Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

Author and Character Voice in Your Fiction — January 17, 2019

Author and Character Voice in Your Fiction

voice-fiction

When discussing voice, in connection with writing fiction, we need to distinguish between author and character voice.

Author voice refers to the style of the author.

This can include word choice and tone. Author voice will be somewhat consistent, although there may be variations between voice used in one work and the next.

Consider your favourite authors, and what it is that appeals to you about their particular writing style. When you read their work, you just know it’s that author’s work, right? Even if the writer in question writes in multiple genres, there’s something that marks each story out as being their own. Daphne du Maurier comes to mind for me, personally.

All writers, then, have a voice – but should you consciously develop that voice?

Such as, intentionally focus upon absorbing the styles of other specific authors, so that this will influence your own?

As with most other aspects of being a writer, this is an individual choice. Most of us like to at least have some degree of awareness, when it comes to our personal writing styles.

But, yes – voice comes naturally, and will develop simply through the fact that we write and read, and live in general.

Character voice is also “exactly what it says on the tin”.

Each character in each story should, ideally, have a clearly defined voice – although it can be challenging to achieve in practice, and a common writing problem is that multiple characters, within a particular story, seem the same, or very similar, in terms of voice.

Character voice is distinct from author voice, although paradoxically, it’s also an element of author voice.

The extent to which author and character voice merge into one, definitely varies. The general tendency would be for character voice to blend most with author voice in a first person, single viewpoint narrative. However, this is by no means always the case.

The concept of character voice does tend to refer to viewpoint characters, but it’s worth remembering that it applies to other characters, too. But, if a character isn’t a POV character, we’re going to be relying upon dialogue exclusively, to convey voice.

 

As I mentioned, author voice does tend to take care of itself, but it can’t hurt to be aware of our own developing styles. And, when it comes to character voice – that’s definitely an area on which many of us need to focus.

 

Follow me on: Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

Creating Realistic Dialogue: Additional Thoughts — November 20, 2018

Creating Realistic Dialogue: Additional Thoughts

dialogue-thoughts

In this post, I’ll be expanding upon my Writing Believable Dialogue post.

I would, therefore, suggest reading that first, if you haven’t already.

I can’t emphasize enough that believable characters are the heart of great fiction.

Other elements, such as story structure, are important, but strong characterisation is essential. And, without convincing dialogue, you won’t have believable characters. That’s why I consider this subject sufficiently valuable to revisit.

It’s important, in general, to avoid exposition in dialogue.

Many writers will attempt to convey backstory via dialogue, but this rarely comes across as natural.

However, there’s one circumstance in which this can actually work: arguments. It’s important to include conflict in your stories, and although not all of this conflict will be in the form of rows between your various characters – well, arguments are bound to be in the mix, right?

In real life, arguments are very much a time when accusations are flying:

“And what about what you said, on Julie’s wedding day?”

“Well, how about what your mum said to my sister, last Christmas?”

“Aren’t you forgetting the time you…?”

Okay, you get the idea. Basically, people hurl anything and everything at each other, when tempers are high, so take advantage of this, as a writer.

In my Believable Dialogue post, I mentioned the overuse of character names in dialogue.

I still find myself doing this, and having to remove name tags, as part of the revision process.

One specific problem I find is that many of my characters are known by more than one variation of their name, used interchangeably. Some examples, from my WIP: Lucy/Luce, Catherine/Cath, Matthew/Matt, and Charlotte/Charlie. This tends to result, in my experience, in the inclusion of more name tags, in total.

There’s no obvious way to avoid this, other than limiting the number of characters, within any one story, who are routinely known by multiple versions of their names.

It really is worth paying attention to this. Listen intentionally to real life conversations, as these provide useful comparisons. It’s surprising how seldom we actually use each other’s names, during real interactions.

I mentioned this before, and will repeat: Said is not dead.

It’s time to get past this myth. I still occasionally come across infographics on Pinterest, providing extensive lists of “said alternatives”, most of which make me cringe.

Whilst there are some viable alternatives, less “exclaiming”, “confessing”, and “admitting” will make your writing sound more stylish. “Said” is an invisible word, and does its job.

Not every line of dialogue requires an attribution at all – particularly the case when a conversation involves only two characters.

Action tags can be useful but, as with every other device, some writers overdo these. They serve a purpose, and can be used effectively, but don’t use them too often.

If in doubt, keep it simple, and go with the functional, unobtrusive “said”.

 

Hopefully, these tips, along with those in my related post, will help you to improve the quality of your dialogue.

Creating realistic dialogue is vital, because without it, as I mentioned, you simply won’t have realistic characters.

But the good news is that it often only takes a minor tweak here and there, during the revision and editing process, to make a significant difference.

Follow me on: Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Avoiding Filter Words in Your Fiction — March 27, 2018

Avoiding Filter Words in Your Fiction

avoiding-filter-words

Filter words or phrases, in fiction, create distance between the direct experience of a character, and that of the reader.

Lucy heard the door slam. If we know we’re in Lucy’s mind, we don’t need to be told that Lucy heard the door slam. The door slammed. That is sufficient. It’s more immediate, and uses fewer words, to convey the same information.

Whilst there will be instances where filter words are actually useful, these are few and far between. Most of us tend to overuse them.

A few to look out for include: saw, heard, felt, noticed, realised, knew, and wondered.

These are all popular ones, but we will each have our own favourites, so it’s very individual. If you can identify filter words that you personally tend resort to, it should become easier to find and eliminate them, during the editing process.

When it comes to prose style, it’s often these seemingly minor issues that make a significant difference, to the quality of our writing, as a whole.

Removing filter words is a simple task, and definitely worth the effort.

Find me on social media.

Writing an Epilogue: Does Your Novel Need One? — February 5, 2018

Writing an Epilogue: Does Your Novel Need One?

epilogue-novels

So, today we’re discussing epilogues.

No, I’ve not yet written a post about prologues – and to be honest, have no immediate plans to do so. Epilogues interest me more right now, because I’m planning to include one in my WIP.

Some people believe that you shouldn’t use epilogues at all, and many feel this way about prologues, too.

I don’t share this opinion. However, both prologues and epilogues should certainly be used with caution. Ultimately, you will know, in your heart, whether you need one or both.

There are readers out there who routinely skip both prologues and epilogues.

I can’t understand this personally, as they’re part of the story.

There are definitely cases, in which the author might have done well to skip them, or at least scaled them down somewhat.

Incidentally, I don’t imagine that many people would be tempted to miss out on an epilogue, having cared about your characters enough to finish the rest of the book, even if the same readers might have lacked the patience to read a prologue – but, as I mentioned, I can’t really comprehend skipping any part of the book.

One instance where you might include an epilogue – and this applies to my own story – is following a time lapse: a gap notably longer than those used throughout the rest of the novel.

The passing of time wouldn’t be the only factor involved, but would be one consideration. The characters may need to be left to their own devices, for possibly six months, several years, or even decades. The exact period of time can vary greatly.

There must then be sufficient justification to re-join your characters.

Why could the book not have ended, as it was? You should be able to answer that. My novel commences in 1983, and ends in 1990 – but I show a glimpse of life in 1993, for my protagonist, Lucy, and a few other central characters.

Is there a need for closure, beyond the last page of, as it were, the main story?

Maybe you need to show that there’s hope, beyond tragedy – or struggles, beyond the seemingly “happy ever after” aspects of the story’s climax.

In fact, all of those apply to my own work, as complex and contradictory as that might sound.

Another reason for including an epilogue is to emphasize the novel’s underlying theme, in some way that couldn’t be fully achieved, during the course of the main plot.

As well as considering why you should include an epilogue, think carefully about the possible reasons why you should not.

It could be that the story really is over, but you’re finding it hard to let go. Of course, as a writer, you’re going to know – or, at least, want to know – what happens next to your characters. It’s natural. The question is, does your reader need to know, too? Are you making the story stronger, or are the characters overstaying their welcome?

Or, on the contrary, are you ending it too soon, and trying to condense what should be a sequel, into a quick “P. S.”?

That brings me to my next point: length.

In general, an epilogue shouldn’t be significantly longer than the longest regular chapter. Very short epilogues can work but, if it’s turning into a novella, or another novel – maybe that’s exactly what it’s meant to be.

Being honest, I’ve felt conflicted about many aspects of my WIP, including the ending, which changes, whenever I believe that I know it.

The characters don’t necessarily agree with my synopsis, or want to make my life, and writing process, simple.

Whether or not you choose to include an epilogue is, as I’ve stated already, a personal choice.

They’re devices and, in my opinion, can be highly effective.

 

As always, it’s a case of doing what we feel is best for our stories. It’s often a question of trial and error – so don’t be afraid to write that epilogue, even if you end up having to discard it. Since when has the writing process been easy, after all?

On the subject of endings, I’ve also discussed how to write your novel’s climax – and, if you need specific advice on killing off characters, check out my post, on that topic.

 

Follow me on social media, for regular, writing related posts.  I’ve also written a post recently about using social media, as a writer, which may be of interest.

Social Media for Writers: Building Your Author Platform — February 1, 2018

Social Media for Writers: Building Your Author Platform

social-media-authorsAs writers, we should be building our online platforms.

 

In days gone by, there was no internet, let alone social media, and writers still managed to get their work out there. However, it was much more difficult to do so. Not to use social media nowadays, as a writer, would put you at a serious disadvantage.

 

The question is, where do you start?

 

There are so many social media networks now. Do you need to be on them all? I would say, definitely not. In fact, there are so many alternatives that it’s hard to imagine anyone, who wasn’t a celebrity, with a huge following already, being successful on every platform. And someone in that position would, almost certainly, have dedicated teams to manage their various social media channels. Hardly comparable to the position that most of us are in, when we’re just starting out.

 

Most of us will find our personal favourites, by trial and error.

 

The networks that you actually enjoy are probably, on the whole, the ones to go with. There are, however, some that do tend to be more useful for connecting with other writers, or people from particular target audiences, so it’s worth keeping those factors in mind. I’m still in the early stages, when it comes to building my own platform, but am definitely starting to discover which platforms work for me.

 

 

Although, in this post, I’m primarily discussing social media, I should mention that it’s important to have a home base.

 

By this, I mean a website or blog – an online space, to direct your online traffic to, other than social media. And, no – an Amazon sales page alone isn’t sufficient.  Aim to include as much evergreen content as possible, on your website or blog.

 

 

Personally, my primary channel is Twitter.

 

It’s definitely one of the best for writers, especially from the point of view of connecting with other writers. Post regular, quality content: a combination of links, writing and inspirational quotes, videos, and so on. Ideally, post a mixture of your own content, and that of others, in your niche, or related areas.

 

Definitely, make use of scheduling, as consistency is key with Twitter, but do also ensure that you make time to engage with others on the platform.

 

Checking in daily, or at least most days, will help, although it doesn’t matter, if you can’t always keep this up, as long as you remain active, via scheduled posts – and make the effort to engage, when you do go on.

 

And use hashtags. 1 to 3 per post is the general recommendation.

 

I currently stick with 2. 4 is borderline, but more than that, and your posts will tend to be regarded as “spammy”. But don’t miss out by omitting them altogether, as they help significantly with reach. I recommend using #amwriting or/and #writerslife, on most writing related posts. Others that I regularly use are: #writing, #writingforever, #writetip, and #poetry.

 

Then, of course, there’s Facebook.

 

With even more forthcoming changes, that will impact upon the, already limited, reach of our Facebook pages, many people feel that it’s no longer a viable channel. I personally believe that it’s advisable for writers to have Facebook pages, but not to rely upon them as a primary traffic source. That is, unless you’re in a position to run paid ads.

 

Facebook groups, on the other hand, are a different matter, and probably the way forward, for writers who want to remain active on the site.

 

They are certainly time-consuming but, as long as you love using Facebook, can provide that ideal space, in which to build a community. If you don’t fancy starting up your own group, it might be a good idea to join a few existing ones, and participate in those. My own group, Writing Forever, at the time of writing, is comparatively new, and welcomes new members.

 

Tumblr, a very visual site, has a strong writing community.

 

Poetry, and writing and inspirational quotes, are popular. Tumblr drives very little traffic to my blog, but I find the site inspiring and enjoyable to use, and have received positive feedback on my posts.

 

Hashtags are effective on here, but not exactly the same ones as on other sites, such as Twitter.

 

Try #writing, #lit, #prose, and #poetry. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I’ve heard that only the first 5 tags register on Tumblr’s search facilities. Beyond that, they only function to search within your own Tumblr page. I tend to use 2-4 tags on Tumblr. I do also find the queueing system – mentioned in my social media scheduling post – invaluable.

 

Google Plus – now, this is an interesting one.

 

In general, people tend to dismiss it, but actually, I really like it, and think that it’s worth taking just a little time to investigate this network. If nothing else, because it’s part of Google, and being active on here does appear to help somewhat with SEO.

 

If you have a Google account – which anyone who has a You Tube channel, or Blogger site, does – you automatically have a Google Plus page.

 

It doesn’t take much effort to update it, now and again.

 

Hashtags do work on Google Plus, but this platform tends towards descriptive, “does what it says on the tin” tags.

 

Many popular Twitter tags don’t work at all. #Writing, #fiction and #poetry will get you further than #MotivationalMonday. Sometimes I do end up using Twitter hashtags, simply because I send a percentage of posts via Buffer to Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, simultaneously. However, when I post specifically on Google Plus, I opt for more generalised tags.

 

My main advice for using Google Plus successfully is to set up Collections, on topics of interest.

 

These are similar, in a sense, to Pinterest boards – and I’ll talk about Pinterest, in a moment. Collections are shown to other Google Plus users, and you can potentially end up with additional subscribers to individual Collections, who may not even follow your account, as a whole. They’re probably one of the best ways to get your posts seen on the site, and so easy to set up.

 

Communities may also help, but these are equivalent to Facebook groups, and potentially more time-consuming.

I don’t really have enough experience to comment upon their benefits or otherwise, but they may be worth exploring.

09/10/2018 update: I was sad to learn that Google Plus is apparently closing next year, as a consumer website.

 

I more or less ignored Pinterest for years, but lately, I’ve become obsessed.

 

I’m building my Pinterest boards, and learning more about the platform via various blog posts and You Tube videos. And yes, You Tube is awesome, and coming next on my list.

 

As for Pinterest – well, I’m exploring it, and loving it, but am very much in the early stages.

 

It’s more of a visual search engine, rather than a conventional social media site, and I’ve heard amazing things about Pinterest, for driving website traffic. That said, I’m not using any sort of scheduling, Boardboaster or Tailwind, and haven’t got into group boards either, so can’t advise on any of that.  August 2018 update: I still pin manually, but should point out that Boardboaster has recently closed down. I do now have some experience with group boards. My Pinterest post elaborates.

 

July 2018 update: See my recent post about using Pinterest, as part of your author platform.

 

You Tube, as I mentioned, is awesome.

 

I watch many You Tube videos. I comment on a decent number. What I don’t do is to make them myself. Well, I did upload a couple, towards the end of 2017. Short clips of our pet cockatiels. But honestly, if you’re confident enough to make writing videos on You Tube, go for it. You Tube also, in common with Pinterest, has the bonus of being a powerful search engine. It’s a great platform for writers – probably one of the best. It’s also an excellent resource for research.

 

So, how about Instagram?

 

Or Linked In, Snapchat, Reddit, Stumble Upon – and all the others I’ve missed? Basically, yes – you can use any of them, as a writer. I simply can’t advise on them, because I lack experience on the platforms.  That said, I’m becoming more active on Instagram right now.  Oh, and I’m also on Flickr – although not on my original account, which I’ve unfortunately been unable to access, in recent years.

July 2018 update: See my recent Instagram for Writers post, as I do now regularly use Instagram, as part of my author platform.

 

There are so many options out there. Hopefully, you will find at least one or two that work for you.  Also, do take a look at my post about how to build your author brand. And there is now a new Social Media for Writers 2019 post, which may be of interest.

 

Keep believing.

 

Find me on social media.

 

 

Writing Believable Dialogue — January 7, 2018

Writing Believable Dialogue

writing-believable-dialogue-stories

Dialogue is the representation – as opposed to replication – of realistic conversation.

By this, I mean that it should sound like real life conversation, to a point – but not entirely.

It would be better to consider character dialogue in terms of edited highlights.

In reality, people ramble, go off at tangents, and frequently use phrases such as “um” and “er”. This is boring to read through, so keep it concise and readable.

As with all aspects of telling a great story, conflict is necessary.

Pleasant conversations, where all is happiness and light, and there is no disagreement or problem between your characters, are pointless.

Cut to the drama, wherever possible. Remember that dialogue is a tool, and should be used to move the story forward.

Use dialogue to develop your characters.

Differentiate the dialogue of various characters, in as many ways as you can. Consider the range of vocabulary that each would use – individual word choices.

When you actually reach the point of being able to “hear” the characters talking, in your own mind, you will know that you have created real people.

Then, you will know instinctively, if a line of dialogue doesn’t fit – because it will not be something which this person would actually say, in the particular context.

A major role of dialogue is, as I mentioned, to move the story forward.

As such, dialogue is often the perfect place to convey necessary information. However, be careful not to “info dump”. Dialogue must sound natural.

And, on the subject of natural sounding dialogue – please take care not to overuse character names.

As in:

 

“Hello, Mary. How are you today, Mary?”

“Hello, Tom. I’m fine, thank you, Tom. How are you, Tom?”

 

Okay, so it’s not normally this bad – but, at times, can come close.

Pay attention to real conversations, and you’ll realise that we don’t generally use each other’s names that often: mainly at the start of our interactions, or when trying to emphasize a specific point.

Said is not dead.

It’s generally much better than “exclaimed” and the like, which draw attention to themselves, and are principally used for the sake of it, in a misguided effort to keep dialogue “interesting”.

Some variations, such as “asked” and “yelled”, have their place, but “said” is an “invisible” word, and should be your default option.

Mix it up with action tags, and instances where no tag is used at all. The latter is more difficult when three or more characters are present, but can be used effectively in dialogue between two characters.

Make use of subtext in your dialogue.

It’s unrealistic, as well as tedious, for characters to say exactly what they mean, at all times.

Multiple layers of meaning add that subtle touch, that will make readers believe in your fictional people and situations.

 

Hopefully, these tips will help you to write believable dialogue – an essential aspect of creating strong, and highly relatable, characters.

My posts on character development and describing locations in realistic fiction, may be of interest.  Also, some additional thoughts on writing convincing dialogue.

I would also recommend a post from Standout Books, for another perspective on the subject of writing awesome dialogue.

Find me on social media.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Writing Modern Historical Fiction — December 21, 2017

Writing Modern Historical Fiction

write-retro-fiction

So, what is “modern historical fiction”, right?

Well, my work in progress (novel) is modern historical. It’s set primarily in the 1980s, although readers will be given a glimpse of the early 1990s.

We can debate as to where the line is drawn.

Some would say that, if anyone is alive today who remembers a given period of time, then it’s modern historical. It would generally be accepted that the 1950s through to the end of the 1990s qualifies.

As to anything later than 1999, but more recent than – well, now, pretty much – as in, contemporary…

This is a grey area, and one that it’s not easy to sell publishers or readers on. If your novel is set in 2005, it’s basically “dated” – neither historical nor contemporary.

If you can’t “move” the characters from 2005, then it might be a case of holding on to the manuscript until it is old enough to be considered historical. Harsh, I know – but that’s pretty much how it is.

What defines historical fiction, in general?

Obviously, the story must take place in a historical period – but is that sufficient?

In my opinion, the historical setting does need to play a central role in the story.

The genre may be more specific than simply historical of course, and genres can be combined. A historical romance, for example, would need to meet the requirements of both historical fiction and romance.

Is it easier to write modern historical fiction, as opposed to stories set in more ancient times?

The obvious answer would be that it is – as, from a research point of view, it’s easier to find out about more recent time periods.

Everything has its down side, however. Mistakes will be spotted more readily.

If you weren’t alive during the period you’re writing about, try talking to people who were, as well as doing research online, and reading relevant books.

If you were born at the time, do your research anyway, as you can’t rely upon memory for every detail, particularly if you were a child, during the era in question.

Keep in mind that you may have to research aspects of life prior to the period that you actually cover, in order to relate fully to the experiences of your characters.

Character names are important.

Classic names work well, but avoid modern, trendy ones, that may not even have existed, at the time. Replace these with “dated” names, which would have been the trendy ones.

It’s easy enough to Google the popular given names for any particular era, and remember to take the age of the characters into account, too.

I love writing modern historical.

It’s not significantly different from writing contemporary fiction, and I get to address many of the social issues that are close to my heart – but the music is better (personal opinion only), and no-one has a mobile phone, or Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.

 

Writing Modern Historical Fiction – Pinterest Board

Writing Modern Historical Fiction – Reddit (subreddit)

 

This post is a slightly updated version of one published on my previous blog.

 

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Find me on social media.

vintage-transport-event

Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages, and Twitter: Going Into 2018 — December 12, 2017

Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages, and Twitter: Going Into 2018

facebook-group-page-twitter

Like many of us, I’ve seen the best and worst side of Facebook.

From personal experience, the best place to start, for a writer, when trying to grow an audience from scratch (or close), is definitely Twitter.

Facebook is much more challenging, and it’s beyond discouraging when you are posting your consistent, hopefully quality, content, and Facebook is showing some of these posts to about two people.

Literally. You can throw a “one hundred percent conversion rate” party, when a post is shown to three people, and you actually manage to get three “likes”. I know, I know – “pay to play” – but that doesn’t work for those of us who are starting out, and don’t have an advertising budget. There are strategies that help with organic growth on Facebook, but I’m not in a position to give much specific advice about these right now, because I’m honestly not there yet.

However, I’m not giving up, and I do believe that organic growth on Facebook is possible.

It takes time and effort, like everything else in life. I sometimes think it’s ironic, that I’ve watched so many You Tube videos, and read so many blog posts, about all things social media related, and yet, I don’t see to get anywhere fast. But hey, do I need to get anywhere fast? If it takes me longer, so be it. This is a journey, and I can appreciate it.

At the start of 2017, I had Vibrant Darkness, my poetry page, which I had more or less abandoned.

Other than that, only my profile page. This year, I started to update Vibrant Darkness, and also set up my author page, and 80s/90s Music page. The retro music angle, incidentally, does tie in with my writing somewhat, as well as covering an area of interest, since I write modern historical fiction, set primarily in the 1980s. And very recently, I ventured into setting up Facebook groups, Writing Forever and Music Forever, to help build more of a community, which is a major difference between Facebook pages and groups. I’m in the early stages, but hopeful.

This time last year, my approach to social media was completely random and chaotic.

I only had a few hundred followers on Twitter: now my main social media channel, where I’m currently working towards 3k, my next milestone – but, more importantly, enjoying the community, and trying to give back something of value, to the amazing people I’ve been able to connect with on there. I’m still random and chaotic, but perhaps a little less so – a work in very slow progress, just like my novel. And, yes – I have now officially updated this blog in December: consistently inconsistent, right?

January 2018 update: I’ve written another post, covering Facebook pages and groups, and Pinterest, in which I touch upon the latest changes, announced by Facebook.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Find me on social media.

How I Schedule Social Media Posts For Free – Part 2 — November 19, 2017

How I Schedule Social Media Posts For Free – Part 2

automation-2

I shared a post recently about how I schedule my social media posts.

If you haven’t read that, I would suggest that you do so, before reading this.

As I mentioned before, I primarily use Twittimer for scheduling Tweets – and also regularly use Buffer for posts that I decide to send simultaneously to Twitter, Google Plus, and my Facebook author page.

I’m trying to schedule more posts to my Facebook pages via their native scheduling system – but am not currently consistent, in how often I actually go on to Facebook. I try to keep up with regularly posting on my various Facebook pages, and I also want to ensure that my author page on there offers more than simply duplicating a percentage of my Twitter posts. That’s the aim, anyway.

I mentioned that I had signed up for Social Oomph, and used it a few times, but wasn’t yet particularly familiar with it.

Since then, I have discovered a little more, by trial and error. I wasn’t using it much, because I couldn’t see much advantage, over Twittimer and Buffer – especially given that it doesn’t allow posts to be saved and reposted, even for a limited time, unless you upgrade to the paid service.

However, I did experiment with using Social Oomph, exclusively for my poetry graphic posts, partly because I could do with all the scheduling help I can get, should I decide to have a week or more away from social media, over Christmas and New Year – but that’s a whole story, in itself.

Anyway, I expected it to stop me from scheduling, once I reached the standard ten posts, but it didn’t – and I don’t know what the limit is, because I have apparently not reached it, as yet. I have scheduled poetry and writing advice graphics for the rest of the year, and so far, it is working out well. It isn’t as efficient to physically use as Twittimer and Buffer because, with the Social Oomph free package, you do have to add save the text part of the post initially, and then go back into it, via the edit function, to add any images.

Because I’m now using multiple schedulers on a regular basis, I’m attempting to be more organised – always a challenge for me – and am developing systems, so that I avoid posting more than one update at identical times.

I am also, increasingly, sticking with a “this scheduler for this type of post” system. Hopefully, I can manage not to become completely confused and overwhelmed…!

Sending love to all of my friends and social media followers. You’re awesome. And for my long-suffering Twitter followers – a heartfelt thank you, and I am aware of my tendencies, such as over-Retweeting in batches, and maybe still over-posting in general, on occasions. It’s a journey, like everything else in life, and we’re all learning constantly. Thank you to everyone who has supported me, and inspired me to keep going.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Find me on social media.

Writing About Mental Health in Fiction: My Approach — November 15, 2017

Writing About Mental Health in Fiction: My Approach

mental-health-realitiesAs someone who suffers from both physical and mental illness, my own experiences definitely influence and inform my writing.

I deal specifically with many issues, including drug and alcohol addictions, and rape and sexual abuse, in my fiction.

Not every subject that I write about is one that I have experienced personally, although I can always relate, on some level. I have never had drug addiction issues, for instance, although I have had problems with alcohol, in the past.

When it comes to mental illness – yes, definitely, I cover that too, as a writer, but not in the usual, neatly packaged way. For myself, it’s a priority to reflect realities that are not usually represented.

Most of my characters are either not diagnosed with mental illnesses, or the diagnosis is not mentioned.

It’s idealistic to suppose that everyone who has a mental illness is diagnosed – and correctly diagnosed, at that – and also, that everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness necessarily has a mental illness at all.

I refuse to endorse the psychiatric system by going along blindly with the “this diagnosis treated by this type of medication”, textbook version.

I have also had enough of the myth that, following a suicide attempt, people are routinely admitted to psychiatric hospital.

I have never been an inpatient in psychiatric hospital. When I have taken overdoses, for the most part, no-one has actually realised at all. My parents, and others around me, have assumed that I must be sick from drinking too much.

On the few occasions when I have been treated for the physical effects – far from being admitted to psychiatric hospital afterwards, I have simply been sent straight back to full-time work, as soon as physically able. Literally. In fact, it was the same after being raped.

I have not had therapy, and any dealings with the mental health services have ended up causing more distress than if I had simply “got on with it”, and not sought help at all. And, yes, there are others in similar positions. Mine is, by no means, an isolated case.

The lack of support received is effectively then used against those of us who have been denied help, since we receive fewer “illness points” than others who have received medical attention – which, in turn, affects subsequent decisions about medical care, or lack of.

I do have a character who attempts to take her own life, and others who experience suicidal thoughts, and my characters don’t receive the “textbook” version of the NHS service, which is not the reality, for most of us.

I understand that many people have traumatic experiences within psychiatric hospitals, but this is already represented in literature. The experiences of those who are forced to “get on with it”, and offered no support whatsoever, need to be portrayed, as well.

My protagonist, Lucy, has symptoms of anxiety, which I convey in the “show don’t tell” tradition.

The subject of whether or not she has a diagnosis isn’t mentioned. She doesn’t.

Her mother, Helen, does have anxiety too, and is diagnosed – and this can be seen through the fact that she is addicted to prescription tranquillizers.

I have the benefit – the extreme privilege – of being a writer, and as such, I believe, a responsibility to speak out, on behalf of others.

I have done this, at times, through my poetry. As a writer of realistic, modern historical fiction, I hope to achieve more, in this respect. I shall certainly try.

Writing is my therapy and my passion. It has enabled me to survive. There is no greater blessing.

 

Believe in yourself and your dreams – always.

Find me on social media.

My post about Sylvia Plath, and my feelings regarding the term “suicide poet”, might be of interest.

Some thoughts on addressing controversial subjects in our writing

hemingway-quote

 

%d bloggers like this: