Tuesday, 8 February 2011

How Ming Campbell helps me write

In some ways, (most of which involve horridness and murdering), I think I’m a decent writer. In others, I definitely need to improve.

Names often confound me. It’s important to try and borrow or invent good names and I often spend ages agonising over them, whether they’re for a city or person or chapter heading.

Another area which can be difficult, though less so, is dialogue vocabulary. Fantasy can have anything from modern to Shakespearian English. Completely modern dialogue can grate with me slightly, but 16th century stuff is a bit too far in the other direction.

So, what’s the answer to this? Step forward, Ming Campbell MP (for those unaware, he’s a Liberal Democrat MP in the UK).

He’s an elderly, slightly dull and sober politician, and very helpful. When unsure whether some dialogue’s too modern or too old-fashioned, I simply ask myself “Can I imagine Ming Campbell saying this?” and, if so, it stays. (It must be said that for scenes involving sex, or murder, or sexy murdering, this test is not very useful).

Another guide I try and use is something Cicero said about Julius Caesar, praising the latter’s use of vocabulary by selecting words almost everyone knew but rarely used. In short, people should be able to understand easily what you’re writing whilst being treated to a creative use of language.

On the plus side, I’m reasonable at writing regularly and rarely suffer proper writer’s block. Sometimes motivation/fatigue can be troublesome, and I think it’s usually best to not bother writing if you’re half-asleep.

NB: I was going to review Outcasts, episode 1, today but given episode 2 is this evening I’ll review them both tomorrow instead.


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