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Guest Post from Druid's Moon author, Deniz Bevan

Writing advice – for characters, too!

One of my favourite bits of writing advice over the years has been: Send your characters off to a houseparty!

Sooner or later, many of us get bogged down in the middle bits of a novel. Our drive and attention dwindle as fear and self-doubt creep in, especially if we compare our pace with that of others. Insecure writer's syndrome at its worst.

We miss the drive and excitement of a shiny new idea and the mad rush of getting down a first draft. Back when the characters and situation grabbed us, and dialogue, action, intrigue all came together.

One of the best ways I know of to recreate that spark is to attend a writers’ houseparty.

The ones I – or should I say, my characters – have attended, have mostly been held on There have been about 15 such parties to date, and my characters were present at the very first one in June 2007. Each party after that grew in size and complexity, as more writers brought their characters in on the fun.

Partygoers have included (in a mixture of adjectives) an FBI agent, a rock star, soldiers from wars throughout history, ghosts, King Charles II, a talking cat, a married threesome, a selkie, Ottoman citizens, modern yet ancient Egyptian travellers, werewolves, a retired teacher and her adopted daughter, and even a family of bombs with a wee baby bomb!

Chaos is the norm at these parties. We've been at a ceilidh in Scotland, a barbecue in Australia, and a mall at the end of time, as well as in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, Constantinople in 1492, and more. Houseparties have it all, from magic to skipping between time periods, to anachronistic events and language, to romantic interludes and lasting friendships.

Parties last anywhere from a long weekend to a week. No one worries about typos and writing mechanics, and there's no need to worry about timing either; if you'd like your character to be involved in something you may have missed you can always tack on an "[earlier]" or "[later]" to the start of your post. Time trousers – where a character ends up in two places at once at the same time – can be quite fun!

Here are some statistics from one long-ago party, which give a rough idea of the madness:

# of participating authors: 17 # of official characters: 44 (including Kedi the non-cat cat and Siri the non-dove dove) # of unofficial characters: 2 (including Cthulhu) # of explosions/crashes: 2 (plus 1 volcano and 1 flood) # of casualties: 1 kick by a kangaroo, 1 koala fed to a dinosaur, and 1 leg stolen from a Paralympian # of candies fed to Cthulhu: unknown

Value of character revelations: priceless

And here’s something never seen in public before: a teeny tiny snip from a houseparty attended by Frederick and Lyne from Druid’s Moon! (Rory and Christianne are also my characters; Art, the falcon, and the lion were characters of other authors.)

"First things first," Rory said. "Let's find that canteen." "Besides," Christianne added, spinning on one heel as she looked around. "There are more creatures around than ever before. Is that a peregrine falcon up there?" "Don't look now," Art said, and began herding them to the nearest staircase. "But I think a lion is following us." "Wait--" Rory stopped, then walked back towards the lion, and a man standing beside him. "Frederick! It's good to see you, cousin!" The two men embraced, and there were introductions all around. Christianne and Lyne fell into step, chatting amiably as they tried to sort out the family connections between Frederick and Rory. Art stayed on Rory's other side, and they both demanded answers from Frederick. "You're walking with a lion, man. How is it you still have all your limbs?" "I don't know," Frederick admitted. He set a hand on the lion's head, not petting or caressing, just resting there. "It's not as though he's a tame lion. But he does seem to be leading us somewhere." They trooped along.

Houseparties are a great way to thrust your characters out of their familiar worlds and learn things about them that you may not have known before. You can always go in with a goal, whether it's characters you're trying to develop, a specific voice you'd like to hone, even a motive you're trying to figure out. It's amazing what you can uncover when your characters – and their author – are plunked into a chaotic new setting. Writing for a houseparty is just like writing your first draft; fast paced and fluid, with no second guessing.

When I’m feeling insecure, that anything-goes mayhem brings back the rush and the fun I think I’ve lost. I've churned out more words at a houseparty and in my own stories in the weeks after a party than I usually manage to squeeze out all year – words that don't have me feeling badly about my writing or the story.

If you can't wait for the next Lit Forum houseparty, and you have a trusted group of writing friends – and you need to kickstart your writing – why not host one of your own?

Have you ever written a group story?

Beauty to his Beast…

Lyne Vanlith, an archaeologist who seeks a logical explanation to any mystery, discovers an ancient Druidic curse on her first dig. When the signs foretold by the curse descend on her, Lyne can’t find a reasonable interpretation.

And that’s even before a Beast rescues her from a monstrous sea-creature. She drops a grateful kiss on the snout of the Beast, who transforms into a man, Frederick Cunnick, Baron of Lansladron. Lyne is meant to be Beauty to his Beast—and break the curse forever.

Now both spellkeeper and monster are targeting Lyne. She must take up her legendary role, to defeat the curse and save Frederick—and herself. Instead of logic, for the first time, Lyne must trust her heart.

You can find Deniz Bevan on her website, Twitter, and Amazon.

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1 Comment

Alex J. Cavanaugh
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Sep 21, 2022

Never tried a house party. Like to know why people are feeding candy to Cthulhu though!

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