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Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 16 Jun 2010, 18:21

Moonraker wrote:I have just started to reply to your post in the Soper/Maxwell thread - started, that is, by getting the box up, but couldn't think of anything to say! As I agreed 100% with all you said there, I couldn't think of anything to add, and didn't want to write, "I totally agree with all you said, Michael".

     Now come on, Nigel, surely you can think of *something* I said that you can disagree with. I don't know *anyone* in my life who agrees 100 percent with what I think - on any subject. If anything, people tend to disagree with me on things.
     It would be a remarkable thing if I ever found someone who fully agrees with me.

Moonraker wrote:I too tried writing in a Blyton style when I was younger, but to be honest, I couldn't think of anything that she hadn't already written. I also didn't have the stamina to write a full-length novel.

     Well, it seems I did - once at least - nearly twice - but if you read that novel I think you would probably think I shouldn't have written it - or at least should have burnt it later on.
     As for things Blyton had already done, it depends on how specifically you define that. Maybe I was writing the same general kind of story as she was (although not nearly so well) - but I think I came up with settings or ideas or plot twists that weren't exactly like anything Blyton did. (One, for example, was a haunted-house story, and there were secret passages and rooms in the roof-space (if I remember correctly) of an old house. I was trying to write what I thought at the time was a definitive haunted-house story, although nothing had a supernatural explanation. Another had its climactic scene entirely on a long-distance overnight train - probably not very plausibly.)
     So the thought that I was not thinking of anything new was never a factor for me.

Moonraker wrote:However, I am certain that there is plenty of room for a series of books set in the 40s/50s about another group of kids.

     I'm not sure if I'd go quite that far back. Anyway, I wasn't born until 1954, and have few memories before 1960 or so, so I don't think I'd be able to write with credibility about the 1940s. I guess to me the 1960s are my ideal period of time, and I would probably instinctively think in terms of that era in creating a story setting.
     Actually, I've always found things like this to be an issue in writing. Anomalies in both time and location do seem a bit problematical to me. If society changes too much, especially in certain ways, I find it very difficult to accept that as the new mainstream way of things, and am tempted to quietly ignore it - yet if I became *too* anachronistic, I might start to find that a problem, too.
     I also find specificity of location problematical, too. And in my writing (when I was writing), I found that I tended to avoid too-specific references to either time or location, and tended to create settings that were in some generic kind of ideal setting. Obviously this was an Anglo-Saxon-based, English-speaking Western setting (since I know nothing else), but I was reluctant to indicate what country it was in. I guess it was my kind of ideal amalgam of Australia, U.K., U.S., Canada, New Zealand, etc., without the drawbacks I see in each - and even without details I simply found uncomfortably local. (I am aware of at least one instance in which I created a geography that probably cannot be placed plausibly in any existing country, especially if it must be English-speaking.) Along with this, I have always tried to avoid slang or local styles of speech that would pin down either time or location, so I ended up with a kind of standard "Queen's English" that could belong almost anywhere. And I also tend to avoid details that pin down the year or decade too much.
     If I were to try to write a Blytonian story now, I don't know how I would resolve all these issues; but I would certainly be aware of them.
     (To some extent, this wariness about details is a pure story-writing issue, designed to avoid anomalies in the story as well as to create a setting I find pleasing; but maybe it's partly personal to me too, because in real life too I tend to avoid local slang, specifically Australian terms (even when not slang), try to avoid an accent which sounds "Aussie", and so on - yet in real life there are no issues of anachronism that I have to be careful about. I am just somehow vaguely repelled by those specific features of culture - I don't know why.)

Moonraker wrote:The difficulty is in not unintentionally putting any Blyton settings/characters into them that would make them appear too heavily influenced by her stories.

     I don't think you can copyright (or even claim artistic ownership of) a whole style of adventure story. It would be one thing to deliberately copy Blytonian mannerisms or stylistic features, and would look either like pastiche or plagiarism. But to just write adventure stories along similar very broad lines is surely something anyone can do.
     It may be that my childhood stories did copy Blyton's mannerisms too much (if very clunkily); but the kind of adventure story I would do now, while following the same general kind of plot-line, would *not* use specifically Blytonian mannerisms. I'm not sure I could now, since I think I have my own fictional style now (even if a bit rusty now from a couple of decades' non-use).

Moonraker wrote:Quite frankly, the era that we live in now wouldn't interest me. As you say, H&S, PC and all the rest of the Nanny State rules would stem the flow of any writing that I would want to produce.

     Yes, I kind of feel the same way - and that is one reason (but, as indicated above, not the only reason) I would be very unwilling to overtly set it in the present day.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 16 Jun 2010, 19:35

Dick Kirrin wrote:Well, Michael, I'm not too sure that I can offer you any help or advice, as I made up stories in my mind and hardly ever put them down in writing. Apart from some small contributions to stories here in the forums, that is.

     Do you mean Round Robin type stories where people write chapters or sections in turn?
     Actually, I think I find that very difficult, and I suspect I'm not especially compatible with that approach to writing - probably because I have too many of my own ideas about how things should be, and cannot easily fit in with what others have created. I'm probably not a very collaborative sort of person, overall.
     So much so that, in the Yahoo Blyton group, I had to, with considerable embarrassment, pull out of a Famous Five Round Robin I was scheduled to write a chapter for. The time came when I was sort of "expected" to have written the chapter by (even though there was no formal deadline), and I still thought maybe I could find inspiration even in the last day or two - I knew that, once that happened, I might very well turn out 10 pages effortlessly in just a few hours. But that didn't happen, and my mind just remained paralyzed, entirely devoid of ideas. I finally had to admit I couldn't do it, and passed it on to someone else.
     Then another Round Robin came up, this time for the Adventure series ("The Jungle of Adventure") and I was very wary about volunteering to have another try. I don't quite remember how I ended up offering to write a chapter - maybe others encouraged me somehow. Well, the same thing happened, with practically only hours left - but that time inspiration did come, and I wrote the whole thing within 3 hours or so. If anything, it was a bit long, and split into two chapters.
     So it's a very, very fickle and unpredictable thing, at least for me, and I have little control over it. I am quite unable to write at all if I have nothing to say, and have not mastered the art of seeming to say things in lots of words but not really having anything to say. (That would probably cut me out of any chance of being a politician.) But overall, I think this collaborative style of writing probably does not suit me a great deal. (I did contribute a couple of sentences to a Round Robin on this forum which works with each turn being a sentence rather than a chapter - but that is probably quite a bit easier.)
     Anyway, I digress.

Dick Kirrin wrote:But some of the more technical problems that you mentioned (broken up families, bike helmets and mobile phones) troubled me as well.

     Exactly. Well, some of these things are easier to avoid than others. And some are really not all that important, but just somehow spoil the atmosphere.
     Bike helmets, for example, are probably not likely to affect the plot at all. But somehow it just spoils the feel of it - I suppose because it very firmly pins the time down to the present day, or at least recent times - with all the less desirable stuff that comes along with that, even if only by implication.
     Broken up families are probably more important, but easier to avoid. Yes, they exist - in larger numbers than ever before, so many tell us - yet you can avoid them in a story, and write about a family which is stable and united in the old style. These still exist too, and you can write a story based around such families.
     Mobile phones, computers, and the like are admittedly rather more troublesome - I may not know how to handle that (or whether to ignore them altogether) until I actually tried to write an adventure story.
     Dogs on leads may be a problem if not handled delicately. If the dog is to be important, and not a mere hanger-on for the sake of having an animal element, then it really needs considerable freedom of movement in at least some parts of the story. Also, maybe some localities don't have laws requiring dogs to be on leads or otherwise restrained, especially rural ones, although I do wonder if those are fewer and fewer now. Do you have the characters commit civil disobedience in not restraining the dog? Do you even make any reference to this aspect, or pretend it doesn't exist? Civil (or simply defiant) disobedience to law is a legitimate story theme, but perhaps a bit too political to put into the kind of story I'm talking about. I would prefer to ignore it, or pretend that such a law doesn't exist where the story is taking place. But it may strain credibility (that is, additionally to the lack of credibility this style of story already has inherently, but which readers ignore in a suspension of disbelief).

Dick Kirrin wrote:About mobiles, I'm not sure that they in fact couldn't come in handy in a story about children being allowed to go off on bicycles all on their own, as parents might insist on the kids taking them along as a means to get help just in case. Julian is often made to write a postcard every day, so that Aunt Fanny knows the Five are safe and well, nowadays it would just be a text message.

     Logically speaking, you may be right - it just doesn't feel right, though.

Dick Kirrin wrote:Modern baddies would then take the mobiles away when they captured children, or batteries could be flat or the phones may not work somewhere in the Scottish Highlands or down in a tunnel under the sea.

     Again, maybe this would work, but not feel right. Do some kids, even today, still not have a phone, or even any special interest in doing so? (I do not use one myself.) Yet you can argue that kids who are serious about solving mysteries would not deliberately eschew any technology or resources that may help them.
     It's a very difficult issue - perhaps the single most difficult one, as far as I can see.

Dick Kirrin wrote:And one reason for kids being shipped of to their aunt's and uncle's could be that their parents need a break to find out if their marriage is to be continued.

     Again, yes, it could be - but I would probably prefer to avoid this, since it would be so easy to come up with other more acceptable alternatives. Don't like that one much at all. It works in a story like Erich Kästner's "Lottie and Lisa" (which is about exactly this topic, and a story I like a lot); but not in the type of adventure I'm talking about here.
     By the way, don't get the impression I'm so conservative and reactionary that I am just shocked at the themes modern fiction (especially children's fiction) deals with. I have no problems at all with authors who choose to explore such themes, and maybe it's even important for them to be dealt with - but it's just that I wouldn't be wanting to go there *in the kind of story I am talking about*.
     Some literary critics are rather critical of authors who avoid these areas, which I think is a bit unreasonable. If it's okay for authors to explore those areas, then surely it's all right for authors also to explore the more "standard" or "old-fashioned" situations too. So *that*, at least, doesn't worry me.

Dick Kirrin wrote:Are adventure stories involving children and dogs are soley Blyton territory?

     The closest I can think of are all American stories: the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Brains Benton, the Three Investigators, the Power Boys, and probably many others. There are significant differences between this American type of story and Blyton, though. (For those interested, I discuss this somewhat passingly in my discussion of the little-known Power Boys series, here: http://www.foxall.com.au/users/mje/PowrBoys.htm .)
     I think in fact this American style slightly influenced some of my later-teen and early-adult efforts - but less so than Blyton.

Dick Kirrin wrote:If I always felt Enid breathing down on my neck while writing, then I'd better leave it.

     This reminds me of a piece of advice (talking about music rather than writing, but still applicable) that I believe British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams gave to young composers just starting out. I don't remember the exact wording, but the effect of it was this: "Never try to be original: if you have originality, then you will be original whether you try to be or not; and if you don't have it, then no effort to be original will create originality". I think it's very good advice for any creative person, although it needn't rule out deliberately exploring new styles or techniques.
     If I were to write a "Blytonian" story now, I have no fear of imitating Blyton too much. I was just using "Blytonian" as a very broad and convenient adjective to indicate the general type of story I had in mind.

Dick Kirrin wrote:If I correctly understand what you are saying, you'd like to restart writing as a way of getting you out of that greyish cloud hanging all around you.

     I wasn't specifically connecting those things, and just made my introductory remarks for reasons I'm not quite sure of - probably mainly to just explain why I had posted so little here. But that may possibly be a factor, all the same.

Dick Kirrin wrote:And from what you wrote so far, I'd strongly disagree with your statement that you have nothing to say. You have said a lot of very interestings things and raised some points very well worth thinking about.

     Well, thanks for your kind remarks.
     But I never said that actual posts I made had little to say, as I don't believe this would be true. It's when I'm *not* posting that I have little to say. And, considering I'm known as a Blyton enthusiast, and have posted about her prolifically in the past (in another location), and also considering that many others with a similar level of interest post steadily here - considering those things, I *am* pretty silent here - or at least very uneven. (At least part of my non-posting here is due to finding the forum format harder to manage than the e-mail format, not due to anything I've got against this forum. But personal emotional issues do also at times make me silent on any topic, in any location.)

Dick Kirrin wrote:I found your contribution to Pete's "Why did you choose your username?" thread very thoughtful as I felt the same when I chose my username.
In the end, I decided on Dick Kirrin for the reasons I gave in the thread, and I'm glad that I did it.

     I've made a further comment in that thread, so I'll let it go here.

Dick Kirrin wrote:So far, it doesn't feel peculiar, and if it does in a given thread ("Ship" Blyton characters for example) I just make a joke about myself before anyone else does. If other forumites decide to join in and crack some more jokes on poor old Dick, let them, I can always do with a laugh. :D If my joke disarmed them, well that's all right, too I suppose.

     That is quite a Dick-like thing to say, it strikes me.
     Nigel pointed out once that the character he thought most like me was Uncle Quentin - and I must admit that it did seem to fit, and I am wondering how he knew, considering we've never met. But I can't imagine myself coming on and signing my posts as "Quentin" or "Quentin Kirrin" or anything.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 16 Jun 2010, 19:49

     To those who said how they wrote stories and tried in vain to get them published: have you thought of publishing them on the Internet? Just create your own web site and put them there? (Assuming you still think it's good enough, and you haven't disowned it now.)
     Admittedly you won't make any money that way. But realistically, probably no writer other than a big name can expect to make much money anyway by writing - surely the overwhelming motivation for most is that they think they have something good which they want to share with others. Views this way, there seems little argument against putting it on your own web site.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby lizarfau » 17 Jun 2010, 07:46

Malcolm Saville wrote adventure stories involving children and dogs at around the time Enid was writing. He wrote several series, my favourite being the Lone Pine books, which were set mostly in Shropshire and Rye (though occasionally in other places). The club consisted of nine members plus a dog - a Scottie called Macbeth - though it was rare for every single member to be in one of the books. So Enid didn't have a monopoly on adventures!
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 17 Jun 2010, 08:59

lizarfau wrote:Malcolm Saville wrote adventure stories involving children and dogs at around the time Enid was writing. He wrote several series, my favourite being the Lone Pine books, which were set mostly in Shropshire and Rye (though occasionally in other places).

     I've heard of them, but never read them. Are they good? How do they compare to Blyton? Whenever I've read other books in roughly this style, almost invariably I find them far less exciting than Blyton, especially in the climactic "action" scenes.

lizarfau wrote:The club consisted of nine members plus a dog - a Scottie called Macbeth - though it was rare for every single member to be in one of the books. So Enid didn't have a monopoly on adventures!

     That's an unusual approach: having a large group, only a subset of which is used in a particular story. I don't believe Enid Blyton ever regularly used that - with only one or two irregular exceptions like the "Secret" series where the first book didn't include Prince Paul. My guess is that, when he was introduced in the second book, he was intended to be only a secondary character, sort of like kidnap or other crime victims in many other books, who can be quite prominent but for one book only - and he then somehow took off and stayed in the series, either because Blyton grew to like him or because readers wrote saying they wanted more books about Prince Paul.
     Perhaps some of the member more biographically knowledgeable about Blyton are able to explain why this irregularity occurred in that series.
     I guess other irregular examples of characters used sporadically are: Ern in the Find-Outers books (appears a few times, but far from in all 15 books), and Jo and Tinker in the Famous Five (appear 3 and 2 times respectively). But it doesn't sound like Blyton ever used the arrangement Saville did, of *regularly* having main characters cut in and out of the series.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 17 Jun 2010, 14:13

MJE wrote:That's an unusual approach: having a large group, only a subset of which is used in a particular story.


I don't know how common that device was in children's fiction of the period, but Arthur Ransome does a similar thing in his "Swallows and Amazons" books.

MJE wrote:I don't believe Enid Blyton ever regularly used that - with only one or two irregular exceptions like the "Secret" series where the first book didn't include Prince Paul. My guess is that, when he was introduced in the second book, he was intended to be only a secondary character, sort of like kidnap or other crime victims in many other books, who can be quite prominent but for one book only - and he then somehow took off and stayed in the series, either because Blyton grew to like him or because readers wrote saying they wanted more books about Prince Paul.
     Perhaps some of the member more biographically knowledgeable about Blyton are able to explain why this irregularity occurred in that series.


You may well be right, Michael, that Paul remained in the series because readers asked to hear more about him and his land of Baronia. Or perhaps Enid Blyton realised that having a foreign prince as a main character, who came from an exotic background and had a rich family, bodyguards and access to aeroplanes etc, opened up exciting possibilities. That series was experimental as it was the first of her adventure series. The first book, The Secret Island, could easily have been a one-off novel and Jack and the others don't come up against criminals in that story, which is very unusual for a Blyton adventure book. Also, the "Secret" children don't have a pet which accompanies them.
"Heyho for a starry night and a heathery bed!" - Jack, The Secret Island.

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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 22 Oct 2010, 19:22

     I hope it's okay for me to resurrect this topic, even though it's on an *Enid Blyton* forum, but it's about writing stories *not* related to any actual Blyton works, even if very roughly in the same genre or style.
     I've continued to think about the series I'd like to create from time to time since I started this topic, and I've even worked out a rough scenario: possible background stories for at least one of the characters, although the others are still a bit shadowy. I've got any number of ideas for possible plot twists - but the problem is I just can't seem to bring this alive in my imagination. I don't see much point in trying to write it until I can do that.
     It's so different from my school years and even very early adulthood, when I had that imaginative aspect well and truly alive, so that the ideas seemed so vivid they just demanded that I write them down - even if I did so with hugely less skill than I think I probably have now. It's as if the spirit of the whole thing has left me for good, the flame has died.
     Does anyone have any ideas as to how I could possibly reignite the flame once more? How do I create characters that I want to write about, and explore? How do I create settings I want to set stories in, the kind of settings that, almost of themselves, suggest story possibilities? How do I create mysteries or adventures that just inspire that sense of wonder, the way Blyton's used to, and my own stories did too?
     Or am I worrying about that too much, before having even written the first sentence, and just having written a few pages of notes? Should I forget about whether the flame has died out or not, and just start writing the first chapter, and ignore whether it's any good or not, or whether it "feels right"? Should I just write whatever comes out, and count on that itself igniting the flame and producing good writing? (Perhaps if something good came out, I could later rewrite the first few pages if they were flat because of the flame being dead at that point.)
     I do roughly know where I want the story to begin, which may be a help. (It will be with the loner character, who hasn't yet met the others, miserable at school because of being bullied and, after some catastrophic incident, running away. I can probably write about that vividly and in some detail from personal experience!) I still have no ideas about the other characters, though. I guess there's an imbalance, in that I am starting the series on a premise of uneven or imbalanced groups of characters, in that there's one with a bit of an unusual history which will at least partly shape his character, and a few others who are more "ordinary" - a bit like Barney, in the "R" mystery stories, with his particular background, and the others he befriends who have more "ordinary" lives - or George the lonely rebel and her three more "normal" cousins.
     Any ideas, anyone?
     Thanks.

Regards, Michael.


P.S.:
     I feel I myself have a bit of an atypical life course, so maybe that causes me to identify with that "loner" character, and it may be part of the reason I so much want to feature such a character - maybe there's a touch of self-therapeutic intention behind it.
     Maybe personal influences like that aren't always the best guide to what will work best fictionally; but, at least for now, I really do feel this can work well.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby RDMorrell » 23 Oct 2010, 09:07

My Four Sherlocks books (two of which are available on Lulu.com) have several influences. When I first wrote a Four Sherlocks book (at the age of 11, nearly 12), I was inspired primarily by a Three Investigators book I had recently read. However, I was also influenced to some extent by Enid Blyton, and especially her Famous Five series, in that one of the main characters was a dog. (Having an animal main character seems to be a particularly Blytonian trait, or maybe it's a British thing; American detective fiction seldom features animals in any sort of major role, apart from maybe Lassie, but that's more TV than books.)

In rewriting the first FS book a couple of years ago, and creating a brand-new second book (a third is still in progress), I brought the characters into the 21st Century, in that they do use the Internet. For instance, they may try to find out information about a suspect, or they might use instant messaging to make plans. While that may not seem so Blytonian, I think Enid's characters may well have used modern technology had she been alive and writing today. And I think that it's still quite possible to have an exciting story with modern technology being used. It doesn't always make things easier. Mobile phone batteries can run out at inopportune times (a plot device I used twice in the second FS book). Computers can crash. Finding information on people, while scarily easy in some cases, can be extremely difficult in others. (For instance, trying to track down a "John Smith" would be like searching for a needle in a haystack, so you would have to refine your search considerably, and even then, there's no guarantee of success, especially if your "John Smith" was taking care to cover his tracks.)

Children may not have the freedom in this day and age that they did years ago, but even that can be worked into a story. After all, children are resourceful, so may just find ways to work with what they have. For instance, they can meet up in some quiet corner of school at recess or lunch to discuss plans. Or they might break the house rules a little and sneak out after bed time. Or perhaps they will be out walking the dog and the dog will suddenly run off and make some startling discovery that leads to a mystery. (That latter scenario could just as easily happen in the 2010s as the 1950s, I think, even if there are generally stricter rules about keeping dogs on leashes nowadays.)

In essence, I think it's possible to write a Blyton-style story set in modern times if you can work out ways to use modern technology and modern values to your advantage in the story. My own stories are not entirely Blytonian, but they do have some Blyton influences (apart from the canine character, the child characters tend to have a lot of adventures together and generally enjoy the sort of cameraderie that is such a delightful element in many a Blyton adventure story).

Of course, there's also nothing to stop you setting a story in the middle part of the 20th Century (1940s, 1950s, 1960s) if you really want to create an authentically Blytonian world. I have not done that myself, but it's certainly one option if you want to write Blyton-style adventure stories without having to worry so much about modern technology and so on.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby RDMorrell » 23 Oct 2010, 09:17

MJE wrote:     To those who said how they wrote stories and tried in vain to get them published: have you thought of publishing them on the Internet? Just create your own web site and put them there? (Assuming you still think it's good enough, and you haven't disowned it now.)
     Admittedly you won't make any money that way. But realistically, probably no writer other than a big name can expect to make much money anyway by writing - surely the overwhelming motivation for most is that they think they have something good which they want to share with others. Views this way, there seems little argument against putting it on your own web site.

Regards, Michael.


As I mentioned in my previous post, I self-published two of my books on Lulu.com. You're right about not making any money that way! But at least it's kind of a way for me to see my writing in print.

I've never actually approached a publisher, though. However, some people who have read my books (or at least, part of them) are generally positive in their reactions, so maybe I should give it a go. However, I'd quite like to finish my third Four Sherlocks book first, so that I can have three to submit at once. (My inspiration of this idea stems from the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series, both of which started with three books at once, which were known at the time as "breeder volumes".) I've also written outlines (or partial outlines) of FS books up to No. 10, so if the first three books actually were published and did OK, I would be able to promise more to come.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 23 Oct 2010, 14:06

     Thanks for your thoughts, Rowan - some interesting ideas. I could respond to various things you say.

RDMorrell wrote:My Four Sherlocks books (two of which are available on Lulu.com) have several influences. When I first wrote a Four Sherlocks book (at the age of 11, nearly 12), I was inspired primarily by a Three Investigators book I had recently read. However, I was also influenced to some extent by Enid Blyton, and especially her Famous Five series, in that one of the main characters was a dog.

     Four Sherlocks? Is that related to Sherlock Holmes, or is that a group of characters of your own creation? Where can I find these?
     I read the first 16 or so Three Investigators books in my teens, although they never quite captured my imagination to the extent that Blyton's books did - probably mainly because I started them a few years later - and, at that time of my life, it was later enough to find me much less impressionable.

RDMorrell wrote:American detective fiction seldom features animals in any sort of major role, apart from maybe Lassie, but that's more TV than books.)

     That does seem to be the case - I wonder why. (Mel Lyle's "Power Boys" series do feature a Dalmatian called Blaze from the very end of the first book (out of 6), but he hardly counts, since he seems to just tag along, and rarely plays a significant part in the actual mystery (I think he did find a clue once). And I agree that T.V. is quite different, and doesn't count in this context.)
     I definitely think my stories will be more in the British style - I am thinking of starting with one of the characters at a British-modelled boarding school - rather like my own, in fact, except that I was a day-boy, not a boarder (thank goodness, thank goodness!). (I haven't decided whether to set them in Australia or Britain, or just to try to leave that open, and make a generic setting that could be either country. To some extent I think the stories would be set in a kind of dreamland idealized in my own mind, probably extracted both from the Australia I know and the Britain I read about in Blyton, although that might be very difficult to pull off convincingly.)

RDMorrell wrote:... I brought the characters into the 21st Century, in that they do use the Internet. For instance, they may try to find out information about a suspect, or they might use instant messaging to make plans.

     Yes, that's another aspect I've been agonizing over a little, which I didn't even mention: whether, and to what degree, to use modern devices like that. (There are so many aspects to work out, I couldn't mention them all. It all just goes to show that a story of this type is becoming less and less viable the more the world changes from those earlier times.)

RDMorrell wrote:While that may not seem so Blytonian, I think Enid's characters may well have used modern technology had she been alive and writing today.

     While to imagine Blyton books with such things may, in retrospect, just not feel right, I have a feeling you may be correct on that. After all, she was using the world of her time, not (as I think I suggested in another thread I started last night) trying to create a romantic, idealized world. Her settings are really quite *ordinary* (for their time) in many senses - she used what was there in the world of her time. She even introduced T.V. briefly in one or two of her books, after all.
     Maybe the Internet, computers, mobile phones, iPads, iPods, iPhones, iBooks, iMacs, i-everything-else, are quite ordinary nowadays (what does "i-" signify?); but I just cannot even conceive of writing an adventure story that uses such things - it just wouldn't feel right. Perhaps it's no coincidence that, apart from computers and the Internet, I do not use any of these things myself - they are in no way a part of my life. I wouldn't even recognize an iPod if I saw one - I literally don't know what they look like.

RDMorrell wrote:And I think that it's still quite possible to have an exciting story with modern technology being used. It doesn't always make things easier.

     I guess so - it's probably just a thing I have. And it's specific to the type of story too, because, if I were writing a science-fiction story (which I have planned to do in the past but it didn't work out), I would be taking quite a different approach, and would not only use such things, but try to invent new variations on them, and generally try to be futuristic as convincingly as I could. Indeed, the idea of a science-fiction version of the Blytonian adventure story rather appeals to me, and I might tackle it if I ever get to the point of deciding to plan a second series. I would not only use modern things there, but even try to invent my own.

RDMorrell wrote:Mobile phone batteries can run out at inopportune times (a plot device I used twice in the second FS book). Computers can crash.

     Hmmm... you wouldn't want to use such devices *too* often. Although maybe it would be no worse than repeatedly having parents, uncles, aunts, or guardians called away to a sick relative's bedside urgently at just the right moment. Still, if I ever resort to that in my series, I will try to restrain it as much as I can.

RDMorrell wrote:Children may not have the freedom in this day and age that they did years ago,
...
... there are generally stricter rules about keeping dogs on leashes nowadays.

     Maybe I'm more regressive in outlook than you, Rowan, but I think, rather than working that into the story, I would try to sidestep it by setting the stories in a rural or small-town setting where these standards have lagged behind, where children are safe and still have lots of freedom, and where authorities haven't yet cracked down on wandering dogs. If I have a dog in the story (as I certainly intend to), no way am I going to permanently cripple him by requiring him to be permanently on a leash. I would even jib at requiring bike helmets to go riding out in country lanes, although of course I could just never mention that. (I don't think Enid Blyton ever mentioned that the Famous Five *didn't* wear bike helmets - she just never mentioned helmets at all. It's Eileen Soper's illustrations that show the children riding bare-headed! But I was surprised to hear a radio program a few weeks ago about bike helmet laws in Australia, and to learn that most countries *don't* have such laws, and it's a kind of nanny-state aberration in only Australia and maybe one or two other places. And there I thought all along such laws were almost universal now. It's become a bit of a controversy, because the Victorian requirement to wear a bike helmet is believed to be seriously hampering the success of a Melbourne city bike-hire scheme the Victorian government is trying to promote to relieve traffic congestion in the city.)
     The approach of working in with restrictions on children's movement (or dogs on leashes, or anything at all that would deprive characters of freedoms they took for granted in Blyton's books) rather than creating a world in which those restrictions doesn't exist is one I'd more likely follow in a futuristic or science-fiction version of Blyton adventures, because I think I can assume that a future world will be more dangerous, more authoritarian, or probably both, and it will be more difficult to persuade readers that such restrictions don't exist and aren't enforced - and I might then have scenarios where kids run away from their restricted environment - break rules, even break the law - to enjoy some freedom, against the rules - so it could even inject a slight political element of freedom-loving kids in a fight against repressive authority, and such things - a theme that actually rather has its appeal to me. That's probably why I am planning to open my first novel in the series (not the possible futuristic series, the more immediate one) with a dramatic scene in which a traumatized kid runs away from school before meeting his future friends and participating in adventures with them. (That scene would be several chapters, and I plan to work it up in considerable detail.)

RDMorrell wrote:but even that can be worked into a story. After all, children are resourceful, so may just find ways to work with what they have. For instance, they can meet up in some quiet corner of school at recess or lunch to discuss plans.

     Doesn't quite have the same ring, somehow, none of the romance or poetry that real freedom has. Actually, what you say seems more like a Secret Seven approach; and I have to say that, even when I was a kid and almost everything was wonderful, the Secret Seven never had quite the same magic as some of the other series.

RDMorrell wrote:Or they might break the house rules a little and sneak out after bed time.

     Sort of rebelling a bit and just *taking* the freedom their parents, teachers, or other authority figures won't let them have. I like that a bit better. Like Blyton, I would want my kids to be decent and honourable, so breaking such rules would have to be portrayed as morally justifiable.
     But, like I suggested before, I would keep this rebelling against the established order theme more for a possible futuristic series where it could be used more tellingly. I would like to keep the current series I'm thinking about inside a space that is just part of the natural world the kids live in, not a kind of outside freedom they have to grab by breaking rules. (I do, very vaguely, have the concept of a second series in mind. I'm not thinking about actually writing it yet; but I am, in my thinking, already reserving different territories for the two.)

RDMorrell wrote:My own stories are not entirely Blytonian, but they do have some Blyton influences (apart from the canine character, the child characters tend to have a lot of adventures together and generally enjoy the sort of cameraderie that is such a delightful element in many a Blyton adventure story).

     Yes, that sense of cameraderie is definitely a very important part of what I want the stories to be about, whatever approach I take on the other issues. Yet I may have difficulty there, too, owing to my own personal history. I was extremely unpopular, unsociable, and immature as a child and just about completely friendless in a world I found hostile, and I never had that cameraderie myself, and have rarely had it with anyone since. In a sense I have (not by my choice, either) been almost the ultimate introvert. It does not strike me as a good position to try to write about something I have scarcely experienced myself. Whether I can take an example from fiction and write my own version of it without blatantly copying others' work is yet to be seen.

RDMorrell wrote:Of course, there's also nothing to stop you setting a story in the middle part of the 20th Century (1940s, 1950s, 1960s) if you really want to create an authentically Blytonian world. I have not done that myself, but it's certainly one option if you want to write Blyton-style adventure stories without having to worry so much about modern technology and so on.

     Yes, that is the other option - yet I have problems there too. I might actually prefer to describe things a little more generically so that the time is a bit indefinite, rather than definitely setting it anachronistically and obviously in the past. The 1960s is the earliest period I can write about from personal experience.
     It would not be quite right to say I want to create an authentic Blytonian setting anyway, or that I want to write a purely Blytonian story. I think I have my own way of doing such things, and I don't want to be trying to suppress it. It would be better to say that I want to write my own kind of story which is, in the broadest terms, modelled on some of the Blyton stories.

     Anyway, there's lots and lots to be decided; and of course I have to bring all this alive in my imagination, which I seem to be having trouble doing. I can think about it now in as much detail as I like, but it just somehow remains dead and unreal. Perhaps I've moved too far from this now, decades later - I don't know. But thanks for your thoughts, Rowan.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Lenoir » 24 Oct 2010, 11:10

MJE wrote:    Actually, what you say seems more like a Secret Seven approach; and I have to say that, even when I was a kid and almost everything was wonderful, the Secret Seven never had quite the same magic as some of the other series.


  I think the Secret Seven books are the least escapist of the main series (to refer to the other thread as well). They don't have the exotic and sometimes fantastic events of the Adventure series, secret passages are few, even heavy meals are almost unheard of. They also have limited resources, seem to be fairly ordinary children, and have a merely competent leader who is no smart-alec and is frequently outwitted by his nemesis. Even the weather is more typically British than in the other series.
Enid didn't use the same formula over and over again, and each series had its own identity.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Leslie » 25 Oct 2010, 20:54

I hope you don't mind me entering into the discussion! I have always enjoyed writing but never had anything published. (I have had my stories on a website until I had a fit of pique a while ago and took it all off!)
I just wanted to offer my encouragement to start writing! I tend to feel if I put myself into a 'I've-got-to-write' mode it doesn't necessarily work if there are no little ideas buzzing around my head. I like to write my ideas down, no matter how short, scribbly or ridiculous they sound and more or less make a list. I tend to go back to them each time I have new ones and add to my 'list'. Sometimes the mood takes me and I either have caught something else or seen it on my list and I take it and run with it. I repeatedly go over my stories and change things.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 21 Jul 2011, 05:59

     Just to return to this admittedly somewhat marginal topic: I really can't seem to decide whether or not I am still actively a Blyton enthusiast. I really can't seem to post very often now, and haven't read any books for quite some time. (But I've always maintained that long breaks from Blyton are good, and one day will enable me to come back fresh again. A constant diet of Blyton may have sufficed when I was 14; but it is not nearly enough now in my 50s.)
     I also couldn't decide whether I was into writing stories of my own in the Blyton tradition or not. Increasingly I thought this was a phase of my life that passed around 1973 or so. Yet, especially in the last couple of years, a new idea for a novel kept coming to mind, although it remained annoyingly vague.
     Well, what should happen just last night, but an opening scene popped into my mind - just a very vague idea that could be described in a couple of sentences - and, once I typed those sentences out, just within a couple of hours two entire chapters came out hardly without a pause, and with very little need for revision. I guess I can still do it, provided only that I get the idea and can remain interested. It seems to be ever the way with me: either a severe drought or an overpowering avalanche. I wish at times I could be more moderate in such things; but I don't seem to be able to manage this.
     I think I described earlier how I planned to open the story in a boarding school, with a lonely boy, Luke, who doesn't fit in, and gets so badly bullied that he runs away; then later meets another group (it's holidays by now) and they make friends - and this combined group is the group who will feature in any further stories I may write.
     Well, that is still the scenario. I must admit that I drew heavily on my own unhappy experiences at school for this (including miserable times in compulsory sport and bullying), so perhaps that explains why the two chapters came out with a real zing and conviction, and some intensity. I did dramatize things for the story more than the reality was for me, though, and make no claim about it being accurately based on experience. In fact, I wonder if I have overdone the opening bullying scene a bit - it's a little on the heavy side, but quite effective, I think. I want to give the boy a really good reason for wanting to run away, and make sure the reader sympathizes with him, and doesn't even for a moment side with the tougher, perhaps more "normal", boys who persecute him. (Okay, perhaps my overall impression of children is still rather dark, even to this day; but the loner is going to be quite introverted, and the other children nice "normal" ones, not the bullying types that have so far oppressed Luke.)
     Probably I will find it more difficult to write the first chapters about the other group of children a little more "normal", and less like myself (as someone who was always very much an outsider at school).

     Anyway, just thought one or two who know me might be interested. I think there are a few others here, too, who are interested in writing such stories.

Regards, Michael.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 21 Jul 2011, 12:20

Sounds as though you've made a very promising start, Michael. Let us know how things go!
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 22 Jul 2011, 07:53

Anita Bensoussane wrote:Sounds as though you've made a very promising start, Michael. Let us know how things go!

     Another chapter appeared last night - but it's still about Luke. I think that's coming very easily, as if I were just pouring out what is poured into my mind, because it's quite thoroughly based on my own experience, and I still remember what it was like (in basic elements, that is - the story itself is totally fictional, and not especially like any *whole* events I experienced at school - but there is hardly a single simple element I do not know about from personal experience, unless you mean simple physical things like going to a dorm in boarding school, because I never (thankfully!) went to boarding school myself, although my school did have boarders).
     I plan to introduce another group of children, and I still don't know how that's going to go yet, and I think I will find that much more difficult - at least to begin with. If I can get over that hump, I hope it will go easier once I've created the characters and given them lives to live. The project is doomed if I can't reach that point, though. Already, one of the other characters besides Luke whom I just made up on the spot because *someone* was needed has sort of come to life and become someone more than I originally expected - so I think it's probably true when writers say that characters come to life of their own accord and the writer doesn't always have to consciously plan every bit of what happens to them.
     I am planning the first third or so of the book to consist of alternating narratives, each chunk 2 or 3 chapters long, going from one group to the other, until they meet for the first time and make friends. But the fact that I will intend those chunks to be read alternately doesn't, I suppose, necessarily mean that they must be *written* in that order. I generally do seem to try to write anything in the order it will be read, but I should try to remember it doesn't have to be done that way.
     It's not a Blytonian technique, as far as I can recall, that alternating narrative technique. But I am only aiming to write an adventure story broadly in the Blytonian tradition, not using her precise style or method as a model. And I've already noticed that I sometimes tend to give certain scenes a dark intensity that probably goes well beyond what was within Blyton's limits.
     It's probably not a good thing for a creative person to *too* closely copy someone else's style (except when learning, maybe), especially if they do have their own style which they could follow - and I think I do have my own style, and think I would find it very difficult in any case to imitate someone else's style, no matter how good I think it is on its own terms.

Regards, Michael.
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