On Writing: Fictional characters are anything but…

To write fictional characters, we must know them, inside and out, before we can feel empathy for them, and before we can understand why and how they will do the things that we will make them do, and say the words that we will make them say.

In other words, we must believe that they are real flesh and blood, with all of the wonders and foibles that go along with that. Only then, can we really write them in any meaningful way. This is nothing new to any writer worth their salt, right? And of these knowing writers, who does he/she choose to analyze the most? The writer’s self: as Confucius say – no matter where you go, there you are.

We are not just students of the human condition. We are our own subject matter. How we operate. How we relate, articulate, disseminate the world, our lives, our wants, our needs. And what of our secret selves? The histories, the pain, the faded and vivid memories, the disappointments, the yearnings, the unchartered dreams, the joys? The stuff that shapes us, the stuff that we never show and tell? Our interior lives – where the most fascinating secrets dwell to influence how we choose to live and the paths we take.

Stories of self can come to life in three-dimensional worlds that make meaning of experience, and hopefully generate empathy and connection with others. Removing the shield of author, and stripping away the mechanisms that hide the fragility of a human being alone, we know what we experienced, and we know how it felt. How we looked out at the world and the people in it, how we continue to do that.

The difference between being a child as opposed to being an adult is that, as the former, we are powerless to our fate, and powerless to change anything. Becoming the latter enables empowerment to not only steer our own course, but more importantly, to change our ways of thinking, reacting and of just being.

The fictional life is no different. And it is the challenge for the writer to pick away at those layers of being until exposing that space between what is seen in the character’s exterior life, and what is hidden in their interior one. The secret place of the human condition that exposes the reasoning behind our every action, and towards those surprises and discoveries that will lead us to chart a compelling arc for our character.

 

This article first appeared in Writers And Authors

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I am a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland. Author of the award-winning novel, LADY BETH, I have recently written and directed the short film FRAMED (2018). I am also the screenwriter and co-producer of IN RIBBONS (2015) and ADAM (2013)

On Writing: A Heroine’s Journey – Writing Through the Dark Tangle

One thing that all writers can agree on is that we are fascinated with the surface of things, or rather, with picking away the veneer from the surface of things. That invisible gauze between thought and process, where all the ‘what ifs’ wait for us to discover them. To decode. To create story, the stuff of good and evil, of life and death. Through the written word, I lean into the path of freedom of expression. My writer’s palette is abundant with words and tones that build worlds around my troubled characters, writing through the tangle of the dark, I like to call the process. I am currently back there, in the beautiful mire of my next novel, a ghost story. My heroine is a complex character with a dark past, similar, yet different to the female protagonist of my last novel, Lady Beth – primarily a suspense thriller, but as the story darkens, a tone of otherworldliness creeps into the subtext.

I am comfortable with the gothic nature of my fiction, my heroines are generally deeply haunted protagonists – but when asked to define what kind of writer I am, I find it a struggle to come up with a single term that fits. I’d rather not be categorised by genre, and just let the reader decide, for like all writers, I just want my work to be read, to be understood, to be impactful, and perhaps, if I’m lucky, to be remembered. The visual artist, without rules or constraints, uses colour and imagination to build his or her vision on canvas. The filmmaker uses images and action. No-one questions the independence or uniqueness of their creations, how they blend and sculpt. As creators, we all have something in common, the universal medium of storytelling. And hero or heroine, we are all unique.

I am one who regularly wakes up between the hours of three and four in the morning, the witching hour, some might call it, when the in-between spaces open up and invite my imagination to step right in. It is between these layers where story lives, a pure form of escapism, like vivid dreaming, and when I go there, however dark the ideas become, I am happy to stay. Many writers develop an intrigue for the dark side of human nature from a personal place; early trauma or a challenging experience. I am no exception. My experiences have become my personal mythology, the stuff that gives meaning to my life and work and helps me to make sense of the world I live in, and all of that directly affects the stories I choose to tell.

Storytellers cherish the power of memory, and the knowledge that even during fractured times, absorbing all of the experiences, good and bad, will grow that innate sense of knowing, of curiosity and empathy, the most essential components for any writer’s toolbox. My understanding of this deepened when I read Joseph Campbell’s books The Hero’s Journey and Pathways To Bliss. In the latter title, Campbell differentiated myth from history, and how myth is transcendent in the relationship to the present, “…any mythic tradition can be translated into your life, it it’s been put into you. And it’s a good thing to hang on to the myth that was put into you when you were a child, because it is there whether you want it or not. What you have to do is translate that myth into its eloquence, not just the literacy. You have to learn to hear its song.”

Serendipitously, while preparing to write this article, I searched for and found an essay that I wrote many years ago when I was studying for a post-graduate diploma in adult education. It was a summary of a learning journal that I had kept through a year of academic study and was filled with self-reflective insights and snippets of free-formed poetry and prose. Looking at it now, I find it quite a revelation to revisit my writing from that time, a bit like peering into the thought processes of another being, someone I used to know, using the written word to navigate and record my personal journey, and all the discoveries that I now realise are continuing to creep into the places and spaces of my creativity.

There is a sense of something tangible between the lines, of brewings, of new beginnings as I alluded to the journey of the heroine and how our paths twist and turn at any age, often without guidance or planned navigation, and sometimes, through circumstances completely out of our control. I quoted Maureen Murdock in the essay, from her book, The Heroine’s Journey which at the time, offered a vital insight from the perspective of my gender, “She is alone at night metaphorically, wandering the road of trials to discover her strengths and abilities and uncover and overcome her weaknesses.” And I see how far I have come, with the beneficial wisdom of that journey so far, writing my heroines into being – through the dark tangle.

 

I wrote this feature article for Booksbywomen.org and it appeared on their website in October 2017. 

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I am a writer and filmmaker from Dublin, Ireland. Author of the novels LADY BETH which won the award for BEST NOVEL at the Carousel Aware Prize and ARKYNE, STORY OF A VAMPIRE, I have also written several feature-length and short screenplays including ADAM [2013] and the multi-award winner, IN RIBBONS [2015]. I have recently written and directed FRAMED, due to begin a festival journey in 2018. I am a member of the Writers Guild of Ireland, the Irish Writers Union and The Irish Film and Television Academy.

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Celebrating Women In Horror Month with an interview…

I am currently working on a new novel, an urban ghost story. More on that soon! I have always been fascinated with the complexities of human nature, specifically the unexplained, the uncanny, the strange and the magical. Real life is often frightening, and can be overwhelming at times. Horror fiction is escapism. We can explore the complex issues of life, death and everything in between – be frightened between the safety of the pages – but still control the level and intensity of that experience. With horror too, often comes humour, which allows us to explore the darker side of humanity with a safety net!

In celebration of Women In Horror Month, read HERE for an interview I recently did with Fiona Cooke Hogan on her blog, Unusual Fiction

 

Positive Feedback. Shouting it Loud!

This won’t be the first time I’ve referred to the writing process as a solitary one, as any writer will attest to. As an Indie Author however, the journey through publishing, marketing and connecting with readers and reviewers can also mean wearing many different hats, simultaneously! It is exhausting, it is time-consuming, though I am not complaining. It is my chosen path for now, and it is also most rewarding, especially when the feedback you receive is encouraging. Which is why, with no apologies, I shout it loud when the good vibes come my way!

Like this review, from book lover and reviewer, Cathy Brown and her brilliant blog 746 BOOKS

“Lady Beth is a perfectly paced page-turner of a novel which keeps the tension taut at all times. The darker side of Dublin city is perfectly judged, with well-rounded characters filling out the scenes around the titular Beth. Beth herself is a fantastic character moving seamlessly from unassuming office worker to avenging mother with an impressive lack of melodrama. Caroline has a filmic eye and the book swirls with a wonderful noir atmosphere as Beth digs deep into her past in order to build herself a future.”

This is what keeps me going, keeps me motivated, keeps me inspired – and keeps me juggling those hats!

You can read the full feature HERE, with thanks and appreciation for the magic, Cathy Brown!

 

LADY BETH is available from Easons, Dubrays, O’Mahony’s, Alan Hanna’s, Amazon and Kennys.ie

It is also available to subscribers of Kindle Unlimited. 

On Writing: A Heroine’s Journey – writing through the dark tangle

Honoured to be featured in booksbywomen.org with my piece on writing a heroine’s journey.

READ HERE

@womenwriters @CarolineAuthor

 

On Writing: The process and importance of book reviews…

My novel, LADY BETH is out there…seeking honest reviews…and here’s why!

My book is finally published, and I curl up in a quiet corner to rest, sleep, ruminate on the exhausting, though hopefully, exhilarating process I have just experienced in the writing – the editing – the formatting – the cover design – the launch!

And then I remember – I ain’t finished yet. Not by a long shot!!

Next I have to market my baby, get it out there, get it SEEN, get it READ, get it ENDORSED, get it REVIEWED!

I am not complaining. I am proud of my work and I enjoy the process, all of it. And I know what my goal here is. Simply, for my work to be READ.

It might seem obvious to say that book reviews engage readers. Worth repeating though. Book reviews, when they are honest, constructive and hopefully, positive, give kudos to a book, and therefore, allow potential readers to have confidence to know that the book is quality. That it is worth the spend of their hard-earned cash, and their precious time.

An interesting point to note also is that all reviews do not have to be 5 Stars – as long as an average of 3.5 stars or higher can be achieved, and that the reviews are from genuine and discerning readers, it is the quantity of reviews that count, no matter how short or long those reviews are.

Book reviews on Amazon are tied in to that lovely system of algorithms – Amazon rank books according to their popularity, the more reviews the book gets, the more the book gets seen! The more the book gets seen, the more potential readers…

If you are reading this, you are a reader. If you’ve recently read a book that you’ve enjoyed, consider giving it a review – you’ll be supporting, not just authors, but readers too. Share the good word!

LADY BETH is available from AMAZON Stores.


 

On Inspiration…and why everything truly is copy!

I never kept diaries as a kid, and even today, as a devout scribbler, I find that the most trying times are the ones that are difficult to write down, in that moment, anyway. So it often becomes a shorthand of blunt sentences, enough to revisit when the crisis is over. Enough to jolt the memory, or for inspirational purposes, to fire the imagination; representing the real, I like to call it!

There are people however, some who don’t even consider themselves to be writers, who do manage to record their experiences in intricate detail, however traumatic, putting pen to paper at every point of their journey, until coming out at the other side of it. Talking to a female acquaintance recently on a rather difficult experience she had gone through, she told me that she would not have remembered or been able to describe what happened to her so vividly, had she not been writing it down as she experienced it. It was important for her to remember; to have it recorded for the future.

“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”

So wrote Anne Lamott. An accomplished writer, her non-fiction work is greatly influenced by her own struggles, her writing best described by the author herself;  “I try to write the books I would love to come upon, that are honest, concerned with real lives, human hearts, spiritual transformation, families, secrets, wonder, craziness—and that can make me laugh.” I posted Lamott’s quote on my Facebook page a while back, and a writer friend responded with another quote, from the late and great, Nora Ephron:

“Everything is copy.”

In the introduction to her novel, Heartburn (based on her personal experience of a marriage break-up) the wonderful Ephron elaborated further when she wrote of becoming the hero, rather than the victim of the joke. I am sure that many of us can identify with the sentiment? Not that I advocate dusting down tomes of snotty, tear-stained journals of youth and regurgitating a narrative of some exquisitely nostalgic pain-ridden experience. Nor indeed, some vengeful tale of ridicule to spite the target of your blame – though, it has to be said that all is fair in the land of fiction – so whatever floats your boat!

Recorded on paper or not, with distance, time-passing and maturity, and perhaps with a third-person narrative, stories of self can come to life in three-dimensional worlds that make meaning of experience, and hopefully generate empathy and connection with others. Removing the shield of author, and stripping away the mechanisms that hide the fragility of a human being alone, we know what we experienced, and we know how it felt. How we looked out at the world and the people in it, how we continue to do that. The difference between being a child as opposed to being an adult is that, as the former, we are powerless to our fate, and powerless to change anything. Becoming the latter enables empowerment to not only steer our own course, but more importantly, to change our ways of thinking, reacting and of just being. We can decide to be weak, or we can determine to be strong, and to analyse our past to the point of not wallowing in the soreness of it, but in recognizing how our experiences have shaped us – and perhaps, to step outside of it all, to write it out in a fictional world as we look back in; the spectator.

 Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. [Oscar Wilde]

For the writer’s inspiration, this is gold. For the writer’s soul, this is life.

 

Photograph is the copyright of Errol Farrell. 2017