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Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 22 Jul 2011, 08:26

MJE wrote:     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.

I like the idea of alternating narratives, blending partway through the story when the characters meet. It hadn't occured to me before that, while working on the initial draft, an author might choose to write chapters out of reading order.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Daisy » 22 Jul 2011, 10:02

I've read a few books recently where the story line needs scenarios painted in two different eras and I found it difficult to switch my mind from one to the other. I would skip chapters so I could get on with the story in one time, so to speak, and then go back and read the other! I can't imagine how an author would manage to write alternating times in that order and suspect the two strands were written and then the chapters interspersed later, but of course I don't know! I only know I would find it difficult to do.
I think if the story is all set in one era it would be considerably easier to follow and one's mind can quite easily switch from one set of characters to another with a "Meanwhile, back at the ranch...." sort of introduction.
As for writing it in the first place.. I would tend to go where your mind takes you. You could always try interspersing the chapters once they are written and see what sort of effect that gives you. For continuity of thought I would lean towards having the first few chapters about your main character(s) before introducing another group who could immediately interact with him and who's background could be gradually revealed as the narrative progresses. Good luck anyway. It sounds very interesting.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby MJE » 22 Jul 2011, 15:40

Anita Bensoussane wrote:I like the idea of alternating narratives, blending partway through the story when the characters meet. It hadn't occured to me before that, while working on the initial draft, an author might choose to write chapters out of reading order.


Hallo, Anita.

     I don't think it's really that I've chosen to write the chapters out of reading order; rather, I think it's just that some of the scenes in the chapters of one of the narratives have occurred to me clearly enough to write, while others haven't yet. And I do tend to believe that when you get ideas you should write them down before they fade away, regardless of whether other, earlier parts still haven't come yet.
     Really, I would be surprised if a novel of any complexity was written throughout in actual reading order. Blyton may have been able to dash off a Famous Five in a week, just typing it out in order with little revision - but we all know there are little inconsistencies and things that don't quite add up in some of those stories. And they are probably not hugely complex, as novels go. A complex novel probably has its chapters written quite out of order, and some may be re-done later on, too, and some written in advance. I don't (regrettably) have Blyton's gift of seeing a whole novel unfold in my mind; but I do seem to be able to do it with a chapter at a time, provided I know roughly at the beginning what the chapter is going to be about.
     The idea of alternating narratives blending part-way through a novel is certainly not an idea I originated, although I don't think I've come across it *really* often. The ultimate example is Dean Koontz's "Strangers", a massive novel of nearly 800 pages which begins with about *five* alternative narratives, each about a different set of characters (with one or two main characters in each set), and each set in a whole world of its own, completely independently of the others, and even in totally different parts of the country (that being the U.S.). Perhaps three-quarters of the way into the novel, the main characters from each narrative come together in a remote desert motel, all of them having been drawn there by strange twists of fate. Koontz's sometimes-fantasy-influenced novels tend to feature weird conspiracies, the one behind this being the mother of them all. It turns out that all those people had stayed at that motel on the same night years ago (although, strangely, none of them remember it until their memories are re-awakened later), and the motel owner and his wife were also part of the whole thing. It's really brilliantly designed, if you like that kind of story.

     Am I right, though, that Enid Blyton has never used this technique?

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

Postby MJE » 22 Jul 2011, 16:23

Daisy wrote:I've read a few books recently where the story line needs scenarios painted in two different eras and I found it difficult to switch my mind from one to the other. I would skip chapters so I could get on with the story in one time, so to speak, and then go back and read the other!

     Yes, that's a problem that has occurred to me, and I do wonder whether I am in danger of creating such a situation myself. I am aware of it, because I have occasionally read books with alternating narratives which later join, and sometimes the alternation continues for a hundred or more pages, and I do sometimes find myself involved in one of them, then, when the other arises, I find it difficult mentally to drop the first one and get into the second one - and, yes, I have been guilty of reading ahead in the first narrative, then coming back later to catch up on the second. But I do wonder if, because you are departing from what the author wanted, you are not getting the proper effect. (Robin Cook's medical thrillers, which I read, are rather prone to using alternating narratives.)
     Yet, if you want to tell both narratives, I can't think of a better solution. Somehow it doesn't seem satisfactory to tell one narrative entirely, until the strands merge, then go way back in time and start the other one from scratch.
     There's also the question of whether the strands should pause (to make way for each other) at "cliff-hanging" moments of suspense, or more-or-less natural resting points. In the earlier parts of a novel (which is probably where alternating narratives are most likely to occur), I would perhaps favour natural resting points, with exceptions only if I have important and well-prepared cliff-hangers. But if an alternating narrative occurs late, even at the climax (and I have found that in Dean Koontz, too), then cliff-hangers might be better, and even unavoidable.
     Dean Koontz's "Night Chills" ends with dual narratives that alternate dozens of times, with the segments getting shorter and shorter - first chapter-length, then half or third a chapter, then a page or so, then right down to a paragraph and even a sentence at a time. I seem to recall it worked quite well.
     Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World", just a chapter or two in, has a single chapter which does the same, with pages of single sentences from alternating narratives. (Three of them, I think - and at times it was difficult to even determine *which* narrative a particular sentence-sized segment belonged to.) In that case, I find it extremely confusing, and rather pointless. The events themselves seemed (so far as I could figure them out) quite ordinary events for a second or third chapter.

Daisy wrote:I can't imagine how an author would manage to write alternating times in that order and suspect the two strands were written and then the chapters interspersed later, but of course I don't know!

     Designing the overall story might be difficult, if it were complicated. But I don't think the idea of alternating would in itself add much additional complexity. Keeping notes about what was happening in each strand would assist in keeping things organized. A writer might well write the narratives separately (just as I might end up doing with my current story), but, in doing so, it might be wise to pay heed to the fact that they will alternate, and plan them to do so in a suitable manner.

Daisy wrote:I think if the story is all set in one era it would be considerably easier to follow and one's mind can quite easily switch from one set of characters to another with a "Meanwhile, back at the ranch...." sort of introduction.

     I am not planning to use any linking words like "Meanwhile". I think my narratives will be very clear just standing by themselves.
     I remember the very first story I wrote, way back in the Dark Ages (or at least around 1964). I had created a set of characters, and was trying to write a story modelled on the Famous Five. It featured one of the boys being kidnapped, while his siblings are setting about trying to find him. And after the missing boy's absence is noticed, I follow the others for a while. And I recall that, either in a new chapter, or at least new section (I forget which), I then narrated what was happening to the kidnapped boy. And I did start it with a linking word such as "Meanwhile", or possibly even a whole phrase like "While this was happening". (I would never dream of showing that story to anyone, as it is utterly hopeless. I started but never finished a longer version of it, and completed a third, shorter version - but I do still have the original.)
     I don't think I can recall where Blyton has done something like that, so I am wondering where I picked up that technique. I really don't think I would have been original enough at that time to think of it myself; so I think I must have read an instance somewhere. I didn't read much other than Blyton in those days; but I must have read other things at least on occasion.

Daisy wrote:As for writing it in the first place.. I would tend to go where your mind takes you. You could always try interspersing the chapters once they are written and see what sort of effect that gives you. For continuity of thought I would lean towards having the first few chapters about your main character(s) before introducing another group who could immediately interact with him and who's background could be gradually revealed as the narrative progresses.

     Well, this does sound a bit different to what I am doing. I may have mentioned it a year or so before, when I started this topic - I don't quite recall - but the overall plan is this: There will be a group of four or five children, perhaps aged around 13 or so, who will get involved in an adventure of some kind. Then there will be another boy, a rather introverted one sent to boarding school by his not-entirely-sympathetic parents, where he will have a hard time (and already has had!), which will escalate to the point that he runs away, with only his faithful dog for company (whom the school allows to live with him in the school, a bit like Timmy and George at Gaylands School). He will run into difficulties while on the run, and these difficulties will probably be tied up with the adventure the other group are having (it's holidays by now), and they will meet and make friends, and have the rest of the adventure together - as well as any future ones I might write. In other words, he will become a permanent member of the group, not just a one-off.
     I suppose it's a bit like Barney in the "R" mysteries: he enters a bit of the way into the novel, as the others meet him for the first time, and make friends. Now, as I recall, Blyton did not ever directly narrate Barney's history before he met the others; this came out only in dribs and drabs as Barney told them things in the various novels. Unlike this, I want to tell my loner character's previous history as fully as the history of the larger group. (I must say that it is shaping up to be much longer than I thought. If this trend continues, it's going to be a very long novel: at least double the length, for instance, of an "... of Adventure" novel by Blyton.)
     Why did I choose to start this way? Well, just because I thought it would be an interesting and intriguing, and slightly unusual, way of starting a story (and hopefully a series if things go well). Having had a hard time at school myself, I also suspect I wanted to write indirectly about that through the loner character - so that might have influenced me too. (I never went to boarding school, though; nor did I ever run away from either school or home.) I think there's always been something in me that wanted to write about the sensitive but not quite conventional loner rejected by mainstream society, who may even rebel against it, as, especially earlier in life, I felt I was in that position myself.
     There is an additional complexity I am introducing, and hoping I have the ingenuity to justify: Luke (the loner character) discovers strange things going on in his school, and these turn out to be linked with the adventure the others start on before they meet Luke. And I am planning to have the end of the story take place in the school, where the characters will be brought to for some reason, where some very strange revelations are going to take place, as well as some suspenseful action. (At present, I have only a vague idea of what these will be.) And it will really stir the school up, and maybe it will become a nicer place after that. (Perhaps the beginning and end of "The Silver Chair" by C. S. Lewis have slightly influenced me here (in broad terms). The Narnia books in general have been a real influence on me.)

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

Postby pete9012S » 02 Nov 2017, 22:31

Looking back over this thread I was impressed by just how many forum members had written and even published their own stories...

I'm sure there may be even more writers amongst our newer and other members too?
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Rob Houghton » 03 Nov 2017, 01:34

I've only just caught up on some of this thread, and I find the comments quite interesting.

regarding an author writing scenes out of order, I have written books like this in the past (two actually - both based on my ancestor's lives in Birmingham in the 1900's). I actually wrote the last chapter first, and then I had something to work towards. I wrote the chapters in whatever order I liked, and fitted them together. This method really does need a fairly detailed plan first of all, in my experience. I don't often write a plan, just rough notes, but in the case of these two books, which I wrote aged 17 and 18, I planned quite tightly before I started writing.

Margaret Mitchel wrote Gone With the Wind in this way. She also wrote the famous 'Frankly my dear...' scene before she wrote anything else. That's where I got the idea from.

The second comment that popped out at me was what Daisy said about finding it difficult to follow a story set alternatively in two different eras of history. Oh dear! My novel The Last Summer alternates between 1940's and 1890's, in six parts, alternating between the two, with incidents and themes being mirrored between the generations, and history repeating itself to a certain extent, in varying ways. I don't think its too hard to follow - but it never occurred to me to write it in any other way - that was how the story had to be written.
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
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Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Daisy » 03 Nov 2017, 10:11

Rob Houghton wrote:The second comment that popped out at me was what Daisy said about finding it difficult to follow a story set alternatively in two different eras of history. Oh dear! My novel The Last Summer alternates between 1940's and 1890's, in six parts, alternating between the two, with incidents and themes being mirrored between the generations, and history repeating itself to a certain extent, in varying ways. I don't think its too hard to follow - but it never occurred to me to write it in any other way - that was how the story had to be written.


I'm coping so far Rob! :) I'm reading part 2 at the moment. The book that really put me off the idea was one where the two strands were about 3 or 4 hundred years apart (I can't remember the title now) so any link between the two was far less obvious than yours.
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby KEVP » 03 Nov 2017, 17:49

I haven't written myself (maybe someday?) but my brother has written and published a children's adventure story. I don't think he was directly influenced by Enid, but he seems to have been influenced by English children's authors who themselves were influenced by Enid. But unlike Enid, he has incorporated some supernatural elements into his story. I think his plan is to write more adventures about his child heroes.

Look for "The Druid of Royal Oak" by Neil Paananen. (Royal Oak is a suburb of the city of Detroit, in the American state of Michigan)
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Stephen » 19 Nov 2017, 09:59

I've been constantly writing stories for my own amusement since I was a teenager. It's mostly science fiction and horror, with a splash of surrealism thrown in, but I've occasionally dabbled with Blytonian stuff. For many years, I even had a regular character called Meddle who was a sort of human version of Enid's famous pixie. And now, I've started a sequel to The Rubadub Mystery. It's set in the present day where Barney and Diana are married and have a grown-up daughter called Miranda! But believe me, despite all this it's not your typical Enid Blyton story. Think Mr Marvel getting executed for Treason...think vengeful spirit...think zombie... :shock:
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 19 Nov 2017, 10:38

It sounds like a unique take on the characters, Stephen!
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Rob Houghton » 19 Nov 2017, 12:52

I was thinking the other day that I've been writing stories ever since I could write - but the idea of writing them seriously happened when I was about 10 years old, and my teacher told my parents to encourage me with my creative writing, as I had a definite gift for it.

That comment was both a compliment and a curse, as it led me down a path of believing I could maybe get published 'just like that' and between the ages of about 17 and 25 I sent off large amounts of manuscripts, starting with my first adult novel 'Will and Liz' which I wrote aged 17. In a way it would have been better if the teacher hadn't made me think I had a gift because I mistakenly thought that meant I didn't need to work at it! It took me many years to realise there's a difference between 'having a gift' and being a published author!

I remember contacting a 'vanity publisher' once and receiving all the 'bumf' from them - including a contract to sign, and details of fees. Even in 1987 they were very steep. I've never gone down that avenue since, although I have published on Amazon - but that's free!

It was only aged about 30 that I began to read a LOT of 'how to write' books, and learn more about the realities of publishing. Its only since that age that I have become more serious about my writing - and nowadays I can see so many mistakes in what I write, both grammatically and plot-wise. I will read books I wrote in my 20's and 30's and will either be amazed at the power of my own writing - shocked even - or, more frequently, appalled by how terrible it is! I see occasional flashes of 'not bad' writing - but I am so hard to please.

I can say one thing though - to bring this back on topic - is that Enid led me into writing - and the story which prompted my teacher to tell my parents I had 'a gift' all those years ago (36 to be exact!) was all about secret passages, caves, treasure, baddies, and a holiday adventure! :lol: Some things don't change very much, as I've now come full circle, with Rawlins' Reach! :lol:
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Julie2owlsdene » 19 Nov 2017, 17:24

I think a lot of people write fan-fic of the stories from their favourite authors. I've seen quite a few on the internet.

You've mentioned before about your teacher's encouragement, Rob, and your writing since a child, on another thread, but don't worry, you must be at the age where one repeats oneself. :lol:

I love writing Blyton stories, mainly because I love her characters in most of her books, and I've read them so many times that I feel I know them personally. That's the beauty of Enid's writing, she made her characters very real to the reader, and always made me feel I was inside the book as I read.

8)
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Rob Houghton » 19 Nov 2017, 17:53

I do repeat myself a lot - I guess I'm reaching that age :lol:

It's funny I never wrote 'fan-fic' (a word I'm not keen on!) until I wrote 'The Mystery of the Disappearing Tramp in about 2002. That was my first attempt. I think I find it quite difficult, as I'm the pedantic type who likes to get every detail right - so that it's as close to Enid Blyton as it can possibly be.

I even ponder over sentence structure and whether she would use certain words or phrases, and I have always been very detailed in my approach to writing character's speech in particular. For example, Enid very rarely ever attributed speech before the speech, as in They went up the hill and Roger said, "Look over there! A cave!" but would nearly always attribute the speech in the middle of the speech, as in - They went up the hill. "Look over there!" Roger said. "A cave!" - so I usually attempt to attribute speech in the same way.

In Rawlins' Reach I also made sure to occasionally call Great Uncle Robert just plain 'Uncle Robert' and sometimes 'Great Uncle' as Blyton did. For some reason the children didn't always call him 'Great Uncle Robert' in Rilloby Fair - but sometimes just 'Uncle Robert' - so I did the same.

Then I am careful to choose words that Blyton would use, and write them in the same way. One is a word that I noticed has been 'corrected' in my serial that's currently running on here - the word 'phone'. I purposefully wrote it with an apostrophe - 'phone - as this is how Enid usually wrote it, rather than just phone without the apostrophe! But I have been corrected!! :lol: :wink:


You can see how pedantic I am from this example, and why I find writing stories in Blyton's style fairly challenging - but ultimately satisfying. :D
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Anita Bensoussane » 19 Nov 2017, 18:36

Rob Houghton wrote:I am careful to choose words that Blyton would use, and write them in the same way. One is a word that I noticed has been 'corrected' in my serial that's currently running on here - the word 'phone'. I purposefully wrote it with an apostrophe - 'phone - as this is how Enid usually wrote it, rather than just phone without the apostrophe! But I have been corrected!! :lol: :wink:

If I remember correctly, that's because you weren't consistent and you used "phone" elsewhere in the text!
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Re: Writing Blytonian stories of one's own.

Postby Rob Houghton » 19 Nov 2017, 18:45

:oops: oops! I probably did...though it was an oversight, lol! :lol:

I don't really mind either way - but it was something I remembered consciously doing, then probably forgot in my haste as I wrote other parts. :-D I know I usually try to do it with 'bus too - as this was how Enid wrote it. Its very difficult proofing your own work though, and I'm grateful for those who do it for me, as its definitely my weak spot!
'Oh voice of Spring of Youth
hearts mad delight,
Sing on, sing on, and when the sun is gone
I'll warm me with your echoes
through the night.'

(E. Blyton, Sunday Times, 1951)



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