Saturday, 30 April 2011

How do you inspire your writing?

Where do you get your inspiration from?

According to Stephen King in the really rather marvelous On Writing (Inspirational? Check! Informative? Check! Gripping? Check! Highly recommended) this is a question he gets asked all the time. The description he gives of inception is akin to nuclear fusion: one, two or three skittering ideas collide and WHAM! BAM! Inspiration explosion, or in other words Fusion!

That makes sense to me.

I think writing is like cooking. You chuck in tomatoes, stock and chilli and all of a sudden you've got a fiery soup. Add a kumquat and you're in uncharted territory. It might not work but you experiment. Maybe a little coconut milk? Maybe a lime? Stir, stir, stir....

My work in progress, Merely Players is a toothsome medley of two historical events: the emergence of Primitive Methodism and the rise of Illegitimate Theatre. Both were developed somewhat in opposition to the 19th Century Establishment, but held superficially opposing values. Non-conformists were even known to demonstrate outside theatres, in reaction to the apparent immorality peddled by the acting fraternity.

Yet, both required a sort of stagecraft. Primitive Methodists were criticised for their noisy sermonising, loud singing and displays of emotion. They galvanised crowds. Both appealed to the working classes. Primitive Methodists were active in the trade union movement; illegitimate theatre developed into the music halls which provided mass entertainment for the mid-late 19th century english folk.

So what if...?

What if you bring two people together from these disparate backgrounds? What will happen in the mix of these two strands within the framework of romantic fiction?

Fusion!

And eh voila! Merely Players is born.

This morning I've been reminiscing about my own childhood reading matter. Much of my inspiration stems from the literary world I inhabited before the age of 11. So for me that's fairy tales (Andrew Lang, the Brothers Grimm); ancient myths & legends (Henry Treece, Mary Renault, Anthony Horowitz); fantasy and magic (Susan Cooper, Alan Garner); sibling adventures (CS Lewis, Noel Streatfield, Willard Price), romance - especially historical - (the Brontes, Elizabeth Goudge, Eva Ibbotson, Mary Stewart and of course, Georgette Heyer) and humour (Roald Dahl) - and lastly, poetry.

It coloured everything. A walk in the woods became full of dryads; the beach was scattered with mermaid's treasure; I listened to the North Wind and wondered who was at its back and lay awake on Christmas Eve wondering if our cats would start talking. Reading enriched my world: it added a layer of colour, imagination and history to everything I saw, touched and tasted.

I was lucky.

I grew up in a house stuffed full of books; the legacy of a bookworm mum and ten older siblings. I wasn't limited to age appropriate books. I could read whatever I liked, whenever I liked. I was a past master at skiving off school for various spurious complaints (feeling "eggy & milky" was almost a catchphrase) and I filled my head with literature, good, bad and ugly. I remember staying up until dawn reading books like Ludo and the Star Horse (the incomparable Mary Stewart) and wondering why I felt too tired to get out of bed. That's a habit I have still to break!

Now I have a daughter myself, the ability to lose oneself in books is a legacy I want to hand on (though not the skiving off school). And so far so good.

Today she took a fancy to The Pelican Guide to English Literature. She isn't a child prodigy (well she is, of course, isn't everyone's child?) - she likes the big numbers on the spine. I read her a bit of Chaucer badly (I'm no expert on Middle English) which bemused us both and I then tried to tempt her with Byron at which point she got bored, told me I was too noisy and started playing games on my iphone. Fair enough. "She walks in beauty like the night" might send tingles down my spine, but from a three year old perspective, it certainly lacks the side-splitting giddiness of Hairy MacLary from Donaldson's Dairy.

However, abortive my excursion into 19th century poetry did get me thinking though about which poems from my childhood tugged my heart strings and stirred my blood; which poems I would like to know more about... and to explore the ideas behind.

Fusion! You'll see where I'm going with this...

I blogged before about how I loved Patricia Ryan's reworking of Hitchcock as a medieval romance. Now I'm wondering about re-workings of classic poetry (this idea-making process is I've heard described as 'composting'). It reminds me of an exercise we did at school, where we had to write the diary of the eponymous Duchess in Browning's My Last Duchess. Great fun.

The story I would like to explore, rework and twist is Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott. As a child The Lady captured my imagination beyond any other poem. I could recite verses of it off by heart (and I never remember anything), my favorite being:

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott
.

The rhythm gives such an urgency to the image - it still excites me now. How much is one woman prepared to give up to see a man who she can never meet? Poignant, tragic... I can feel the what ifs coming on already. What if that curse continued through all the women of her family? What if she and the knight were reborn in another generation? What if...?

Are there any poems or songs you would like to rework? Where do you get your inspiration?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Cruel to be Kind: Cutting your Novel

Any baby at some point needs to go out in the world. She will catch bugs; be nursed back to health and develop immunity that will make her stronger. Some people will like her, others will not; she will have to learn to deal with both and learn from what their reactions tell her.

It was with this principle in mind that I launched my new baby, Merely Players, on the stormy seas of first readership. My baby has been passed to the caring hands of three people who can be trusted to help with her development:

1. Aysha: reads widely and is familiar with the romance genre and an enthusiast for all of her friend's successes.

2. Patricia: my sister and the genius behind Unwinding Slowly, a superb blog devoted to knitting. A voracious romance reader, she can be relied on for a steely and honest critique, though she will provide arnica to assist with the bruises.

3. Andrea: a wonderful critique partner found through the august portals of the Harlequin forums. She has six novels under her belt and we are in a position to help each other enormously.

So what learning have these three fairy godmothers bestowed?

Aysha has given the gift of encouragement. "I love it! Your heroine is a strong Catherine Cookson type with a weakness for bad boys and your hero reminds me of Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love. In fact, it's like a mix of highbrow Mills & Boon and Shakespeare in Love."

Patricia has given the gift of brutal honesty. Her feedback includes the following points:

1. My world building is awry. Despite the fact I know all the details about the year and place of setting (London, 1821) and despite the fact I blogged about how important historical details are to world-building, I have failed to do this in my own manuscript. My costume descriptions are vague; there is no mention of the political context. In actuality, I have been tripped up by my own over compensation - in my fear of over-writing, I have neglected the important stuff.

2. There is minor character proliferation. Patricia counted no less than five incipient romances by the end of the book and worst still, at least one of them seemed more compelling than the main one. It's the very minor character mutiny I feared! In order to save my main protagonists there is going to have to be a wholesale massacre - one or two of the little folks won't make the final cut. No fear. Their immortality will be preserved in an out takes file and one day, I might give them a story of their own.

3. My heroine is annoying. Not really annoying but a bit. She's inconsistent, she... gulp... verges on the priggish at times and passive at others. This isn't the way I envisaged Rachel: she's supposed to be a strong woman in situation that challenges all her preconceptions. If that isn't coming across she needs rewriting - and that's a BIG job.

Overall, I have largely ignored all the advice I gave in my own blog post Writing Lessons from the World of Sci Fi.

Gah!

Happily, one of the magical aspects of writing is the ability to shape - and reshape - the world of your own creations. Characters can be destroyed and recreated in another universe, or developed and matured; settings can be brought into sharp relief and new life breathed into tired dialogue.

And what about Godmother 3?

Andrea has given the gift of craftsmanship. Her detailed critique includes line by line analysis pointing out the things I am doing well (dialogue, tension and description) and not so well (information overload, issues with the heroine and minor character proliferation).

Having had a little break from the manuscript to do some important things like photograph a wedding, watch Ulysses 31 and start work on Sisyphus I'm ready to revise.

And revise.

And revise.

And then I'm going to enter some of RWA competitions (my discovery of these are also due to Fairy Godmother 3) and get MORE critique until my baby is lean, strong and ready to go out into the world without me holding her hand!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Historic Edinburgh: Fleshmarket Close

Edinburgh is the history junkie's candy store. From its winding cobbled alleys (known as closes in Edinburgh) to the towering castle, crouched on a heap of volcanic rock in the city centre, every way you turn you run smack bang into a piece of history as perfectly preserved as a fly in amber.

I live and work in Edinburgh so I have an unparalleled opportunity to nose about its dark corners turning up delicious titbits for the discerning writer of historical to nibble on. However, as I live and work in Edinburgh it's all too easy for me to become inured to its delights and to hurry along my narrow commute paying zero attention to the treasures all around.

Well, no longer. In the spirit of sharing with my historical romance writing brethren I intend to capture some of this historical goodness; to provide a cornucopia of settings and inspiration for like minded readers and writers to enjoy. Armed with an iPhone and a pair of short-sighted eyed, I will bring Edinburgh to you, brick by historic brick.

So here is the first view: Fleshmarket Close.





If you recognise the name you're probably an Ian Rankin fan. Fleshmarket Close is the 15th of his Inspector Rebus series and a suitably creepy name for a thriller.

In actuality a flesh market was a butcher's market - and in previous lives this particular close was home to an abattoir, a fish and a vegetable market.

I love its sense of atmosphere - I can easily imagine its steeply sloped floor streaked and slippery with blood; the stench of meat and crushed cabbage leaves under foot; the tall walls pressing in as the crowds shouldered past each other on market day.

Nowadays Fleshmarket Close is redolent with the equally unfragrant scent of urine from inebriated folks who stumble down the close on the way to Waverley station, but it's also home to the Halfway House - a cosy and award winning pub serving real ale and traditional Scottish food. A great place to stop off and plot your novel!


Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:Edinburgh

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Celebrating with... a perambulation around Covent Garden

So, I finished my work in progress. I know I have said this as the opener for all recent posts but hey! It's a big deal! And I just darn well like saying it. So my baby is no longer a work in (writing) progress, it's a work in (editing) progress. Having been through the kindle/manuscript proofing type process I describe below, I have now started Putting it Out There.

First, I've put out feelers to find a critique partner on the Harlequin Forums and secondly, I've enlisted the support of two dear kindle-reading friends as first readers. The latter is a risky business. It's tough being asked to read work written by family and friends, because a. you know them so the temptation to psychoanalyse instead of to enjoy is strong and b. it's hard to be honest if you don't like something. Feedback from them is therefore strictly voluntarily - if they want to give me some, coolio, but if they don't I won't sulk. Not much.

The transfer of my little mobi version of Merely Players to Kat and Aysha's kindles was a ceremonial business and I chose the venue accordingly: The Lamb and Flag pub in Covent Garden. To say that I was excited about this is something of an understatement. Fuelled by three cups of coffee (enough to make me shake) and the sheer kid-in-a-candy-store excitement of tramping through London's historic streets, I was more than excited: I was PSYCHED.

Why? Because of finishing my book?

No.

Because I was walking through my book.

Merely Players is set in and around the world of London's illegitimate theatres. The two theatres which feature are loosely based on the Adelphi and the Royal Coburg (now the Old Vic). So imagine my excitement at being able to swing by some of the hot spots favoured by my hero and heroine.

Happily, I had my camera in hand, so here follows a potted walking tour of London's illegitimate theatre.

Wait a minute! Hold the phone! What's an illegitimate theatre?

Aha, I thought you would never ask. Following the Licensing Act of 1737, theatres became subject to censorship by the Lord Chamberlain and only patent theatres, such as the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden, were permitted to perform ‘legitimate drama' e.g. Shakespearean tragedy and the like. In reaction to this dictum non-patent theatres sprang up, performing new genres such as pantomime, melodrama and burlesque: these types of drama were regarded as illegitimate and thus not subject to the Licensing Act. The Old Vic and the Adelphi both originated as 'minor' or 'illegitimate' theatres.

Firstly, the Old Vic:



In 1818 James King and Daniel Dunn founded a non-patent theatre in Southwark. John Thomas Serres then managed to secure royal patronage from Prince Charlotte and the theatre was named the Royal Coburg in her honour. Despite being banned (as a non-patent) theatre from performing serious drama in 1824, the Royal Coburg's theatre manager managed to lure Edmund Kean south of the river to perform Shakespeare to the masses. Kean famously announced: " "I have never acted to such a set of ignorant, unmitigated brutes as I see before me." The Royal Coburg did a particularly good line in blood curdling melodrama which demonstrates the evils of drink - the pet project of teetotal inhouse dramatist Douglas Jerrold. In 1833 it changed its name to the Royal Victorian Theatre in honour of the new heir to the throne, Princess Victoria and by 1880 it was already known unofficially as the Old Vic.

Walking past the Old Vic and turning right onto Waterloo Road, it's about a 15 minute walk over Waterloo Bridge to get to the Strand, the main road bordering Covent Garden to the South. The Stand is home to the Adelphi. This was once a row of neoclassical housing built by the Adams brothers, which was home (in real life) to David Garrick and (in fiction) to David Copperfield. The Adelphi buildings were torn down in the 1930s, but the adjacent Adelphi theatre remains in its 1930 reincarnation.



The streets of Covent Garden offer a cornucopia of architectural excitement for lovers of the 18th and 19th century. Named after the wife of Charles I, Henrietta St has stood since the 1630s and survived fire, flood, plague and even earthquake. In its earliest years it was a trade street, inhabited by victuallers and the like. For the regency aficionado it has most interest as Jane Austen's London pied a terre as her brother had an apartment above a bank there. She describes it as: “All dirt and confusion but in a very interesting way.” The street also bore witness to Richard Brinsley Sheridan's duelling.



Walking on past Henrietta Street to Covent Garden's main piazza we find St Paul's Church, which was known as the actor's church. In Merely Players two members of the theatre company marry here. Today it most often forms a dramatic backdrop for street performances.



Onwards down Floral Street (in 1821 this would have been known as Hart Street) to the back alley of the Lamb and Flag. Originally much of Floral Street was occupied by fruit sellers and in the 18th Century it had at least 11 inns and multiple brothels. It was 18th century London's gay village, with 1709 diarist Ned Ward writing:

"Tis strange that in a Country where
Our Ladies are so kind and fair
Gay and lovely to the Sight
So full of Beauty and Delight,
That Men should on each other doat
And quit the charming Petticoat...
Who could Women’s Charms refuse
And such a beastly Practice use?"




Walking down the back alley from Floral Street, we come to Rose Street and the Lamb and Flag Covent Garden's oldest licensed public house. In earlier times the Lamb and Flag was known affectionately as the Bucket of Blood thanks to the number of bare-fist fights which took place there. The pub's brick front and upper floors are from the 19th century but its core is from the late 17th century; when you enter the building it is like being transported back through time. The poet Dryden is said to have been beaten senseless in the alleyway by the pub and in honour of this, I include a reference in my book to the same thing happening to my hero!

As you might have gathered I like to imagine that the people from my imaginary theatre companies might have whet their whistles at the Lamb & Flag. Hence it is here that I ceremonial launched Merely Players into the wider world by transferring it onto Aysha's pink-clad Kindle. Look how pleased she is to have received it:



Sadly, Kathrin had pegged it out of the door before I could snap her too. Her ceremonial reception of Merely Players therefore took place in the rather less historic surroundings of Prezzo but hey, at least the kindle was still pink-clad.

My thanks to both lovely ladies for sharing in my excitement about this endeavour.

For more of the history of Covent Garden, I highly recommend these two excellent websites.

In and Around Covent Garden offers a drop down menu with street by street histories of the area.

British History Online which has excellent and detailed information about the history and archaeology of the streets and buildings of Covent Garden.

If all this trotting around Covent Garden's historic streets has made you devilish sharp set you might want to fill your boots regency style with a meal at Rules restaurant. Established 1798, Rules is still going strong today serving traditional British food, such as oysters and game. Being a vegetarian it didn't make it onto my tour, but it comes highly recommended by those who like to gnaw on a good bloody hunk of meat.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Completing a Novel.... and then the rest

So I did it.

I finished my work in progress.

And I did it in grand style, courtesy of a spa day Mother's Day present which took me to the exalted environs of Stobo Castle near Peebles - now a health spa, but once the seat of the Graham-Montgomery baronets. The current castle was completed in 1811 and is reassuringly castle-ish on its exteriors, and even more reassuringly health spa-ish on its interior; full of steaming ladies (warm not drunk) and manicured beauty therapists of impeccable professionalism.

I might have looked moderately freakish sitting in my white fluffy bathrobe tapping away at my grubby little netbook whilst sipping fruit tea in the Drawing Room, but I was utterly thrilled by the aptness of my surroundings. Well, okay, my novel is set in 1821 London and doesn't even have the hint of a Scottish accent within its pages, but a historic house is a historic house so we shan't quibble over that.

Spas and castles aside my book is finished! Woohoo! Three chapters before this eventful moment and buoyed up on a rising tide of excitement I tweeted as much, only to be met by this laughing response:

LOL! Hardly! Then comes revisions, submitting, and rejections. Followed by abject misery, self-doubt, and rewrites!


...from author Leah Marie Brown who, having written four historical romances, is more than familiar with the process.

Oh yeah, damn.

In actuality I'm finding the (self) editing process to be quite enjoyable. Being the novel writing equivalent of a debutante I haven't a clue as the correct form for editing. I'm making it up as I go along. Here's my work flow so far:

1. Exported the manuscript from the wonderful Scrivener in manuscript form as a rich text file and opened it in Microsoft Word.

2. Followed the Smashwords Style Guide to cleaning up my manuscript for e-publication. This isn't because I want to self publish, but because I wanted to send it to a friend to read and she reads (as I do) on a kindle. I wanted to make the experience as user friendly for her as possible. In the process of cleaning the manuscript I stumbled across a number of formatting errors that I was able to sort out.

4. Spellchecked in word and took out various misspelling Scrivener hadn't picked up and general errors like repeated words etc, which MS Word finds, but Scrivener doesn't seem to.

3. Imported my cleaned up rich text file in Calibre, a neat piece of software which allows you to export a document or book into various different e-reader friendly documents.

4. Imported my book to Kindle and started reading. I'm naturally a skim reader and therefore officially The Worst Proof Reader in The World, but there's something about reading on Kindle which makes my eye slow down and take more in. I started noticing mistakes a plenty - places where I had foreshadowed a plot device and then forgotten to use it, inconsistent names or physical descriptions and great big chunks of back story which were just DULL.

5. Printed out the whole thing, whilst sending up a prayer for absolution for the dead trees which are contributing to my editing process and started reading on my Kindle again - this time making notes on the manuscript. I did the first nine chapters and then I turned on my netbook.

6. I'm now going through making my basic amendments to the manuscript: deleting chunks of back story, re-writing lines where the characterisation seems inconsistent and random foreshadowing plot devices which I ended up not using.

This would be the 'door closed' part of the editing process which Stephen King describes in the rather marvellous On Writing. If I am to follow Mr King's advice, I will be locking my baby (the manuscript not the real one) away in a drawer for six weeks before it emerges once more to greet the light and be subject to yet more ruthless pruning. Having just done the same to the garden and vanguished a ferocious army of creeping thorns, I'm game for it.

I'm sure the rejections won't be so much fun, gulp.

Is this the same or different from your workflow? I'm new to this and I would love to know!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Film Re-workings & Historical Romance

I love a good film. I'm not ashamed of it. I work two jobs and I write constantly so I don't have time for TV, but films are a different story. They're a finite block I can fit into a particular day. It's a love I share with my daughter who, like me, doesn't really watch TV but is a film-a-holic. We're working our way through various fairy tale reworkings and fantasy tales. She's too little to pay much heed to quality special effects or famous names, so I am at full liberty to introduce her the films I loved when I was little. Apart from the Disney staples (Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella etc), we're working our way through the delights of The Slipper and the Rose and Labyrinth (there's a men in breeches theme running in my choices, which may have sowed the seeds for my love of historical romance), not to mention The Neverending Story and various magnificent MGM musicals.

When my daughter is tucked up in her bed I am at liberty to pursue other genres. I grew up watching old films. Some of my happiest film-viewing memories are of being wedged on a sofa between my sisters smothered in a dog-haired sofa blanket watching the witty interplay between Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. I love them still. Nothing gladdens my heart more than buying the traditional Christmas copy of the misnamed Radio Times and finding films by Alfred Hitchcock, or Powell & Pressburger on the box. My favorite film of all time has to be Powell & Pressburger's I Know Where I'm Going. The splendor of IKWIG is a blog post in itself, however, so I will try to get back to the main point.

I have blogged before about the connection between historical romance and the fairy tale, so I won't go over old ground here. What has sparked my interest this week is the interplay between fiction writing and film. This is inspired by finishing two excellent books by Patricia Ryan, Silken Threads and The Sun and The Moon. Both are a billy bargain on Kindle (it would simply have been rude not to snap them up), but more importantly they are really rather wonderful.

I'm usually the first to say that I am not a fan of medieval historical romance. There are too many books knocking about stuffed full of irritating archaic vocabulary and ludicrous behavior. You know the type of thing: gently born convent-bred maiden gets kidnapped by hulking warrior but wins his love by stabbing him with his own sword, whilst thee-ing and thou-ing all over the castle and indulging in some brutal nooky in his war-tent. I'm not in the business of slagging off authors so I won't offer a reading list, but I'm sure those of you who regularly browse historical romance will be able to think of a few examples. Anyway, my pet hates are irrelevant here because Patricia Ryan is a different kettle of fish. Her books are thoughtful and romantic. Her use of archaic language doesn't distract, it enhances. Her characters are believable for their period, but also believable and likable as real human beings. A character's likability is a big deal for me!

Apart from just enjoying them on their own merits, what caught my eye about Silken Threads and The Sun and the Moon was that they re-work plots from Hitchcock's Notorious and Rear Window. Not re-workings of fairy tales which we see frequently in the historical romance genre, but loose re-workings of Hitchcock's tightly plotted suspense films, complete with walk on parts for the man himself. Instead of taking an old idea into the future as in the cases of West Side Story / Romeo and Juliet or 10 Things I Hate About You / The Taming of the Shrew, it's taking a new(ish) idea and placing it in the past.

Now I LOVE this idea and it got me thinking about what other films would translate into my genre of choice. This is my favorite kind of daydream - different ideas colliding and becoming something new. It's this type of thinking that produces plot ideas and characters and situations - and serendipity usually plays a hand.

On the Hitchcock front, Suspicion seems an almost too obvious choice, particularly for a period when divorce was well nigh impossible and people resorted to the most dastardly means to rid themselves of their spouses as evidenced by a fascinating post by Judith Flanders called How to Murder Your Wife in 2 Easy Steps.

That's almost too easy. But how about something different? Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Speed, or A Life Less Ordinary?

What films would you like to see re-worked as historical romance and why?

Minor Character Proliferation

I'm just days away from ACTUALLY finishing my work in progress and there is a mutiny taking place. The minor characters won't behave. They keep clawing their way to the forefront and making demands. They have their own backstories and their own personalities, their own love affairs and driving desires and they won't bloody well leave me alone.

I'm slightly nervous that I am losing my hero and heroine. I'm worried that compared to their larger than life companions they look bland, or dull or ineffectual. I am telling myself that at the present time it doesn't matter. I will write it all out and then hack it to pieces in editing - and allow my hero and heroine to remerge from the thickets. I need to chip all the debris and allow their story to emerge lean and intense, not lost amid the myriad of other stories.


There's a risk in this. I remember seeing Richard Curtis' Love Actually for the first time. Instead of focusing on one clear story, he uses intertwining tales of different people to present the different facets of love and loss. It's not a new device, it's something which has been around for centuries. The problem is, as a reader, I find books like this ultimately unsatisfying. I like to see entertaining minor characters and I like to see them find their mates. Minor characters are often the humorous counterpoint to the intense passion of the central characters, but they need to know their place. In Love Actually, there are some couples I want to see more of. I want to see their film. Others are an irritant; I want to get back to the main story - except there isn't really a main story.

So how do I stop this happening in my book? How do I keep them under control? I don't really have the answer to that, but googling around I find that mutinies like this are commonplace.

Sharon Kendrick talks about forcing her minor characters into a book of their own, so they don't steal the show.

Stephanie Meyer talks about the takeover of minor character Jacob Black in New Moon - breaking with convention she actually gets rid of her hero for most of the book, but still it works. This makes for interesting reading for anyone plotting a series!

Anne Gracie interviews various writers here about how they plot historical romance series - and the role of minor characters there in. I love Joanna Bourne's use of the term "sequel bait" (a new one on me!)

For those who have the opposite problem - who struggle to make their minor characters real - K.M. Weiland's Wordplay blog has five top tips for bringing minor characters to life.

Advice for quelling mutinies of this type is most gratefully received!