Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Dictionary- n. 1a. A book that consists of an alphabetical list of words with their meanings... et cetera.

I bought a new dictionary today!

I have this tiny little 'Collins Gem' pocket English dictionary that's about ready to fall apart and is probably a good few years out of date.

Don't get me wrong, it's a good little dictionary; it's just a little abridged.

I was in Lincoln today, and WH Smiths had an offer on. A few (brand new, nothing wrong them) reference books were on sale at just £5! So I bought a monster- a 1,500 page 'Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus'.

Fantastic. That'll come in handy. I'm fed up of looking things up on the internet.

I also bought a 'World Encyclopaedia', which'll come in handy when writing about other countries.

On another point- Sya has suggested my 'no longer a Federal Agent' 4th character should be left as an unknown ethnicity. I think that's a brilliant idea. So I'm doing that.

Of course, this leaves another question. His name- should it be a historically and/or nationally ambiguous single name? Or simply a job title?

And what of the guy (in a sexually ambiguous sense) wearing a medieval plague mask (hereby referred to as Plague Mask Guy) whom 'no longer a Federal Agent' hunts so fervently?

I've stated on the NaNoWriMo forums that Plague Mask Guy is developed in some sense, but s/he is playing hide and seek in my head. So random ideas would be greatly appreciated, as they may boot PMG into plain sight.


Now playing: Betty - The L Word Theme (The Way That We Live) iTunes
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 19 October 2007

Characters! On a page! Well... one, actually.

My most developed character is done. I'm not certain how far he'll be the 'main' character, but he was a character I'd thought of before I joined NaNoWriMo.

I'm concerned. In fact, even as I write this, I'm debating as to whether I should post the details. I'm always concerned that I'll spoil the surprise. But I've decided, and I'm not going back.

Just so you know, this character bio may contain minor spoilers- especially if you tend to work things out after a single sentence. It does not (or shouldn't) reveal anything major to the plot, however.

So there you have it, if you want to leave everything (if you intend reading it) as a surprise, then leave it be. If you're happy with a few historical spoilers, however, read on. With that, I'm giving you the full bio of Kyle Greenbelt

**Potential Historical Spoilers**
**Potential Spoiler End**

I'd like to know what people think. Also, he's still unfinished. I could use a few more notable memories, if anyone would like to suggest some (based off his bio, anyway), but these aren't essential.

If you think he could use tweaking, I would like to hear your ideas.

I'm also figuring out some plot points (which I don't think I will reveal). It's definitely set in an English town. A relatively small town (which has no name as yet- suggestions please), which is fairly close to a mine, but isn't a mining town. Formerly, it's primary income came from the steel works and engineering plant to the south, which has been closed since 1984. A man known as John Thyme managed to bring the town back on its feet (in an undecided, but probably unimportant way), and died in 1998.

I've been making a map of this town. It takes heavily from two towns I know very well, and am placing my home town nearby. It's a cruddy map, and very unfinished, but it should help with consistency as I write.

The story itself is set in 2009. Not because I want it to be set in the near future, but mostly because it allows for a little extra creativity.

It begins with an English woman, a synaesthetic, having strange hallucinations. The two American characters (including Kyle) are visiting lecturers passing through. Their rental car breaks down, and they have to duck into the town while it's examined and fixed. It's a cheap MacGuffin, I know, but what the hell. The town is quiet, and although capable of homing 20,000 people, there is less than a tenth there (which includes the Englishwoman).

As the weird things build up, the three investigate (not together- they don't meet until later).

And that's when the 175 year-old federal agent works his way into the story. Except he's no longer a federal agent. He's not even American. Although I'm not sure what nationality he is. I just think having three weirded-out Americans meeting in an average English town a little unfeasible.

What should he be? He's been hunting a particular element of the story for decades.

Should he be French? Or Spanish, and make him part of the new inquisition! (I'm struggling not to dig out the Monty Python sketches now...)

Or perhaps just British (English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh). I'm not sure.

Any input would be appreciated.


P.S. Be aware that the above character bio was written when I had (and still have) a head cold. Blocked sinuses don't exactly encourage good writing or creativity. So I think I've done rather well.

Characters and bio contents- © Michael Barlow 2007

Now playing: Korn - Evolution iTunes
via FoxyTunes

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Characters! On a plane! I'm fed up of these MFing characters on this MFing plane!

They're not on a plane. Well they're on a plane of existence, sure, but not on an aeroplane.

They're somewhere in.... well, actually I haven't thought of that. The characters are American, so it's probably somewhere in the USA (or is it? I'm not so sure now... maybe Hollywood and Lovecraft have distorted my geographical personality... England is much creepier, that's for certain). Of course, the problem being with the UK, is that unless it's in scotland, cities, towns and villages are too close together to remain 'virtually disserted' for long without the entire country hearing about it.

The UK is a great place for a horror, for certain, but it's too small. Maybe that would make it creepier, that there are populated towns and villages, maybe even a military base or city just 20 miles down the road which are completely oblivious to the fact that their neighbour is dying rapidly by the hands of something unknown but potentially horrible?

Hmm... I like that. The characters are still american though (most of them. One has instantly changed to being British! Hurray for chopping and changing! Not sure whether she's English, Scottigh, Welsh or Irish though... I'll have to decide that.)

Changing the setting to England does bring up some opening possibilities... afterall, one of the characters is a university lecturer, and another is just s qualified. They could be visiting lecturers! Not certain about the 175-ish year old federal agent now. How would he fit in, if at all?

Hmm, decisions. I'll have to ponder on that. Also, you may like to know, 'hmm' is a sound that comes as naturally to me as stroking my beard (even when I haven't got one). I'm a noisy thinker. I play with my teeth too, when I'm thinking, as well pick up random objects and wriggle my fingers. And crush my hands. And pace. And talk to myself. Yeah, I'm an active, noisy thinker.

Psychoanalytical gate-opening aside, I've started to write the bios of my characters. My first, a parapsychologist known as Kyle Greenbelt, is virtually sorted. But then again, he had been developed but never used long ago. I need to write him a history now. He won't be able to keep his gun though, if he's in the UK... our gun laws are about as tight as my bank balance. He'll have to leave it at home.

The bio is set to merged copyrighted character development questionnaires from Holly Lisle's character workshop and Pookel's National Novel Finishing Month resource page. So once I've figured out how to free my content from theirs (Their two sheets have been mashed into one, see), I'll nail up Kyle! Literally! Of course, that may damage my screen, so I'll nail him to the wall of my neighbour's house and shout the details to everybody using a megaphone. At 2am. Yeah!

One thing I've found useful, when trying to figure out the physical description, is to use Body Mass Index (BMI) charts to figure out what weights would suit the height. You can call a person 'overweight', 'scrawny', 'lanky', and 'fat bastard' all you like, until you go... "they weigh... erm... 170lbs". And then someones comes back to, saying "but you said they were overweight! I think you'll find 170lbs is pretty normal for someone who's 6'2"!"

Of course, you could simply never mention their exact height. Or their exact weight. But I can't help it. As a scientist, I need numbers, dammit! It will, even if you don't put the numbers in the story (you will if someone's reading a military profile or something, and then remember muscle weighs more than fat!), help you describe their physique better. At least, it will me.

And as for my playlists- I'm on 'B' in my tracks. But I have 45 playlists! For different moods, scenes and environments. Oh the joy!

Anywho, I'm off to watch 'The Scarlett Pimpernel'...


Now playing: Seether - Broken iTunes
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 12 October 2007

Pulling the Strings- The Gazebo! and other merchandise....

Well, I'm kind of decided on the plot and characters. Of course, this is as likely to change as the Tory party leader before November arrives, so don't hold your breath.

Or rather do, but don't hold it 'till pass out. It's a great way of curing hiccoughs.

The general plot line involves an unnatural storm, fear of the unknown, a semi-deserted town, and a character with synaesthesia (I had to... the condition is just too interesting)! Oh, and a 175 year-old Federal Agent and plague. Yeah!

I'm still wondering how this is going to work out... Still it's better than my last plot line, which was very B-movie-ish with former USMC soldiers and everything! I'm looking for atmosphere... because I'm getting irritated with the lack of oxygen around here.

I've been forming ideas for three years based around my travels whilst I was commuting to university in my first year. I was commuting by train, and it was usually at dawn or after dusk when I'd be travelling, when my imagination really lets loose.

I'm going to be incorporating these ideas into my novel, but mostly in the first chapter.

I'll be posting an abridged version of these notes in a mo, I've just got to get the hang of google docs


Now playing: Kelly Clarkson - Because Of You iTunes
via FoxyTunes *Sway with me now \o/*

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Aside from music, I find simply opening my eyes and taking in my surroundings can give my imagination a much needed boost. I remember in my first year of university, I commuted by train. I saw a lot of strange people- there was a man stood on the platform bridge at Lincoln station simply looking over a wall. Another stood up on the train and pointed, without speaking, at the powerstation. On both occasions, I couldn't find what they were looking at. What could they see that I couldn't? Then there was the crow that flew behind the elevator shaft for the platform bridge, and never appeared the other side. I wasn't very far away, and as a lover of crows, I walked around to look at it. It had gone, in the three seconds it took me to shift my position to see it, the crow had disappeared without a trace. I still can't figure out where it went; I looked everywhere for it.

At retford station, the platforms I used were platforms three and four, the lower platforms. The higher platforms were for the London/Edinburgh fast line. Once, after it had been raining, I reached the station at around 7am, and there were 217 snails on the platform, slithering around, almost synchronised. It was a majestic sight, like a slow-motion waltz. I still found it a little weird though. And then some jerk rode his bicycle through them. 74 wrere crushed. The others seemed to gather around them as if in mourning.

Don't ask me why I can remember the numbers.

Back when I used to be the storyteller of a RPG group, I used simple mundane experiences like this to make things a little weirder. I found a fantastic website,, which has a load of strange notes and photos people have simply found lying around on the street, or in a basement of the house they've just moved into etc. It has some rather disturbing messages scribbled on scraps of paper like- "Watch what you say, Jim has had this whole house bugged from the getgo- I saw and heard the equipment- more later"

For the horror or mystery genre, the website is an aladin's cave.


Now playing: Monty Python - Spam Sketch iTunes
via FoxyTunes

Monday, 8 October 2007


I've decided on a title!

Whilst engaging in a life-or-death battle with my laptop (I wanted it to work, it didn't want to work), and pondering whether I should valiantly turn and flee when it hit me!

Whilst nursing the black eye my laptop gave me, I came up with a title.

'Pulling the Strings'

It's a horror. I'll reveal a little more later, as I'm still working out plot points.


P.S. I actually came up with the title a little while ago, but I forgot to mention it. I'm now nursing my stresses (see my livejournal) with a healthy bout of MST3k, season 5.
Now playing: MST3K - 0511- Gunslinger Winamp
via FoxyTunes

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Music to write to.

I've been slowly building my playlists to write to, sorting my music into moods and scenes.

This is rather complicated, and occasionally it is hard to differentiate between one mood and another (rage and fierce determination for instance). I've also been dredging the audio portal, they have three tonne of ambient music for download. I've been noticing a large portion of my downloads have been from a member there called 'Evil-Dog' (just found his website too, although I'd recommend Newgrounds as you can preview the music in its entirety before you download) who does some great ambience as well as instrumental punk rock and metal. I'm still going through his archives at the moment, and then I'm going to look through the rest of the portal.

Of course, I also have to sort my (close to 2,000 tracks) current music as well. This could take a while.

On another note, I'm still sort of deciding on the plot outline, as well as the characters. I'll start posting bios soon.


Tuesday, 2 October 2007

It begins!

Well, I'm taking part in 'NaNoWriMo', the National Novel Writing Month (which is actually the International Novel Writing Month, but InNoWriMo doesn't sound as good). I thought I might as well, despite having several 'novels' (if you can call them that) in progress, as one more won't hurt, and I may actually get it finished.

Well, I already have a blog, but for the sake of organisation (and because having a gmail account comes with a number of pre-registrations I didn't even realise), I'll put my progress here, and keep my standard weirded-out thoughts to my livejournal page.

The event isn't until November (0001 1st November-23:59 30th November pacific time, which in GMT time would be 0701 1st November-0659 1st December), but the rules allow for notes and outlines before then, just as long as you don't start writing until the start date.

So, 50,000 words or 175 pages in 1 month. Should be fun.

Mike out!