Sunday, March 23, 2014

Appealing to Both Sexes?

There are stories that appeal to both sexes, but last week, I was reminded again of how men and women want such different things out of the stories they read or watch on TV/film and how difficult it is to please both at the same time.

My latest obsession is the new TV adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, just called The Musketeers and revamped to give it a much more modern feel.  It’s kind of similar to the recent Robin Hood series which featured Richard Armitage in black leather – the musketeers wear leather too and their outfits are a wonderful blend of old and new.

The man behind this new adaptation, Adrian Hodges, has done a great job IMO and has brought something new to it rather than just reworking the same old story, the way most films have done in the past.  He takes a lot of liberties, of course, but it doesn’t seem to matter and all fits in very nicely.  There’s plenty of sword-fighting and violence to please male viewers (Vinnie Jones was in last week’s episode, which says a lot!), and there are sub-plots galore featuring women, not least the brilliantly selfish Milady de Winter.

The one sub-plot that interested me the most, however, was the budding romance between D’Artagnan and the married Constance, his landlady.  Over many weeks they got to know each other, helped one another out and the viewer could see respect, love and trust building between them until finally, they confessed their love and started an affair.

Photo from
Ok, so maybe it’s wrong to root for a couple where one party is married (to a very obvious buffoon, but still …), but the whole build-up to this romance was very well done and a joy to watch.  So an episode having concluded with that passionate declaration one week, I sat down with great anticipation to watch the next to see their love develop – and had my hopes dashed within minutes.  Why?

The writer obviously felt that this was what the series needed, keeping D’Artagnan free from a love interest and able to go on his way (albeit angry and disillusioned), but could he not have been allowed to be happy at least for a while?  As a woman, this made me feel completely cheated and if you’re reading this, Mr Hodges, I sincerely hope you’re planning on bringing them together again at a later stage, if not already in tonight’s episode!

Any man watching this probably didn’t even notice and thought it just another sub-plot, but with the enormous build-up to this particular romance it seemed to me to have much more significance.

This has turned into a bit of a rant, but I guess what I’m trying to say is that we can’t cheat our readers/viewers by leading them down one path, only to trample on their joy once we finally conclude this plot strand satisfactorily.  After a while, perhaps, but not so quickly or so callously.  But maybe that’s just my very female point of view …?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Competitive? Who? Me?

To the victor the spoils (or lots of water and extra oxygen)

 One thing that comes with age is self-knowledge, and something that I have come to know about myself is that I am competitive. I can’t help myself and being competitive is no bad thing, it drives you on. It keeps you going when you might fail. But sometimes comparing yourself to others and competing can do the opposite. It can cripple your confidence.

I realised some of this at the weekend when I did my first trail run at altitude. I like to run, I’m never going to be Ms Speedy (I’m built more for comfort) but I do like to push myself and even if I tell myself it is just for fun I’m timing myself and measuring myself against others.

But there comes a time when you need to realise that everyone is different and you can’t be good at everything. You also need to concentrate on what you can do and not what everyone else is doing.

I was in a mountain town called Salida, about 7,000 feet above sea level, surrounded by runners of all shapes and sizes ready to run marathons, half-marathons on a dirt track that went uphill and down dale. I was signed up for the two-mile fun run. As we set off I realised that much as I wanted to compete I couldn’t. I’m still not acclimatised to the altitude. Some of these people run Ultra Marathons (50K plus) and they like doing hills.

I stuck myself in and slowly stumbled up the large hill, which was the first mile of the race, gasping for air. And the only thing I could think of was putting one foot in front of the other. It didn’t matter what everyone else was doing because that was their race and not mine. Luckily gravity was my friend in the second mile and I crossed the line in a reasonable time. Not as fast as I would be at sea level but I was done.

I then spent the rest of the day hanging out with new friends and cheering everyone in.

It made me think about my writing, because I can get competitive about that as well. Why other people are more successful than me? Biting my nails over Amazon rankings or better reviews. Trying to work out the angle that might get me a bit further ahead. And this doesn’t make me a pleasant person or, in fact, a better writer.

Because halfway up that dirt trail; seeing spots because of the thin mountain air, I realised I am only in control of what I put on a page. The only thing I should be competitive with is myself in writing the best story I can write. That is what will get me over the finish line. Any writers who pass me on this race could be running a shorter distance and can sprint. Or maybe I’ll pass them on a particularly tricky uphill section. Either way I need to nod as we pass, cheer them on from behind or lend them a helping hand. But I shouldn’t be racing them; I need to keep my eyes on my own goal.
So now I’m plodding onwards putting one word in front of another because that is the only thing I have control over.

With thanks to the lovely people at Vertical Runner, Breckenridge for letting me join their club team and put up with me flopping around searching for extra air

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Author's Voice

I have just spent the most wonderful week as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. There is so much I could write about it, but the thought that is jumping up and down is the author's voice. This has many meanings. As aspiring writers we work hard to find 'our voice', that elusive thing. Justin Cronin said that voice was taking ownership of what you want to do as a writer…you need to know yourself for your voice to come through… Interesting….

We had a fabulous night of poetry under the stars in the desert where Andrew Motion, Lemn Sissay and others read their works…the night before I heard Pam Ayres read her work…there is nothing like hearing a poet read their poems. Just listening to them you feel the poem.

But as an author I dread reading my books. I am dyslexic so it's hard to read aloud. However I realise now I am depriving my readers. During the festival Paul Blezard and Julia Wheeler asked several writers to read their work… JoJo Moyes, Judy Finnigan and Joanne Harris. The works came alive hearing the voice of the authors. I was able to video Joanne and it was pure magic. The video here. She said on twitter 'Anyone else reading my work aloud feels like a form of translation…'

So how do you feel about hearing the 'author's voice'? Does it enrich the experience for you? Or does it take away from it?