Thanet Creative http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk Supporting writers and poets of Thanet since 2013 Mon, 15 Jan 2018 19:16:14 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 https://i1.wp.com/thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/09/cropped-fireworks-574739_1280.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Thanet Creative http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk 32 32 135326313 We want to help our members produce published works http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/want-help-members-produce-published-works/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/want-help-members-produce-published-works/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 19:16:14 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=432 We want to help our members produce published works. A simple sentence and yet such a huge and complex goal.

How does Thanet Creative help Thanet's writers get published?

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We want to help our members produce published works. A simple sentence and yet such a huge and complex goal.

How does Thanet Creative help Thanet’s writers get published?

We have three area that we focus on between our blog, online communities, and live events.

  1. Training and tutorials
  2. Critique and feedback
  3. Support and encouragement

Training and tutorials

Our training is not so much about a few authors saying “we know everything so pay attention” but about writers sharing things that they have learned. Very much in line with “hey, did you know this cool thing? I think its awesome and I’d love to tell you about it.”

Most of our teaching is put up on the website. We do run live seminars and events but not anywhere near as often we post blogs.

Critique and feedback

The two main places to get feedback and critique are our Facebook group and our live events (like Tea and Chat).

For me, the live critiques are by far the most powerful tools for my writing. Sometimes the most useful insights don’t actually come from established writers. The critiques I value most are from people who really engage with the material like a true fan would. That’s pure gold.

Just this last week I trialled a poem at the Tea and Chat. No one at the event had heard the poem before. In the past, feedback (from poets) had been wholly positive. The discussion after the reading was very telling.

For starters, not being poets, the people at the event felt no compunction about calling me out on a line that sounds great but fails to really communicate very much.

Someone piped up, “what does this bit mean?”

Although I was able to explain, I could also see that it did not mean all that much. That line is going to get some close attention. The emperor needs some real clothes.

Support and encouragement

This is where I feel that events like Tea and Chat really come into their own. They create a safe space and an intimate community that developing writers can grow within.

Support was why we created the original Facebook group (the one that got taken over before we learned to be careful about who we gave admin rights to). Our current Facebook and Author Buzz UK groups are still places you can come to for support and advice.

There is something wholly satisfying about being able to help a writer find their own voice. We’ve got a whole lot of plans and I would love to tell you about them. I’m not going to because of the Thanet Canute. I’ve learned that until this cyber-bully grows up, there is no value in talking about things until they are ready to go. For me, support means protecting people from this sort of childish nonsense.

Anyway, enough of the dark stuff. Thanet Creative is a place to encourage writers to, well, write. If you are local to Thanet and want to join a vibrant and friendly community of writers, why not come along to one of our events.

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Tea and Chat 2018 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/tea-chat-2018/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/tea-chat-2018/#respond Tue, 09 Jan 2018 16:07:27 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=427 This week sees the return of our weekly informal gathering of writers – Writers’ Tea and Chat. The event will be switching back to the original Thursday evening. As before, we kick of about half seven in the evening (1930hrs). About Tea and Chat Tea and Chat is open to anyone. The event is informal and while … Continue reading Tea and Chat 2018

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This week sees the return of our weekly informal gathering of writers – Writers’ Tea and Chat.

The event will be switching back to the original Thursday evening. As before, we kick of about half seven in the evening (1930hrs).

About Tea and Chat

Tea and Chat is open to anyone. The event is informal and while we sometimes apply a theme to the evening, most of the time we go with the flow. In this way, no two events are exactly alike.

Most weeks, our writers bring work to be read and be given feedback on. If this is your first time, we will invite you to go first. That’s not to embarrass but to make sure that you definitely get the most out of your visit with us.

The group is generally made up of a good mix of ages, genders, and ability levels. We try and make it a safe space for the shy and socially anxious.

More information

You can add the event to your calendar via Google, with this link or via the events section in our Facebook group.

I look forward to catching up with you all in the coming weeks.

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This is the year your writing gets better http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/year-writing-gets-better/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2018/01/year-writing-gets-better/#comments Tue, 02 Jan 2018 18:32:28 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=418 Your writing will only ever be as good as you let it become. This year (2018) your writing gets better. Just follow our simple guide. For as long as you continue to write in the same way and tell the same sorts of stories, you will get the same sort of writing. To grow as … Continue reading This is the year your writing gets better

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Your writing will only ever be as good as you let it become. This year (2018) your writing gets better. Just follow our simple guide.

For as long as you continue to write in the same way and tell the same sorts of stories, you will get the same sort of writing. To grow as a writer, you need to try new things. Your writing will improve as you do.

You don’t even need to be any good at the new thing.

It’s true. When you first try something new with your writing, you may not be as good at that one thing as you are with other areas. That is normal. It is to be expected. What matter is that once you try that new thing, you keep trying it.

5 new things to try with your writing

1. Try a little tenderness

coupleThis year, why not sprinkle in a little romance? A longing look, a tender moment, maybe even a kiss.

I’m not suggesting that you convert your next high fantasy epic into a Mills and Boon title – although I am sure that’s a thing already. What I am suggesting is that you allow love and romance a little screen time in your next story.

I’ll admit, this is an area I find a little tricky to write myself. What I have found is that simply factoring in, from the start, that certain characters have feelings (often in secret) for other characters gives me a foundation to build from.

The first time I tried to use romance as part of a plot that part was limp and unimpressive. Over time, I’ve gotten better. Not a lot, but I have improved.

That improvement has widened my repertoire when it comes to talking about feelings in general. For me, that was a significant victory.

2. Explore the world around you

mountain bikingIf you are a person that focuses on action or dialogue, this might be the year to add descriptive prose to your skill set.

I’m not suggesting that you write pages of pure description. That would be boring, no matter how good you are. Instead, focus on the one or two features that differentiate one room from another. For example, my living room has a desk and a fireplace with an electric fire. Pretty much everything else you would expect to find – coffee table, sofa, and armchairs don’t need to be mentioned because they were to be expected.

One technique that can really help to bring to life your writing of description is to give a character an orange. It does not need to be an actual orange. It just has to be something they are holding.

You can then break up the “he said, she said” with a short sentence updating people what the character is doing with their orange. This gives you the chance to show all sorts of subtle evidence of the internal state of the character.

  • Are they peeling it nervously?
  • Could they be squeezing it angrily?
  • Perhaps they are tossing it in the air as though bored?

Just show us a little more of the world. If you are new to this, your first attempts may need a lot of work later. I can assure you though – it gets easier the more you practice.

3. Lighten up a little

Ball PitHave you ever tried your hand at crafting a genuinely funny moment? Humour is not as easy as some writers make it seem. However, that is no reason to not try it.

I’m not suggesting that you try to pack a story full of jokes but that does not mean you cannot have a humorous moment.

An ideal place to start is dramatic irony. Start by introducing something that the audience can know but the characters remain blissfully unaware of. Dramatic irony is easiest with third-person omniscient but can be done with all perspectives.

Now your audience will be able to see the coming collision between what the characters know and what reality.

Comedy writers use this dramatic irony technique all the time. That moment when a character goes blundering into a situation and makes a fool of themselves. Usually, it happens because they do not know something the viewer knows.

You can use dramatic irony for added tension in a story as well as for comedic moments. Dramatic irony is flexible like that.

4. Pants on your head

pantsGenerally, people describe themselves as a pantser (discovery writer) or a plotter (one that plans). Which ever one you are, try switching it up.

If you plan extensively, let yourself go and just discover a scene as it unfolds. You may find that granting yourself a degree of freedom helps you open up your own ideas and let inspiration in. At the very least, your experiment will show you why you plan.

If you pants – that is, discover as you write – try a bit of plotting. I’m not saying strangle the freedom you enjoy but perhaps give yourself a framework to write within. I started as a pure discovery writer and have, over time, added more and more planning. It was hard at first but now I can write more and faster too – with no loss of creativity.

In short, however you write – try a different approach.

5. Bring home the magic

fantasyHave you ever tried adding a world of magic to your story? I’m not talking elves and goblins but some form of the fantastical can give a story a whole new shape.

For those of you that write urban or high fantasy this will be second nature but for those who write romance, literary fiction, or something else devoid of spells and wizards, this could be the new territory you have been looking for.

For example, if you write stock romance, how about a woman that discovers a locket that will show her the location of her soul mate? The magic need not solve any problems – in fact, I can see it making all sorts of difficulties.

If you write literary fiction, how about a ring that lets you live another person’s life?

If your thing is science fiction, the magic might be sufficiently advanced aliens. Sci-fi buffs know what I mean.

Try a little magic.

What are you going to try this year?

There are so many new things to try in your writing and I have only suggested five. Use the comments to tell us about something you plan to try.

Can you suggest more things for writers to try? What have you tried in the past (and how did it go)?

If you find yourself getting stuck while trying something new, drop by the Author Buzz forums or our Facebook group.

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You can’t own an idea http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/you-cant-own-an-idea/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/you-cant-own-an-idea/#respond Tue, 19 Dec 2017 11:51:13 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=404 Why is it that we writers are so prone to the thinking that we own an idea? For some reason that is lost on me, writers seem to be particularly prone to worrying about people stealing their ideas. There may be bragging rights for being the first person to do something. Should that necessarily mean that … Continue reading You can’t own an idea

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Why is it that we writers are so prone to the thinking that we own an idea? For some reason that is lost on me, writers seem to be particularly prone to worrying about people stealing their ideas.

There may be bragging rights for being the first person to do something. Should that necessarily mean that you must be the only person to ever do that thing? No. The world simply does not work this way.

Ideas vs implementation of ideas

The fact is, you cannot – no matter how hard you try – own an idea. You can, however, own what you do with that idea.

A boy with a scar, an owl, and a destiny is an idea. J. K. Rowling implemented that idea and wrote Harry Potter. She was not the first to do so. Neil Gaiman did the same thing with The Books of Magic for DC in the early 90s.

There is nothing stopping you from writing a series about a boy with a scar, an owl, and a destiny. You might have a hard time selling it – because Gaiman and Rowling dominate in their respective fields – but the idea itself is not owned by anyone.

You own what you do with an idea

cat and dogOut of Apple, Microsoft, and the many Linux foundations, no one owns the idea of a computer operating system. Each of these groups can and does own (and maintain) their implementation of the idea of an OS. Each one is as different from the next as cats are from dogs.

No one in their right mind would try to claim that Ubuntu stole the idea of a graphical interfaced operating system from Microsoft (Windows). Geeks may debate the comparative merits of the two. And why not? After all, an idea is nothing unless you act on it.

Ideas want to spread

Seth Godin, a wildly successful author, says ideas that spread win. And it’s true.

Star Wars isn’t successful because the science makes sense. Star Wars is a wide world global phenomena because the people that love it can’t stop talking about it. The idea of Star Wars has spread.

so much so that you can’t sell a story set in space with laser swords because everyone thinks you are just knocking off Star Wars. George Lucus implemented that idea so well that he filled that idea space up. He does not own the idea of laser swords – he doesn’t even own Star Wars anymore; Disney does.

To quote George Bernard Shaw:

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

Here is Seth Godin talking about how to get an idea to spread.

You can’t control an idea

Ideas want to be free. Ideas want to spread. Ideas are wild – you cannot own an idea, nor can you control one.

Brian D. Evans, the Founder of Influencive argues that, far from owning an idea, you are the host of that idea. Fail to put it into action and the idea will find someone else.

may the muse be with youThat’s what we’ve been saying with our Muse designs. When the Muse is whispering ideas to you – work with that.

You can’t own an idea; you own what you do with it.

Back in 2012, Samsung and Apple had a huge ding-up in court over this very point. The mistaken notion that anyone truly owns an idea had to come to, very expensive, blows before these technology giants got the message.

Which is why it still confuses me when I see people trying to control an idea. If you think you can own an idea, you might as well sit on the beach and yell at the tide for all the good that will do you.

The strange case of trying to own the ineffable

I call attempts to be the sole “owner” of an idea a case of trying to own the ineffable.

Ideas: They can’t be effed.

The strange case of trying to own the ineffable appears to be a truly Thanet-centric idea among writers. Not all writers. Quite possibly, only a few writers. Maybe just one. But the attempt itself has the potential to be very damaging to local creativity.

While I have my own ideas about who is behind this King Canute like effort, it would be better not to cast needless aspersions. Instead, let us call us call this person or group, The Thanet Canute.

The Thanet Canute

Canute rebukes his courtiersThe Thanet Canute things he can own an idea. Not just any idea, but the idea of the grassroots writer and author groups in Thanet.

Seriously.

No, I have no idea what he hopes to gain from turning to the dark side of The Muse. But try The Thanet Canute is.

Thanet Creative changed names from Thanet Creative Writers in part to work around the fact that The Thanet Canute purchased every domain name for our name that he could find.

We’re not the only ones either. It seems that The Thanet Canute sat down and came up with every synonym for “writer” and paired it with “Thanet” and made an empty Facebook page. Apparently just to deny anyone else the chance to have a custom Facebook URL if they happen to be passionate about writing and come from Thanet.

I kid you not.

Maybe someone should tell The Thanet Canute that you cannot own an idea. You can take all the obvious names for an idea but that will not stop the muse.

Don’t be like The Thanet Canute. Stay away from the dark side. Let your ideas be free.

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The five types of antagonist http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/five-types-antagonist/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/five-types-antagonist/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 12:09:45 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=395 In a story, there are five types of antagonist. Only one of those is what you would consider a “bad guy” in any way. A story without conflict is not interesting but did you know that there are four other ways to bring conflict other than by having a villain? I made mention of this on … Continue reading The five types of antagonist

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In a story, there are five types of antagonist. Only one of those is what you would consider a “bad guy” in any way.

A story without conflict is not interesting but did you know that there are four other ways to bring conflict other than by having a villain? I made mention of this on my blog when I wrote about combat free encounters for Role Play Games.

1. Nature as the antagonist

The weather, the environment, the setting itself – this can be the leading source of conflict. Take The Martian by Andy Weir, for example. This is a classic example of a man vs nature story.

When nature is your antagonist, you can have a thrilling story without a single character other than your protagonist.

2. Fate or the gods as the antagonist

Less commonly written exactly like this, these days, but some hidden higher power can still be the antagonist. Often presented as a man trying to outwit a prophecy, or a time traveller trying not to be steamrolled by the inevitability of history.

You don’t need a “bad guy” when fate, or time, or some god (Loki, is that you?) is in play.

3. Society as the antagonist

This is a story where the cultural setting is the source of conflict. For example, a Polish or French protagonist in the days after the Brexit vote. For example, an environmental campaigner trying to prevent global warming.

Any time it is society as a whole that is the source of the conflict you do not need a central bad guy. Of course, it can help to personify the attitudes of society in one or two characters but that causes you to stray into a different type of antagonist.

4. A person as the antagonist

This is the one you are probably familiar with. This is your villain antagonist territory. The one person your protagonist must overcome in order to achieve whatever it is they are trying to do.

Filmmakers are very fond of taking the other forms of story and crafting a villain as well. Having a villain puts a human face on things and gives the hero someone to punch. Which is, of course, cheap and not something you would ever do. (Right?)

5. Self as the antagonist

So far, we have dealt only with the external forms of conflict. But conflict can be internal as well. This is where the protagonist is also the antagonist. The angstier types of vampire story are quite fond of going down this route. It’s not just teenager vampires that this is a suitable antagonist form for, though. For example, a mother’s struggle with drug addiction would be a possible example of this kind of story.

Any story where a person is struggling to change, fighting to hold on to their own humanity, or wrestling with their own conscience – these are all self as the antagonist stories. They are most satisfying when the protagonist fails heroicly or slowly transforms finally overcoming a (usually symbolic) hurdle or personal demon.

Over to you

Which of these five sources of conflict have you used in your stories? Can you think of any exceptional examples for each form? What’s your take on introducing conflict into a story?

Where do you think supernatural stories fall in this list? Or man against technology for that matter?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Pitch us your ideas http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/pitch-us-ideas/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/pitch-us-ideas/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 09:00:29 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=389 Thanet Creative is run by our community. The same can be said of this blog.  We accept submissions for one-off articles but invite you to join as a regular or irregular contributor. In the past, we have put out lists of suggested topics but this has not been hugely successful. So rather than restricting your … Continue reading Pitch us your ideas

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Thanet Creative is run by our community. The same can be said of this blog. 

We accept submissions for one-off articles but invite you to join as a regular or irregular contributor. In the past, we have put out lists of suggested topics but this has not been hugely successful. So rather than restricting your imagination, this time the floor is totally open. Pitch us your wildest ideas.

When we say wild ideas, we mean your ideas. After all, those are the ideas that interest us.

  • Want to write a book review? Great. We’re looking for those.
  • Thinking about offering a short story? Perfect. We love stories. Poems too.
  • Want to rant about the state of publishing. Let’s hear it.  Editorials are something we like. Be as controversial as you feel you need to be.
  • Feel like you have something to teach about writing? Amazing – we love to learn.
  • Have an idea we’ve not even thought of before. Outstanding. Pitch it to us.

You should write for us.

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The Business of Writing http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/the-business-of-writing/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/12/the-business-of-writing/#respond Sat, 02 Dec 2017 18:00:51 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=380 This post is about the business of writing because writing is a business. I’m going to do my best to look at the numbers of publishing. Author Buzz UK talked about the shocking truth of author earnings earlier this year. In that Routes to publishing There are two routes you can go down when seeking … Continue reading The Business of Writing

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This post is about the business of writing because writing is a business. I’m going to do my best to look at the numbers of publishing.

Author Buzz UK talked about the shocking truth of author earnings earlier this year. In that

Routes to publishing

There are two routes you can go down when seeking to publish.

  1. Traditional Publishing
  2. Self-Publishing

Traditional publishing tends to work better with a literary agent. That’s not a universal rule but that seems to be the general advice. The big advantage of this approach is that they do the stuff you do not want to do. They just take care of cover, promotion (maybe), and so forth.

Self-publishing requires a lower number of sales for the same profit. You will need to arrange your own proofreading and copy editing. Your sales are going to be more dependant on ebooks but you will take a lot more money per sale. This is where the business of writing really starts to matter.

Profit and Loss

The profit and loss estimate of a book is a tool used to guess how well a book will sell. It works like this. Someone looks at the number of books that sold for a book similar to your book. The cost of the print run needed to sell that less the earnings is the profit and loss.

This works because books are largely a commodity item that does not fluctuate in price. So getting the right number in the initial print run matters. You want to go for the biggest run with the cheapest cost per unit. However, you don’t want too many (nor too few) books left.

Percentage of cover price

The percentage you can get is the slice of the pie you are going to get per sale. With self-publishing, you will generally get the highest percentage of cover price. The business of writing is not as simple as “get the best percentage” because 70% of £100 is still less than 15% of £1000.

Generally, you are going to get a much smaller percentage of cover price with traditional publishing but you may sell so much more (and get an advance).

Small and independent press tend to sit int he middle. They don’t necessarily have the same marketing power but they can sometimes offer a much better percentage.

Getting traction to attract publishers

Marketing is expensive. Publishers usually have a very limited budget for marketing. Anything you can do to get free marketing (aka publicity) makes you more attractive. This is because publicity sells books.

Sites like Author Buzz UK are a place to establish a presence and build some publicity. If you are a Thanet based writer, joining in with this blog also helps.

If you can get a good following on Twitter, Facebook, or a blog that’s great. A good following is not a massive number of people but a large number of people that are interested in what you have to say.

Where is the money?

In the business of writing, the big question is where is the money? Some people will try to answer that romance, or YA, or something is the big “it”. The truth, though, is that the money is in sequels. Sequels sell easily because the first book creates a market for the other books to sell.

Once you have written and published a book – write another one. And then another one.

The Business of Writing with Brandon Sanderson

This video runs for over an hour and covers the Business of Writing. Brandon Sanderson is a giant of fiction writing. If you have the time, watch this video.

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Brandon Sanderson’s rules of magic http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/brandon-sandersons-rules-magic/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/brandon-sandersons-rules-magic/#comments Thu, 30 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=373 Do magic systems in fiction need rules? I don’t know. But I do know that Brandon Sanderson, an author that has written a lot of books, has three (four) rules for how to write magic. What is magic? Magic is whatever awesome or unusual stuff you have invented for your story. By this definition, the made-up … Continue reading Brandon Sanderson’s rules of magic

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Do magic systems in fiction need rules? I don’t know. But I do know that Brandon Sanderson, an author that has written a lot of books, has three (four) rules for how to write magic.

What is magic?

Magic is whatever awesome or unusual stuff you have invented for your story. By this definition, the made-up science in science fiction is magic. The powers of superheroes are magic too. Anything supernatural or strange – it is all magical from a storytelling perspective.

Writing about Jedi knights fighting a long time ago and far far away, or wizards and dragons, or the X-Men fighting bad guys is, from an author’s perspective, the same thing.

Sanderson’s rules, it turns out, are a really useful tool for writers to think about what they are writing and the emotion they will get from their readers. They are really just a way to think about good foreshadowing. They work for discovery writers (pantsers) as well as planners.

Brandon Sanderson explains these rules far better than I can so I am going to sketch them out very briefly but after that, there is a video of Brandon Sanderson giving a university lecture on these rules. Yeah, this guy knows his stuff and teaches it.

Sanderson’s first rule of magic

Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

Where the magic is not well understood by the reader you can engender a sense of wonder but if you try to resolve plot like that the reader will feel betrayed

Sanderson’s second rule of magic

Flaws are more interesting than the powers themselves.

The things the characters cannot do (limits) or struggle to do with the magic (or super science) make for the best stories.

The same goes for the cost of the power. In Dune the space travel needs the spice (which is what makes the powers work).

Sanderson’s third rule of magic

Go deeper into a magic not wider

Exploring a smaller system in an interesting way will make the world feel more real.

Sanderson’s zeroth rule of magic

Always err on the side of what is awesome.

At the end of the day, tell amazing stories. That’s pretty much the best advice anyone can give you.

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Writing a sense of place according to the Internet http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/sense-of-place/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/sense-of-place/#respond Thu, 09 Nov 2017 18:00:53 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=346 I have to confess that I struggle with creating a vivid sense of place sometimes. Usually when the setting is relatively mundane – some town, some house, someone’s back garden. To help me overcome this weakness, I’ve looked at what the Internet has to say about creating a vivid world. Focus on specific details said the Scottish … Continue reading Writing a sense of place according to the Internet

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I have to confess that I struggle with creating a vivid sense of place sometimes. Usually when the setting is relatively mundane – some town, some house, someone’s back garden. To help me overcome this weakness, I’ve looked at what the Internet has to say about creating a vivid world.

Why does sense of place matter?

It is the vivid and breathtaking “reality” of Middle-earth that makes Lord of the Rings work. Without it, you have a poorly written story about a bunch of characters wandering around and getting into trouble. The same is true for our own writing too.

Why is setting important? Mastering writing time and place

Use fewer words, not more

When I started this research, I assumed that I needed many more words to paint a good picture of the world my fiction is set in. This is not the case for a masterful sense of place.

The apex of our art is to suggest everything with a single, well chosen, word. Beyond that word, we can show the characters interacting with the world around them (show, don’t tell).

The more words we use to describe the setting, the slower the pace. So, like poets, we need to say as much as possible with as few words as we can. Here, at any rate, it seems words should be treated as an expensive premium.

Transport me somewhere new

may the muse be with youWhen telling a story we are trying to take people somewhere else using only words. This, I can tell you, is hard. I have no words of sage advice for you other than “good luck, may the muse be with you.”

Don’t let that stop you. Keep trying. Keep telling stories and trying to take me away to new worlds.

This is where I stop and hand over to you.

  • What are your tips of sense of place?
  • Do you find making the location vivid hard or easy?
  • Which books demonstrate a sense of place best?

Use the comments and share your insights.

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Writers Explore: Disposing of a dead body http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/writers-explore-disposing-dead-bodies/ http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/2017/11/writers-explore-disposing-dead-bodies/#respond Tue, 07 Nov 2017 18:00:32 +0000 http://thanetcreative.authorbuzz.co.uk/?p=333 In honour of NaNoWriMo, let’s take a look at one of those topics that writers tend to Google far too much – disposing of a dead body. Let’s be honest, if anyone took a look at the search history of a writer – especially a crime or mystery writer – it would probably be quite … Continue reading Writers Explore: Disposing of a dead body

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In honour of NaNoWriMo, let’s take a look at one of those topics that writers tend to Google far too much – disposing of a dead body.

Let’s be honest, if anyone took a look at the search history of a writer – especially a crime or mystery writer – it would probably be quite disturbing. One of the things that fascinates us writers is how a character might try to get away with murder.

So in this post, and purely on a theoretical basis, let us look at how to get rid of that pesky surplus corpse.

Before we begin, I should point out that every solution can come with an additional set of problems which can spiral out of control. There is no such thing as a perfect murder but a story about attempting one could be really interesting. If you write that, please let me know – I want to read it.

Disposing of a dead body: Moving the corpse

First things first. Have you ever tried to move someone who has passed out drunk? They become unbelievably heavy. That’s what a dead body is like. Your first problem is moving it.

You’ve got a few options here.

  1. Dispose of the body right there (tricky)
  2. Ropes, winches, and pullies (fiddly)
  3. Ask someone to help you (risky)
  4. Cut up the body (messy)
  5. Don’t kill anyone to start with (too late)

Whichever option your character goes for is going to leave trace evidence all over the show. However, your character has already got a body so there is no turning back now.

Disposing of a dead body right there

Oh boy, this is all sorts of problems. Dead bodies are basically a huge unprocessed sack of meat and other less pleasant things. They are going to smell bad after a short amount of time. The hotter, the faster that bad smell is going to show up.

Talking of showing up. Flies and other bugs are going to be attracted to the smell pretty soon. If you have ever watched Bones (or similar shows), then I am sure you have a lot of ideas about flesh-eating insects. However, mostly we are talking flies and maggots.

If “right here” happens to be the middle of a woods then you have probably been planning this for a while (you scary person). If the site of death is suitable for disposal then skip the moving stage and move on to a whole other set of problems.

Before you move on, remember that anyone might have known that the victim was heading to the site. Their phone may have GPS so their movements might have been tracked. They might have said something to someone. They might have dropped something on the way.

The fact is that you (or your character) might never catch all the clues and clean them up.

Disposing of a dead body with ropes and pullies

In terms of moving heavy things, some good climbing gear could be a huge help. You can, on your own, move the heavy sack of dead meat that is the victim in your story (this is still theoretical, right). However, you may leave trace rope fibres, cause most-death damage to the corpse, and/or leave trace evidence at the scene of the death. Also, you will have (possibly expensive) kit left over that was used in a serious crime. You will need to get rid of this afterwards too.

In this video, the basics of lifting a body (yourself or another) using ropes and pullies are explained.

Disposing of a dead body with an accomplice

This is another approach you could take. However, having an assistant means having a witness that could turn on you. If your character is of a particularly evil nature, they could always kill the accomplice at the disposal site and double their workload.

Two people moving about the crime scene substantially increases the chances that someone is going to leave a clue behind.

Disposing of a dead body in bite-sized chunks

If you choose to cut up the body Dexter style then there is a serious clean up going to be needed. Cutting is not much use if you are trying to minimise the trace evidence that’s going to show up on your character and the crime scene.

You could try plastic sheeting but it comes with its own problems. Dexter, if you have read the book or seen the show, had a legitimate reason for obtaining and using plastic sheeting but your character might not have a good cover story.

You could try strong bleach for cleaning the crime scene. However, obtaining industrious quantities of bleach just after a murder might raise suspicions.

Disposing of the actual body

One way or another you have moved the dead body to a new location. This probably involved a car, some really big backpacks, or some other form of transport. Assuming that no one saw you and the police are not already asking you to “come along peacefully”, what now?

Disposing of a dead body: with pigs

If you are a fan of British made crime films (Snatch comes to mind) then you probably think feeding a dead body to a pig is a good idea. It might be effective but in terms of plot, Fed to Pigs is a trope that has been a little overdone of late.

Pigs, as mentioned above, are sufficiently common in crime stories as corpse disposal machines that it is in danger of becoming a cliche. It could work but can’t you come up with something a bit more interesting?

Disposing of a dead body: Burial

A classic because it works so well. However, there are some drawbacks.

Digging a deep hole is hard work. you could get help but that has drawbacks of its own. Digging among trees, at night, while maybe a bit panicked is even harder. Doing all that and then not coming home and looking like you have been digging holes is probably impossible.

Digging in the sand is easier but so is the body getting found.

One often explored ide is to dig an extra deep hole and add a second victim (a family pet) somewhat higher up. This might throw the searchers off. It might not if they have read this, though.

Disposing of a dead body: Reuse a grave

If despite my warnings about the dangers of working with other people, you want to go this route then you might be able to find a corruptable mortician and arrange for your corpse to share a coffin.

If working alone is more your character’s style, then re-digging a fresh grave and dumping your poor victim in there, while risky while you dig, is still a logical choice.

If you happen to run a crematorium then you have further options but I’m guessing this is back to the problem of bribing someone and keeping them quite. Maybe acid could do the job of fire…

Disposing of a dead body: Flesh Eating Hydrofluoric Acid

This solution (excuse the pun) crops up on shows like Breaking Bad. To help you give an authentic portrayal of using acid to dispose of a dead body, we turn to science for answers.

This video shows the results of experimentally dipping chicken into three different acids. Chicken, in this case, is a reasonable analogy for disposing of a dead body without the need to do something horrific to another human being.

Disposing of a dead body: Fire

So you don’t have access to a crematorium but you think a fire will remove all evidence. This is no small task.

A burning corpse is going to stink. I mean really stink. All that hair and body waste are going to hum worse than your hasty cover story.

You will need to get the fire hot. Around 1000°C for three hours should do it. After all, a body is mostly water. A fire like that is going to raise questions. On the other hand, DNA and other trace evidence will get eaten up.

An alternative would be to use a steal works. At 1370°C the only thing that will be left will be a little extra phosphorous which would make the steal a bit harder and more brittle. Again, this might be a clue if your character is not careful enough.

Disposing of a dead body: Water

BoatContinuing our theme of the elements, what about water? If you have access to a boat then maybe taking a trip out to sea might hold the answer.

The problem is that bodies float. So you will need to secure them to something heavy. When they go down to Davie Jones Locker you need to feel secure that they are not coming back up.

You will also need a site that is deep enough that no one is going to go down there. The deeper the better. That means a tench or somewhere past the continental shelf. However, out there currents can do amazing things so choose carefully.

The sea is not a forgiving graveyard and things frequently come back when they are least wanted. Have you seen what washes up on the beach? In Margate, for example, World War Two munitions (live and deadly) still show up from time to time.

The general advice seems to be to roll the body in a chain link fence before sending them to their final resting place.

This had the advantage of potentially removing the body forever but the headache of making sure no evidence ends up on your boat. How good are you at cleaning? A single drop of blood or a stray hair could be enough to put the canny detective on the character’s trail.

Disposing of a dead body: By eating them

eat itBy far the most effective method, if a little slow, would be to butcher, cook, and eat the body. The bones and teeth could be ground up into a fine powder and used as a food additive. Grim but effective.

If you own some dogs or other animals, they could help you.

For extra horror, if the character owns a restaurant…

Other considerations

Cleaning up after the crime is a whole other story. Almost everything you do is going to leave traces and no matter how carefully you clean, you might miss something. To make your character’s life harder, the people investigating the murder will be experts at finding things while you (or your character) are newbies.

Here are a few things that you might want to add to your research list.

  • Luminol – reacts with haemoglobin to enable investigators to detect tiny traces of blood.
  • Bleach – because you don’t want luminal to be your downfall
  • Matches – because burning it all down may be your only choice
  • A change of clothes – everything your character had on is evidence

A change of clothes

Seven years after the police took his boots they were able to get DNA evidence that led to the arrest of mass murderer Robert Pickton. Basically, your character needs to burn their clothes.

Of course, a change of clothes is no help if you cannot get clean yourself first. Which will probably leave your DNA all over the cleanup site. I did mention the problems pile up. Have fun solving that one. More bleach and luminol might be called for but good luck explaining why you washed the bathroom with that stuff.

Blood and Magnets

Blood contains iron and iron reacts to magnets. Does that mean you can clean up blood with giant magnets?

Warning, this video contains blood.

More ideas for disposing of a dead body

This reddit thread has a long discussion on the subject of getting rid of a body. Let’s just say that the pigs get talked about a lot.

What’s the best way to get rid of a dead body? from AskReddit

Feel free to chip in with your ideas for how a character could realistically get rid of a dead body. I’d love to hear your ideas.

You might be interested in our previous Writers Explore which looked at mental health. This topic might or might not tie in depending on what sort of story you are trying to tell.

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