Monday 30 May 2011

Writing fantasy fiction…

On Saturday I went to a talk by The Write Fantastic with the express purpose of hearing published fantasy authors talking about their experiences. It was my first of such events and a very rewarding experience. If nothing else it made me more focused on writing my own novels.

The panel topics included the merits of science fiction and fantasy awards, the rise of the paranormal (and an interesting discussion about the popular overuse of vampires and werewolves in epic fantasy and sub-genres where they really don’t belong) and the short story.

Having spent the last few weeks working on short stories this was a particularly relevant topic for me and it was interesting to hear the authors’ mixed views about whether the short story is a “trial run” for a novel. Some enjoyed writing short stories and used them to explore characterisation to aid in writing a novel. Others balked at the idea of writing a short story, not wanting to be confined by structure or word count.

Other discussions that spawned form the panels were fantasy being encouraged as a stand-alone genre separated from science fiction, professional suicide through authors genre-switching, the re-infantilisation of women through dumbed-down genre fiction, the return of the short novel caused by ebooks and a tribute to the late Diana Wynne-Jones. All in all it was a fruitful day and I feel re-inspired to add my own voice to the fantasy fiction landscape.

Elloise Hopkins.

Thursday 26 May 2011

St. Elmo’s Fire…

I have been living under a misapprehension for years that St. Elmo’s fire was another name for the Northern Lights. It is in fact the name given to an electrical weather phenomenon similar to ball lighting.

To look at, St. Elmo’s fire are balls often of a blue or violet hue centred on an object. They appear spherical and can glow like fire. Occasionally a hissing or crackling sound can be heard, not unlike plasma balls.

There are many recorded incidences of St. Elmo’s Fire dating back to ancient Greece and the phenomenon has been frequently alluded to in literature, to create suspense and mystery, to signal divine intervention and omens, and on occasion to spark romance.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe capitalises on literature’s hidden meanings of St. Elmo’s fire: “This light, lady […] has appeared to-night as you see it, on the point of my lance ever since I have been on watch”.

And here was me thinking it was just an innocent ball of lightning.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 23 May 2011

The Lure of Love…

I rarely incorporate love stories into my own writing. Love is such a complex phenomenon and there are so many shades that I feel it needs an entire story dedicated just to its theme.

As a result of this opinion, I am always amazed at how many stories – films, poems, scripts, novels etc. – seem to throw a romantic interest in as an afterthought. How many stories have you read that seem to be about one thing and then at the end someone falls in love and lives happily ever after?

It makes me wonder just what it is about a love story that is so appealing. Is it romantic nostalgia or desire, a fantasy that we know can never be reality, or pure escapism from our own lives? Do we long for something that doesn’t exist, or are we just not lucky enough to find it ourselves?

Next time I write, I will be conscious of the lure of love. Perhaps I shall try to fall under its spell and write in a romantic interest for my protagonist in the hope of discovering just why it is that love entices and excites us so much.

Elloise Hopkins

Thursday 19 May 2011

A Go-Go A Go-Go Part 2...

A calm fell over the office for a moment. All phones seemed to silence themselves. The kettle boiled and hushed. I smiled to my friend. Back on track a go-go. For one beautiful moment I thought I might manage to get some work done; the chaos of the morning was gone. I stretched my arms out and took a deep breath.

Darkness. The office groaned as one, disappointment echoing around the now still space. We are power cut a go-go. Everything switched off. No phones. No computers. No gentle hum of the fridge and no grinding from the photocopier. Nothing. Productivity zero. Problem a go-go.

Then the wait. The dark, quiet wait. The frustrated scraping of chairs and shuffling of feet. No more tea. A brief discussion on the use of ‘power outage’ versus ‘power cut’, differences of opinion a go-go. Tiredness seeped its way in. Irritation levels rose. I felt glad that stress wasn’t visible in the air. That would be too stifling. It was a bad day from the start. Obstructive commuters a go-go was my first clue. Time passes.

Decision made. No power. We are going home a go-go. Fin.

So in one day that little phrase accompanied me through the most irritating and the most rewarding moments. I don’t know where you reappeared from mon cher À gogo but I hope you stay with me to see me through the next day.

What could be better than saying so much by saying so little?

Elloise Hopkins

Monday 16 May 2011

A Go-Go A Go-Go Part 1...

This blog is about the merits of the phrase a go-go. I’ve been using it a lot lately and, as bemused as I am about how this little gem made its way into my recent vocabulary, I am finding it exceptionally useful, as I shall illustrate by telling you about my day.

What is A Go-Go? À gogo to use its correct French form, means aplenty, in abundance, galore, lots and lots and lots. Such a small phrase to convey so much. Fantastic.

I began my day at the train station, commuters a go-go rushing to and fro, blocking the station entrance, obstructing the ticket machines, all late, all scurrying about and finally I managed to procure a ticket and elbow my way through the barrier, narrowly avoiding umbrellas and newspapers a go-go. The commute was a blur of too-loud, one-sided conversations on mobile phones, flickering lights, 80mph, dirty windows and fare-jumpers a go-go.

I arrived at the office and all morning it was emails a go-go. Colleagues frantically dragged from one meeting room to another, daybooks and biros poised for the next great idea. Phones ringing out, messages scribbled and stuck on computer screens tiling the office in yellow and black. Too much movement yet nothing accomplished and first priority among it all - cups of tea a go-go.

By 3pm my friend was reaching for the drugs drawer, pounding headache a go-go. There was rattling and clattering from the other side of the desk as unsuitable solutions were cast aside. An old packet of cup-a-soup from months ago crushed into a lump at the back. Various staples for a stapler that no longer works jabbing at searching hands. A bottle of painkillers located, shaken for good measure, then the click click click of the safety cap being released. Finally we are drugs a go-go.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Going social...

My social networking has expanded. As well as blogging here, you can now hear me tweet at twitter and can also find me on facebook where I will be sharing snippets of my writing as wordbytes on my wall.

And of course to find out more about me visit my website.

Elloise Hopkins.

Friday 13 May 2011

What colour am I today…

Sometimes I am completely immersed in a mood that lasts for a whole day and no matter what I do, where I go or how I want to feel, the mood cannot be shifted. The mood always feels like a colour, bathing everything I see and think in its hue.

There actually is a colour psychology and a belief exists that colours can change the way a person feels and acts. I’m not sure whether I believe colours can change moods, but my colours can definitely set the tone of a day.

Today, I am feeling more on the green and yellow side, Chartreuse to be exact. My mind and body are relaxed and working as one to weave some imagination into my work. Today writing is a pleasure, stress-free and full of endless possibilities.

I am also excited about how helpful a Crayola colour can be in describing my mood today. Who knows, tomorrow may be Raw Umber, Tumbleweed or Periwinkle Blue.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 9 May 2011

Shopping lists...

Lists are a fabulous idea. I love lists and am happy in confessing that I would never be able to make it through holiday planning and packing, coursework or present buying without a list.

But there is just something about shopping lists that does not compute itself in my memory. I write them, oh yes, I do write them. Scribbled lists of essential purchases like food, for example, permanently adorn my desk, walls, kitchen and handbag.

Unfortunately they can never be found in the handbag I am actually using when I go to the shop. I am cursed with that common affliction of always forgetting to take the list with me. Why is it so difficult? Write a list, pick it up (key part) go to the shop and buy contents of list.

I wonder whether anyone has yet discovered the gene that will allow me to remember my shopping list. I will await my memory implant any day now.

Elloise Hopkins.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Game of Thrones...

Well I couldn’t very well profess to be interested in fantasy fiction and then not write a blog about the Game of Thrones TV adaptation could I?

The adaptation of George R R Martin’s book has perhaps been a long time coming and I awaited the first episode with trepidation, afraid that the TV version would fail to capture the tension, brutality and reality of the book as so often happens in adaptations of this genre. I feared it would be riddled with clichés, overacting and would barely resemble the original.

I was, on the whole, pleasantly surprised by the TV version. Yes, of course, it had cut some elements from the book and has – rather dubiously at times – adapted the characterisation and motives to appeal to a wider audience. After all, the general viewing public, if they have little understanding of fantasy writing, will take a different interpretation of the genre’s conventions.

But on the whole I found the tone of the adaptation to be true to my interpretation of Martin’s story. The characterisation of the main characters, particularly Ned and his children, the rich costumes, props and settings, and the use of the northern English accents to portray the wild north of Winterfell in contrast to the more well spoken King’s Landing of the wealthy south really worked for me and I look forward to the rest of the series, hoping that these devices do not fall flat as the story gets underway.

Elloise Hopkins.

Monday 2 May 2011

Back to work...

Alas, a mournful tear presses against my eyelid this morning in dread of the inevitable return to work. Today is the last bank holiday and my last in a long string of days off.

I confess, I am about as pleased as returning to work as Romeo was about his exile, as Alice was when she saw the Bandersnatch and as Oliver was when he reached the end of his bowl. Dare I wish for more days off as he did for his gruel?

Mind you, reflecting on my break as I make this use of my last productive day, I feel a real sense of achievement on all I have done. I spent a few days in Devon on holiday, then to the grindstone it was and a glorious several days in the sun writing to my heart’s content. I have managed to bring my coursework up-to-date, write an entry for a writing competition and start on a second, and most excitedly, finished the planning and skeleton outline of the plot for my next novel.

So much to do now and so little time but this week has made me realise how much I love writing and I know I will get it all done somehow. Oodelalley!

Elloise Hopkins.