Posted in Blog

Election Love and Hate

On Saturday Australia held it’s federal elections. If you’re not Australian you might not be familiar with how this works. Voting is compulsory – if you are 18 or older you are expected to enroll to vote (most people do) and if you are enrolled to vote you are required to attend the voting place, have your name checked off the list, and post your voting papers into the appropriate cardboard box (we have a bicameral system, so we vote for members of a lower and upper house). If, in between having your name checked off and putting the sheets of paper into the box, you also want to step into a private booth and vote, you can do that. You don’t have to. But, while you’re there, why not.

Voting is anonymous. Voting is also based on preference rather than first-past-the-post. Therefore, you don’t just vote for who you most want to win, you also say who your second, third, fourth (and so on) choice would be, if you first choice doesn’t get enough votes.

Indonesia is the worlds biggest democracy. America is, perhaps, the most famous, but personally (and with obvious bias) I think Australia is the best.

That said, I was a lot more excited about voting when I was in my 20s. Now, I’m much more disillusioned, not just by the politicians who speak in rhetoric and tell lies and half-truths, but also by the vitriol and recriminations that appear around election time. The idea that, if someone doesn’t vote the way you would vote they must be an idiot, is offensive to me. My parents, for example, are intelligent, well read and engaged people. So am I. We didn’t vote the same way. That doesn’t make either of us less intelligent. It makes us human.

My husband and I hardly ever vote the same way. So far, we’ve avoided a divorce.

I think the thing I like least is the labeling. All political parties have numerous policies on numerous issues. Some of those policies even conflict (they think we don’t notice). Unless you are a rusted on supporter of a party, it’s unlikely that you won’t have to weigh up priorities and make compromises when you vote. But, when we label people Left or Right, liberal (small ‘l’ liberal) or conservative, or anything else, we ignore this.

I think labeling works well for objects. I don’t think it works well for people. People are like tomatoes. Are they a fruit? A vegetable? Both?

All that said, being able to vote – a right and a duty that people died for me to have – fills me with pride. And, with each election, I am refilled with hope that the people elected will take all Australia’s people towards a brighter future. It remains to be seen, of course.

If all else fails – we’ll have another crack at it in four years.

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

Dilemmas

If you believe Alan Watts, author of The 90-Day Novel, dilemma is the driving force of any story. But what does that actually mean?

Dilemma is a rhetorical device (the use of language to create effect or meaning) in which the character has to choose between two options, both equally as feasible, with one positioned as the ‘right’ or ‘positive’ choice and the other as the ‘wrong’ or ‘negative’ choice. It’s often the choice between what the character wants and what the character believes (wrongly) to be true.

An example might be:

I want to be true to myself, but I don’t want to disappoint my family.

The desire here is to be true to one’s self, the false belief is that, by being true to yourself, you’ll disappoint your family or lose their love.

Another example:

I want to travel the world, but I don’t want to miss out on what’s happening at home.

Again, the desire is the ‘I want…” statement and the false belief is the ‘But…’ statement.

Elfo and Luci represent Bean’s dilemma between good and evil

For the two novels I’m currently working on, my protagonists’s dilemmas were (for Maggie) “I want to honour my own needs, but I don’t want to let my family down’ and (for Stuart) “I want to be invulnerable so I can’t be hurt” (the desire is to be invulnerable/strong and the false belief is that being vulnerable leads only to pain).

A key point that Watts makes is that a dilemma can’t be solved (unlike a problem). The dilemma is resolved, it’s brought to a conclusion over the course of the story, but there are multiple ways in which the character can achieve this, and it might not be in the way they initially wanted. Thinking in terms of dilemmas brings depth to your work, because there is no clear right or wrong and what one character decides is right for them, another character might never even have considered (which is pretty true of life).

Let’s look at a recent (ish) movie, Disney’s Moana.

Moana’s problem is clear – her world is being killed by the Darkness and it must be stopped. But her dilemma is more complicated and interesting. She wants to follow her heart and leave her island, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her father and abandon her duties to her people. (Desire – to follow her heart, False Belief – that she must be an obedient daughter in order to serve her people) Ultimately, Moana resolves this dilemma by following her heart and bringing a new age of exploration and prosperity to her people.

The idea of a dilemma in literature isn’t new, but, although I haven’t read his book, I like the way Watt explains it.

I feel that thinking in terms of dilemma is adding a new depth to my work, and a different way of framing my work, outside of a problem that must be solved. What do you think? Have thought about your characters’s dilemma before? Is it useful in your work?

Posted in Blog

Good Morning

I’m a morning person. Morning, in my opinion, is the best time of the day. It’s also my most productive part of the day. I achieve more between eight and ten in the morning than I can in the whole of the afternoon.

That said, before I had kids my mornings were much more restful. When I was in my last years of high school I was up at 5 to study and complete homework. I would turn my tiny heater on, pop my ear-buds in, and work away. This continued until I started to share my bed full time, then I found the other person under the doona wasn’t keen on loosing his living hot water bottle. And besides, it’s nicer to sleep-in when someone’s giving you a cuddle.

Now, when I drag myself out of bed at 6, there’s already two little people up. They seem to start the day like horses start a race. There’s no time for a gentle cup of tea and a perusal of the paper. They have questions, demands, they’re hungry and simultaneously too sick to go to school.

And on the weekend, they watch people play Minecraft. I miss watching actual cartoons, with characters and a storyline. Now I get to watch (usually) young men explain how to make a portal to the Nether (did I spell that right? If you’re interested, you need lots of obsidian blocks and a steel and flint). I know you-tubers like Poet and MC Naveed. Theoretically I could go sit somewhere else but I like to be with my kids (especially on the weekends) and I like to know what they’re watching, because not everything on the internet is suitable (I know. I was shocked too).

But, it does make mornings much louder and prone to zombie attack then they were when I was younger.

I suppose, though, the day will come when they’ll want stay in bed until lunch and I’ll have my mornings back to myself.

I’m not sure I’m actually looking forward to that.

Posted in Book Reviews

In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker

Title: In the Skin of a Monster

Author:Kathryn Barker

Ease: Moderate

Rating: 5/5

I read In the Skin of a Monster several years ago. When I saw that Kathryn Barker had a second book coming out this year, I thought I would re-post my review of her debut novel, only to find I hadn’t done a review. Which is crazy, because I loved this book.

Continue reading “In the Skin of a Monster by Kathryn Barker”

Posted in Tips for Young Writers

No is an Important Word

My brother once lent me a great book, a non-fiction account of a man who decided to stop saying no. After I read it he asked me what I thought and I said it was interesting but, “…my problem isn’t so much saying yes, it’s saying no.”

I’m not good at saying no to people. It’s actually one of the reasons I ended up in teaching. Teaching is a great job and teachers genuinely have the power to change lives, but I NEVER wanted to be a teacher. I loved the kids I taught and I enjoyed working with passionate, knowledgeable people, but I got into teaching because *checks over shoulder and whispers* my mum really pushed it. Don’t tell.

I’m still not good at saying no and in many ways it’s worse now, because now essentially I’m self-employed. Every time I say ‘yes’, I’m saying ‘no’ to writing time. And so are you.

Given that I’m SO bad at saying no, what can I offer you on the topic. Well, I can at least share what I’ve learnt so far and what I’m working on. And hey, maybe you could give me some tips in return? Deal?

Say no to house work (and other chores)

Now, bare with me. We all have chores. You may think that once you’re an adult you’ll have more freedom over your chores but, if you live with someone else, there’s always outside pressure to do things around or for your household. What I’m saying really is, set aside time to write and then say no to chores. If you write between nine and ten thirty, don’t stop to hang out the washing. It will wait. The muse may not.

Say no to fun

Do you want to go to a movie? No. Do you want to grab a coffee? No. Do you want to go fishing? No. Not unless you’ve met your word-count/writing time/deadline. If you struggle with this, think of it as rescheduling, rather than refusing – “Sorry, I’m flat out this week, but how about we grab a drink next Friday night?”

Say no to being a martyr

They say the thing you dislike most in others, is the thing you dislike in yourself. I dislike martyrdom – I’m also a guilty of it. I will take on more than I can handle or jobs I don’t want to take on, then complain and agonise over it. Yeah, it’s a personality flaw. Don’t be like me.

Only you know what you can and cannot do, or what you want or do not want to do. If someone asks you to do something and you agree, you only have yourself to blame. If you didn’t finish your manuscript because you agreed to walk your neighbors’ dog every morning, don’t bitch to them (or about them), it’s on you.

Do as I say, not as I do

God, I wish I could say I was all over this but I’m not (particularly the third point). But saying no, setting boundaries, putting your writing first is important. It allows you to take your writing from a hobby, to a career. If that’s what you want to do, then you (and I) need to get comfortable with no.

Posted in Blog

The Unsociablity of Social Media

Apparently ‘unsociablity’ isn’t a word. But ‘unsociable’ is and ‘sociability’ is so I’m just combining them. It’s probably an unfair thing to say, anyway. I find social media unsociable but clearly millions of people don’t.

It is overwhelming. I can’t be the only one who feels that. This year I’m trying to get on top of my use of social media. I visited a social media consultant, Media Tribe, who were brilliant, because I know that social media is a key tool in any author’s toolbox. This is my job, not my hobby, and thus I need to make use of means of marketing that other authors use.

Continue reading “The Unsociablity of Social Media”