Category Archives: The Runaway Courtesan

Story Character Chart: Your Book Turned into a Movie

As a writer, a guilty pleasure of mine is imagining which actor/actress should play the characters in my book. So I had great fun making this chart for the story I’m hoping to publish one day. The chart looks a little messy, but whateverrr.

 

theNIGHT_FLOWER England 1866: A love story about a prostitute and a gentleman in a time of social turmoil.

Léa Seydoux as Amanda Hollingworth
James Purefoy as Lucas Creswell
Gillian Anderson as Mrs. Creswell
Sally Hawkins as Madame Bedwyn
Amanda Hale as Jane Roderick
David Morrissey as James Roderick
Imogen Poots as Theodosia Drury

It was pretty easy making this chart, though very time consuming (at least for me). I don’t have a photo-editing program so used the following sites:

For pretty text fonts: Picmonkey

For combining photos: Fotoflexer

For cropping photos into circles (and other more complicated but wonderful stuff): Sumopaint*

*But if you’re a newb like me you might want to read the instructions on this site on how to crop circular photos.  

If you do make your own character chart and post it on your blog, send me the link in a comment below! Happy Chart-Making!

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Teaser Tuesday: The Runaway Courtesan

gloves

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The title of my work is no longer called The Runaway Courtesan (TRC). Why? Thematically the title TRC no longer relates to my story, unfortunately. BUT I’m going to continue to refer to this manuscript as such. Mainly for the sake of convenience: everyone knows the story as TRC.

I won’t be revealing the NEW TITLE though as it’s still tentative. I’ll share it when I’m closer to querying, which will be several months from now *Sigh*

Anyway, here is a passage from the rough rewrite of TRC. I wrote this while listening to:

Game of Thrones Season 2 – Winterfell (a series I have yet to watch)

Excerpt:

The carriage rumbles out of town. Everything is pitch black save for the carriage lanterns, its light swinging in and out the window, allowing me to catch glimpses of Mr. Creswell. A crescent of his face. The lapel of his jacket. His leather gloves. Then he disappears again into the shadows.

“You are silent, Miss Hollingworth,” he says. “I’d imagine that you would have many more questions to ask.”

There is nothing I can say to him, that he might understand. Shall I tell him that his good news chills me to the marrow? He will surely think me depraved. No one in their right mind would wish to remain at the brothel. Yet I wish it. I wish to remain among the fallen. Among them, I forget that who I am and what I’ve done and what I’ve seen is abominable. To return to respectable society, I fear, will mean to become the black stain against the sea of white.

“I—” My voice breaks. I close my mouth and swallow. “I’ve got so many of ‘em I don’t know where to begin.”

“Perhaps you would like to know where we are heading?”

“I reckon we’re traveling to Kent. To my parents.” I wait for his approval, which does not come. “You are taking me to them, are you not?”

“My condolence,” he says quietly. “Your parents are deceased.”

I must have heard wrong. “Begging your pardon?”

“Your parents, Miss Hollingworth, have passed away.”

I sit immobile for the longest moment, my head lost in a thicket of fog. Dead? I’m not certain of what to feel. There is something in death that my mind cannot grasp. “Gone – the both of ‘em…” With too much calm, I ask, “How did they pass away?”

“A carriage accident. A few days after your disappearance.”

I clutch my hands together; they are trembling. Yet I feel numb inside. “But you said you were distantly related to my parents…” Mother is dead. Father is dead. I am bewildered. “What am I to you, sir, that you’ve taken an interest in me? Why’d you come for me?”

I LOVE writing in first-person narrative, BUT (maybe because I’m a beginner to this narrative style) one thing I do find very frustrating is its limited scope. There’s something so EPIC about writing in third-person narrative (I’m thinking, Pillars of the Earth). I love reading and writing about the many different ways in which characters think and perceive life.

I guess, with first-person, one could reveal the multi-dimensional aspect of humanity through conversations and actions…(and what else?). But outward appearance/performance only says so much about what an individual is TRULY thinking. So, like I said, first-person narrative is frustrating at times due to its limited scope. It makes me feel claustrophobic occasionally. I’m trying to figure out ways to transcend this limitation though…


Current writing music:
Fever Ray – Keep the Streets Empty for Me

Snow Patrol – What if the Storm Ends

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Motivations to Complete Writing a Novel

Confession: I have given-up more times than I’ve succeeded in completing a novel. For example, I have a file on my laptop titled “ABANDONED STORIES” and throughout my 11 years of writing, this file filled up with 20+ documents. Each 5-10 chapters long.

Then I have a file of completed manuscripts. A total of 3 novels completed… (excluding completed fanfictions). But these 3 manuscripts are unpublishable.

Unlike some other writers who perhaps complete and publish the first book they’ve ever written, it took me MANY TRIES before I finally fell in love with the story about a 19th century ‘fallen woman’ (here’s the excerpt of the older version). It’s a story I completed writing in 1 year and began revising for the next 5 years.

However, I’ve tried writing new novels during those 6 years and FAILED EACH TIME to complete it. SO. I totally know how it feels to write while doubting your ability to even complete a novel.

I therefore decided to share some of the practical tips that kept me from giving up on TRC and my other completed works (other than being in love with the plot and characters). Hopefully what inspires me might inspire others as well!

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Things that Motivate Me:

  • I never allow myself to write the ending of the manuscript before I’ve written the rest of the story. BUT I always make sure that when I begin writing a novel, I know how the last chapter will end. The desire to reach that ending compels me like CRAZY….because I imagine that it’ll be the BEST of all chapters.
    The Final Chapter of Swan Lake
  • I write, imagining the day when I can type THE END and print out the entire manuscript.  So, yes, during my difficult writing days the desire to press the ‘PRINT’ button compels me.
    Sending this baby off to New York per an agent’s request. Long story short: It got rejected *sniffles*

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  • I write, anticipating the day when I can begin REVISING my completed-manuscript at a coffee shop.

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  • Looking at pretty book covers also inspires me to write, imagining that one day my manuscript will have a cover of its own.

8378780The House Girl by Tara Conklin51Z9RCVRPEL

  • As a history graduate, I love researching about the past, and details about the past always inspires me to write.
    9e778f0905d169c47f3ab9b2f3f54b0b

Dear Readers,
What inspires you to keep writing? What keeps you from giving up?

-

Music I’m writing to:

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So, Aspiring-Novelist, You’ve Graduated. Now What?

jane-eyre

A few weeks ago I had a VERY NICE conversation with a banker who was very good at MINDING HIS OWN BUSINESS. It went along the lines of:

 

Banker: You’re graduating soon? That’s awesome. What are you majoring in?
Me: English literature and history
Banker: Oh, so you’re going to be a teacher?
Me: Uh….No.
Banker: Then what are you going to do with an English and History degree?
Me: I studied English and History to become a better writer
Banker: That’s not very practical. You’re paying thousands of dollars for post-secondary education. I studied economics (?) because I knew it would get me a job.
Me: WELL…becoming a novelist is my dream…and I’ll do whatever I can to invest into this dream.
Banker: That’s really not practical…What are you going to do financially? I don’t think you’ll make a lot of money through writing.
Me: I KNOW. I’ll figure something out…

And the conversation went on for a while longer until I ran out of patience and began answering in monosyllables.

ANYWAY, I confess that I’m a little stressed over this issue of finance, because while I CAN continue to live off my parents for a while longer, as an adult and as a loving daughter I’d MUCH rather be financially independent. Plus, as a daughter living abroad, I’m a bit costly.

Currently, I’m working part-time at the Public Library and I’ll probably work a second part-time job (until I accumulate enough seniority to land a full-time position at the library). I’m hoping that within this year I’ll be making enough to at least pay off my monthly student loans. URGGHHH…student loans….

But enough about my finance. This is a blog about writing.

Northanger Abbey (2007). My writing inspiration.

Northanger Abbey (2007). My writing inspiration.

SCHOOL was (for me) the BEST SCAPEGOAT for not writing. Because I was in university, I could say, “Oh, I’m a writer, but I didn’t write this week – or last week – or the week before that because I was drowning in assignments,” and everyone sympathised.

After graduating, however, if I don’t write and constantly go on long, long writing breaks, I’ll have nothing else to blame but myself. I must face the reality that IF I DO NOT WRITE, I AM NOT A WRITER, until I pick up the pen again. ‘Tis a harsh reality, but ’tis the truth. Graduating is, therefore, both liberating and terrifying.

But, oh god, it is so much more LIBERATING than terrifying!

After TWENTY years, this will be my first year totally free from the school system. It’ll be a crucial year for me to figure out how to balance my writing and my life. My nightmare is that I’ll spend my time after graduating as if I were on a LONGGGGGG SUMMER BREAK from school. Why would this be a nightmare? Due to the all-consuming nature of school, during summer breaks, I’ve grown into the habit of BINGE WRITING as in, I write as if the END OF MY LIFE were round the corner. I’ll spend (almost) ALL the hours writing, writing, writing, blogging, writing, networking, and writing, knowing that once I go back to school I’ll hardly have time to write again.

BUT now I need to pace myself. My goal for this year is to discipline myself to:

  • Take breaks from writing to cook DECENT meals – following cook books and making tasty meals, rather than living by my university-life motto: “Eat anything! I just need to be full.”
  • Eat my meals at the correct time of the day – rather than eating breakfast at 1pm, lunch at 5pm and dinner at 12am – or eating lunch late and eating cereal for dinner.
  • Take breaks from writing to exercise
  • Take the weekends off to socialise
  • READ more books (especially as I no longer have school readings to expand my knowledge)
  • Go downtown bi-weekly to my campus library so that I can spend a few hours researching and taking notes for my novel.
  • Write at least a chapter a week (I do write a lot, but a lot gets deleted)

At the end of this year, I’ll return to this list and see whether I’ve achieved these goals. And hopefully, by the year’s end, I’ll have hammered into my mind that writing is a LIFETIME journey. If I don’t get published this year, there’s always next year, and the year after that. There is no BIOLOGICAL CLOCK to writing. The apocalypse is not coming any time soon.

While it would be AWESOME to publish within the next few years, it’s also OK to take time with writing. As my father once told me – with the passing of time, writing, like wine, develops more depth and layers.

~

These days I’ve been obsessed with the THE GREAT GATSBY soundtrack while writing:

 

 

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Remembering the Reader in Me

(A brief review of Great Expectations (film/miniseries) can be found below).

While working at the library, shelving books, I found myself bewitched. I stared for the longest minute at a very pretty and elegant book-spine. Flutters filled my chest. I wondered why I felt this way… (because, naturally, I analyze every single emotion I feel)…and realized that my subconscious remembered the way it felt to read for pleasure. Of how excited I’d be to take home a book, curl up in the sofa with a cup of coffee, and be swept away into the world of fiction.

This was the feeling I’d forgotten while studying at university, as all I read were scholarly articles and novels from the syllabus which I would never have picked up otherwise. Reading = academics. This kind of attitude towards books affected my writing as well. I approached my writing as if I were writing a research paper: I laboured to find a thesis, then, after much research, would write to prove that point. So actually ENJOYING what I wrote was besides the point – everything was about strengthening my argument. And finishing the darn assignment.

With this approach: My writing and my characters turned stilted. While I once could write for an entire day, now I could only write for 2-3 hours at most before burning out.

However, as I examined why my heart had fluttered at the sight of the book-spine, I was reminded of why I even began writing in the first place. I began writing because I couldn’t find the book I wanted to read (to be more specific: I got my hands on all the Pride & Prejudice Sequels and when I couldn’t find any more I began writing one myself). After work, I therefore marched home, marched into my room, and began rereading my story – not as the writer OF the story, but as a reader. I read with this mindset: I want to WRITE the book that I, as a reader, will love. And this was the point I’d forgotten while re-writing TRC from scratch.

Writing-because-it’s-fun seems like such an obvious approach to writing and yet so many times I (and perhaps other writers) forget along the way due to pressures to write something ‘meaningful’ or ‘original’ or ‘funny’ or ‘angsty’ or ‘romantic’ or ‘historical’ or ‘political’ or ‘psychological’…etc. Or even just to get the friggin’ draft finished so I might proudly type ‘THE END‘.

So, as I read through my story with this mindset (write what I, the reader, will love), I began wondering – what exactly do I love to read of in books? One would think this to be an easy question, and yet, it was actually a question that took time to answer.

The list I came up with was:

  • A world of a grey moral landscape. No one is completely ‘evil’ and no one is completely ‘good’
  • An antagonist whose noble goal goes awry
  • A love story that opens the door to psychological/social/religious strife
  • Rich in history
  • A flourish of insight into the workings of a character’s mind
  • Moors, rain, fog, ballrooms, greatcoats, cravats, voluminous gowns *wistful sigh*
  • An evocative/descriptive writing style
  • Epic character development
  • Edginess
  • An escapist quality

That’s the book of my fantasy.

That’s the book I want to try and write.

Dear Readers,

What kind of books do you enjoy? What are the qualities in a book that leaves a deep impression in you or induces a fit of fan-craziness?

~

ON A TOTALLY DIFFERENT NOTE….

Left: Miniseries. Right: Film

I recently watched the BBC miniseries of Great Expectations (2011). It doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but, it’s an entertaining watch. Oh, wait, it does bring something new: Pip steps into a bawdy house. ‘Nough said. I enjoyed the darker, edgier quality to this series.

Then, within that week, I discovered that BBC had a FILM adaptation of Great Expectations (2012) and now, because it is a costume drama, I must force myself to watch it… though I already know the beginning, middle and end of the story…

Two adaptations of Great Expectations within the span of a year… How curious…

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