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Writers' & Artists' Blog

Literary Lessons: Voice

From Melmouth by Sarah Perry (Serpent's Tail 2018)

Rachel Knightley - Melmoth


If you’re reading this I’m sure you’ve felt the ‘what now?’ at the end of a book you’ve loved. It’s most likely to happen with the strongest authorial voices, those fully in command of their world and message. Sarah Perry’s Melmoth is full, sharp and wittily observant in both the story and the telling. Distinctively articulate, it remains unassuming, clarifying without upstaging the action. This is a masterclass in authorial voice, and a solid marriage between research and originality, creating a sparklingly authentic world. 

Melmoth begins with a chance meeting in the street between Helen Franklin – a Prague-based translator living in self-made isolation and penitence for a secret crime of which she accuses herself – and one of the rare people who have managed to slip under the net of her self-denial to become a friend. His panic, and the papers that have come into his possession by the death of a friend …

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Literary Lessons: Editorial Investment

From When The Curtain Falls by Carrie Hope Fletcher (Sphere 2018)

Rachel Knightley - Blog 3

Theatres and ghost stories have both played starring roles in every era of my life and, as a result, of my writing. The idea of a ghost story set in a theatre immediately had me on its side – especially one written by a former west-end Eponine in Les Miserables which was another huge plus as far as my inner child was concerned. Carrie Hope Fletcher turned up on the theatrical, music and literary scenes long after my actual childhood but she certainly connects with a whole lot of it; I’m not surprised her emotional intelligence and courage to recognise and discuss her experiences and mistakes have made her “honorary big sister” to Youtubers all over the world.

Actress Fawn Burrows and apprentice doorman Walter Brown fall in love during a production of When the Curtain Falls, Fawn’s first starring role. But their producer is in love with, if not Fawn herself, then what being seen with Fawn will do for his career …

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Are You A 'Non-Writing' Writer?

Hands up if you’re one of those writers that doesn’t actually write.  

Be honest. You love the idea of writing, you follow writers on Instagram, you read about other people who write, maybe you subscribe to literary newsletters and websites like this one, but actually writing? You’ll get round to it. One day.

I am a writer who doesn’t write. At least, I was until very recently.

I was always envious of the ‘real’ writers I read about, people who never have their heads out of their work, dedicated to the core, passionate about storytelling and have something to show for it. 

The closest I came to this was as a five year old, proudly waiting to present my hand written story in show and tell… only for Karl from year two to point out that my protagonist changed gender from page to page. Needless to say, I kept my story to myself and didn't really write after that.

So last year I decided to do something about it. 

I set myself a …

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Literary Lessons: Investing In Faith

From Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna (Cannongate July 2018)

Rachel Knightley with Room to Dream by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna

‘What if someone steals my idea?’ is one of the two most common questions would-be writers ask when sending (or not sending) their writing off. The second question, which may sound like the polar opposite yet often follows directly, is ‘What if my idea isn’t good enough?’ There are practical answers, such as emailing documents to yourself so you can prove copyright by date. There are gentle reminders that there are only seven basic plots but infinite original voices – what you’re selling is not just your plot or idea but the originality of your voice in that plot or idea, a unique combination in all of time and space.

But while the practicalities are helpful, it’s much more helpful to address the questions at the emotional level: The perfect thing in your head will stay perfect as long as it stays in your head. It will stay that way until you have the courage to turn your perfect dream into …

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Literary Lessons: Omniscience and Empathy

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen (Penguin Michael Joseph July 2018)

When I began studying creative writing, omniscience was often spoken of as having fallen out of fashion in literature right alongside society’s belief in divine interventionism. If God didn’t choose to pop into all of our heads and lives, without generally dropping off a whisper of advice or a nudge of help, why would authors bother with their own characters? The subjective, first/third-limited point of view was more “real” to the human experience as we had grown to understand it, intellectually and emotionally. “I” live my life, “s/he” lives her/his life. We each have one and can only interpret what our five (arguably six) senses offer us as to what’s going on in a head other than our own. First and third-limited points of view also avoided the dangers of “seasickness”, where the reader is made dizzy by jumps from head to head, never getting as deep into any point of …

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