Rebirth – seven basic plots

So according to the internet in the rebirth plot the protagonist is usually cast under some dark spell and liberation can only be achieved through the actions of other good forces.  Apparently the redemptive power of love can be a liberating force but as I’m still struggling through a romance short story at the moment I’m not pursuing that line.  Typically the imprisonment of the main character is derived from something within their own psyche and some examples cited include A Christmas Carol and Beauty and the Beast.

When I was reading this I immediately thought of the character Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin in the TV programme ‘Once Upon a Time‘ who is played by the excellent Robert Carlyle.  If you haven’t seen it I can highly recommend it, I’ve just finished the first series and am eagerly awaiting the second series which has just started showing in the US. I don’t think I can say much about his character without giving away huge chunks of the story and as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who has yet to have the joy I’ll leave it at that!

As my short story is science-fiction there is lots of scope here for a character who is wrestling with some inner torment although I haven’t got much further in my character development than that!


Justice – seven ages of man

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

The main character for my next short story (she says, as though she’s actually finished writing the first one) should be based on the age of man that Shakespeare calls ‘justice’.  I think he’s probably 40s/50s and experienced a bit of middle-age spread as he is described as having a fair round belly with good capon lined e.g. he’s eaten a lot of castrated rooster!  He’s mature and wise, probably well respected, presentable and responsible.

I’ve decided to base him on Kenneth Branagh!


Cheltenham Literature Festival! New job! Toothache! No writing…

So the past week was a busy one – it started in a tent and ended at the dentist and once again I am well behind on my writing project!

Cheltenham Literature Festival!

Wednesday and Thursday last week were spent at the Cheltenham Literature Festival where I further consolidated my geek status by developing crushes on historians!  I know – shocking behaviour!  If you’ll indulge me I’ll quickly talk about the new objects of my desire!

First event on Wednesday was Dan Snow talking about his new TV series and book ‘Battle Castles‘, the title is self-explanatory.  In the past a lot of the talks we’ve attended have been ‘in conversation’ – basically an interviewer asks a couple of very broad questions but we were often left feeling they were pretty superfluous to requirements.  This year there seems to have been a re-think for a lot of the events and Dan gave an ‘illustrated talk’ – basically he had the floor to himself, showed photos on a big screen and talked nineteen to the dozen.  It was great!  He was free to talk about the castles and things that excited him most and his enthusiasm for the subject was clear as he was interesting, articulate and funny.   And just a little bit dashing and handsome.  Here’s a very grainy photo to show how close we got to the front:

After that we saw Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn talking about their latest project the Wartime Farm.  Me and my Mum could almost be considered Alex and Peter groupies as we made it to the front row of their talk last year on the Edwardian Farm, we were a bit further back this time, see another grainy photo:

This year was more exciting though as they came dressed in costume!  I do love a man in a period costume – a few years back I dragged my Mum to loads of medieval re-enactments but I digress.  Alex and Peter (and their missing colleague Ruth Goodman) are archaeologists and historians who bring a period of history to life by actually living it.  This project focused on farming in Britain during the Second World War and offered a fascinating insight into the Battle for Food.  Alex and Peter make as good a double act on stage as they do on the programme and I could have easily listened to them for much longer.  And they were also just a tiny bit handsome too, I mean who doesn’t love a man in a tank top?!

Third in our history bonanza was Adam Hart-Davis talking  about engineers, he was also in a costume of sorts as he rattled through a list of notable engineers peppered with jokes.  Possibly my favourite thing about his talk was his passionate plea for young people, especially women, to consider engineering as a career.  He was very keen to point out that women were under-represented and that there was no reason at all why this should be as women were more than capable of doing exactly the same as men.  For that alone Adam makes it onto my list of crushees!

We finished the day with Hilary Devey and I don’t really want to waste space talking about her, she was a massive disappointment.  She is a business woman and entrepreneur and I thought it might be interesting to find out how she made her fortune.  Instead she arrived 40 minutes late and with a sycophantic and diabolic interviewer who gushed over her and made countless mistakes, the funniest being muddling Ewan McGregor and Evan Davis – I bet that happens all the time!

On Thursday I thought my Mum might spontaneously combust with excitement as Lucy Worsley got on our train!  Lucy Worsley!  The person we were going to see and one of her favourite historians!  I’ll hand over to her to explain our final day as I’m sure I’ve already taken up too much space!

New job!

Friday was my interview for the post of Neighbourhood Library Manager – back at the place I first worked when I graduated in 2005.  I was very nervous and sure that I’d gabbled a lot of nonsense at them but it seemed to have done the trick as I was offered the job pending successful references!  I am very excited about the new challenge!


My pesky wisdom tooth has flared back into life with another infection but my lovely dentist has now given my magic antibiotics so in a few days the pounding in my head should have ceased enough for me to think about some creative writing.  I really must try harder…

Mistresses, morals and mania

Saturday was the second day of the 2012 Cheltenham Literature Festival which I attended with Frances Bevan, henceforth known as Mum, as that’s who she is to me!

This post is a bit of a diversion from normal business however I can make a rather tenuous link – this month’s challenge is science-fiction and at one point I found myself standing next to Iain (M.) Banks signing books in the Waterstones tent!

Iain Banks!

Anyway, I thought I would give a brief review of the three very different events we attended.


Not the most accurate title but I like a bit of alliteration.  This event was actually called ‘Women of Substance’ and featured Libby Purves interviewing Clare Clark, Juliet Nicolson and Frances Osbourne.  The discussion focused on the challenges of translating women’s lives in some of history’s most pivotal moments.  Clark’s novel Beautiful Lies opens just before the Golden Jubilee of 1887; Nicolson’s Abdication is set in 1936 and Osbourne’s Park Lane in the First World War.  All three women were passionate about the period and characters in their books, inspired by real women and events.  Libby Purves grated slightly, talking over people and moving onto her next point without much acknowledgement of what had been said, so desperate was she to keep to time.  This is probably my only complaint of the Festival.  They pack in so many events that often really interesting discussions are cut short in order to clear the venue for the next person; unavoidable but a bit of a shame.

At the end a member of the audience asked if the panel felt there was a difference between male and female writers which elicited an interesting response.  Clare Clark noted that as men and women’s lives change their writing reflects this, women are not confined to the home and in these post-Freudian times men are encouraged to discuss their emotions more.  Gone is the idea that men write grand novels while women focus on the domestic affairs and Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies was held up as an example.  What do other people think?  What are your favourite male-authored domestic novels and female-authored epics?  Is this distinction helpful or even relevant?

Festival tents


The second event was a recording of BBC Radio 4’s The Moral Maze – available to listen to online here:  The question was: ‘The 90th anniversary of the BBC. Is public service broadcasting a moral good?’

For those not familiar with the programme Michael Buerk chairs a debate with a panel and a number of witnesses.  For this show the panel included Michael Portillo, Anne McElvoy, Claire Fox and Matthew Taylor.  Witnesses were David Elstein – Chairman of Broadcasting Policy Group; Robin Aiken – Journalist; Matthew Flinders – Professor of Politics, University of Sheffield; and Steve Barnett – Professor of Communications, University of Westminster.

Worryingly (for me at least, as a bit of a lefty) I found myself agreeing with Michael Portillo – I don’t know which of us has shifted in our politics but I’m hoping it’s him!

It was a really interesting debate but I felt the odd one out in the audience.  I was at least 20 years younger than the majority and not a regular BBC4 listener, I’ve never heard even a minute of The Archers which I think would have been treated as blasphemy had I admitted to it aloud.

As I’m not a die-hard supporter of the Beeb I agreed with David Elstein that the license fee is not the right way to fund such a service and also with Robin Aiken who highlighted an inherent political bias in some of the editorial decisions.  Matthew Flinders and Steve Barnett both made valid ideological arguments as to the importance of public service broadcasting but I still remain unconvinced that the BBC is the only possible provider of such a service.  I wanted to applaud several of Anne McElvoy’s comments but feared a potential lynching so have now decided to follow her on Twitter and read her articles in an entirely anonymous and safe way!


J.K. Rowling appeared at the Festival at The Centaur; with a capacity of 2,250 people the event unsurprisingly sold out well in advance.  Before she took to the stage the tension in the room was palpable, the audience comprised men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds and everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of their hero.  And hero-worship it was but I’ll return to that in a moment.

James Runcie interviewed the author and noted at the beginning that the pair were friends which was evident in the session as it struck the right balance of informality and detail.  He called her Jo throughout so I’m going to do the same as I don’t think she’d mind!

Jo was there to talk about her new book ‘The Casual Vacancy’ the blurb for which states:

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.  Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.  Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils… Pagford is not what it first seems.  And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

Jo discussed the novel’s themes of responsibility and integrity giving an insight into her personal moral code as well as talking about the creative process.  In common with the Harry Potter books you realise just how intricate the worlds she creates are, every character is multi-layered with whole backstories often never mentioned in the novel but working to create a rounded individual.  She talked about redemption, tolerance and understanding but in a completely non-judgemental way and didn’t come across as at all preachy.  She made you feel like you wanted to be her best friend which leads me onto my subheading of mania.

I’ve never seen such hysteria before and doubt I will again.  During the question and answer session nearly every person to take the microphone cried and told Jo that they loved her.  My Mum commented that she had touched a lot of people, to which I quipped that some of them were certainly touched but I now realise that was spiteful and unnecessary.  Yes, some of them were obsessed and slightly loopy – in particular one fifty-something year old woman who proclaimed that Dobby was her favourite character and then warbled her way through some tearful monologue about wanting to help people who were disadvantaged in support of the little people like Dobby.  I didn’t understand her point but Jo was gracious and warm as she was with everyone from teenagers offering themselves as actors in any future film adaptations to a Chinese woman struggling with her English.

As an avid reader, former bookseller and wannabe library manager (interview on Friday!) I was pleased that the mania in the room was directed at an author; someone who used their creativity, imagination and skills to create whole worlds and encouraged a new generation of readers and writers.  While some of the audience may have been slightly crazed I felt they were my people and was proud of them for not admiring the latest Big Brother contestant or WAG and instead had chosen someone interesting, talented, warm and kind to pour their energies into.

Long live Rowling’s reign!

October’s Challenge

How on earth did we end up in October already?!  This year is disappearing right in front of my eyes!

Not only have I failed to complete September’s challenge (it’s a work in progress) but I am also starting October’s challenge late.

So here goes, the grand unveiling:

Another long short-story at 4,200 words which is a bit of a pain!  This time it’s science-fiction following the basic plot of re-birth which seems an easy one to interpret.  The age of man is justice (I’m aiming for middle-aged), the sin and virtue are gluttony and temperance and the story will be set in the Indian Ocean.  And somehow plumbing has to feature in it.  I’m sure this will be dead easy!  Help!