Stepping Out of the Comfort Zone

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I am your typical introverted writer and reader. Often my ideal Friday night is a good book, a mug of hot chocolate, and a movie I know backwards for background noise.

But every so often I get the urge to do more with my life. I live in London but don’t know all that many people. I feel that’s not right. This is a big city, there’s lots to do, and I should have options on the nights when I don’t want to curl up and read. So, I recently signed up to MeetUp.com – a website of groups to join where you can meet like minded people. On Saturday night I bit the bullet and signed up to a pub quiz meet up for 20 something year olds (the group is actually called ‘20somethings’ – does what it says on the tin), which took place last night.

There is something to be said about going outside your comfort zone. There’s the nerves, the anticipation, and the excitement. There’s that slight adrenaline rush as you take the final step, and the surge of pride that you’re conquering something.

NaNoWriMo 2014 is 7 ½ weeks away (I know…). If it’s something you’ve never done, then you may be feeling part of what I describe above. Hey, even if you have done it before, you may still feel it! In my eleventh year (!), NaNo is very much part of my comfort zone now. It would be much weirder to do the year without it, and probably more stressful (odd as it sounds) to not have NaNo in my life. But, for many, it is a huge jump from the comfort zone circle. Or square. Or decagon. Take your pick of shape – it’s your zone.

In some ways, parts of writing are going out of your comfort zone, too. Typing the first sentence of a new novel is always a leap of faith, even for the seasoned writers. No matter how much planning you do, taking that first step is always going to require a deep breath beforehand. And then there’s the genre. Do you write about something you’ve not written before? That’s always a bit nerve-wracking. What about something you struggle with? Do you focus on it or avoid it?

I remember in my second year at university, one of my creative writing tasks was to write a dialogue heavy piece. I have always disliked writing dialogue and will fall back on description when I can do, rather than transcribe a conversation. I remember feeling unhappy that I was being forced to do this, But at the end of the day, I was there to learn, so I took a breath, stepped out of my zone, and tried to write a comedic little piece geniously called “The Tea Argument”. It wasn’t anything inspiring. If I remember rightly, it was supposed to be just dialogue but I still had to slip in a few paragraphs of description every few lines. It wasn’t very good, but I do remember feeling proud about it at the time! (I still dislike dialogue, but I can face it much better than I could a few years ago.)

I think it’s healthy for the soul to do something new, something scary. I believe it was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” Everyday may be a bit much, but the feeling is there. I recently read this article on exactly this. It said that whilst it’s good to expand your wings, every so often you should retreat to your comfort zone to take stock on your new achievements, and relax with something familiar knowing that you can do whatever you want. 

Take the leap, do something new. Skydive, smile at the cute stranger on the bus, write in a genre you have never tried before. Go and meet strangers in a pub quiz in Shoreditch.

(For the record, I had an amazing night. I spoke to someone out of choice within five seconds of walking into the pub, and found myself approaching people during the course of the night just to say ‘hi’. It was a lot of fun anyway, and I came away feeling very happy and pleased that I was able to just be sociable with complete strangers without waiting for someone to approach me first. I wasn’t the quiet girl sat in the corner. I made friends who asked if I was attending the Friday night event as well. I was out of my comfort zone, and it felt good.)

The Big Blog Re-Vamp

Angelus

In honour of my blog’s re-vamp, an image of the sexiest vampire to grace our screens – Angelus himself. Swoon…!

After several weeks of no blogging and a general realisation that my blog was starting to look and feel a bit sorry for itself, it’s being given a make-over. Layout has been changed already, and I’m in the process of updating the static content, and beginning next week I will be updating it regularly again. 

As we head towards NaNoWriMo 2013, expect some NaNo-centric blog posts, as well as general editing posts. After a huge gap, I’ve begun editing again. Hopefully, this time I’ve got the drive to get through it. Boyfriend has given me the deadine of December 31st 2013 to have it edited. I’m going to try my best.

I’m also trying to get into reviewing books, so look out for my thoughts and theories on some of my upcoming reads. Goodreads has been kind enough to grant me the winner of several of their book giveaways lately, so I’m dedicating myself to reviewing them as a thank you to Goodreads and to the author.

So, hello to my new readers! And thank you to everyone who’s stuck with me. I’ll see you next week with my new, improved blog, Spilt Hot Chocolate. 

The Bet – Day Four: Taking a Break

Today is a day off from The Bet. This is purely because yesterday was Boyfriend’s birthday and I allowed him to watch TV. When he asked if he could, I didn’t want to waste a tube journey of reading with only the London Evening Standard for company, so I chose to have today as my day off instead. Man, I forgot how much easier tube journeys are when you have a book for company. Whole stops went by and I didn’t even notice people getting on and off, or the doors opening, or the fact that we were even moving along the tracks. A 45 minute journey suddenly felt like 10 minutes, but I managed to get through 100 pages of Zoe Marriott’s ‘The Night Itself’! I recommend it if you’re into Young Adult books. It involves a 500 year old Katana, and a 15 year old girl defending modern day London from a Big Bad. Also the cover is very pretty:

The_Night_Itself_cover Small

The girl in the bookstore even commented on it and said she wanted to read it.

However, until today, The Bet has gone well. I discovered a new interest in playing games on my phone, which considering I have the world’s crappiest smartphone, is impressive. I can’t have more than one game installed at once though. It drains my memory. And I’ve discovered that if you stand up against one of the doors at either end of a tube carriage (the doors that connect to the next carriage along), you get a nice blast of cold air on your hot neck every time the train leaves a station – perfect for long, sweaty, tube journeys.

The flat is also looking tidier, as getting in from work now means I haven’t really got much to do. If I go into the bedroom to watch TV, I’m liable to fall asleep and then I’ll waste the whole evening, which I don’t want. We’ve also been busy each night so far – Tuesday we went to the cinema (Monsters University is an amazing movie), and Wednesday went to Boyfriend’s folks place for a birthday meal. Tonight we’re having drinks after I’ve finished work, and tomorrow we’re heading to Brighton for the day! This means I haven’t really had a lot of time where I would be reading.

The true test comes on Sunday – Tuesday, when I’m off work with no real plans other than wanting to relax in the sun and read on the patio.

In a weird way, it’s almost cleansing to not be able to read and write whenever I want to. It means I have to find other ways to pass the time and I’m already working out ways for me to fill it. For example, I’ve owned a book on making origami jewellery for 18 months and haven’t done anything with it. This would be prime time to making a go of it. I may need to find a craft shop first to pick up a few bits, but even if not – I have the suitable paper ready.

Before, I felt I should be writing, and thus it became a chore. But right now, because I know I’m not allowed to, I’m feeling that when I win the bet (hehe), I’ll want to again. I feel I will have missed it because I’ve been banned from doing so. I’m also planning on fully printing my draft of We All Fall Down and editing it the old fashioned with – with a red pen! I have plans to look forward to, which is really nice.

In the meantime, I have another 250 pages of The Night Itself to read before midnight! Enjoy your weekend, folks!

The Bet – Day One: What I Would Do For £100

Boyfriend has this desire every so often to taken on random and often ridiculous bets with those around him. He’s a determined creature and enjoys proving the world that he’s particularly great at these random things. For example, last year he took on a bet with his best friend. The bet was that Boyfriend would be vegetarian for a month, and Friend would be vegan (Friend was already vegetarian). Seeing as Boyfriend didn’t eat vegetables at all prior to this month, it was an interesting and entertaining month for the rest of us, and a painful month for himself. They decided that whoever broke first had to have a tattoo of the other’s choice. As it happened, both completed the month and neither got a tattoo, seeing as they both won. Amusingly, Boyfriend was ill the first week or so of turning vegetarian and with a month being just long enough for his body to adjust, he was ill when he went back to eating meat again as well.

On Friday he announced he wanted to try a bet with myself. Not wanting to appear weak, I agreed. The bet? He has to give up all TV, and I have to give up reading and writing. The intricate terms are:

Boyfriend:

  • No TV. Of any description. (I said he could watch Arsenal matches but it’s off season.)
  • He’s allowed to watch movies.

Me:

  • No reading fiction at all.
  • No reading newspapers at all.
  • No reading websites outside of work.
  • No writing, apart from blog posts (and work emails) so I can document this.
  • I’m allowed to check Facebook.

He’s currently unemployed and so usually watches a lot of TV. I spend 3 hours a day commuting on the London Underground and will read and write in the evenings, often whilst he’s watching TV as I enjoy the background noise sometimes. We are both giving up something we spend a great deal of our free time embracing and will have to find other forms of entertainment. Ironically, if I can’t read I would watch TV. But as he can’t, I either have to kick him out of the living room or go into the bedroom myself to watch it.

He reckons I’ve got it easier but he doesn’t read fiction and therefore doesn’t grasp the sheer depth of this bet for me. I’m halfway through Justin Cronan’s ‘The Twelve’, and I have Zoe Marriott’s new book ‘The Night Itself’ waiting in a Foyles bag for me! I didn’t even mean to own any new books after the bet was made, but on Saturday we went into Foyles and I went browsing and saw two books I instantly wanted. One was The Night Itself, and the other was ‘Angel Fever’ by L.A. Weatherly – the third of a trilogy that I’ve been waiting for for a year! I couldn’t say ‘no’! I spent Saturday and Sunday evening, and most of yesterday, devouring Angel Fever before midnight struck (I succeeded), and I got a tweet from the author:

Tweet - Me

Tweet - Lee

(Amazing trilogy by the way! Highly recommended. And if you’re waiting for Angel Fever, I will just say two words – THE FEELS!!!)

Of course the big question is – what do we do if we lose? We pay the other £100. We’re withdrawing the money tonight and keep it in the flat so when one of us breaks – we can instantly pay up and flee to our vices.

There isn’t a time frame on this at the moment, although we’re debating adding one for our sanity. I’m heading home to visit my family on Wednesday 25th for five days and we’ve already decided we are putting the bet on pause during this time, as I will have a 2 hour train journey to contend with and a LOT of free time in my parents’ house, which I usually fill with re-reading books I’ve left behind. It was too much. And Boyfriend has a friend staying over for a couple of days whilst I’m away so it’d be super tough for him, too.

So, for the time being, I am not reading or writing. But I will be blogging about how I get on emotionally with this. It’s one thing to choose not to do something, or not feel like it, but another entirely to have that choice taken away from you.

Here’s to the next few days!

Making Use of the Night

When I was a student, my most active hours were between about 1am and 5am. (Which I guess was typical of most students.) When I was unemployed, it was the same. I am definitely not a morning person and the afternoons just seem a waste of good napping time. Unfortunately, being an adult and in a 9 to 5 job, I kinda of have to be awake during the day and asleep during the night when really I’d like it to be the other way around. I spent most of my first year at university being nocturnal and found no problems (other than missing lectures, I suppose…)

Lately, I’ve discovered something both sweet and annoying. If my boyfriend is at home, I find it hard getting to sleep without him being in the bed. If he’s away for the night, I can sleep just fine, but if I know he’s in, I can’t get to sleep easily and if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll be awake for two hours. I think it’s because I can hear him moving around and once I’m awake, my brain latches onto the noises in the flat. (Or it’s because I mwiss him and want him to snuggle… and yes the ‘w’ was supposed to be there. Romantics, take your pick.)

But if I wake up around 2am and find myself quite awake and no sign of returning to sleep, why don’t I make use of the time? Everyone has a productive time of the day (Boyfriend’s is 11pm to 4am, so he’s a night owl, too, but doesn’t have to be up for work so can embrace his owlishness) and should utilise it when they can. So what if it’s the middle of the night? During NaNoWriMo, I have definitely gotten up in the night to write when I’ve woken and ideas have struck. So, what’s stopping me from doing it now? I don’t tend to go on my netbook when I get in from work because I’ve spent the day staring at a computer screen and don’t wish to spend my evening doing it as well. But if I’m awake at 2am, and clearly not going back to sleep until 4am, why not get creative AND stay in bed? Solution? Writing. I can even start keeping my netbook in the bedroom rather than the living room and I don’t even have to move to get it (I can reach the desk from the edge of the bed – our room is a comfy size but not huge. You can definitely reach everywhere from the bed. (Win.))

I know that getting up and turning on a brightly lit screen and engaging in an activity which will only make my brain more awake seems a contradictive idea when I’m really aiming to turn my brain off, but I figure that if I’m going to be awake anyway (you know those times when you’ve woken up and are REALLY awake and you just know it’s going to be awhile before you go back to sleep) then what’s the difference between lying in the dark, checking my clock and working out if I went to sleep that minute, how much sleep I’d get before the alarm goes off (we all do it), or getting up and making use of that time?

Morning people, I’m sure you can get up earlier to write before work. Afternoon people can take a later lunch break (if possible) and use their time productively towards their writing. Nighttime people – well, it’s a little harder, but it sure beats lying and staring at the ceiling and wondering what on God’s earth prompted someone to install a bright orange security light outside our bedroom.

I can’t really put this into practice until my next sleepless night.

However, I’m running a 10K and 5K on Sunday (The British 10K in the morning, and the Color Run UK in the afternoon) and I just received an email wishing me luck for the 10K and it states “Remember that 2 nights before the race is the most important night of sleep for peak performance.” So, no matter what, I need to TRY and sleep…

Let’s Create a Writing Habit

Tried and tested writers will be aware of the genius little site called 750 Words. If you haven’t heard of it, the idea behind it is in the name. You create an account purely to write 750 words a day. You don’t have to spend time writing a snappy description of your hobbies and interests. You don’t have to update your status or describe your current emotion at that moment.

It just asks that you take time from your day to write 750 words. About what? Well, anything you like. They’re your 750 words after all! It’s an exercise in training your brain and yourself to sit down and write something every day. It doesn’t need to make sense, it doesn’t need to link together or match up to the day before. You don’t have to finish what you’re writing about and you never have to read it again. But you are training yourself. After all, much like anything else, the brain is a muscle and if you want to create a habit within yourself, you need to train until it becomes exactly that – a habit. When you’re at a point when not doing something feels like you’re missing something from your day, you know you’ve formed a habit.

And you don’t even have to write all 750 words in one go. If you can type at 100 words a minute, you only need 8 minutes of your day to write (assuming you can keep going without any interruptions or pause for thought), but even if you’re a slower typer and find you haven’t got a lot of free time, you can do it in bits and pieces and just get used to using that free time to jot down ideas and thoughts.

If you write so many days in a row, or at certain times of the day, or at a particular speed, you can earn badges. (Badges!) Who doesn’t want a Turquoise Horse badge? (There’s even a badge for NaNoWriMo! You just write 50,000 words in one month.) You can even join in the One Month Challenge – where you endeavour to write 750 words a day for a month.

AND! There’s STATS! (I definitely heard a collective ‘ooooh’ then.) Fellow Internet nerds will love stats. Here’s a hopefully working link to the states page for my first 750 word day.

http://750words.com/entries/share/2882376

(I was blathering in third person about Britain’s poor excuse for a summer and how we like to make the most of it when we can.)

You can review what your brain thinks about – where your first port of call is. Do you like writing about happy or sad topics? People, yourself, the world around you? What about location? Food seems to be a major topic in my ramblings I’m learning so far. You can also see how often you pause. My pauses are a little off as I’ve been doing 750 words in work and I sadly do have to answer the phone on occasion and can’t quite write whilst discussing flights.

Just picking a random topic and writing because if you don’t do it that day you don’t get a little green ‘X’ in a box is an amazingly creative way to open up your mind. I’ve not really had any ideas for stories from it yet (but I’ve only been doing it four days) as I’m mostly using it to just cleanse our my fairly cluttered brain. I’ve come up with some blog ideas, though. I’ll mark them as 750 word creations (edited from the original).

You don’t have to tag or label or describe your work. It’s private, it’s open-ended; it’s yours. Go and try it.

The Hardest Thing in This World is to Strive For Your Dreams

I have a vivid memory of myself when I was 8 or 9 years old. I was standing in a corridor in school and determinedly thought to myself about what I was going to do once I had finished primary school. I was going to go to high school (at age 8, I didn’t realise this was compulsory), then college, then university, and then I would become a published author. It was somewhere around this ages I wrote my first short story (available to read here).

It’s now 18 years later and I have achieved all but the last of that list. And it’s the last item, which is my dream and therefore has been the hardest thing to reach for. Why? Because the only person I really have to motivate me is myself. I’m not harming others, or giving happiness to others if I do or don’t get published. This is something to do solely for myself, and I think that’s what makes it hard. Not because I don’t feel I don’t deserve it, but because there’s no outside drive to push me into it.

Recently my boyfriend and I began the nuts exercise regime called ‘Insanity’ (Google it). It’s essentially 6 days a week of a 40 minute intense aerobics session and you end up dripping sweat afterwards if you do it properly. After the first two days my calves hurt so much I had issues walking up and down stairs. As we’re doing this in our flat, it would be easy to say we’re not going to do it one day ‘cause we’re both tired. But with the two of us doing it, we’re encouraging each other on the days when one of us feels less than enthusiastic about it. So far, we’re doing amazingly well. If either was doing this on our own, we wouldn’t be still going.

This is why I believe NaNoWriMo is such a great thing. Because no matter where in the world you are, you can connect with other people doing the same insane challenge through the power of the Internet and can get the support, the encouragement, the cheers, whenever you need them. Having people around you doing the same thing you are I believe helps you to achieve what you’re trying to do because it’s easier if you know someone is going through the same thoughts, problems and who understands how you’re feeling.

Going back to my 8 year old dream – I still want to be published. I have a novel in the process of being edited. But I haven’t edited in so long. I come up with a ton of lame excuses as to why I haven’t edited. The last time I looked at my novel, I had left it a few months and couldn’t fully remember the story prior to where I was up to. Rather than back track a bit, I decided to leave it. And now the situation will be worse.

With editing, I have a completely different mindset to writing. Writing I can do anywhere, especially if I have a pair of headphones with me. But with editing, I need to be in a room by myself, with a spacious area for spreading out notebooks, post-it notes, pens, etc, and the space to pace the floor when I’m thinking or working something out. (I’d probably be thrown out of a coffee shop if I kept jumping up to pace between the tables.) This means, I only have myself to fully motivate me, and it’s a struggle.

What do you do when you need to motivate yourself? There’s nothing I particularly want right now which I can offer myself as a reward, so I’m thinking more along the lines of withholding things I enjoy until I park myself at my desk and flippin’ well edit the thing!

The Power, or Lack Of.

Last night we had a power cut.

I was quite surprised. Power cuts aren’t all that common. I can’t remember the last time I experienced a power cut. In an odd way, I’ve always liked power cuts. Especially when I was younger. It meant we got takeaway food or something different as we only had a gas hob (my first ever stir fry was eaten during a power cut!) and it meant I could read by candle light as there wasn’t much else to do. And I loved to read. (Still do.) If it was winter, the lack of power meant being able to huddle up in warm clothes and blankets and it just felt exciting.

That feeling has never really left me. I still get a little excited when there’s a power cut. I admit, my first thought was “what am I meant to do in the dark?” but I have candles here, so I lit them. However, these days I have a netbook with an 8-10 hour battery life that was fully charged last night so as much as I could sit here and read, I’m chosing to sit here and write instead.

There’s something almost romantic about a power cut at night, I find. It’s dark and cosy and there’s flickering candles instead of electric lights. Everything seems softer and somehow warmer (despite the heating being off). In the modern age, I feel it also sparks creativity and even community. Without power, you can’t cook in the electric oven whilst watching TV. You either work out how to cook something (I am shortly going to be making hot chocolate on our gas stove), or you go out. If you go out, you may run into your neighbours in the local pub who have also gone to escape the lack of power and end up having a pleasant social night out that was entirely unplanned but thoroughly enjoyed.

And if you do stay in, then as I did when I was younger, you have the perfect excuse to catch up on that book you’ve been neglecting (as I typed that my thought instantly fled to House of Leaves which I’d been avoiding finishing for over a year as it freaked me out – obviously a power cut is the best time to finish such a story!), or you can write a letter, or write a story, or play board games if you don’t live alone. Be creative! If this was November, I’d’ve been delving into making use of the non-Internet time. However, as it’s not, I felt more like I could do little fun things such as reading a horror story by candlelight. Why not? After all, we often neglect such odd little pleasures, so when the opportunity comes to embrace them, embrace them we should! Some people may choose to sleep in the dark, I chosing to lie on the floor with my dressing gown over me, a cup of steaming hot chocolate at my side, a candle in front, and a book which prevented me from sleeping the last time I read it excessively. I know everyone’s different, but my choice sounds a lot more fun than sleeping. Unexpected night can be creepy. So, I am going to be creeped!

Enjoy your weekend, folks!

The Sweet Dreams of Others

My boyfriend has a tendency to talk in his sleep, or “wake up” and have a conversation before going back to sleep. In the middle of the night if he wakes me up, this can be a weird and confusing experience, but if I’m awake and he’s asleep, it can be highly entertaining. I hadn’t thought about it before, but there are some golden story ideas or starting lines in what he says.

For example, a few weeks ago we had a conversation at four in the morning about downloading being like the last day of school and having to empty your locker. He never did manage to explain what he meant but he was certain at the time that it made sense. Prior to that he told me that someone was a lionface. I’m not sure if he meant a person with a face with lion-like qualities or a person with an actual lion face. Intriguing either way. Last week he fell asleep in the evening so I was writing when I disturbed him and he ‘woke up’ and this was our conversation. (I am geniusly named ‘S’ in this conversation):

D: “Where’s your purple jumper?”

S: “I don’t have a purple jumper.”

D: “Your purple trainer, did you take it off?”

S: “I wasn’t…”

D: “What? What? What are you saying?”

S: “I’m answering your question.”

D: “Did you open the package at work? Did I?

S: “Yeah, you did.”

D: “Did I? Did I open all of them?”

S: “Yes.”

D: “Oh. I need to buy a museum.”

I was amused for a good fifteen minutes about the last line. There’s a whole fountain of potential little stories buried in that one sleepy conversation. I wrote a short story last week which was a morbid, very pointless tale of someone being chased through corridors by hounds (I haven’t written short stories in years so I’m VERY much out of practice) but tonight’s effort is definitely going to begin with “I need to buy a museum.” Not sure where to go with it, but it’s a great opening line! I’m sure it will lead me somewhere.

It was this conversation which prompted me to write it down and keep it for future use, and make notes of other odd things he says. He’s always nagging at me to be included in my writing so here we go!

I’m not one to listen to people’s conversations on the tube or the bus or wherever. When I’m out and about, I enjoy being in my own world and walk around with music in my ears. But if you’re the type of person who enjoys listening to those snippets of conversation around you, it’s a goldmine of potential story lines, character profiles or even just awesome one lines to drop into your writing to spice up the story! I know some writers will write down conversations they overhear into notebooks and store them for future use. As I’m often out without a bag or a coat with nice big pockets, I don’t always have a notebook on me so it’s rare for me to do this, but it’s a definite worthwhile idea, don’t you think? I’m already considering just going and sitting in Hyde Park in the summer and eavesdropping whilst lazing in the sun (assuming we get sun… ahem, weather?)

I guess where I’m going with this is – you never know what gems of inspiration you may pick up on without even realising. The world is full of amazing things. Use them.

(For anyone interested, I deciphered his cryptic and random sleepy conversation. No idea where the purple jumper and trainer came from, but the packages were referring to him needing to open the postal visa applications in work, and the next morning on the way to work he announced he was able to buy a museum for his Jurassic Park game on his phone. Minds are strange and wonderful things.)

Description is the Killer

Last night I attended a murder mystery dinner party. This is one of those events where everyone is assigned a character, and you’re expected to arrive dressed as your character. The party takes place around several courses of food and the host dictates how much of the story is revealed. Each person knows more about their character than those around them and the idea is to work out who killed the dead person. It’s kinda like a live version of Cluedo (or Clue, as I believe it’s called in some parts of the world).

I’ve never been to one before and it was very interesting from several viewpoints. But what also struck me, as a writer, was how people interpreted the descriptions we were given of our own characters. Clearly, without spending more money than a one night dinner party is worth, outfits are going to be thrown together from whatever each person already owns. But, from a brief description that we’re all given, everybody will naturally have an instant image in their head of how they want to look.

For example, my character ‘Kitty Killer’ was provided with the following:
“You’re a celebrated journalist and biographer, but you’re also so glamorous that you’re often more famous than the people you’re writing about.
Costume Suggestion: Head-to-toe in black with a slash of scarlett lipstick and either a wig in foxy blond or jet black.”

I instanty saw myself in tight black jeans with heals and a black shirt. Mainly because I own all of this. I’m a natural blonde and whilst I could easily just straighten my hair, which I do most days anyway, I decided to make the effort and go and buy a black wig. Of course, easier said than done. In my head, my character has straight black shoulder length hair, with a fringe. My hair is half way down my back, which meant I’d need a longer wig than my mental image suggested. The wig I bought was a reaches-to-your-bum Halloween “witches” wig for £8, and was the tattiest thing I could’ve found. (They were clearly going for very badly failed Morticia Adams look.) It didn’t fit my mental image and thus I was unhappy about wearing it. (I took it off after about 15 minutes.)

When we write a story, we are painting mental images of our characters in our readers minds. Without sitting down and giving a full blow by blow description of their skin, face, hair, and wardrobe choices, you’re not going to provide each individual reader with the exact same image. No matter how hard you try, your mental image of your own character is unlikely to reflect that of the image in your readers’ minds. And if you do try hard enough, you’re likely to drive people away from your story as they struggle to match your way of thinking.

I believe there is such as thing as ‘over-description’. It’s like you’re forcing your readers to see things the way you see them, to think the way you think. You should be carefully guiding them, giving them room to make their own judgments, allowing them a little freedom to move about in your novel world and get to know it in their own way. And I think that’s a good thing. It allows everybody who comes into contact with the character to relate to them and to interpret them in their own way. It helps give them a link to the story, helps them to interact with the characters, and gives them a doorway to feeling what the characters feel and that’s what makes a story Good. If you think of your favourite story, it’s always one you’ve added your own personal touch to – whether it’s the way you see a character or the way you pronounce their name – it makes it special.

We’ve all seen the movie version of a book we like and instantly wrinkle our noses and go “well that’s not how he/she looked in the book!” but how would you know? After all, if everyone interprets a description differently, maybe they did look like the book to somebody. (Although specified eye colour or hair colour is very hard to mis-interpret.)

Like everything else in writing, there’s is a balance with description. Too little, and your reader may get lost, too much and they my feel dragged by the wrist. I feel lucky that I enjoy description and I feel that I handle it quite well. Dialogue, however, it’s an entirely different kettle of fish…

(And for anyone interested, I wasn’t the killer.)

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