Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

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Excerpt from a Romance – The Twesome Loop…

January 29, 2015
mandyevebarnett


One of my work in progress novels has a romance/reincarnation theme. The narrative follows two time periods. This excerpt is from 1894. Gabriella was forced into a marriage with an older man, William by her father in an effort to gain social status. She falls in love with William’s younger brother, Arthur and their relationship has dire consequences. This excerpt finds William transporting his young wife to Italy.

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The Twesome Loop

Chapter Eight – The Journey

A messenger arrived and was escorted to the library. In a matter of moments he was running back out of the door as William’s shouts were heard.

“We are travelling to Italy directly. Have our trunks packed for six months.”

The household was a hive of activity whilst Gabriella’s and William’s belongings were folded and laid in huge oak trunks. All the while Gabriella was not allowed to leave her rooms and could only speculate on William’s instructions.

With two carriages packed Gabriella was escorted to one whilst William rode in the other. Even when he walked past her carriage window, he did not look in or speak to her. The journey would be long but fortunately, she was allowed to have Maryann accompany her. The young woman showed such dedication to her mistress and Gabriella had grown fond of her maid during the previous months. Maryann’s experience had  shown her that Gabriella’s sickness was caused by her being with child and the two women became close in the secret for a time.

Gabriella’s hand smoothed over her corseted belly her mind troubled. Whose child was it? Surely not William’s after that brutal act by the fireside. If the child was Arthur’s she would be happy to carry it but if William suspected he was not the father there was no knowing what he was capable of.

The journey was indeed long and arduous but Gabriella kept her spirits up by thinking of the moment she would see Arthur again. Maryann was as excited as she was with all the new outlooks and vistas, the different foods and the sounds of foreign tongues. After several weeks stopping at various inns at night and travelling in the heat of the day they arrived at a hilltop villa. The view indeed was spectacular and the villa itself a fine building.

“Tell your mistress she can choose her rooms from any at the back of the villa. I will reside in the fore quarters.”

“William…?”

“Tell your mistress I do not require her presence at my table and certainly do not want to see her during our stay here.”

Gabriella could only watch William stride toward the gardens. Deep inside she was glad he would not touch her but was concerned as to his motives. She walked with Maryann to the rear of the villa and choose rooms on the eastern side over looking an olive grove. With the unpacking done and a light supper eaten she decided to stroll in the garden. The evening air was still warm but a light breeze cooled her skin pleasantly. She had been disappointed when Arthur did not appear to greet them but maybe he would arrive in the morning.

My questions are –

a) Do you get a sense of era?

b) Did the excerpt intrigue you?

c) Would you continue to read?

d) What changes should I make?

e) Should I expand this section?

Characters – The Hub of Your Narrative…

December 22, 2014
mandyevebarnett


articlesWithout characters our stories would have no real impact on our readers. We write to engage and intrigue them and hopefully make our protagonist the character our reader cares about. If your experience is anything like mine, there is usually one, or possibly two characters, that make their presence known in no uncertain terms. They want the starring role in our narrative. These characters are usually more defined in our minds and are ‘easier’ to relate to, whether because of a personality trait or that they are more fun to write. When creating the protagonist and antagonist in our stories, we give each opposing views and/or values. This is the basis of the conflict that carries our readers along their journey. Each character, whether major or minor, needs to have flaws and redeeming features, motivations, expectations, loyalties and deterrents.

character-development

This leaves us with the problem of developing our supporting characters with as much attention to detail as the main antagonist and protagonist. When creating characters we must remember to ensure that each character acts and responds true to their given personality. Character profiles are a good way of ‘getting to know’ our characters, this can be achieve mainly by utilizing character’s names, personality traits, appearance and their motivations. A name is a vital part of creating a mental image of our character for readers. The right name can give them a quick visualization of our character’s age, ethnicity, gender, and even location, and if we are writing a period piece, even the era. For example if I say the girl was called Britney, you would probably picture a young girl because of the association with Britney Spears. However, if a female character were called Edith or Edna, you would imagine someone born several decades ago. So you see a name is not just a name.

A burly man would be called something like Butch but not Shirley, unless of course you are going to tell the story of his struggle throughout childhood to overcome the name.  There are plenty of web sites available, which list the most common names for each decade and locations around the world.  These are great resources for writers, who require particular names for period stories or want to stay true to a certain decade.

Character Cube

The use of a nickname will also give your character an identity, be it an unkind one given by a bully or one of respect or fear for the bully. You would expect Big Al to be just that, a large person, however, Little Mikey would be the exact opposite. Nicknames, or sobriquet’s can work very well in defining an ethnicity as well but care must be taken not to offend a person of color. Obviously there are certain words that were in common usage decades ago that are not politically correct now, so we need to be diligent in their use.

We should also consider giving our characters a conscience. Will the hero question his actions if they are extreme to his morals? Does the villain have a deep-seated angst? What motivates them? Some flawed characters can be difficult to write on occasion as they are far removed from our own personality (well I certainly hope so!) but with care we can accomplish a believable character.

How do you set about building a character?

Do you write out a full description of your characters?

Have you based a character on someone you know, a famous personality or mixed up several people’s traits to make a new one?

Philandering – Not Just for Men..?

November 21, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Philander – definition: to flirt, or have casual affairs with women, especially with a frivolous attitude

VirginiaWoolf

George

Simone

Men are most commonly perceived as philanders, as per the definition above, however, there have been and still are; many women who have casual affairs. In the past it was not as common as it probably is in modern day society. A woman’s place was in the home after all! Nowadays with equality in many aspects of life, women are exploring their options more readily.

Is this a good thing?

Is it a natural progression?

What are the repercussions?

These links list some of the more famous philanderers:

http://intelligence2.tumblr.com/post/6280288191/famous-philanderers-in-history-men

http://intelligence2.tumblr.com/post/6355272324/famous-philanderers-in-history-women

When we are writing contemporary modern day fiction, social issues and changes in the roles of men and women should be reflected in it. A 1950’s housewife will certainly not have the same lifestyle as a female 2013 career executive. As authors we need to be aware of these details and that is where research becomes vital. Our characters and the situations they find themselves in are more believable if the act and react in a realistic way to their era.

I couldn’t resist putting this picture up!

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Utilizing Period Costume in your Narrative…

November 3, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Grungy – definition: 1. ugly, run-down, or dilapidated; 2. dirty or filthy

Fashion through out the ages has seen some really bizarre trends. As young people we imagined ourselves as trend setters and the ‘older’ generation as boring in their fashion sense. However, as we become older and watch the younger generation wear styles that we would never be seen dead on – we are reminded of our own outfits. Some of these make a reappearance and we laugh at the ‘new’ styles, knowing only too well – been there, done that.

GrungyWe all rebel against the ‘establishment’ when we are young. Fashion is just one of the more interesting devices to do so.

What era is your favorite for style? 

See this excellent link:

http://jezebel.com/5688362/dress-code-know-your-era

A knowledge of style and fashion is also important when we are writing about a certain era. Pop socks would not be suitable in a 1940’s office setting or a deer-stalker in a futuristic world. Garments can be a good indicator of the time period without having to write long exposition.

In my re-incarnation romance, The Twesome Loop, I worked between two eras, 2000 and 1875. Clothing became a part of the narrative to show when the period had changed but also when the two merged.

Have you utilized costumes or fashion in your stories?

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Visual Reminders of Days Gone Past…

March 11, 2013
mandyevebarnett


Today’s word – Gingham – definition: a cotton clothing fabric in plain weave.

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All I could see when I read this word was gathered gingham fabric across the kitchen sink window…isn’t that evidence of how strong images are? My next image was of my infant (elementary) school uniform, which was green and white gingham summer dresses or grey skirts and bottle green sweatshirt’s for winter.

So is gingham coming back into fashion now? I found a site, which has gentleman’s shirts in gingham – no more little girl’s with pigtails? I also found out that gingham is typically a colour and white not multi coloured like plaid. Once I starting delving into the history of gingham I found out it was first produced in 17th century England and the fabric shipped to the colonies. However, the original fabric was striped and only gradually became checkered. The most popular colour combination was blue and white. As for the actual name there are numerous possibilities to its origin. Ging-gang is Italian, genggang is Malaysian and Indonesia – take your pick. Whichever it is they all mean striped.

This fascinating post is worth reading – if you so wish. Lots of stuff I didn’t know about gingham. http://visforvintage.net/2012/09/11/gingham-fabric/

After reading all this it occurred to me that my image of gingham may not necessarily be true for everyone. I have it firmly set in the 1950’s but with the re-emergence of the fabric in later decades in other guises, it is quite possible that a younger reader would picture it entirely differently. So that makes for an interesting predicament, depending on the age of your readers and or the era you are portraying can significantly alter how the use of articles or items can influence your readers perception of where in time your characters are.

A point to consider and research when using iconic items, articles or music for that matter. All of them can evoke a different response in your reader.

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