Tag-Archive for » Mycroft «

How to prepare for writing lots in one month (or NaNoWriMo)

Yup, it’s almost that time of year again when a large chunk of the world wide writerly community goes crazy in the attempt to cram as many story telling words into one month as possible in the aim of having actually got their ideas out onto paper so they have something to work with and polish up, no matter how crap those original words are.

Now I’ve managed to complete the NaNoWriMo challenge the last three years running somehow (typically 50k words in one month) and I’m of course up for doing it again as it tends to be my most productive month of the year even if I’ve come close a few other times. I have found the best NaNoWriMo’s though are the ones where I actually put some planning in and knew what I wanted to write in advance.

I’m not much of a planner, in fact I come much closer to the pantser type of writer, but for November I’m much more of a planner than normal. Instead of having a few scribbled plot notes of scenes in my ideas notebook to go on and mostly ignore, for NaNo I usually spend the last couple of weeks in October mulling over plot details. Important character decisions and the main scenes where important matters happen or dialogue is said are the things I focus on.

This usually leads me to the plot points I’m not sure on yet. By thinking over the scenes and what might link them it forces me to decide on stuff that needs to happen that I normally leave until I’m writing the book. This can be minor details like what someone is doing in a scene while a conversation is happening or it can be a big detail like the motive for an action or even the entire plotline for a less major character who needs to be given more detail. It can even lead to me realising I need another POV character or something as fundamental to the writing as that. I also find it helps me do my research in advance. Knowing the science, history or forensics before the scene is written usually helps me imagine it that much quicker.

As a pantser I often don’t plan too much because I don’t want to take the fun out of writing, and I know other pantsers say the same thing about why they don’t do detailed plans, but whatever your method and whatever your reasons, to get the wordcount at the end, it definitely helps to have thought through enough that there’s no stopping to work out important details that could have already been fixed.

The final thing I try and do to get me off to a good start is harness the part of the book I write best. I know from my own writing habits that the first 25% of any story and the last 10% go the quickest for me. I love delving into a new plot and I love getting close to the end, so I harness this for NaNoWriMo, especially if I’m stuck. I almost always start something new for NaNo (the rules say you’re meant to anyway, but plenty of people cheat) and push myself to get ahead while writing that 25% because I know I’ll find it easier and it will provide me with some grace if I get stuck after.

I’ve also been known to give up on the story I started for NaNo and write a complete shorter work to give me a boost. I did this last year and wrote the first 39k of Sherdan’s Country before switching to write the entire 21k of my novella in the Kiss anthology, which I penned down in only 6 days towards the end. With the little bits I did in the few final days I entirely rescued my NaNo target and smashed it by over 10k, hitting almost 62k by the end of the month. Technically I cheated. I didn’t quite get to over 50k in one story, but I had a completed novella and was over half way through the novel I originally wanted to write and that’s a success for me.

This year I’m going to start with my Mycroft Holmes Adventures 2 novella and then when I’ve got that done, if I’ve had time to plan 3 I’ll try and write 3 as well, if not continue on with finishing Hearts of the Seas 2, Victorious Ruin. Whatever I write though I’m aiming for at least 60k. I’ll be blogging about my progress each tuesday through November for those who want to see if it goes according to plan or not.

How to do a Character Study

This is one of my favourite past times and something I’ve done so much I sort of find myself doing it automatically a lot of the time.

To start with, obviously, I pick a character. I try to choose one that has more than just the basic cannon to work with. Something like a Jane Austen character or where a film has been made about a book. Most of the time having two sources to work from helps. On top of that if I’m using film as my source material I make sure it’s an actor I know reasonably well. It helps to have an idea of how they interpret characters and what sort of dynamic they will bring to the part. Finally I take a character that interests me in some way.

I then read or watch everything that character is in, paying attention to dialogue, body language (if film) and emotional reactions to events. There’s so much to learn about a character and most of it is between the lines so I just start with this and then grow out from there if I want to. If there’s a lot of stuff. I’ll just grab the original works and some of the bigger adaptations or extensions.

Through their dialogue and emotions you can get a feel for what makes them tick, their level of education, what they think of themselves and others and what sort of personality they’ve got. If they speak well they may have been to a posh school or they may be a little vain. Through their emotional reactions you can work out what hang ups their past might have given them as well as whatb their goals and dreams might be.

While a lot of this is included in the story if you’re studying a main character, studying the bad guy or the secondary characters often leaves you wanting on the details of their past and why they might be the way they are, and this is where the character study comes in handy the most. A lot of our personality and the way we act is governeed by our past. Take the phantom in the musical. In the film they made he comes across as a passionate a genius and very much in love with Christine. We also get shown the cruelty he’s faced because of his disfigurement and can then make the choice to pity him because a lack of love has made him so aggressively possessive of his own love’s object of affection.

In the original book, the phantom is more disfigured, more crazy and appears to take more delight in harming people for the sake of harming people, leaving us pitying him less. Our ability to pity comes out of analysing his actions and understanding whether they are coming out of his own pain or some sadistic desire to hurt others.

I try to make as few assumptions as possible, prefering to stick to the facts but certain behaviours usually match up with certain past experiences and the more character studies you’ll do the more you’ll get a feel for the types of logical leaps you can make about them.

When I’m satisfied I know the character as much as I can, I often start to brainstorm what if scenarios for them. I start with what sort of person would be able to make friends with them and gain their trust and then move onto romantic attachments. What would their ideal partner be like, how would their initial meetings go. For some characters I have many many possibilities for these but a few characters (often the more complex and untrusting ones), I can sometimes list several possible scenarios for a first meeting and the different personality types and find flaws in a lot of them, but eventually I arrive with something workable.

With all that done I often write a brief bit of dialogue intensive meeting of two characters. The one I’ve come up with as a friend or romantic attachement and my character study (On the few rare occasions I’ve been unable to decide on a suitable extra character, or when I’m struggling to get my head around the character and want to explore him or her a bit further before taking it too far, I might use myself as the extra character). This then gives me the opportunity to see if I can get into the character study enough to write as if I’m them, and explore their reactions and dialogue for myself.

Often this is where I end. If I’m satisfied with having an introduction to them and enjoy it I might continue, which is where my Mycroft fan-fiction has come from, but for the most part I consider myself satisfied and like I’ve understood the character as best as I can with the information I have. Very occasionally I come back to one years later and write the meeting point again from a different place.

Mycroft and Sherlock: Chapter 1

So I’ve been writing something I totally didn’t plan to write lately. I got bitten by the Sherlock bug but in a new way, so here’s a chapter from some fan fiction, written from Mycroft’s POV.

The rain pattered on the windows as Mycroft was driven through the dreary streets of London. He frowned at the typical English weather. He’d been in his house, working, for ten straight days and it annoyed him to find it raining the minute he needed to leave and see his brother. On top of splotching his tailored suit it made the traffic worse.

As the car pulled up outside Sherlock’s flat he turned his nose up at the familiar sight. The number on the door was loose and it was almost never straight. No matter how many times he neatened it by his next visit it was crooked again. Today was no different.

His driver rushed around to the side of the door with a large black umbrella and Mycroft stepped out into the cold, narrowly missing the puddle at the side of the road. An almost identical umbrella with a silver plated handle dangled from Mycroft’s left hand and he realised he’d never used it to keep the rain off himself. After raising and lowering his eyebrow he strode through the flat door, knowing it wouldn’t be locked. He paused for the briefest second to shuffle his feet on the doormat while his chauffeur shut the door behind him and went back to the shining black vehicle to wait.

Sherlock’s housekeeper and landlady, the widowed Mrs Wintern, peered around the edge of the living room door. When she noticed it was him she retreated back inside. Knowing she’d be scurrying off to make tea, whether he would be there long enough to drink it or not, he climbed the wooden steps up to the familiar flat. None of them creaked but he’d had plenty of years practice at putting his feet in the right places to ensure his arrival was unnoticed.

Three steps from the top Mycroft paused. Mixed in with the usual scent of dust, damp and body odour was the faint traces of perfume. He knew it could only mean Sherlock had a visitor, probably a client. It only took a few seconds for Mycroft to weigh up his options in light of this discovery. He needed Sherlock to begin investigating at once and couldn’t let a client stop him. As he took the last few steps he searched his memory for the name his brother used now. By the time he rapped his knuckles on the door, Sebastian was floating across the back of his mind. Whoever was with his brother would know him as Sebastian Holmes.

Without waiting for an answer he twisted the door knob and strode into the room. Both occupants turned to face him and he scanned the extra person for information. She wore a black corset, styled to look like a waistcoat from the front but laced down the back, over the top of a deep red blouse. The red skirt almost touched the floor but a slit up one side revealed size seven black boots with a small chain running behind the two inch heels. The corset took her waist in from what would have been twenty five inches to twenty three and her mid-brown hair was up in a netted bun on the back of her head. As she turned he also noticed she deftly held a fountain pen in her right hand. Both hands had fingerless gloves that were made of the same material as a jacket over the arm of a nearby chair.

She smiled and the corners of her eyes wrinkled to match the upturn of her lips. Whoever she was she spent a lot of time writing; there were no ink marks on her despite the style of pen, and she was comfortable and relaxed in the odd mix of old fashioned and modern clothing.

“Myron! To what do I owe this pleasure?” Sherlock said in his usual sarcastic manner, although he knew the woman wouldn’t have picked up on the disdain laced in every word. It took him a fraction of a second longer to respond as he took in the pictures of people and places on the board beside them. She had to be a client with all the information presented, although not directly involved, an observer with a vested interest.

“Let me introduce my guest, Amelia Jones.” Sherlock motioned to her. “She’s a writer. Amelia, this is my brother, Myron Holmes.”

She swapped the pen over to her other hand and took a few steps towards him, her right outstretched to shake his. He glanced at her offering but kept his right hand in his trouser pocket and his left gripping the umbrella. Whoever she was, Sherlock had used her first name, something he’d not done since his days with John Watson. Mycroft frowned and the woman returned to her position by the board, giving no indication that she was bothered by the snub.

“I need to talk to you, brother of mine,” Mycroft said when he realised the case on the board still held both their attention.

“In a moment, you’ll be interested in this. This man is an undercover agent, working a case to find a stolen diamond.” Sherlock pointed to the man’s picture and then to the woman’s, “She’s unmarried, no kids, parents are dead and no one else in her life and we’re trying to figure out how she was blackmailed and how he finds out before he has her arrested.”

Mycroft rolled his eyes but took a look at the information anyway. He wanted to know how this Mrs Jones was involved. If the diamond had been hers it wasn’t something she was attached to, perhaps a family heirloom she didn’t care for.

“How was the diamond taken?” he asked.

“I don’t know, I’ve not written that part yet,” she said, fixing her blue eyes on him. “I was thinking she might seduce the security guard or get him drunk. She’s an amateur under pressure so it can’t be too difficult.”

Mycroft raised his eyebrows before he noticed Sherlock grinning at him. He sneered in response. When Mrs Jones went to continue talking he put his hand up, cutting her off.

“This is a fictional scenario?” he asked, his voice dripping with disdain at the very concept.

“Yes. It’s what I do for a living. Sebastian helps me get all the facts straight.”

“He does, does he?”

She nodded and waited for him to continue but he had no desire to make her feel more comfortable. She glanced at his brother.

“So… Why are you here, brother. You don’t visit unless you need something,” Sherlock said, taking the focus back off his guest.

“I think we ought to discuss that in private.” Mycroft looked pointedly at Sherlock’s client, hoping she’d get the hint and hurry from the building but she didn’t move.

“Nonsense, if it’s a case, Amelia can help. She’s been proving most useful in my own work, and besides, she helped with the last case you gave me.”

“She did?” Mycroft’s annoyance grew. Somehow he’d missed Mrs Jones being a regular in Sherlock’s life and he shouldn’t have done.

“I did?” She raised an eyebrow and her own surprise made him feel a little better. Sherlock laughed and nodded.

“Come on, out with it brother. What do we need to investigate?” While Sherlock spoke Mrs Jones lifted the board from the two hooks it hung on, revealing a second blank white board underneath. Mycroft coughed and then pulled the printout of the intercepted email from his inside jacket pocket.

“I received this coded message from a suspected terrorist account.” Before Mycroft could begin reading it Sherlock took the paper out of his hands and wandered off with it, leaving both him and Mrs Jones standing and waiting as Sherlock read it.

“It’s not a skip code…”

“It’s nothing logical, I assure you,” Mycroft said before Sherlock could list everything he already knew it wasn’t.

“Read it aloud.” Mrs Jones said. Mycroft frowned as Sherlock did just that. He would have done one anyway but now he was sure a background check on her would be needed.

Hiya,

Totally failed today – My ringtone went off at the funeral – I’ve got it set to Staying Alive. :AwkwardFace: I suppose I’d already made it hard on myself, the deceased had bought me one of those ugly Christmas jumpers and I wore it to the funeral. My mother told me to take it off and I don’t think she was very impressed when I told her I’d rather cry in a BMW. Then to top my day off I got rick rolled.

Thankfully my kids were cute when I got home – when I asked the eldest what she wanted for dinner she said, ‘I can has cheeseburger?’ and grinned. Later when I was playing a board game with the twins and I lost they came out with, ‘All your counters are belong to us’, their English is getting better each day. When I was a kid my dad used to swear and say ‘pardon my French – I still remember when my school teacher asked if anyone spoke a foreign language and I put my hand up. :SmileyFace:

It might be a while before I communicate again, I’m staying with relatives and they don’t know their own wi-fi password. FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUU. The kids are excited, they said they can get their pink unicorn back, I didn’t even know they had one.

Geoff

By the time Sherlock had finished, Mrs Jones was curled up on the chair, clutching her sides and crying as she tried to stop her almost silent laughter.

What’s so amusing?” Mycroft demanded when she didn’t stop as soon as the letter was over. She wiped her eyes and sat up straight again.

It’s internet memes. For example, all your counters are belong to us, is a miss-quote of all your base are belong to us from a badly translated game. I can has cheeseburger is a phrase on a lolcat, and I think there was a confession kid in there, as well as the mention of being rick rolled.” She picked up the pen and wrote out the entire letter. Once she’d finished she circled phrases in the text and linked them to the names of the internet memes. Mycroft watched and waited, wanting to see where she was going with it. If it solved the email he could get back to his house and away from her.

She stood back and put both her hands on her hips, staring at the letter now in her neat but ornamented hand-writing.

The punctuation is strange, and not right in the slightest,” she said a moment later, when no one else did anything.

Each full stop marks the end of a coded section, that much is easy to work out,” Mycroft said. His brother nodded and stole the pen from Mrs Jones, their fingers brushing past each other as he did. Mycroft sneered again, although both had their backs to him and wouldn’t have noticed. He almost wished they had.

Sherlock put a line in where each sentence ended to break the message up and then she pulled the pen from his hand and wrote in another meme at the end of the letter. After a minute of browsing something on her phone she wrote in two more, completing the final paragraph with:

First World Problems
Rage comic
Invisible Pink Unicorn

Mycroft saw the message and smiled. It pleasantly surprised him that she was on the right track.

The first letters from the first part of Friday,” he said, knowing his brother wasn’t paying attention and should be. He stepped closer so the whole thing was easier for him to read.

It looks like each paragraph is a word,” she said and smiled at him. He ignored her. She was right but that didn’t mean he had to like her or praise her for it.

The second word has an A and C in the middle and has four letters,” Sherlock said.

Four?” She turned to him, a puzzled look on her face.

Yes, there’s a fourth sentence.” Mycroft pointed to the smiley face reference in between two colons. She shrugged.

That’s an emoticon gone wrong, but I suppose it might be part of the message.” She put the word in brackets in the list in the two places the references appeared and then turned to his brother. “Search for I’d rather cry in a BMW online and see what comes up.”

Immediately Sherlock obeyed and grabbed his laptop. Mycroft found himself sneering again. This woman was telling them what to do when she was evidently of inferior intelligence and even worse, his brother wasn’t even slightly put out. He’d thought Sherlock over this sort of sentimentality after losing Watson, but it appeared he was even softer than ever.

Twenty minutes later they had one more letter and Mycroft continued to stand and do nothing but stare at the letter. The entire time he’d been running through five letter words that fit with the E and N they’d already had for the first word. With the I Mrs Jones now wrote in he knew what it said. BEGIN LACE FRI was the full message, but he wasn’t about to say so and be pressed to explain further. Even if Mrs Jones expressed no further interest, his brother would and with his deductive reasoning might work out more than Mycroft wanted either of them to know.

As he was trying to think of some way to get rid of Mrs Jones she pulled a pocket watch out, checked the time and gasped.

I’ve got to go. I’m meant to be signing books in less than half an hour.” She grabbed her jacket and shrugged into it. “Sorry to run before we’re done, but I hate being late for anything.”

I’m sure we can solve this without you,” Mycroft said and gave her a smile which didn’t reach his eyes.

See you tomorrow, Sebastian, and it was a pleasure to meet you, Mr holmes.” She gave him a half smile, meaning it far more than he would have and hurried from the room. As the sound of her rapid footsteps receded down the stairs Mycroft relaxed.

So, you’ve found a new John Watson.” He looked intently at his brother but Sherlock remained impassive.

She’s brighter than John ever was, but she won’t be around for long. She will go write her next book in a few days. Mostly she’s a recluse, like you, especially when in the middle of a book.”

You’re trying to intrigue me by making me think she’s similar to me, but it won’t work. She’s not as intelligent as you even so I have no interest in her.” Mycroft walked towards the door, now wanting to continue this conversation.

She would have been as clever as me had she grown up with you as an elder brother. She’s keen to learn from us and pleasant enough.”

Mrs Jones won’t live long enough to ever get close.”

Miss Jones,” Sherlock said, looking smug. Mycroft shook his head at what his younger brother had overlooked.

There was a wedding ring.”

Yes, but she’s not married, not anymore anyway.”

Widow,” Mycroft nodded. He should have seen it in her manner with Sherlock. No woman in a relationship would spend time coming to London for book signings and spend so much time alone with another man. He walked out, and called back, “Don’t get involved, brother of mine.”

I’ll let you know when I’ve solved this,” Sherlock yelled after him.

No need!” Mycroft pulled the door shut. Miss Jones perfume lingered in the stairwell even stronger than before and Mycroft found himself thinking that as far as perfumes went it could have been a lot worse. At the least it smelt better than Sherlock’s flat usually did.

As he walked back to his car he messaged his assistant.

Project lace will begin on friday. Deploy operation clean-up. Also find all information on the author Amelia Jones.

As soon as the message was delivered he put his phone back in the inside pocket of his jacket and stepped outside. The rain had stopped and Mycroft smiled as he was driven back to his home, his mind already focused on other matters.