About me

Who I am and why I chose to write

The National Literacy Trust

The National Literacy Trust have launched a campaign called Read North East. The campaign is part of a broader, national  objective called Read On. Read On aims to improve children’s literacy levels by 2025. The emphasis is on parents reading to children from birth, although roughly 20% of the North East population have the reading age of a primary school child.

In partnership with Penguin Random House books, popular characters from story books will be featured. Local areas in sponsoring the events include the North East Literacy Forum, comprised of the Association of Senior Children’s and Education Librarians(ASCEL), the High Sheriff of Tyne and Wear, the Middlesbrough Reading Campaign, the National Literacy Trust, New Writing North, Northern Children’s Book Festival, Penguin Random House, SCHOOLS NorthEast, Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) and Seven Stories.

 

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Luxuriant words to brighten your vocabulary 

Interesting adjectives and nouns are a good way to liven up your verbiage and sentences. They can make you seem more vibrant and intelligent, and make more succinct alternatives to more basic phrases.

Evanescent

Evanescent means fading rapidly, out of memory and existence. This evaporating effect infers that time passing is over before one could notice.

Chatoyant

A French adjective, chatoyant refers to a gemstone which has a single streak of light, creating a bright lustre. The noun for chatoyant is cabochon, which is a smooth, round gemstone which has not been cut into a shape e.g. Five point diamond.

Dulcet

Italian for sweet, this word means pleasant or sweet. It can be similar to sugar coated, in the sense that it might only sound sweet.

Saccharine

Saccharine means sickly sweet, like eating too much Hershey’s chocolate. Saccharine normally refers to a syrup, or if it’s a film, overly cloying and sentimental.

Mellifluous

Mellifluous means melodious and silvery to the ear. A similar term is euphonious, which means pleasing to the ear. Classical music would be an example of mellifluous sounds. Like dulcet, it could be used metaphorically to describe  a topic which would be allaying. But these days, I think that even the weather and cat videos could be offensive.

Effervescent

Meaning bubbly and sparkling, like champagne, this is often used to describe a mood or someone’s personality. Vivid images of an elixir fizzing in a potion vial, inside a an alchemist’s lab spring to mind.

Mawkish

Mawkish means cliche and hammy, perhaps in a melodramatic and self pitying way. It brings to mind someone who is comically self-obsessed with their failures and flaws.

Diaphanous

Diaphanous means light and translucent, like gossamer. A diadem is a bright tiara of jewels for a lady, and could be diaphanous. A diamond or clear lake would be diaphanous too.

Vermilion

Like in the Pokemon games, vermilion is a shade of red. Vermilion is made from cinnabar, a Mercury sulphate. There are many different shades of red – garnet, Ruby, Crimson, rose, maroon, carmine, cerise etc.

Dysphoria

Dysphasia is a state of dysfunctional chaos, the opposite of euphoria. So if you are having a nightmare, or chaotic day, you are going through dysphoria. Dysphoria can also mean disorientating and confusing as well.

Lachrymose

Often cited in lake lachrymose, this word means plaintive or sad. It has a particularly maudlin tone in its long syllables. Aunt Josephine’s lake lachrymose is a representation of her sadness in the books (as well as highlighting the absurdism and realism).

How to do research

We all know that social media is a tool for information sharing; many newspapers and magazines have Facebook pages. However, there are clickbait sites like Diply that create ridiculous headlines to attract people. UniLAD, Wake Up World and MaximBady tend to be full of conspiracy theories or yellow journalism. Research is a key part of life; most people simply assume that only academics need research skills. But you don’t need to spend hours in a library to fact find. This blog post is dedicated to fact finding and how to know the difference between hype and the real thing.

Newspapers and magazines: Who to trust

Most newspapers are politically biased; with The Times and The Telegraph being right wing and the Guardian and Mirror being left wing. However, some newspapers talk about celebrity news, the latests diets and unusual stories e.g. an unusual illness. Other magazines can be dubious in their findings; even haute couture prints like Harpers Bazaar doesn’t reference any sources. Sites like Mashable may have validity, but are focused more on trends. Safe bets you;d be local newspapers, The Times and The Independent.

Academic research:

Academic research is done with literature reviews, journals, podcasts and critical essays. Whilst most of us do not write essays after we have finished education, the same sources can still be used for fact finding in everyday life. Academic research is deemed reliable because of primary and secondary research with lots of studies and footnotes. However, some of the research may not be suitable for more vocational industries.

Professional research:

Sites like Mintel, TrendHunter and PSFK have insight into B2B and B2C trends, specifically for businesss and organisations. Articles like these use examples of how products are meeting consumer needs, after evolving from trends. These sites are updated regularly and are more informative than newspaper and magazine articles.

On using Wikipedia:

Wikipedia regularly updates its pages and references any sources in footnotes. It used to have a bad reputation in the past, but for certain topics it seems credible. An arts and humanities edition is Encyclopaedia Britannica, discussing literature and art. Encyclopedia Britannica is sometimes favoured more because it was originally a print publication.

As a fiction writer:

Visiting locations for book settings, reading fiction of the same genre, watching films and plays live are all forms of research. Going deeper, this could involve chatting to experts on authors, reading up on historical eras the story is set in

Full Fact is a charity dedicated to debunking urban myths. Similar to Snopes.com, Full Fact focuses on news and campaigns such as the law, politics, current topics such as Brexit and crime rates. Full Fact is a useful nonprofit because it is accessible to all, and is publicised on social media platforms such as Facebook.

Storyful its a social news channel which delivers engaging content.

Mock the Week is a comedy news channel which satirises current news. It’s a news source in the sense that it does actually feature papers’ headlines. However, because it does not present any sources and is designed for humour, it is not a reliable news source.

The close of the book: endings 

This post is sponsored by Pearl Whites, because you’ll be smiling instead of grieving by the end.
I watched casualty, it had a funeral of one of the main characters on it. It was quite ancient Egyptian, with Ethan giving cal all the things he needed for the afterlife, like his phone, snacks and condoms – “the final trip he didn’t prepare for, as with everything”. Romeo and Juliet wanted a suicide pact ending, and Juliet is laid out in all her beauty to see while asleep. Juliet’s narcoleptic trance is very sleeping beauty, only with a tragic end. I personally hate when a story has no closure; A Series of Unfortunate Events ends in such and underwhelming way when Violet, Claus, Sunny and Beatrice sailing away. There are many endings in life; graduation, retirement, breakups, the posting of a letter and getting on a team home from a trip. When I left my job, it felt like I had died in loving memory. But one ending we don’t talk about is death – and even less is thought of “character death”. When the book closes and the ink runs out, does the character and their narrative die with only a legacy? There are 3 options:

  1. The character never existed and so can’t die.
  2. The character is immortal and so will live forever
  3. The character lives on in the reader’s imagination

Who’s to say which is the most valid option? Postmodern and reader-response theory believe that 3 is a believable option because the character is not necessarily dictated by the author. Some writers leave a story open-ended so readers can decide for themselves, whilst others provide multiple ending – Margaret Atwood in Endings has a multiple choice selection. Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s world break the fourth wall by replaying the endings with 3 versions of events. This is a departure from fairy tales, where they all live happily ever after. You don’t need to be religious to believe in life after a story/death, it’s merely about perspective.  Here are a few tips on writing a story’s ending:

  1. Reach a satisfying conclusion for the reader
  2. Keep the ending related to the story sequence
  3. Do not write “the end”
  4. Resolve the main conflict of your story
  5. Show character growth and a new equilibrium
  6. Ending the story with it all being a dream is a cop out
  7. Have a moral or lesson in the story
  8. The ending does not have to be happy

This blog is educational; learning does not stop once you leave education. The difference between going to school and going to university is that sometimes the lecturers learn something as well. And the way I am going to end this big is by encouraging you all to comment down below what you think makes a good ending.

 

 

Is Star Wars actually about Arabic culture? 

Okay, so this definitely does not apply to all of the franchise in every way. I personally see Luke sky walker as a bit of an Aladdin figure; with his estranged father and no mother. He is a poor boy who find out he has a royal heritage. Some might say Hercules zero to hero. Some people say Lord of the Rings is about a medieval Christian society. So, I am going to suggest that Star Wars is like Arabic society. 

The setting of bazaars and a hot climate 

In the home town of a protagonist, it feels very much like Agbrabar. People gamble and drink in this culture, whilst living in mud and straw huts. The citizens need weapons to defend themselves from droids and storm troopers. There are stall owners bartering with customers. Stalls outside are usually seen in Arabic environments where people buy hookah pipes, jewels and junk while a turbaned man tells you a sales pitch. Pod racing has replaced camel racing, but the vehicles are the only sign of futuristic technology. 

The light sabers replace swords, for sure, and there are robots instead of genies. But with deserts and hot suns, the environment seems very Arabic. Some of the locations shot for the film’s include Abu Dhabi and Tunisia. Tattooine is even named after Tataouine, the Tunisian city. I am aware there is a lot of setting in forests and outer space as well as desert.

Dress: head dresses and long robes 

And let’s not forget Jabba the hut with his harem belly dancing Princess Leia’s chiffon and metal bikini looked like she was an Arabian slave. Everyone from visitors on the streets to Queen Padme Amidala’s handmaids have hoods covering their faces. The headdresses  could just be to protect their identity, and so they remain mysterious. However, since these robes are often worn in public, it could also be a sign of chastity like hijab. Look at what the handmaids do; they are part of a secret circle protecting their queen whilst being palace servants. Tasks such as escorting the queen, tending to  hair styles and outfits, and interpreting. 

I mean, Padme is like the Queen of Sheba herself. Cosplayers in the Arab world are even employing hijab to celebrate Star Wars day, which I find interesting. It’s a slight stretch but the Arab influence is quite something. 

The class system 

Like in the Middle East, there is a mix of Royal Imperialism in better, richer areas. And there is a political, evil dictator who waged war in innocents. The class divide runs quite deep in the world of Star Wars: holographic machines and droids are more commonplace than food and housing. There are also a few refugees trying to escape a corrupt government – it sounds a bit Syrian to me. When I went travelling in Egypt, people lived in Stone Age woven huts with open fires as a tribal, primitive way of life. Meanwhile, in Qatar, Dubai and Bahrain, rich emirati socialites and royals live in high tech. And it’s the same in Star Wars;  Annakin’s mother is a domestic slave and Padme is a queen in a palace. 

Jedi as part of pre-Islamic Jainism? 

The evil empire as dictatorship and Jihadism is a plausible connection. And Jedis represent a spirituality found in Indian , Thai or pre Islamic religions such as Buddhism and Jainism. Jedi is actually an origin of the word Al-Jeddi, which means mystical warrior in Arabic. Coincidence? I think not. 

Overall conclusion: Star Wars is probably not an Arabian conspiracy theory about ISIS. 

Your new buzzword: mondegreen

Right, I think this blog should have a bit more of what we’re used to. It’s been fun writing about new things, but I’m bored of that now. Plus, I am tired of seeing  Donald Trump on the news, I don’t even live in America. So that’s all I’m saying about politics, put your keyboards down please and pick up your dictionaries. 

So, here we are with a literary device: MONDEGREENS

Family: Metathesis

Metathesis is the swapping of syllables and sounds of letters in a word Solecism is an umbrella term meaning a grammatical mistake in speech and writing. So when this transposition occurs, we get irony or humour. 

Related terms: spoonerisms and malapropisms. 

Spoonerisms: 

A spoonerism is named after William Spooner, and it means where the initial sound or letter has been transposed. Spooner was a Vicar, and since this job involves a lot of speaking aloud. So instead of saying “flutterby”, it becomes “butterfly”. This is used for comedic effect, and refers to the spoken word. 

Malapropisms: 

A malapropism is similar to a spoonerism, except an entire word becomes substituted instead of a syllable. Word association is sometimes used with malapropism because certain words are substituted e.g. Dancing the flamingo instead of flamenco. One popular phrase which is “the world is your lobster”. 

Mondegreen: 

Mondegreens are misheard or mispronounced words, usually in songs, that are almost homophones. Mondegreens can occur either due to someone’s accent when pronouncing a word, sound quality (for songs) or the listener simply mishearing. Typical examples include: “hit me with your pet shark” instead of “hit me with your best shot. There’s even a few popular examples of the funniest misheard song lyrics.

A notable character who uses spoonerisms, mondegreens and malapropisms: 

Miranda Sings

Created by Colleen Ballinger, Miranda thrives off being geeky. Miranda was invented as a way of mocking other YouTubers. Miranda regularly mispronounces words in her YouTube channel, as well as misspelling them on her Twitter account. Miranda is an interesting example because she reflects the digital age of the Internet, where everyone thinks they have special talents. 

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The Grinch and Scrooge 

So, The Grinch and Ebonezer Scrooge are two classic anti heroes in Christmas stories. Arguably, despite the film adaptation of How The Grinch Stole Christmas really gives a back story and personality to The Grinch, it focuses too much on Cindy Lou Who. But, they’re both villains who reform to having Christmas spirit. But why does nobody view them in this way? If you hear “We have a Christmas Scrooge!” It doesn’t mean someone who is generous, despite what happens. It’s the same with the Grinch, only the Whos are extremely snobbish, stuck up and materialistic. So taking away their presents helps them achieve enlightenment in a way, which should make The Grinch Buddha. 
About Scrooge: 

Scrooge starts off as a typical greedy, bourgeois Victorian banker. He is only interested in business, and views humans as customers and transactions, not people. Everyone around hates him because he shows no empathy for others and is asocial. His business partner, Jacob Marley, was very much the same person, but has suffered in purgatory due to his selfish and unkind actions. Marley visits Scrooge to warn him about being visited by three spirits. 

In the first part, we see how Scrooge came to be so bitter and cold. The novel mentions, which many film version do not, how Scrooge’s father was cold and distant towards him, and so was cast away at boarding school. This influence dictated what Scrooge saw as important, but even as a young lad he was not callous. Scrooge’s nastiness first truly manifests itself when Belle breaks his heart by leaving him. Belle believes  Scrooge does not care about her, and had not previously confronted Scrooge. Feeling criticised, Scrooge defends himself. His apparent failure to apologise is the final straw, and had he simply re-prioritised Belle, he wouldn’t be as unpleasant and miserable. 

About The Grinch: 

I’m going off the film adaptation here. The Grinch, played by Jim Carrey,  was raised by  two elderly ladies in a small town, taking him in as an orphan. Bullied at school, Martha May takes a liking to The Grinch from a distance. After trying to give her gift and impress her by shaving his beard, the other students mock him. The Grinch decides he hates Christmas, and humanity, before retiring to a cave (occasionally terrorising the Whos). In his spare time, The Grinch comes up with pranks and projects to keep himself occupied. Because The Grinch refuses to open up about his past, we hear this information second hand. 

The Grinch is introduced to the audience after saving Cindy Lou  from a wrapping machine in the post office (albeit prompted by Max). This is the first good thing we see him do. Hoping to renew his image, Cindy Lou manages to bring the Grinch to Whoville to be crowned as Cheermeister. However, The Mayor’s jealousy prompts him to humiliate the The Grinch by not only proposing to Martha with a car as a bribe, but give the The Grinch a shave. The Grinch, envious of Martha’s affections and filled with rage, criticises the Whos for being so shallow. And rightly so, since Martha is bedazzled by a glamourous ring and fancy car. Even though his good deeds ar motivated by rewards, a sense of revenge of fear of being discovered, The Grinch is easily persuaded into doing good things. 

Until the end of the film, where The  Grinch tries to steal Christmas, but fails. After seeing how happy the Whos are to be together, The Grinch sees why he hated Christmas. It had nothing to do with the gift he tried to give, but the way he was treated and eventually outcast. After confronting the Whos, the Whos themselves finally learn something about themselves, about how the Mayor manipulated them. Seeing the The Grinch is a hero, Martha finally confesses her true feelings for The Grinch. 

So, what do we like about these characters? 

The grinch: 

  • The grinch is played by Jim Carrey, so he’s really more comical than villainous 
  • Society in the film is quite materialistic, and a bit obsessed with Christmas tradition. 
  • The Grinch seems to face some discrimination based on his skin colour and species. 
  • The Whos are a bit too happy. In fact, when Cindy Lou expresses her sadness, she’s shamed 
  • The grinch is witty, smart, fun loving and dramatic. All makes for a great antagonist. 

Conclusion: secretly, we like the grinch 

Scrooge: (a much more difficult character to defend) 

  • Well, he’s self made and successful. Which seems to just be an annoyance in itself. 
  • Scrooge doesn’t appear to show any petty  behaviour. If he’s mean, it’s usually to people’s faces. Nobody saw Scrooge cursing the townspeople as lowly peasants. 
  • Scrooge is (probably) just an introvert. Or perhaps he is autistic, I don’t know. 
  • He’s fearful of a higher force, instead of arrogant.

Conclusion: Scrooge is definitely more of a villain and much harder to like. 

The killer question: do these characters have a point? 

Okay, so when you are young, Christmas is fun. It’s all about presents, fuzzy films, family and relatives, friends. But when you are an adult, Christmas brings new challenges; flings under the mistletoe, heartbreak and exes, work, alcohol , gift buying and money. Sure, we still enjoy classic Christmas tunes, work parties, mulled wine, dinner with the family and corny Christmas crackers. But Christmas is so well preserved in rose tinted glasses, shoved down our necks by the media, that it just seems like the perfect Christmas is a scene on a greetings card. All of which the grinch does so effectively.  The trick to having a nice Christmas is just being grateful for what you have.

If the nativity story was the Jeremy Kyle Show

I don’t like the nativity story. In fact, I’m not a fan of organised religion. But the story of Jesus is strange. So, Mary and Joseph are a couple. They are engaged, and Gabriel prophesies that she will give birth to the world’s saviour. By God impregnating her. Joseph, who doesn’t know this, does bit understand why Mary is pregnant. Is she sleeping with someone else or did the condom break? (Just go with the flow, I know condoms were cotton or pig intestine then). The Bible is a strange place, and even Mary Magdalene and Jezebel are allegedly whores and get away with it,  yet everyone else is condemned. Or that God is technically more evil than Lucifer, because he kills more people. All Satan really does is encourage people to think for themselves by “tempting” them. For instance, as a snake, he says all Eve will do is have knowledge of good and evil instead of being ignorant (how is being enlightened that sin exists a bad thing?). The Buddhists say that the reason why there is suffering is because of ignorance of evil, which is exactly how God wanted the first humans. Way to go, Bible. 

 Anyway, If this was the Jeremy Kyle Show, there’d be a DNA test and the caption “prove you aren’t having sex with Gabriel or I’m leaving”. Then come in the three wise men and the inn keeper. The inn keeper has a bone to pick with the couple, because he couldn’t prioritise a pregnant woman giving birth to an important child.  When baby does arrive, all the world comes to see him. 

Okay, so I don’t actually dislike the story that much. Is the nativity story a nice one? Yes, I’d probably take any future children to the church and join in. But plot wise, it is pretty weird at times.  I suppose there’s definitely much more bizarre tales in there. 

But as usual, it’s up to you guys – my readers. What do you make of my analysis; too much thought involved, or quite amusing? 

Is life long friendship a myth? 

We all know countless films which depict best friends; it’s quite often that they either meet in school or as babies, or have grown old together. Even though I’m only 23, this is a feeling I have never known – in any relationship. Whether romantic or platonic, any relationship I have seems doomed with a shelf life. There’s only one type of character like this in fiction; the Scrooge type, who takes everyone for granted and is ungrateful for no reason (great). In my case, it’s the crazy cat Lady with no husband or kids – which buzzfeed thankfully celebrates jokingly as a life choice. I honestly can’t think of a movie or book where the character hops from friendship to friendship. Here are a few films with lifelong “best friends”

  • Brother bear
  • Toy Story
  • The Harry Potter series

I can make friends easily, but I don’t keep them as easily. If I do, it’s because we are not that close and time has likely passed. Believe me, it’s not because nobody cares about me or I am taken advantage of. The reason friendship ends? It’s often my standards being prioritised over bonds; I can usually rationalise that it ended for the right reasons. If I tried hard enough, we’d probably still be talking. This doesn’t mean I’d be happier if I did, but the point still stands. Unfortunately, priorities make me sound like I can’t tolerate people’s flaws and just want everything perfect. I tend to take a highly precautious approach  when a relationship or friendship gets serious, because it’s surely a matter of time before the bliss ends. Friendships take work, and I know that.

This is how it goes:

1. I find a kindred spirit

2. Everything is mutually great

3. I change drastically, and so my circumstances. The friendship no longer suits me.

I am described far too often as always wanting better. From my viewpoint, I don’t see myself as ungrateful, just that time goes on and I am surrounded by people putting up with less than they deserve. And, knowing that I am too flimsy, perhaps me out of the picture is better for them. Their lives are always better once I leave anyway, whether that is to do with me or not. If you love someone, let them go kind of logic. Maybe I expect too much of the world and should be more grateful that I have friends at all.

People can accept that marriage isn’t always forever, so why can’t we do the same with friendships?  Is a lifelong bond setting the bar a bit too high for expectations? Or do I have no point?

So guys, tell me: am I just a lone case, or is there someone out there who has a similar experience?

Halloween special edition: killer clowns

It’s October, Halloween is nearly here. The nightclubs are promoting fancy dress events, Sainsbury’s has Halloween food recipes, Hot Topic starts selling Harley Quinn costumes, and there are gothic/spooky movies coming out in the cinemas. Unfortunately, there are also killer clowns on the loose in the UK as well. The last thing anyone wants is a real-life creepy crime scene on Halloween, as nobody can tell the difference between people in costumes trick or treating, and disguised killers.  The fear of clowns is pretty pervasive, but it’s only recently that clown costumes have become an actual threat. These teenage boys seem pretty confused about what’s funny and what’s just psychopathic. Is the horror movie industry to blame? Try typing in “clowns in horror movies”, and the results go crazy. As a belated Halloween special, today’s topic is about serial killer clowns.

1.It

One of the original clown miniseries which inspires gruesome thoughts! The movie is based on Stephen King’s horror novel, and was released in 1990. It is an alien who can transform into any the victim’s worst fears. The creepy clown has red hair and whitewashed skin, with a male appearance. In 2017, It will be remade into a film.

2. Amusement

With a circus setting, Amusement takes a dark carnivalesque turn. The three narrative viewpoints of Tabitha, Lisa and Shelby indicate the mystery of the murders. Perhaps more cliche with TV Tropes such as the Creepy Doll, Amusement is less memorable as a horror film.

3. Killer Klowns from Outer Space

Another nod to King, Killer Clowns follows intergalactic space clowns who invade the earth. As a dark comedy, it’s reminiscent of Russell T. Davies’ style in Doctor Who with the Robot Clowns.

4. 100 Tears

Regarded as a cult classic, this Indie slasher film is about a clown who was wrongfully accused of a crime he didn’t commit. After its success, the film is regarded as an urban legend. After being in a circus, Gurdy the clown locks his victims in a warehouse, and they must fight for survival. Taking a cue from the Saw series, 100 Tears is a film where a man with a dark past abducts his victims.

5. Stitches

Stitches is a psychological horror about a children’s entertainer returning from the dead for revenge. Perhaps a dark pun on the phrase “in stitches”, Stitches is the underdog to be laughed at. Telling the sad story of every performer’s worst nightmare, Stitches the clown is bullied. He rises from his grave due to an occult clown group, and goes on a killing spree. By playing on 80’s slasher films, the film was a box office success.

Can you think of any classic clown horror movies? Comment below!