Being the thoughts and opinions of an unfinished character; Miss Emma Flint, aged 16.

I must introduce myself. I am the protagoniste of Mrs Brown’s novel, which, being as yet unfinished, leaves me in a kind of limbo. Unable to keep silent yet without my own means of communication, I have taken advantage of what I am told is “Blog Takeover Day” to make myself heard. My mother, indeed, would have you believe that I generally have no difficulty in this regard, but do not believe her! I am, as is the way with all young ladies with something to say, by no means attended to as I deserve.

I have sworn, however, that with the dawn of the New Year (my goodness, 2011; the last New Year I celebrated was 1816) I shall be silent and ignored no longer. I shall give my Authoress no peace until she has completed my story and allowed me to give free rein to my expressions. And then she will find, having once finished my book and edited my words much more ruthlessly than I should like, that she is deceived in writing “The End”; I believe that I and my companions intend to allow her no respite.

You do not understand, I believe, what life is like for us mere characters, to whom you capriciously give birth then allow to languish in files and drawers, notebooks and imaginations. We had no voice, no thought of anything until you brought us into a semi-existence, then we come alive! I am young, I am full of things to say (and I do believe, more sensible than many of my peers if I do say so myself) and I burn to say them. Yet you allow petty considerations such as children and homes and busyness to interfere, to stop you picking up your pens and giving us life. We control you, we seek to creep into your minds and dreams until you stop the sillyness which prevents you from paying us due attention, but what a pitiful kind of control it is! At some point you will grow weary, shut us away for the night and we must start our insidious process of invasion all over again.

At least we can allow ourselves the satisfaction of straying from the paths you had imagined for us. I am never happier than when Mrs Brown has said that I shall go down such-and-such a path but as soon as she begins to write I wander in another direction entirely. I do flatter myself that my way is better, but I do not know that she has entirely admitted to it yet. We shall see, and I know that I shall be proved right yet again.

Do, pray, if you have any compassion, campaign on my behalf. Mrs Brown is a sad, frippery thing and needs constant prodding to complete the most important tasks (such as my story). She has, indeed, pledged herself to give me much more consideration but I beg you will be my best and dearest friends and give her no rest until I am finished. And then I can allow my successors to take up my task and hound her until their stories are also written. There is also the matter of your own characters – do not neglect them as I am neglected! Do not allow my sad situation to be repeated – show them the attention I am denied by my Authoress.

Thank you for your kind attentiveness. I feel sure we are to be the best of friends, and I look forward to meeting you again, in a more respectable state.

Your friend, E Flint.

Emma can be found pestering me on Twitter, as MissEmmaFlint. Don’t listen to her though, she’s a demanding thing. Thanks to Sally Quilford, whose idea the Blog Takeover was; her blog can be found here.

5 Things Musicals can teach us about writing

I was driving yesterday and put Les Misérables in the CD player for the first time in ages. Wow, that’s a good show. And as I was listening, it struck me that there’s a few tips you can pick up from musicals on good writing.
  1. Dialogue – Expositional dialogue drives me crazy. “Hello Annie who is my sister and has dark hair, did you hear Ruth who is our half sister and ran away with the milkman is back in town?”. Ugh. And yet in musicals there’s no prose, no way of easily relating backstory. So it all has to come through the dialogue/lyrics WITHOUT being exposition. And good musicals do it. Ok, so at the start of Les Mis you get a teensy bit between Jean Valjean and Javert, but it’s not forced, it doesn’t intrude and it ain’t bad going in a 3 hour show. You also have to relate the character’s feelings through their dialogue, as someone listening to the soundtrack without being able to see the acting needs to be able to get a rough idea of the story, and you can’t use prose here.
  2. Characters – Musicals use lyrics to lay their characters bare. They need to. They could show Valjean going through angst as he decides whether to turn himself in or not, but without the words you’d just wonder if he was constipated. So you get Valjean’s Soliloquy, and Javert’s suicide; deep emotion made believable through 2 minutes of lyrics. At least I think so.
  3. Voices – Secondary characters in good musicals also get a voice and are made believable. Eponine is a very minor character in Les Mis, but she gets some cracking songs, including one of the most popular woman’s solos EVER, and we really care about her when she dies. You can see how distinctive each of the characters is in One Day More, where everyone’s voice comes through clearly despite being so deeply layered.
  4. Setting – Again, there’s no prose or description to give a sense of atmosphere or setting. The most you might get is some explanatory notes in the programme, but you can’t rely on those. Some comes through the set, but mostly you know what’s going on because the characters are acting and speaking in a way that’s believable for their setting. Javert IS a nineteenth-century, upright policeman. Chris (in Miss Saigon) IS a 1970’s GI. Bernardo IS a Puerto Rican immigrant in 1950’s New York.
  5. Growth – The characters we care about most in musicals are the ones we see make a journey. One of my favourite characters is The Man in Whistle Down the Wind – you can see him change and grow and move on just from his dialogue with Swallow and the kids. On the flip side, Judas is a truly tragic figure because you watch his faith in Jesus crumble and his dilemma, as he sees it, crush him.

These are a few of the things we could learn from musicals, in my humble opinion. I’m off to put them into practice!

Anyone got anything to add? I’d love to hear what you think.