Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Neil - Ghost Hunter

Hi guys

Quick update and sadly hardly written this month will make up for it in November with NanoWrimo - National Writing Month.

Recently been to Blackpool with my daughter to celebrate her 8th birthday and took her to Sea life centre.

Coming up - 2 ghost hunts - like buses - Never have a ghost hunt then 2 within 3 days!  Feel like I should be on Ghost Adventures now - maybe I should pitch a Ghost Adventures UK?

"Since I was a boy I always picked my nose.  I also believed in ghosts from films such as Poltergeist,  Amityville and Ghostbusters 1 and 2, plus Casper.
Now I'm going to sit in the dark talking to myself and videoing the event to catch evidence of the Supernatural. "

Ghost Hunt 1 -
Firstly I'm of tomorrow night at 6:30pm to Cleckheaton Library to see local crime author Patricia Adams-Wright do a talk on her new novel.
As she used to run the West Yorkshire Paranormal Group and it's nearly Halloween she is also doing a Paranormal event at the library.
Looking forward to that.

Ghost Hunt 2 -
This coming Saturday on Halloween as an early birthday present going on an all night ghost hunt at Sheffield Fire and Police Museum!
This should be a 'fun' night whereby I'll be taking spare underwear.  If all goes wrong this may be my last post,
See details of the paranormal event below:,-doncaster,-31st-october-2015.aspx

Monday, 19 October 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2 in 3D - Film Review

Took my daughter to see the sequel to 2012 film Hotel Transylvania.   The first film I watched for the first time a few days before seeing this and was very impressed and chuckled through the film.

So went to the cinema to see it in 3D as animations are usually good in 3D.  The 3D to this film was good and gave good atmosphere but not enough came out at you - nothing has topped Despicable Me 2 for this for me so far.

The story follows on from the first where Draculas daughter Mavis marries Johnny and becomes pregnant.   This is a very funny part of the film.  Soon we fast forward to see their half human/vampire son Dennis drown up and coming to his fifth birthday.   Dracula is worried he hasn't grown his fangs and shown his vampire side.
He sends Mavis and Johnny to his parents whilst he looks after Dennis and with the help of his friends including Frankenstein,  Wayne the Werewolf and the Invisible Man tries to get the Vampire side of Dennis out by taking him to a Vampire Bootcamp. 

With excellent voiceovers from the likes of Adam Sandler (Dracula), who also co-wrote the movie and Selena Gomez as Mavis and Steve Buscemi as Wayne the Werewolf among others the film was entertaining and very funny in parts.  Me and my daughter laughed at quite a few bits.
The only problem some of the jokes were similar to the first movie or done in other movies.

Overall  - great, funny film but bit too samey to the first one.   Also could have had more coming out of the screen.

Score  -   8/10

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Martian - Film Review

Went to see 'The Martian' last night which is the movie adaptation of the bestselling novel by Andy Weir.   I've still to read the novel as I'm told it's quite different and has less scenes with NASA trying to figure out how to get Matt Damons character Mark Watney back home after accidently being left for dead on Mars.

It isn't normally a film I would watch at the cinema because I think if you're spending so much money at the cinema then I would rather watch a 'Blockbuster'', like a Marvel movie or Transformers. 

Suffice to say I was gripped from the beginning thanks to the special effects of the NASA equipment and the Mars terrain.   But most notably from the performances from the superb cast, especially Matt Damon as the stranded astronaut and Jeff Daniels as head of NASA.

The film follows Mark's struggle to survive in the harshest of enviroments but through ingenuity and his determination to survive he must find enough food and water to last till the next mission to Mars.

Overall - fantastic atmosphere and Mars-scape and a brilliant performance from Matt Damon as we see his body and mind put to the ultimate test.
Score    9/10

Thursday, 1 October 2015

To Prologue or Not

Hi guys

A few months ago at the Cleckheaton Writers Group we had a brief discussion on the merits of using a Prologue at the start of a novel.

I felt traditional about it as I always feel a prologue can lead you into a novel by either giving you a glimpse of what lies ahead, or part of the story or character history.   This could be by flashback or even a flashforward (which I have done in one of my novels.)

A few of my favourite novels by my favourite authors have prologues which pulled me into the story or style of writing.   These include David Gemmell's Legend and Waylander 2.  Also David Eddings Pawn of Prophecy and JR Tolkiens Lord of the Rings novels.

Andy and a few others thought that a Prologue isn't needed and distracts from the main story and that the novel should start at the first chapter.  They also argued that sometimes it can be a sign of a bad author or story structure.

They pointed out a prologue can have too much back story and may put the reader off and confuse them.  I have to agree the Lord of the Rings prologue waffles on a little but for me it's fun.

Overall for me I like reading (and writing) novels with Prologues and also without as long as the book in enjoyable and takes me to another place with believable characters.

What does everyone else think?
Do you like a novel with a prologue or not? Does it matter?

Leave your thoughts in the comments box below or on my facebook or twitter.

I have been thinking of this post for a while and as a coincidence author Kristen Lamb has done a similar blog post which is below - enjoy.


o Prologue or NOT To Prologue? That is the Question

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala
Publishing, like most other things, is not immune to fashion. This is what makes teaching craft a moving target. What is en vogue today could be passé tomorrow. And yes we are artists, but I believe most of us are artists who’ve grown rather fond of eating. This means we do need to keep audience tastes in mind when we are “creating” since they will be the ones who fork over cold hard cash.
Today we will touch on a question I get a lot from new writers.
To prologue or not to prologue? That is the question.
The problem with the prologue is it has kind of gotten a bad rap over the years, especially with agents. They generally hate them. Why? In my opinion, it is because far too many writers don’t use prologues properly and that, in itself, has created its own problem.
Because of the steady misuse of prologues, most readers skip them. Thus, the question of whether or not the prologue is even considered the beginning of your novel can become a gray area if the reader just thumbs pages until she sees Chapter One.
Before we get started, I will say that genre often dictates whether or not to use a prologue. But, keep in mind that, even if our genre—I.e. thriller—allows for a common use of prologues, it still is wise to learn to do them well ;) .
So without further ado…

The 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues

Sin #1 If your prologue is really just a vehicle for massive information dump…
This is one of the reasons I recommend writing detailed backgrounds of all main characters before we begin (especially when we are new writers). Get all of that precious backstory out of your system.
This is a useful tactic in that first, it can help us see if a) our characters are psychologically consistent, b) can provide us with a feel for the characters’ psychological motivations, which will help later in plotting.
I have a little formula: background–> motivations –>goals–>a plan–>a detailed plan, which = plot and c) can help us as writers honestly see what details are salient to the plot.
This helps us better fold the key details into the plotting process so that this vital information can be blended expertly into the story real-time.
Many new writers bungle the prologue because they lack a system that allows them to discern key details or keep track of key background details. This makes for clumsy writing, namely a giant “fish head” labeled prologue. What do we do with fish heads? We cut them off and throw them away…unless you are my mother’s Scandinavian family and then they make soup *shivers*.
Sin #2 If your prologue really has nothing to do with the main story.
This point ties into the earlier sin. Do this. Cut off the prologue. Now ask, “Has this integrally affected the story?” If it hasn’t? It’s likely a fish head masquerading as a prologue.
Sin #3 If your prologue’s sole purpose is to “hook” the reader…
If readers have a bad tendency to skip past prologues, and the only point of our prologue is to hook the reader, then we have just effectively shot ourselves in the foot. We must have a great hook in a prologue, but then we need to also have a hook in Chapter One. If we can merely move the prologue to Chapter One and it not upset the flow of the story? Then that is a lot of pressure off our shoulders to be “doubly” interesting.
Sin #4 If your prologue is overly long…
Prologues need to be short and sweet and to the point. Get too long and that is a warning flag that this prologue is being used to cover for sloppy writing or really should have just been Chapter One.
Sin #5 If your prologue is written in a totally different style and voice that is never tied back into the main story…
Pretty self-explanatory.
Sin #6 If your prologue is über-condensed world-building…
World-building is generally one of those things, like backstory, that can and should be folded into the narrative. Sometimes it might be necessary to do a little world-building, but think “floating words in Star Wars.” The yellow floating words that drift off into space help the reader get grounded in the larger picture before the story begins. But note the floating words are not super-detailed Tolkien world-building.
They are simple and, above all, brief.
Sin #7 If your prologue is there solely to “set the mood…”
We have to set the mood in Chapter One anyway, so like the hook, why do it twice?

The Prologue Virtues

Now that we have discussed the 7 Deadly Sins of Prologues, you might be asking yourself, “So when is it okay to use a prologue?” Glad you asked.
Virtue #1
Prologues can be used to resolve a time gap with information critical to the story.
Genre will have a lot to do with whether one uses a prologue or not. Thrillers generally employ prologues because what our hero is up against may be an old enemy. In James Rollins’s The Doomsday Key the prologue introduces the “adversary” Sigma will face in the book. Two monks come upon a village where every person has literally starved to death when there is more than an abundance of food.
Many centuries pass and the very thing that laid waste to that small village is now once more a threat. But this gives the reader a feel for the fact that this is an old adversary. The prologue also paints a gripping picture of what this “adversary” can do if unleashed once more.
The prologue allows the reader to pass centuries of time without getting a brain cramp. Prologue is set in medieval times. Chapter One is in modern times. Prologue is pivotal for understanding all that is to follow.
Prologues are used a lot in thrillers and mysteries to see the crime or event that sets off the story. Readers of these genres have been trained to read prologues and generally won’t skip. The serial killer dumping his latest victim is important to the story. It’s a genre thing. Yet, still? Keep it brief. Reveal too much and readers won’t want to turn pages to learn more.
Virtue # 2
Prologues can be used if there is a critical element in the backstory relevant to the plot.
The first Harry Potter book is a good example of a book that could have used a prologue, but didn’t (likely because Rowling knew it would likely get skipped). Therese Walsh in her blog Once Before A Time Part 2 said this:
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is told in a close 3rd person POV (Harry’s), but her first chapter is quite different, told when Harry is a baby and switching between omniscient and 3rd person POVs (Mr. Dursley’s and Dumbledore’s). Rowling may have considered setting this information aside as a prologue because of those different voices and the ten-year lag between it and the next scene, but she didn’t do it. The info contained in those first pages is critical, it helps to set the story up and makes it more easily digested for readers. And it’s 17 pages long.
This battle is vital for the reader to be able to understand the following events and thus would have been an excellent example of a good prologue. But, Rowling, despite the fact this chapter would have made a prime prologue still chose to make it Chapter One so the reader would actually read this essential piece of story information.
Food for thought for sure.
Yes, I had Seven Sins and only Two Virtues. So sue me :P . That should be a huge hint that there are a lot more reasons to NOT use a prologue than there are to employ one (that and I didn’t want this blog to be 10,000 words long).
Prologues, when done properly can be amazing literary devices. Yet, with a clear reader propensity to skip them, then that might at least make us pause before we decide our novel must have one. Make sure you ask yourself honest questions about what purpose these pages are really serving. Are they an essential component of a larger whole? Or are you using Bondo to patch together a weak plot?
But, don’t take my word for it. Over the ages, I’ve collected great blogs regarding prologues to help you guys become stronger in your craft. These are older posts, but timeless:
Agent Nathan Bransford offers his opinion as does literary agent Kristin Nelson
Carol Benedict’s blog Story Elements: Using a Prologue
If after all of this information, you decide you must have a prologue because all the coolest kids have one, then at least do it properly.
What are some of the questions, concerns, troubles you guys have had with prologues? Which ones worked? Which ones bombed? What are your solutions or suggestions?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.