Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Saluting Charles Dickens

This week we are observing two momentous anniversaries. Two hundred years ago, Charles Dickens was born. Sixty years ago Elizabeth Windsor ascended to the throne of England.
These two events are significant for me. Let’s start with Charles Dickens. He was a prolific writer who popularized the idea of serializing stories. Unlike most authors who employed the same method of bringing their work to the mass market, Dickens often made the episodes up as he went along. I tend to write in the same way. I’m what’s known as a “pantster”—I write by the seat of my pants! True I have a general idea of where the story is going when I begin, but the events, twists and turns usually come to me as I write, or sometimes when I’m asleep!
As I get to know my characters their lives seem to evolve “before my very eyes”. Who knew, for example, that my heroine in Conquering Passion, Mabelle de Valtesse, would be kidnapped by a Welsh rebel chieftain, Rhodri ap Owain? Even less likely was that Rhodri would spawn a clan and a book series of his own! (Coming later in 2012)
Many writers would find my way of doing things difficult. They are “plotters” who have most of the story outlined before they begin. Both methods are of course legitimate and equally creative. I suspect a lot of authors fall somewhere in between.
So I salute Dickens. He wrote what he knew. His childhood was difficult and many of his experiences feature in his stories. It’s reported his last words were, “Be natural my children. For the writer that is natural has fulfilled all the rules of art.”
My favourite book is A Tale of Two Cities. I cried buckets the first time I read it! What’s yours?

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