Posts Tagged Maddie Purslow

Writing as a Team (or The Importance of a Weapons Cabinet)

Most of us write alone but occasionally successful writing partnerships come to the fore. James Patterson regularly co-authors novels and his latest partners have included Bill Clinton and Dolly Parton. C. L. Raven are identical twins who write horror stories together. Good Omens was written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Madeleine Purslow and her brother, Robin, recently published The Field of Reeds: In Shadows (Children of Bastet Book 1).
Today Madeleine and Robin have kindly agreed to spill the beans on the sometimes vicious experience of writing with a sibling.

So, co-authoring a novel. How does that work? Hmmm, let me introduce you to the weapons cabinet…
Picture, if you will, an antique cabinet in the corner of the room, ornate and a bit dusty. Now, open the doors. They protest a little, they groan, they could do with a spot of oil. Inside though… now, that’s unexpected, every kind of weapon you can think of, softly shining in the half-light. The weapons are all in perfect order and ready for use at a moment’s notice.
Got it? Great, hold that thought, we’ll come back to it in a minute. Small Maddie Guest Blog Photo
So, writing is a solitary thing, isn’t it? You take yourself away from other human beings for hours on end. Go deep inside your own head and stay there.
Stephen King said, writing is actually a form of telepathy. You take words, images, emotions and transfer them from one mind to another. Well, if that works between a writer and a reader, there is absolutely no reason why it shouldn’t work between two writers.
Well, perhaps not absolutely no reason…
Unless you really, get on well with your potential co-author, don’t even think about it. It has been said, that the best way to break up a friendship, is for two people to go on holiday together. I have a better one, try writing together.
If you are writing with someone else and you are both convinced that you have just come up with the best possible way to express what you are trying to say, who’s words do you use?
That’s where the weapons cabinet comes in…
You have to fight it out. Maybe with twin swords? Or, sneaky, ninja, throwing stars? Even a ball point pen can be lethal in the right hands…
Eventually, a compromise, the best of both worlds. Two brains really can be better than one. They had better be brains that genuinely like each other though. Whatever wounds you inflict in the heat of battle, you have to be able to live with afterwards.
So, what about the nuts and bolts? Well, it starts with huge brain storming sessions, lots of notes and a lot of laughing. You build the world, the shared playground and agree on a writing style.
Then, it may be that we take a chapter each, go away and write it. Or, if we are really unsure about how a chapter should go, then we both write the same chapter and ‘swap papers,’ like doing a test at school. Then we… Did you hear the creak, as the weapons cabinet doors opened?
Boundaries are also important, recognising who does what best. If you know your co-author is better at dialogue, or spooky atmospheres, or has a real feel for a particular character, then, you do what serves the story. After a trip to the weapons cabinet, obviously.
So, there you are. This blog has been brought to you after a short but vicious fight, by the gestalt brain that is Madrob, or possibly Robeleine. We have to decide which. Excuse us for a moment, we are just going to the weapons cabinet…

About The Field of Reeds: In Shadows (Children of Bastet Book 1):

Smallest Maddie Field of Reeds in Shadows 5 x 8 book one

When Priah, Captain of Cats, began her night patrol, everything was as it had always been. The sleeping streets of ancient Bubastis were quiet, dark and still.
Then it came… death came… sorcery came.
Before dawn, Priah’s life would be forever changed…
In Bubastis, the holy city of the cat Goddess Bastet, a secret enemy stalks the streets after dark, killing indiscriminately. As this seemingly unstoppable foe spreads terror, it falls to Captain of Cats, Priah to halt it in its tracks. She embarks on a quest to do just that, with the help of the newly arrived stranger cat, The Alexandrian. Together, their journey will lead them through magic and dangers and ultimately beyond life itself.
The Field of Reeds: In Shadows, is set in a fantastical world inspired by ancient Egypt, a stylized version of every cat’s original homeland. Here, cats have a hierarchy. They tell heroic tales of “the days of the beginning.” They communicate with and live alongside humans, in a secretive parallel existence, as advisers, spies and allies.
This is the first book in an epic fantasy series, that takes the ‘talking animal,’ genre to a very different place. A place full of heart and heroism, extraordinary things extraordinary deeds and extraordinary characters.
Death stalks the dark streets of Bubastis and they are the only hope of salvation…

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Using Regional Speech in Dialogue

I love writing dialogue but never make my characters’ voices reflect their region of origin – because I Madeleine Purslowdon’t know how to do it effectively! Then I got chatting to womag writer Maddie Purslow who loves accents and likes to slip them into her stories for Yours and Take a Break Fiction Feast whenever possible. Today Maddie has kindly agreed to give us all a few tips:

I  have a Brummie accent and some would say I would do well to lose it, but I love accents.  I love using them when I write. A lot of creative writing courses advise against using dialects but I think not only does it make your work more interesting, it also makes it easier for your reader to distinguish one character from another.
However, it can be a problem if it’s overdone. Nobody wants to wade through pages of unintelligible dialogue. The key is to concentrate more on the structure of the dialect rather than reproducing it phonetically which, let’s face it, can be a bit subjective. What sounds like a Geordie accent to you might not to someone else. So I suggest a light touch. Just add the odd phrase here and there that suggests the accent.
Using an American accent seems like an easy option because we hear so much of it on television but remember that Americans often use entirely different words from us and these can trip you up, leading to a lack of authenticity. Using an example from a story I had published recently, “You make sure and tell them to work hard at school, I figure that’s the best advice you can give them right now.” We would never say figure but it is part of American everyday speech.
If your character is Scottish, don’t go down the route of having them talk in clichés like the old, “Braw brit moonlit nicht” stuff. Instead look out for the things that are peculiar to the accent. Scots would add “right enough” at the end of the sentence by way of affirmation. “She’s a good looking girl, right enough.” It just gives the flavour of an accent without over egging the pudding.
And talking of puddings, the proof is in the eating of course, and the majority of the stories I have sold have featured at least one character with an accent.
My final tip would be, once you have written your dialogue, always speak it aloud. Even if you can’t do the accent, speak it anyway. It’s amazing how different it sounds and how many faults can be spotted that way.
But most of all enjoy it. Using an accent can be fun, just don’t overdo it. Or as we would say here in Birmingham, “Take it easy, Bab.”

And read more of Maddie’s great regional dialogue in her first novel, Fred The Red’s Dottir. Fred The Red's Dottir
It’s currently only 99p on Amazon Kindle – going back up to the full price £2.49 next Sunday (2nd March).

The story sounds intriguing:
“It’s 1981 and the recession is biting hard. The summer of riots, a Royal wedding and things have turned sour for Julie Reynolds in London. She is forced to return to Birmingham where she has no choice but to live with her ailing, irascible communist father, Fred in ‘The Little Kremlin’. On her return to the working class Kingsbury Estate where she grew up, she is quickly drawn into the lives of her old neighbours, people she had tried to leave behind. But sometimes it is impossible to leave things behind….like secrets for instance.”

I was 18 in 1981 and remember it well so I’m going over to Amazon now, whilst the book’s still half the price of a takeaway coffee, and perhaps I’ll learn how to make the heroine of my next story talk like a Brummie!


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