Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ummm. I think your fly's undone...

The socially awkward moment...

                                                                [photo courtesy - me!]

Well, last night I was out at a function, and a woman - whom I had never met - had her fly undone. It was obviously undone, dreadfully, embarrassingly undone. I noticed it from the other side of the room - kind of undone.

What did I do? Well, I am very ashamed to admit, I did absolutely nothing. I was paralysed by embarrassment for her. Please let  me say that, ordinarily, I am not backwards in coming forwards. Normally, I would tell a lady that her dress is in her knickers, and would always point out that bit of parsley in your teeth - so why on earth couldn't I say something to this woman?

Well, thinking back on it there were three main reasons for my doing nothing.
First and foremost, she was a gruff, rough sort of a woman who might just as easily have twisted off my head and used it as a teething toy for her baby.
Secondly, she was also a very large woman, and drawing attention to her open fly would also have drawn attention to her ample stomach.
Thirdly, she was a newcomer at this function and I didn't want to point out her fly was undone  and socially cripple her in a crowd of strangers.

Really there couldn't have been a more awkward moment. I seriously felt damned if I did - and damned if I didn't - because I really feel I should have said something.
Anyway, this whole situation got me thinking about socially awkward moments, how they are created and how often they are used in writing.

As recent experience has told, the awkward moment doesn't need much to give it rise.
I have created a formula for it.

Social pressure + normal/polite behaviour    =  awkward moment
       potentially embarrassing situation

I am currently reading (for the 100th time) French Relations, by Fiona Walker. I love it, it's a great bit of chic lit. The main character Tash French is a very socially awkward woman - and yesterday's incident would have fitted well with the book.
 French Relations, is filled with some really awkward stares, hairy bikini lines, and women who cry and look ugly.

I really do enjoy the socially awkward scenes in novels and try to put a few in mine. They're funny and just about everyone can relate!

Having said all that, I next time, I won't fold to my socially inhibited embarrassment and will tell them their fly is down!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fantasy Food

[Image courtesy Flickr Creative Commons,  cuttlefish ]

Whether it be a molding old hamburger or haut cuisine - what your characters eat, or do not eat, is important in world building - well I think so anyway.

In fantasy and paranormal romance, food is sometimes a forgotten entity. I have read entire novels where the characters seem to require no sustenance at all. That's not to say you should harp on about eating all the time - that would be annoying, but the occasional mention of what your characters are eating can be fascinating.

How a someone reacts to food, divulges a great deal about that character and the world in which she/he comes from. For example; you know someone who delicately devours Brussels Sprouts has absolutely no tastebuds and was probably born in the 1940s or 1950's - as we all know anyone with a "modern palate" finds them as tasty as a boiled fart.

Did I really write that?! Haha! If you're the exception, please leave a comment and I may reconsider my opinion!

Anyway, another interesting way to develop characters is not only describe the food they choose to eat, but the way they eat it. Recently I was in Malaysia, and I watched with fascination some locals eating their curry and rice with their fingers. My children however were horrified to see people eating with their hands. I hurried to explain that here it was completely normal to use your hands and mush up your curry with your rice and gently spoon it with your fingers into your mouth. So how a character breaks up her dinner roll, or how she spoons her soup gives that glimmer of insight into her personality that the reader would miss out on if you hadn't mentioned it.

Having said that, I once read a entire page on a character peeling and eating orange - it was mind numbingly dull. I personally didn't find it added to world development, character development or any development other than the author's own sense of literary snobbery. Sometimes you can over do a good thing.

Used in balance, however, food is a great way to show your readers things without telling them. We all need to eat, and it can create common ground for the reader to relate to even the most difficult character.

So if you're looking for a new ingredient to add to your writing recipe - try food!

Boom boom!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Music as a muse.

[Image courtesty FlickrCreativeCommons, takacsi75 ]

As a writer, I have particular songs that evoke characters and scenes. Sometimes I will listen ad nauseum to particular songs that help me write a scene.  For me, the songs I repeat frequently are usually one of two types, the power ballad, or the upbeat feel good song or a blend.

One of the first novels I wrote (at the ripe old age of 15) was a fantasy called Tears of a Warrior,  and you can just imagine the kind of song that was written to! It was "Dreams" by the Cranberries (you can watch it here) Still when I hear that song, it brings back memories of those characters and their amazingly traumatic lives (writing is such a fantastic outlet for teenagers and God Knows I lived vicariously through my characters!) As I listen to the song now, it fills me with the desire to write - it is incredible to me how interlinked music becomes with my writing.

So, as I am now writing about Genies, I am filled with a love of Arabic music. Some of this music is absolutely magic and some of it is absolutely bizaare. I spend hours trawling through Youtube to find songs I love. I am completely obsessed by two particular songs. "Habibit Albi /The love of my heart" by Joe Ashkar is just devine - check it out here. I think the clip is so cheeky and I love this man's voice. This song tells me that my hero and heroine will get their happy ever after!

My second favourite is a female Lebanese singer called Cyrine, with her song "Law bass fi aini /If he looks in my eyes" (here). This song is just gorgeous (and so is they guy in the clip (except his eyebrows could do with a bit of work!)

There are countless other songs that are set to repeat on my listening list whilst I write and they range from Regina Spektor's "Fidelity"  and Chairlift's "Bruises" to any one of Bryan Adams' power ballads "Have you ever really loved a woman?"

I have always been a great lover of music, and have played piano since I was five years old. I think music has the ability to bring joy or sorrow, and using its emotive qualities can enhance what my imagination creates. I couldn't do with out my playlist whilst writing!

Happy listening :)