

And that’s it! My top ten favourite clichés. I’ll be the first to admit that they’re dumb, but I love ’em anyway.