The value of undervalued things.


When Becky asked me last week, in reply to Legendary Ladies of Literature, whether I had known any of those women prior to working on that post I vaguely commented that I had heard of Sappho when I was younger. But the vague comment hid the flood of memories that came cascading into my mind as I thought about the first time I heard Sappho’s name. Now this might come as a shock to you but it was not in a book or in a documentary or even in school. I was introduced to her via a…kids’ cartoon.

Now granted there are many animated shows aimed at children which incorporate elements of classical history and ancient folklore which I suppose could be deemed educational in a sense but this cartoon was different. I will go so far as to say that it was probably my favourite show as a teen although nowadays I’m never eager to admit it. Why? Well because the show was not as famous as it should have been.

Years ago, at university, during the first tutorial of a semester, for orientation we were asked to introduce ourselves and state what our favourite show was (amongst other things) in an attempt to get to know one another. I mentioned this cartoon as being one of my favourites only to receive reactions of weird looks and furrowed brows. Nothing is worse than speaking about something you love only for it to be unappreciated because nobody knows what the hell you’re talking about. Just because something is not well-known, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not good.

For the record this cartoon I’m harping on about was called Histeria (yes, that is the correct spelling). It was a Warner Bros production, ran for only two years but was cancelled due to issues with the budget. Not surprisingly, it was created for the purposes of edutainment, quite similar to Terry Deary’s Horrible Histories series, but it didn’t seem to catch on in the viewership rankings.
In History and English I attribute a lot of what I know now to Histeria, rather than my lessons at school. And that is no exaggeration. When knowledge stays with you years after the lesson has ended – THAT’s real education.

Yes, the humour was juvenile but famous names and places stuck with me. In one memorable episode I found out who Emily Dickinson, Moliére , Basho and Sappho were. In the very same episode I learnt what a haiku was and got to know a bit more about the life of Mark Twain.
Aaaaaaand…guess what? You gotta love Youtube. I actually managed to find a clip from that very episode for you! Quality’s not very good but better than nothing. For the life of me I cannot understand why this show was not as popular as it should have been. Of course I’m known for being terribly bias…

What about you? Was there a not-so-famous show or movie that made an impact on you or your life? Or perhaps you read a really inspirational book but it never quite made it to Eat, Pray Love-status? Tell me, always love to hear from you…

NM   🙂

The Name Game…once again.


Now I’ve written about names before and the thought we put into choosing appellations for our main characters. The topic has crept up on me once again yet with a slightly different dilemma of sorts this time.

Some of the most memorable literary main characters we know are usually the ones with the most unusual names: Heathcliff, Sherlock, D’artagnon, Atticus, Lestat or any Dickens’ character for that matter. Many will argue that the peculiarity of these names has contributed to these fictional creations becoming legends of literature.

But as a writer have you ever been tempted to christen a character (main or not) after another literary character, especially one with an unusual name that many would recognize?

Many famous authors have done it. Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye mentions three sisters named Miranda, Perdita and Cordelia; many of JK Rowling’s characters have famous literary namesakes-Mrs. Norris(Filch’s cat) was named after a character in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen whereas ‘Hermione’ was also taken from Shakespeare. In Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, there’s a modern character called ‘Clarrissa’. Since the story was about Virginia Woolf and her writing of Mrs. Dalloway, the name ‘Clarrissa’ was clearly referential but I actually thought it was a bit too obvious. Bringing me to another point:  is it lame to make reference to the original namesake in any form or way?

I was looking at a story I had started writing years ago but which I haven’t completed. Reading through it, I had a good laugh when I came upon the introduction of a particular character. He was a policeman and I had dubbed him …’Ichabod.’

(Yes, I’ll give you a second to laugh/muse about this)

(You’re done? May I proceed? Thank you)

Unfortunately my Ichabod looks nothing like this…

Now if you’re one of those who have heard this name before, I’m willing to bet my life that on reading that, your immediate thoughts turned to a certain skull-deficient horseman of popular Dutch-American myth.

It is very difficult to hear the name ‘Ichabod’ and NOT think of Sleepy Hollow. Knowing this, I envisioned a potential reader screaming, “Hey! She stole that from Washington Irving!!!!”

 So I decided to give myself a leg up and point out the obvious by stating in the narrative that (my) Ichabod’s father was a big Irving fan! Is it lame? Should I just give up on this whole malarkey and call my policeman ‘John’ instead?

…but thankfully, not like this dude either.

I would like to state in my defence that the name actually suits my character although I can’t explain why. He looks nothing like Johnny Depp and he certainly doesn’t resemble a skinny, hook-nosed bird!

Of course my opinion alone doesn’t matter, what do you think? Would you get excited if you were reading a modern book and came across the namesake of a famous fictional figure?

And I know I’ve asked this question before in a previous post but how do you writers go about choosing names for your MC? Do you go for the unusual or do you opt for something more ‘common’?

NM 🙂

Images

1. Still from Sleepy Hollow(Tim Burton) taken from www.killermovies.com

2. Still from Legend of Sleepy Hollow(Disney) taken from http://www.chroniquedisney.fr

And now for something completely different…


Exciting times awaits, folks. The end of this month marks the one-year anniversary of NM’s Writers’ Bloq. Yessiree, consider me a blog pro! Well almost.

Anyhoo, so in honour of the anniversary, the month of March will see some new ‘developments.’

Firstly the Writers’ Bloq will play host to its very first Guest Blogger, so look out for that this coming Sunday.
And secondly…

I have a confession to make.

I have always wanted to be a writer, ever since I can remember. Yes, I know, that’s not really a confession and hardly a revelation, just let me continue…

When I nurtured dreams of being a writer as a young girl, I never, ever thought that I would be writing…. fiction.
How’s that? Surprised? I always saw myself writing articles and when it came to books, the only kinds I imagined myself publishing were textbooks and celebrity autobiographies (I’m being serious). Hey, I was young- I was allowed to dream big.
I only started dabbling in fiction writing about three years ago, hence my lack of confidence sometimes with regards to my stories.

Non-fiction, however, is what I consider my comfort zone. I’m not saying it’s easy, in fact, it can be just as difficult even with all the information at your disposal. I enjoy reading and writing it however so I’m hoping you would humour me in this regard.
See, I’ve decided to start a new feature on this blog. I’m calling it History, Myths and Legends. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. There is already a category dedicated to this, as you can see on the side but I’ve decided to up the ante. If you are into historical events, true life mysteries and the supernatural then you’re in for a treat!!!

Once a month, I will dedicate one post to a famous legend, myth or piece of history with/without a supernatural twist. I can’t promise that they will have some literary link but I will try. Therefore to all my writer buddies, if this isn’t your cup of herbal tea, I do apologise. You will just have to wait for another one of my regular posts where I moan about editing. 😉
Also if you have a sensitive disposition and a natural aversion to the supernatural, I will understand if you make yourself scarce. I would hate to think I was the cause of nightmares or sleepless nights. I have affectionately abbreviated the feature to HML (not to be confused with the web-link abbreviation!) so you will recognise the article.

As usual, I would love to hear your thoughts about my new blog feature. My very first HML post will be next week : Spring-heeled Jack, the Scourge of England.
See ya then!

NM 🙂

Staring at the finish line…from behind a mountain of manuscripts.


Usually I like to give bad news first and then the good news, because it softens the blow, so to speak. In this case it won’t make any sense, so here goes:

GOOD NEWS: I’ve finally finished my collection of short stories! Huzzah! Bring out the champagne!
The BAD NEWS? The official editing process begins! *Groans* Bring out some more champagne, a few bottles of red wine and some painkillers won’t you? It’s going to be a long ride…

Yes I’m not really a fan of editing even though it’s an inevitable part of the writing process. Even the most exciting jobs have their downsides, I suppose.

I tried to fathom out why I hate it so much. I do remember commenting on someone’s blog about this not too long ago. I recall saying that with editing, I don’t experience that same buzz like the feeling when an idea pops into my head and I feel the need to write it down quick and thereafter develop a story to work that idea in. That initial act of putting pen to paper is akin to being on a high. Once that first draft is completed,you feel mighty proud of it.

And then another reason struck me as to why I dread editing. After that initial buzz, returning to that first draft is like a cold, hard reality-slap in the face. Mistakes are EVERYWHERE: in the grammar, in the spelling, holes in the plot and in some instances, a certain passage will make no sense whatsoever and you waste half-an-hour trying to figure out why you wrote it in the first place.(And don’t even talk about when that one particular scene just won’t be good enough and you end up in this vicious, twisted cycle of editing and re-editing and then adding some more changes with no end in sight. This will happen at some point, I can guarantee it.)

You then come to the realization that you are not the perfect, super-awesome writer you thought you were, with that special, God-came-down-and-blessed-you-with-his-right-hand-saying-you-are-going-to-be-great sort of talent. You’re a normal human being just like everybody else who has some serious work to do.

Each of these folders contains at least two manuscripts. Who wants to help me edit? Nobody? Yeah, I thought so...

Yeah, reality certainly can bite.

But no pain, no gain right?
So off I go, to experience the joys of hell editing.
The Good news is I’ve already edited two stories. The bad news? I’ve got 12 more to go. *groan*

I’ve given myself one whole month to complete this task. Wish me luck.

NM 🙂

NaNoWriMo? Is that a new type of IPad or something?


I have decided to take part in NaNoWriMo 2011……………….Ha! Ha! Gotchya!

Yeah right, like I have the discipline to pull that one off.
But I must admit that with every writer/blogger talking about National Novel Writing Month, I feel like a sad schoolboy, who doesn’t have the latest Playstation game all his classmates are talking about and therefore cannot get excited about it in the same way as his friends are. What I’m basically saying is that I feel decidedly ostracized and even considered, for a fraction of a second, to take part. Off course, I do know my limits and therefore exercised my better judgment.

Even though I’m not participating, I feel strangely motivated. With all the hype, it seems NaNoWriMo is having an indirect effect on me.Maybe it’s the thought of all those brave souls, who are deliberately putting their entire lives on hold – locking themselves in their houses, switching off their television sets, the internet and other social media for the entire month in an attempt to eliminate all distractions so they may undertake the admirable task of writing their novels in 30 days (strange how they find the time and means to blog about this though!). This has motivated me to work just a little bit harder on my own stuff. It’s an incredible lesson in discipline and it’s rubbing off on me. I seem to be winning a little-and I’m not even taking part!!

I have to confess that if I had not started blogging, I would never have known such a thing as National Novel Writing Month existed. Only when I did, did I realize what an incredibly small bubble I was living in. When I first heard the term “NaNoWriMo”, I thought it was some new piece of technology out on the market, like a new type of IPad or those Tablet PC thingies. I even delayed finding out what it was because I figured since I don’t even own a Kindle as yet, there was no way I would be able to afford a NaNoWriMo, which sounded very expensive.
Ah, the beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand, as Frank Herbert once said. My ignorance certainly has been betrayed since blogging, I won’t lie. That’s the purpose of ‘web-logging’ I suppose, to open up yourself to the world around you so you become less of an idiot.

So will I ever take part in NaNoWriMo in the future? Probably. Maybe. Nah, highly unlikely, maybe in my next life. But if you are taking part now, here’s a hearty good luck to you. I truly admire your spirit so go break a leg, or finger and remember to have some fun in the process. If possible…

NM 🙂