Tag Archives: Writing

Full Steampunk Ahead

Full Steam(punk) Ahead!

After much procrastination, I’ve returned with a new book in tow and Inspired Quill has been nice enough to take me back. So, what is this new book? Well, it’s a sequel to The Adventures of Alan Shaw, my globe-spanning Steampunk adventure. What’s taken so damned long? I think my procrastination was probably due to a little Authorial Anxiety (for which there should be AA meetings). Having never written a sequel before, my nerves were wracked. However, it’s turned out to be a very different and brilliant experience.

It really starts with the end of the last book, of course.

Is there anything more to say? Does Alan have any more story to tell? Thankfully, the answer was yes. By the end of the first book, Alan was only just beginning to get into his stride as an adventurer. He’d also learnt a lot about the world. He’d lost love and seen exactly how badly things can go when you rush in headlong. His final adventure left him with some very tough emotions to deal with. So, the second novel had a purpose.

What happened to Alan after he leaves his friends and family in the dust as he takes the Great Trunk Road through India alone? Well, you’re about to find out.

It’s been a great ride, coming back to Alan, and possibly the most fun I’ve had writing a book. There’s just something about a character you love, and love putting through their paces. Make no mistake, Alan’s penchant for finding trouble isn’t going away as he grows older. If anything, it’s getting worse. The villains are also getting less obvious. How do you do the right thing when the lines are getting blurry? And with the introduction of a new character in the shape of Meredith “Merry” Rockett, the straight-talking pilot, I think we’re about to find out things about Alan that he doesn’t even know himself.

I honestly can’t wait to hear what you all think of this book. I’m twitching with anticipation.

Steampunk-ing around the UK

Of course, there’s the inevitable touring, signing and event-attending going on throughout the year as I warm up to the release of the new novel. I already have Yorkshire Cosplay Convention, Scarborough Sci-Fi, several Steampunk-related events and a maelstrom of smaller readings, signings and hi-jinks to be getting up to.

I’ve also been delving into non-fiction.

Without putting a grey spot on our re-acquaintance here, I have a long-term history with depression which has both fuelled and felled my writing over the years. With that in mind, I have decided to share my experiences by releasing a free e-book called Down Days (www.downdays.org if you fancy taking a look). The idea was to give an honest insight into mental health issues where people who need it wouldn’t have to worry about buying it. To shatter the stigmas around mental health, profit should be furthest from our minds. Attached to an ongoing blog, Down Days has been a universally positive experience.

The fear of sharing my soul has been banished by the support, camaraderie and gratitude of people who have read this first attempt at non-fic, and have taken something away for themselves. I’ve learnt that, even though I love making things up, sometimes the truth is just more powerful.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.

If only to explain why Alan has taken so damned long to get off his backside (or rather, me).

Of course, Inspired Quill have been good to me over the years. They took a chance on my first steampunk novel, Greaveburn, when I was just about to give up on it, and liked the old short stories enough to publish them as the Not Before Bed collection. Alan, of course, found his home here, too. Now it only seems right that we set off on the next lap together and I’m hoping that you readers will come along for a jog into adventure. We’ve got a long way to go and so many more stories to tell. For now, for me, it’s back to the keyboard. These books aren’t going to write themselves (more’s the pity).

Thanks for reading everyone.

Stay strange.

Embrace The Weird.

To learn more about Craig’s previous titles, you can check them out here: Greaveburn, The Adventures of Alan Shaw, Not Before Bed.

Plot Vs Character

 “Which is more important, plot or character?”

It’s an odd thing to ask, because the two aren’t mutually exclusive. But which should be the focus of a compelling story? Does a complex plot negate the need to concentrate on character? Do intense characters provide enough motivation to complete a book regardless of meandering plot threads?

It’s not a binary answer.

At Inspired Quill, the focus is on character-driven stories. Personalities drive plot events via their decisions, actions and individual motivations. It makes for more natural path transitions, especially in fantasy quests or dramas; whether or not the characters are going to take a certain direction, or succeed, becomes part of the thrill of following their path. It’s not only about what happens next, it becomes just as intriguing to wonder how they’re going to deal with whatever situations arise.

Shoehorning Scenarios.

If you focus ostensibly on the plot, (that is, the events that you want to occur instead of how they come about or are resolved), you run the risk of creating bland characters, or having them make arbitrary decisions that don’t fit their demeanour simply to reach a specific conclusion. A common mistake in plot-driven stories is to have characters come to conclusions or uncover knowledge that they may not realistically have access to, or make unnaturally lucky guesses that move them forward. Story should always feel like the character (or narrator) is the driving force, but not to the point where they become omniscient themselves.

On the right path…I think.

Having said that, plot lines become more important where specific events do have to occur. Stories set in historically-accurate timelines have to adhere to specific dates, for example. But even then, the character is the one we’re following. If all you’re writing is plot, you’re essentially writing a biography, or a textbook. The difference in tone between a plot-led story and a character-driven one is like comparing a Bond movie to Game of Thrones. Bond is running an investigation and his journey is led by going from place to place as he discovers each piece of the puzzle, whereas Game of Thrones is run by the motivations and actions of the characters. Bond doesn’t choose his path, he follows it. Any person in game of Thrones can completely change the direction of the story.

To conclude:

Characterisation sparks our attention, makes a story feel alive. You can describe a brilliantly-intricate murder mystery, but the most important element is the motive of the killer, and that will reflect in the actions taken by the character whodunnit.

Characters should make a plot exciting to follow, but a plot won’t make characters interesting by itself.

Name (Noun)

“How do you come up with all these names?”

For those of us writing Earth-based fiction, or any genre not based in fantasy, on the surface it’s a fairly simple process- you don’t generally have to invent them. But there’s more in a name than its spelling. They’re indicative of culture, heritage, location, trends. Unassuming people can have incredibly unusual names for the place they’re living, but it has to make sense to the story. A male character coming from a whole line of Johns and Roberts isn’t as likely to have a bizarre or unique name, unless that’s a point in the story and forms part of their character.

Fantasy names are a little more difficult.

Coming up with something unique is very hard. Because we typically want fantasy names to sound unusual or exotic, or at the very least a departure from our typical surroundings, a good starting point is a directory of names which can be categorised by language, region, or mythological base.  There are countless websites that have name meanings that you can get lost in, (we’ve even included a few at the end of this post!) and I’ve known many writers who have. Being able to divide them by region gives a useful opportunity to hear the combinations of sounds used by different cultures and decide how (or even if) you want these reflected in your worlds.

Choice can become overwhelming, though.

Nobody wants an off-the-shelf character, so sometimes the names need customisation. Pick an almost-but-not-quite name, or even a word that you particularly like, a syllable, any element that you’d like to see in the name somewhere, and start adding or removing letters to see what comes from it. Think about whether you want the end with an open or closed sound. Open-ended names (ending with a vowel sound) tend to be more feminine, but this isn’t always the case. If you plan to have a lot of action scenes, think about whether your name of choice would carry well over a battle. Is it easy to shout, or whisper? Once you have all of your variations down, it’s never a bad idea to keep them. Many writers have notebooks with pages and pages of names and name variations, and each one can be experimented with and built upon for future characters.

Ssss or tthhh?

It’s also important to think about a character’s biology. If they’re reptilian, for example, can they even articulate certain sounds as accurately as a human? If they can, do the historically-favoured names bear more resemblance to hisses or screeches, a more native tongue?

It isn’t all in the mind.

That said, certain names might be fun to read or write but not to say. Something that’s impossible to say out loud may prove an irritating obstacle for people scanning through the pages, so name like ‘Pzzzlmlrickxytz’ is probably not well-advised for a protagonist. You’ll also be starting potential arguments among fans about where the emphasis is, but that’s what your eventual Comic-Con panels will be for. Right? (Hands up! Who first mind-pronounced Hermione as ‘her-me-oh-knee’?)

Oh, and here’s hoping we didn’t go for the cliché ‘What’s in a Name?’ for the title of this one, or that rose line from Romeo and Juliet. If so, please roll eyes at the editor. (Please, as if I would ever do that! [Itotallywould / blognamesarehard] – SJ)

Resources:

Name Etymology: http://www.behindthename.com/

Random Name Generator: http://www.behindthename.com/random/

Name Generator: http://www.be-a-better-writer.com/character-name-generator.html

Fantasy Names (including Places): http://fantasynamegenerators.com/