Eurovision: Conflict, Characters, Tension, Twists and Denouements

The Eurovision Song Contest is almost upon us. Francesca takes a look at the elements of story telling within it.

Crazy characters abound

It occurred to me recently, after hearing an announcement about this year’s UK Eurovision entry, that the contest has many of the elements of a story telling, encapsulated in one evening.

For a start, there are a whole host of diverse characters who appear to have been drafted in from several different genres. Who could forget Lordy, the Finnish heavy metal band who won in 2006? They’d surely stepped out of an episode of Star Trek. Jedward, who represented Ireland in 2012, were dressed as futuristic sci-fi characters as envisaged in the 1970s, with their insane silver space suits. At the other end of the scale, grandmas who would have been at home in a Russian epic took to the stage in 2012, namely The Grannies of Buranovo. In 2013 Romanian Cesar brought horror with his (accidental?) depiction of a modern day Dracula, while singing, perversely, a sugary love song. And these are just a few of the many crazy personalities representing their countries.

All Kinds of Everything…

History is recalled in Abba’s Waterloo. For weird comedy, I present you with Ireland’s Dustin the Turkey, a puppet, who sang Irelande Douze Pointe in 2008. This turned out, appropriately, to be a ‘turkey’, not even qualifying for the show. Nil points before they’d even started.

Of course, romance abounds. Feel the profuse declarations of love in Lulu’s Boom-bang-a-bang (1969) and Cliff Richard’s Congratulations (1968), the sweetness of Dana’s All Kinds of Everything (1970). Cry at the heartbreak in Johnny Logan’s What’s Another Year? (1980).

Congratulations!

Romance, history, dystopia, comedy, sci-fi and fantasy – it’s all there. You might say crime is represented, as some of the songs are murdered (Jemini’s UK entry in 2003 anyone?). And there’s mystery – how on earth did some of them even get picked?

The show itself begins with ‘conflict’: who will triumph, who will fail, who’ll make a complete wally of themselves? The scoring, by far the best part in my opinion, provides nail biting tension. Friendships and rivalries surface, even if quite a lot of inevitability sets in. There is disappointment and elation as the show moves towards the denouement and we discover the winner.

Love songs seem to be the most popular

But then, sometimes there is a twist. Take 1968, when Cliff lost by one point to Spain. 1969 saw four winners.  In 1988, the UK’s Scott Fitzgerald was ahead by the time they reached the penultimate vote. Then Yugoslavia gave Switzerland six points, making Celine Dion the winner by one point. Gripping stuff.

Not long now till the next episode of the saga known as the Eurovision Song Contest. What new elements will be thrown into the plot this time, what new declaration of love, what rivalries, what totally bonkers characters? Whatever they are, have a good time loving it or hating it!

 

One thing you could do to generate story ideas is to look at the Eurovision song titles, maybe combining two or more of them to add other elements. What would you make, for instance, of Better the Devil You KnowKnock Knock Who’s There and Waterloo?

For more information on this year’s contest: Eurovision Song Contest

@FCapaldiBurgess

My writing competition post at the RNA blog. Still some comps open for you to enter.

 

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A Very Good Place To Start…

Elaine Roberts talks about how she hopes to make the year ahead count.

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and I have decided I am going to make 2016 work for me. Due to a rather hectic latter part of 2015 and bad health, I haven’t written any serious amount of words since about September.

If you have read the New Year blog, where I set out my goals for the year, you’ll know I want to finish my saga and get it sent out to agents/publishers. However, until I finish work at the end of March, my writing time is extremely limited, but that doesn’t mean I do nothing.

report_writingI’m very lucky to belong to The Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS) so I read my report again. The critique is part of the RNA NWS membership and is worth its weight in gold. The writer of the report gave me some valuable direction but I didn’t know where to begin. I had written over 53,000 words and had lost touch with my story. I was stuck.

As Julie Andrews once famously sung, let’s start at the very beginning, so I did. I returned to basics.

Starting with the three-act structure, I looked at my story to see how it fitted. I’m pleased to say that overall, it wasn’t too bad. A scene I had in the first half should be in the second half of the story. I had gaps as well, so going back to the beginning helped kick start my imagination and deliver some ideas. Some will be used, some won’t, but they have all been written down.

I have also watched some documentaries that are relevant for the time period I’m writing in, this has also given me ideas. The research has continued and the reader of my manuscript gave me a few things to think about. Some of those things meant changing the order of the story and raised the question prologue or no prologue.

Victorian Saga Family Tree

Victorian Saga Family Tree

I also have plans to go to many writing events. I am attending two conferences, which involves listening to established authors, agents and publishers as well as actively participating in workshops. Once I have given up work, I intend to become a regular attendee at the London Chapter meetings. I also have writing retreats planned.

Currently, I am placing my building blocks where they need to be, so come the 1st April, I know exactly what I need to do to finish my story.images

When I look at my diary for the year ahead, I wonder how I would have managed to find time to go to work, oh but I won’t have to anymore, lucky me!

@RobertsElaine11

Character Building

Elaine and Francesca consider their methods for creating characters.

Elaine: I start with their age and when they were born. This gives me a star sign, which in turn gives me some character traits as a starting point. Once I’m happy with that, I do a character profile. This will involve interviewing them; it’s what I call getting to know my characters. It will involve some simple questions such as:

Forgotten Love - Main Character's Profile

Forgotten Love – Main Character’s Profile

Do you prefer to drink tea or coffee?

Do you prefer the Rolling Stones or The Beatles?

What would be your idea of a perfect day/night?

Do you believe in God?

What is your happiest memory as a child?

What is your worst memory?

And so it goes on. They are not all deep and meaningful questions but the answers will help bring out the characters back story, and that in turn will bring understanding about their actions/reactions.

I have an interview sheet that I complete, but sometimes I add extra questions, which could be relevant to the story I am writing at the time. Think of your own questions and things it might be useful to know. Type it up and you have a template for all future characters. It is also useful if you suddenly forget any detail of your character. I have been known to unwittingly change the colour of my character’s eyes before now.

Another thing I find useful is to keep a picture of someone that reminds me of my character, fictional or real. It may not be the look, but it could be a reminder of character traits. I do keep pictures of houses, streets, people and even front doors. It all helps me with my writing.

@RobertsElaine11

Francesca: The main characters in my novels tend to come to me reasonably well formed. I can only imagine my subconscious has been building them while I’ve been doing other things, because I usually know exactly what they look like, hair and eye colour and all. 

IMG_6562I start a new notebook for each novel, so the details of the female and male protagonists are the first two entries, taking up around twenty pages each. That notebook is my reference book throughout. I then start to flesh out their personalities, jobs, past life, education, home life, relationships, family and their secrets. Often it’s like they’re telling me their stories. Fanciful maybe, or just an over-active imagination!

Next I move onto their abodes. From time to time these also arrive fully formed, but often it’s a case of deciding roughly size and location and going onto something like Right Move to see what there is. For the current WIP, I picked a seaside village in West Wales as a template for my imaginary village, then ‘walked’ along the streets on Google Street View, until I found the perfect house for ‘Tori’.

During the course of the novel, certain problems or questions might arise that cause me to consider some aspect of the character’s life or personality. I always leave plenty of pages free in the notebook for this. Yes, it would be easier to put it on the computer, but this works for me. It also means I can take that notebook anywhere if I want to write a scene by hand, say, if I were having a coffee somewhere or on a train. Occasionally, if I’m not sure where a scene’s going, I’ll have an imaginary conversation with the characters to see what they think!

Secondary characters also get several pages in the notebook, especially if they turn out to be trouble makers as I need to work out their motivation.

IMG_6564Characters for short stories are a different matter. I tend to have an A4 sheet or two  for each story (based on a sheet from Elaine Everest’s classes) which outlines major aspects, and that will include a short paragraph about them that’s relevant to the plot.

Like Elaine, I collect pictures of people who contain some aspect of my characters. I tack them to my study door along with a plan of the main house and a map of the area. Then I’m ready to go!

@FCapaldiBurgess

Visit my Nonna Blog to catch up on my adventures as a ‘reluctant’ grandmother