Bookshop Addiction-there is no cure.

Do you admit to bookshop addiction? I do. Openly, blissfully I admit to my affliction.

And there is no cure. I know; I have done the studies. No. Cure.

When you enter those hallowed walls, how do you browse the shelves? What is your process? Do you head straight for your genre, despite looking for a gift for someone else? Do you start at the back and work forward? Or do you mix it up a little?

I start at the beginning. At the very front. Those tables piled with temptation; the specials tables, then the new releases. Oh… the joy of picking the latest by a favourite author. Beyond these to the crime, romance, literature. There is the classic I have been looking for. On to the self help which does nothing to salve my addiction.

The children’s section, cooking and wine. Art and memoir. My pulse quickened back at Australian Classics and my doctor would seriously disapprove of the level my blood pressure has reached. I have enough to feed my addiction for the moment. It is time to go.

Have you noticed most registers are never quite at the front of the store? Nor in the middle or the back? No. So as not to impede your progress, they know their best spot is to the side, set back a little; not too obvious but where you will see them, ready to transfer your treasures into a brown paper bag while they feed their spoils of your addiction into the till.

I confess to something a little peculiar; I pick the book behind the first one. So I buy a pristine copy. It’s like the top one is sacrificed for the good of the rest. Unless I am browsing a second hand bookshop. That’s a whole other story.

My habit is out of control; I have browsed many a bookshop and below are a few of my favourites. There’s a common thread in these; heritage buildings, high timber shelves, careful lighting. And those library ladders!

New modern shops with their bright lights and garish posters – not for the seriously addicted, clearly. No, the serious addict doesn’t want their affliction flaunted in places such as these. Give us the low light, soft murmurs, and that smell. You know what I mean. Breathe it in and exhale slowly.

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Are your characters loveable?

Should we always write loveable characters? Or even likeable?

I recently received constructive feedback on a short story I entered into a competition. One of the comments “…this successfully built empathy for her situation whilst allowing one to dislike her for…” led me to wonder how many times a character I have had empathy for, or even a person I have met, I have disliked despite that empathy.’Empathy’ and ‘like’ don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Not long after this I listened to a great interview with Dutch writer Hermann Koch who has written best selling novels with distinctly unlikeable characters and was thereafter involved in an impromptu discussion about the emotions raised during and after reading the Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante. How cross one reader was with the protagonist despite empathy for her situation.

That really is what writing a good story is about, isn’t it? Raised emotions and reactions, for the story to remain with us after we finish reading it?

Who are likeable characters and what makes them so? Anne of Green Gables?A rascallyClark Gablerogue with a handsome face and twinkle in his eye, a smile that sweeps you off your feet? A beautiful femme fatale who takes the bullet for the hero? I seem to be channeling 50s gangster movies. Bridget Jones? How about the Artful Dodger or Nancy, from Oliver Twist? Oliver goes without saying.

Our characters ought to have some redeeming features, or we would all put the story away pretty quickly.These will be in the eye of the reader and the skill of the writer. How differently is a character seen or interpreted between the mind and words of the writer and the eyes of the reader? A lot I think. Our readers are individuals and as such react, well, individually. They may not appreciate the depth of the character we as writers have slaved over.

So, must we always write likeable characters? Obviously not as the best selling status of the above mentioned authors attest. We must write flawed characters, but how deeply do we portray these flaws? We don’t want to turn our readers away. Should the protagonist be likeable and the antagonist not, because by the meaning of the word they are there to be Harper Lee booksdisliked. In one of my favourite books, To Kill  A Mocking Bird, Atticus is a warm, loveable character. However, in the recently released Go Set A Watchman, he is the antagonist; but so cleverly written by Harper Lee I am still a big fan.

What type of characters do you prefer to read? Maybe it depends on your mood at the time. After an exhausting day you might look forward to something warm and cosy with a happy ending. Or on a bleak wintry day you might want to fire yourself up with a deeply flawed character set on saving the world the hard way.

And do we write the sort of characters we like to read? After all we are in their heads a long time; we can even become them.

Back where all this began -did I like my character in the short story, do I like her now?  I’m not going to tell you, but if you would like to find out for yourself whether you might like her, I have attached a link here.

A quick note – this story, Invisible,  was placed 34th out of 251 entries; the first 31 were published. I am happy with that, and have chosen not to rewrite that story, yet; instead to move on and use their feedback on a current WIP. So the story you may be about to read is there warts and all.

 

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Perth Writers Festival 2015

The Perth Writers Festival is over for another year and for me it abounded with inspiration, warmth, fun and fantastic weather. It is one of the highlights of my year, I anticipate the next one for months before it occurs and live off the memories for months after. Yes I am a ‘tragic’.

Australian writers and illustrators from all genres mixed, mingled and debated with equally illustrious writers from overseas to bring their expertise to packed audiences. Tropical garden to airconditioned tents to theatres, the venues were as diverse as the guests. Kudos to the hosts, the University of Western Australia, whose grounds and beautiful buildings, as ever, proved the perfect venue for such an event. PeacockTo the left is one of the resident peacocks who kept me company for much of my downtime between sessions.

So many writers, so hard to choose a favourite. Elizabeth Gilbert oozed warmth and insight while Graham Simsion greeted his audiences on entry with chocolates; his wit, charm and intellect held us spellbound during sessions which passed too quickly. Liane Moriarty, Peter Docker, Inga Simpson to literally name just a few among such an exciting group of Australian writers.

I sometimes wonder what draws others to Writers Festivals. The demographic is predominantly female seniors, strongly Caucasian. But the multicultural mix is improving which is great to see. And family day is a joy to observe. There is a minority, however, who test my patience. The self promoters in the audiences who, at question time, purport to know more about the writer and why they wrote the book than the writer themselves. To the frustration of the rest of the audience and perhaps even the author. I swear there is at least one of these in every session. (end of rant).

I know why I am there. To learn, to be inspired, to be awed; to soak up the ambiance and float home afterwards, my mind full.

(originally written earlier in the year for my own personal use)

#pwf15 @paulinewrites