Saturday, 23 September 2017

On Writing Good Bad Guys by Lev Butts

One of the things I am asked most often on writing panels and workshops is how to create intriguing bad guys. What they are really asking me, I've come to understand, is how to create antagonists as interesting to the reader as the hero. An effective protagonist needs to have a worthy antagonist. The antagonist needs to present our hero with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle such that the audience can reasonably expect failure and be impressed with the virtues of the hero once he or she overcomes them.

This antagonist can come in all shapes and sizes depending on the plot of your story. According to current narrative theory, there are only six basic conflicts in Western literature:

  • Man v. Man 
  • Man v. Self 
  • Man v. Society
  • Man v. Nature 
  • Man v. God 
  • Man v. Monster*

If your antagonist is Society, Nature, or God, your antagonist is pretty much set for you. You need only tweak the characteristics that are germane to your plot. If your antagonist is also the protagonists, again the work is already done. However, if your antagonist falls in any other category, creating a compelling antagonist can require particular care lest the character devolve into a two-dimensional caricature.

Think of the most effective antagonists in literature and film.

These are the ones that Spring to mind for me:

Darth Vader

The Joker

Lord Voldemort

Hannibal Lecter

Mr. Edward Hyde

Professor Moriarty
While most people would agree that these are among the greatest villains in the Western canon, many would say that they have one thing in common that explains their stature as the best of English baddies.

Through a Mirror Darkly

Each of these antagonists in some way acts as a dark mirror of their respective protagonist. Darth Vader, for example, represents the worst-case scenario should Luke Skywalker go of the rails.  The Joker represents unrestrained id to Batman's overly constricted superego. Voldemort was a promising young wizard, abandoned by his family and raised in orphanage until his acceptance to Hogwarts. He is quite literally mirror image of Harry Potter: actually orphaned and raised in neglect by his extended family, but also a promising young wizard when he is accepted at Hogwarts.

Similarly, Hannibal Lecter represents the darkest murderous desires of both his protagonists: Will Graham in Red Dragon and Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Edward Hyde, too, is quite literally every negative emotion of Dr. Henry Jekyll partitioned off and given human form. Professor James Moriarty, the so-called Napoleon of Crime, is every bit Sherlock Holmes' intellectual equal and represents what would happen if Holmes were to turn his talents to crime instead of justice.

This mirroring effect creates a dynamic tension between antagonist and protagonist that closely mirrors the tension found in a Man v. Self conflict. The protagonist's triumph then becomes a metaphor for a triumph of their own shortcomings and fatal flaws. Now, I am not saying that this quality is unimportant in creating effective villains. I am saying though, that there is another quality shared by the most memorable antagonists that I find much more important.

We Can Be Heroes

When I am asked how to write compelling bad guys, my go-to answer is simple: When you are writing your antagonist, remember that he or she is the protagonist of his or her own story. When I write about Red Marten in Guns of the Waste Land, for instance, I have to remind myself that he doesn't know he's the villain. As far as he is concerned, his duty is to save his people, the Aticota tribe from annihilation, even if that means destroying every settler in Texas. When I write for Marten, then, Ardiss and Percy and Gary Wayne are the antagonists, the bad guys.

The same holds true for the villains above. Darth Vader is trying to bring peace and order to the galaxy, through the iron fist authoritarianism, true, but his goals are, for him, pure ones. The Joker sees chaos as the ultimate freedom, forcing people to confront their own desires directly instead of sublimating them in the name of a faked order and rigid control. Similarly, Hannibal Lecter wants only for Will and Clarice, whom he sees as his erstwhile "patients," to embrace the whole of their psyches instead of constantly sublimating what they want to do in order to do what they think they must (also he really hates rudeness). Voldemort sees himself as purifying magic after it has become watered down by allowing the wizard children of mundane humanity too much leeway. Edward Hyde is literally doing what he was created to do: He acts upon all of Jekyll's negative emotions so that the good doctor doesn't have to. Professor Moriarty, at least in my head-canon, is simply trying to make ends meet as best he can considering that public college professors don't make enough to feed church-mice.

To be clear, I'm not saying that every villain's goals are objectively noble and pure, just that they are subjectively noble and pure for them. If done well, even the most vile of bad guys can be at least somewhat sympathetic, and as a result, much more effective than simply anthropomorphizing Dr. Seuss' Grinch. As Atticus Finch would say, I have to walk in their shoes for a while. As Ed Gein would say, I have to put on their skins.

Winner: Taxidermist of the Year, 1957
Indeed, when done well, this technique can make even Ed Gein, The Butcher of Plainfield, a fascinating and somewhat sympathetic character. If done incredibly well, the line between protagonist and antagonist can become so nebulous as to be nonexistent. This has, in fact, already been done with Gein:

Winner: Taxidermist of the Year, 1961
Norman Bates was a fictionalized version of Gein. While he's often considered one of the first slasher villains, I dare you to watch all four films and/or the recent television reimagining, Bates Motel and not walk away feeling that the actual serial killer was the true protagonist and the most tragic victim.

Winner: Taxidermist of the Year, 2013-2017
So that's it, my secret for writing good bad guys. When I write my villains, I have to pretend that their goals are also mine and write their story accordingly. It's really the only way to do an antagonist well. If you do that, everything else falls into place.


Friday, 22 September 2017

Is your prologue hook, line or stinker? Ali Bacon considers the chances

Prologues - why not jump right in? 
Prologues in fiction are popular with writers, though less so with readers, and I am of that very ilk. There’s nothing more likely to raise my hackles when I pick up a book than a few pages headed PrologueBefore, Then, or In the Beginning. And regardless of the fact I have read many good books with prologues, there’s always the suspicion that here comes something not strictly necessary, something holding up the story we’re about to step into. So why take the risk of putting your reader off on page 1?

Let’s think about the nature of the conventional prologue. First of all why is it there?  
1)     To create atmosphere and suspense – my mystery takes a few chapters to set things up,  let’s flag up what's coming or get a bit of creepiness/excitement in at the start.
2)     Because it’s in a different timeline – if the reader is going to understand the plot they need to know something that happened a long time before (or possibly after) the main sequence of events so let’s get it in right at the start (and if it’s something dramatic so much the better).
3)     Wow factor – whatever my book is like, I have given it a humdinger of an opening .

Image credit*
With the possible exception of 3 (improve rest of book, please!) these are all valid ways to open a novel, so what’s the problem? Partly it’s the issue of ‘promise to the reader’ i.e. expectations are set by the title, book cover and opening pages.  If the prologue is too far from expectations set by title, cover and blurb, it has failed to do its job of hooking the reader in. Conversely if the prologue is a marvellous hook but isn't backed up by the opening chapter, that will  feel like a let-down. 

A prologue needs to have impact but not so much as to overshadow everything that comes next. A particular dislike of mine is a prologue where the character carrying the narrative (first person or third) comes to a sticky end. This of course serves up a bucketful of atmosphere and in a detective mystery provides the 'inciting incident'. But excuse me, I’ve just spent several minutes investing in a character who isn’t going to appear again.
I recently encountered this in Sarah Perry’s marvellous, The Essex Serpent which opens like this:
 " A young man walks down by the banks of the Blackwater under a full cold moon... 
... the gulls lift off one by one, and the last gives a scream of dismay."
Great writing actually (this is a tiny snippet) but clearly this is not going to end well, equally clearly this not going to be the main character. So why oh why …?

Luckily I persevered because it’s a great book, but I think I would happily have begun with the next chapter where we meet the intriguing Cora and her doctor. She after all is the one who matters

I blame the school of 'show not tell' for the popularity of prologues. If there’s information we need to impart early on, we don’t have to tease it out through a whole scene and overlay it with description and drama. My recent sojourn in the land of short story judging has made me a huge fan of clarity, of a line of exposition (shock horror!) to set the scene. ‘It was the summer of 1916’ is so much more refreshing than a paragraph of emotion-infested weather and a picnic on the lawn. You can have the picnic by the way, just tell us when and where we are!

But I digress.  One good thing about prologues is that they are short - or shortish. (From which my cynical self infers the author is worried about holding things up for to long!)  I can also let you into the secret. In the Blink of an Eye had a prologue ( of the ‘flash forward’ variety) which simply grew too long to be a prologue. The longer it got, the more I saw it wasn’t an adjunct to the book  but part of the whole, its keystone in fact. It became the first chapter . It grew some more. The end of it became the last chapter. Dare I say epilogue?! 

So can the P word always be avoided? Maybe not, but there’s a lot to be said for making sure it’s needed and keyed into the narrative rather than something prefatory.  Just this week I was at a talk by best-selling  thriller writer Gilly MacmiIlan. An audience member asked her how she knew where to start her stories, to which she replied she started with the bit that affected her most deeply, even if she had to ‘fiddle with the timeline’.
I can report that the opening of her forthcoming novel, which she read out, is riveting.  I’m pretty sure it isn’t called ‘prologue’.

Ali Bacon writes contemporary and historical fiction. Her new novel In the Blink of an 
Eye, about a Scottish artist who assists with the birth of photography, will be published by Linen Press in 2018. 

Ali with photographs by Hill and Adamson, subjects of her new book 


*Image credit: By Gustave Dore - Gustave Dore, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47206396


Thursday, 21 September 2017

Life, uninterrupted - Katherine Roberts

Since the beginning of August, I have been without incoming calls on my landline. I can call out with no problem, and the broadband is (mostly) there when I want it, but hardly anyone can actually call me. Ringing my number results in a message saying "you have dialled an incorrect number" or "invalid number" or  - rather more cryptically - three electronic beeps. The only exception to this rule seems to be when my phone provider rings to test the line or to apologize - they can get through just fine. Rather annoyingly, as it turns out, so can other call centres (so far a couple of random telemarketers and a robot survey) - although I have to admit things have been rather peaceful on the unsolicited calls front lately, so I assume most of them are getting blocked, just like my friends and family. The saga of investigations into this mysterious phenomenon could fill a whole book. Suffice to say that I have almost forgotten what my landline phone sounds like, to such an extent that when it does ring it takes me several seconds to identify the annoying noise, and then I think "YES! IT'S WORKING AGAIN!" - only to be disappointed when it turns out to be yet another automated test by my telecoms provider.

This experience, while deeply frustrating, has actually been quite revealing.
I don't get bothered by that many calls at home, but usually at least one unsolicited marketing call manages to sneak past my anonymous caller reject and blocked numbers list during the course of a day. Mum has a strange habit of calling for a chat when I'm in the middle of cooking supper or am in the attic at the top of a ladder... and then, of course, there are the estate agents trying to sell me a house, or still trying to sell mine (see last month's post). I had no idea how intrusive such calls can be - until they stopped. Suddenly, I found I could sit down at my computer to write without the fear of being interrupted by a ringing phone. I could take a candlelit bath without wondering whose call was being picked up by the answerphone, and if it was urgent enough that I should cut short my soak to answer. I use caller display to screen calls at home, but that's not the point - the very fact the phone rings can be intrusion enough to disturb a creative thought and kill it stone dead.

I do have a mobile phone, but I'm one of those annoying people who keep it turned off most of the time. I turn on my mobile only if I need to make a call, or if am on my way to meet someone and they might want to call me. In other words, I keep it for emergencies and deal with calls in the same way I dealt with emails when I only had dial-up. With no landline, I was tempted to leave my mobile on all the time as a substitute (since, obviously, not having a working phone line is a MAJOR EMERGENCY), until I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to experiment. If I were a nurse on call, or a fireman on duty (i.e. people dealing with real emergencies) things would be different. But I am a fantasy author, and not a very well known one. The chances of Hollywood calling me, or my agent needing my answer on a multi-million-dollar foreign rights offer before the day is over, are - let's face it - pretty slim. And who else is likely to phone me? The scammer supposedly from Microsoft offering to sort out my 'windows computer' problems can wait. So can the nosy robot survey wanting to know if I am on benefits. Even my phone provider, calling to assure me they are looking into my issue, does not need an immediate answer, especially as it has already taken them nearly two months to identify the problem, and goodness knows how much longer it'll be before they actually fix it. Yes, I would be upset to miss a friend calling, but a true friend will call back - or leave a message for me to call them later.

Where did this requirement to be contactable 24 hours a day, seven days a week, come from? When I was growing up in the 1970s, we did not even have a landline at home. Granted, we were a little behind the times, but I think my dad had nightmares of his teenage daughter on the phone all evening running up his phone bill. So I had to go to the call box on the corner and feed the public phone box with coins if I wanted to phone my friends. Naturally, we had no email - and the internet had not been invented. If we lived too far away to meet easily, we wrote letters (by hand) and posted them to each other and thought nothing of waiting a couple of days for a reply. When I wrote my first novel, I sent the manuscript to my publisher by post, printed out on half a ream of paper, and my editor worked through the marked-up text with me in a face-to-face meeting (since tracked changes had not been invented, either... bliss!). And did these methods take any longer? No, not at all. In fact - weirdly - now that we have 'instant' emails and mobile phones and are contactable 24 hours a day seven days a week, often a letter will invoke a much faster response. Perhaps it's the novelty value? But I suspect that, in reality, humans can only do so much at once, and expecting an instant response to an email, or even a phone call, is unrealistic. Most things just are not that urgent.

I have survived the past two months. Despite giving the poor, hard-working staff at my telecom provider's call centre a piece of my mind whenever I feel an urge to listen to half an hour or so of recorded music, I am secretly quite enjoying the unaccustomed peace and ability to control interruptions to my writing and my life. It is rather like going on holiday some place remote, where you get limited or zero mobile coverage and no wi-fi signal. Possibly not practical in the long term, at least not until I'm old enough to disappear off-grid completely, but it has certainly made me think about how even fairly limited interruptions, that come at unscheduled and unexpected times, can affect creative work and well-being.

Truth is, the fear of being interrupted is just as bad as the interruption itself. For example, it's extremely unlikely my mum will fall down the stairs (particularly as she lives in a bungalow), but I can quite happily spend all day worrying that she will, and that the next time my phone rings it will be someone telling me she's been rushed into hospital. I imagine it is a similar thing, only the other way around, for mothers when their children are away from home for the first time. It is even more unlikely that someone will call to tell me I have won the lottery, but the worry of missing such a call might well keep me connected 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On a lower level, the fear of missing my friend's good news will keep me religiously checking Facebook every morning... okay, every hour... and meanwhile, those pesky robots and scammers and telemarketers will take advantage of all this contact-anxiety to worm their way into my life.

Perhaps, instead of demanding compensation for not having incoming calls for nearly two months, I should be thanking my telephone provider for reminding me how much more relaxed we all were in the days when we didn't know (or, as a result, really care) what everyone else was doing, and could just get on with life, uninterrupted.
*
Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction with a focus on legend and myth for young readers. Her backlist titles, originally published by Harper Collins and Chicken House, are now available as print on demand paperbacks. Find all the links at www.katherineroberts.co.uk

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Development by Sandra Horn



I’ve always loved working with small children. From nursery age up through early primary school years, when their world is expanding rapidly and they are working at making sense of it, talking with them is a delight. They vary so much in the conceptual  paths they take along the way. For every child who is sad when the autumn gales destroy Tattybogle, there are several more who ‘love the part where he gets blown all to pieces’! While most children accept that, in The Moon Thieves, the cat, the rat, the boy and his Gran don’t know what the moon is when they first see it, I remember one solemn little boy saying, rather anxiously, ‘But surely the Gran would know?’ We write the stories, the readers make of it what they will. Excellent.



I have sometimes asked a class what they would think the moon was if they didn’t know it was the moon. It’s a question Jean Piaget would have said they couldn’t answer, but in any class of 5 and 6-year-olds, there will be one or two who ‘get it’ and when they do, the rest follow suit. JP neglected to look at the capacity of some members of a group to share ideas and thus expand the knowledge of all. 



A colleague was once conducting a classic Piaget experiment with blue and brown, round and square beads. The idea Piaget had was that at a certain developmental age, children can only use one concept at a time.  That’s exactly what they did when he was in the room, sorting the beads either by colour or by shape, but when he left them alone with the video recorder still running, one child said to the other ‘There are other ways of doing this too, shall I show you?’ and proceeded to demonstrate all the combinations of shape and colour.  It’s interesting that the child waited until the Psychologist left before disclosing what s/he could do! It’s as if they were playing a game with him with a certain set of rules they had intuited. When he left, they reverted to their own ideas.
It’s a complex and expanding world when you are young. My oldest son, aged about three, I think, had a nosebleed. ‘What’s this?’ he asked – quite calmly. When we said it was blood, he was captivated. ‘Oh, really? I had no idea it was this colour!’

It reminded me of Ogden Nash’s poem ‘Don’t cry, darling, it’s blood all right’ in which he wrote about how children may consider gore quite nonchalantly, or even with glee, while being freaked out by a crumpled brown paper bag. We have to learn what to fear (possibly except being dropped and snakes, which may be innate).
Sometimes that learning results in strange ideas. I once invited James, my Nigerian post-graduate student and his wife and son to spend the day with us. James was a very strikingly handsome man, with skin so dark it was almost blue-black.

My youngest son Robert, at that time about the same age as his brother had been when he discovered that blood was red, was ginger-haired, with very white skin and freckles.

He and James took one look at each other and were mutually smitten. They couldn’t stop gazing at each other and grinning, like two people rather dottily in love. They sat next to each other at lunch, gazing and grinning. They held hands when we went for a walk, gazing, etc. It was delightful.

Some months later, Robert and I were in the car waiting to pick up another child. Robert was in the back strapped into his car seat. Suddenly, he gasped, undid the straps and hurled himself down into the footwell. ‘Quick! Get down! Get down! It’s an ugly!’ he yelled. He was obviously very frightened. The only person in sight was an African-Caribbean schoolgirl walking towards us. How he had gone from adoration of someone who could not have looked more different, to panic at the sight of brown skin, I have no idea. He was incoherent at the time, and I’m not sure he took it in when I mentioned James, but his new fear seemed to pass quite quickly. We live in a multi-cultural city and all kinds of people are everywhere; seventeen nationalities at his primary school, for example, and all manner of students coming and going to the house. The point is, it was an odd and unhappy and puzzling incident, but it was transient, as so many such reactions are.

Here’s a thing: we are in the middle of a nasty episode locally– well, on the Isle of Wight, in fact, just over the water from here. A couple have removed their sons from a C of E primary school because another boy at the school has taken to wearing a dress, sometimes.  They say it’s against their ‘Christian’ principles and their children are too young to face such issues as transgender people.  An LGBT  spokesperson has waded in on the other side. The couple are also suing the school, although I’m not clear what the grounds for that are.  It makes me want to shout ‘Stop!’ You don’t even know, any of you, that this is a transgender issue! Let him be, both lots of you! Turn the spotlight OFF children as they explore who they are and what that means!’ The boy in question is six years old, for crying out loud!
At that age or a little older, two girls we knew, both daughters of friends from different parts of the country and not known to each other, decided they were boys. This was announced calmly by both mothers: ‘By the way, J is a boy now.’ ‘Just so you know, H is a boy now– and not just any boy; a pirate boy.’

J and H wore trousers (and a pirate scarf on her head in H’s case), insisted on being called boys’ names, behaved as they decided a boy would. No fuss, no sweat at home or at school. It passed. At some point, they both reverted to girlhood. All part of the process of discovering who they might be, trying out different personae. I accept that a boy in a dress is more conspicuous than a girl in trousers, but even so, it’s the same kind of thing. A developmental phase requiring non-judgemental support from relevant adults while they keep the emotional tone low and even. That way, whether or not children are transgender will become apparent later and no traumas will have attended the issue.
‘They’re all queer but thee and me, and even thee’s a little odd’.  Include me, though. Something for writers to celebrate. After all, we know all about taking on a new persona, and adopting new and peculiar perspectives on the world  and its people and shedding them when they no longer serve.
Just like children.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Displacement therapy - Jan Edwards

House moving looms and we find that BT are unable to supply a telephone line until 14 days after the current house owner has moved out, and can't supply us with a telephone number until then. Our internet provider cannot supply us with a connection until we have our new number - and there is a ten day wait. Well that was the first rendering. My other half spending half a day on the phone has resulted in shortening those time scales a little, with luck, but only time will tell by how much.
Yes, I know most people will use their tablet or smart phone instead but I am one of those people who kill things electronic, meaning I don't have a phone capable of email. The long and short of it is that, as you read this, I shall be languishing in the new house, surrounded by cardboard boxes and unable to get online.
My first reaction was eeek! But given time to think about it this may be a blessing in disguise.

I suspect many of us have come to rely on social media far too much. Many of the writers I chat with appear to check email, Facebook, Twitter and the like every hour on the hour; and though they bemoan the time they spend there readily admit they can’t help themselves.  I will hold my hand up and include myself in that weak-willed collective, and that is before I dive into three hours of research for one line of text. (Which happens more often than I care to admit.)
This constant sliding away from the story in hand to check 'online' is, of course, classic displacement activity. We tell ourselves that we need to be online 'networking' as a part of our job. And that is true to an extent. Editors and agents will always say when giving talks and workshops that they always Google authors, and expect us all to have a healthy online presence. The Indie writing gurus will assure us that being 'out there' is essential for sales and yes they are right.
All of that said I have more than a sneaking suspicion that I used to do an awful lot more writing before social media crashed into my life.  The internet is a chronic thief of time, but with the added bonus that one need no even leave one's desk in order to indulge in an hour or so of chatter and/or research.

Unpacking aside it will be interesting to see how much writing I manage to get done during this enforced hiatus. Or not...

Monday, 18 September 2017

Becoming a book fairy, by Tara Lyons

My book fairy journey: The stickers arrived,
the preparation happened and the six places
I left my books in central London on Saturday 16
September 2017.
Today, Goodreads turns 10 and they've celebrated by teaming up with The Book Fairies. Authors and readers were invited to order some special stickers, put them on the front of their books and then hide those books in plain sight for people to find.

I had visited The Book Fairies website before, and loved the idea (you may have read about actress Emma Watson leaving books on London's underground for people to find, well this is the same thing and she is an official "fairy"). So, when I received an email from Goodreads, telling me about their #hideabookday to celebrate their tenth birthday, I knew I had to get involved.

Throughout the year, The Book Fairies website sells stickers, badges, bags and ribbons that you can use with the books you're gifting. I opted for the stickers, as they had a few for Goodreads and also give all the information needed to the person finding the book. I added my own ribbon and placed the books in clear, plastic bags - with London's weather, I couldn't be sure my books wouldn't get soaked! Once I had wrapped and placed stickers on six of my books, my son and I headed to the station and became Book Fairies (a few days early as we had to travel into Central London on Saturday).

Although my son couldn't understand why I was giving my books away for free, we had a great time. We even hung around and watched one book be taken - the man who found it had such a smile on his face, I couldn't help but feel overjoyed. He genuinely looked chuffed that he'd picked up a "hidden" book and kept looking around... but us fairies stayed hidden. I used my author Instagram account to share up-to-the-second updates of where we had left each book - which included train stations, a library, the theatre and a police station. It created a real buzz on my social media accounts.

Inside the book, I wrote little messages - explaining why I'd left my books and how I hoped they'd be enjoyed. I also wrote the official hash tags and my Twitter handle. No-one has been in touch yet, but it's only been two days. And, if I don't receive any messages, I can only hope the books were found by people who will love them - and maybe even share them again. It was great fun and the book fairies are worldwide, meaning if you want to get involved, you can do. And, they don't have to be books you've written - if you're going through your shelves and want to share your favourite book, or need some more space and had been thinking about getting rid of some, this is a great way. Share the book happiness by becoming a fairy too!

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Ins and Outs of Words by Elizabeth Kay


Some years ago Bob Newman had a poem published which included the word ‘rescous’. It isn't in First Frush, but there are lots of other clever and funny poems in there. The poem concerned was a sestina, with the additional complication of anagrams for the final words which are repeated in a different order at the end of each line. The poem was spotted by  George Chowdhary Best who was part of a committee deciding on which words were to be dropped from the OED. George produced the poem as proof that the word was still in current use. It was subsequently retained. This is the poem plus its introduction: (with permission).

"Rescous" is, or was, "the illegal recovery of one's own goods after they have been seized by bailiffs but before they have been impounded". When they are recovered after they have been impounded, the crime is not "rescous" but "poundbreach". A few years ago a report from the National Consumer Council recommended that these crimes be removed from the statute book; I don't know whether the government did as they were told.

Robinson’s Jam

I sing of Robinson, a doughty scouser,
A connoisseur of pubs, and of race courses,
A member of the Bootle clan of Crusoes,
A man of wealth to rival that of Croesus,
(Or leave it far behind him, say some sources)
Who found himself unjustly charged with rescous.

A most unusual crime these days is rescous,
"And one I didn't do," protests our scouser.
He goes off to consult his legal sources,
Who though they learnt from correspondence courses
Know quite enough to get as rich as Croesus
From fleecing clients like the Bootle Crusoes.

But they are baffled by this case of Crusoe's.
"Search me! I've never heard of bloody rescous!"
"Still, take the case. That Crusoe's Bootle's Croesus."
So have misfortunes doubled for our scouser,
His fate now at the whim of those whose courses
Were postal, not the best of legal sources?

According to more reputable sources,
When bailiffs take away some goods - say Crusoe's -
To nick them back is not the best of courses
For then you're likely to be charged with "rescous"
(Or "poundbreach", if you're slower than our scouser).
So will his learned friends save Bootle's Croesus?

Well no, for Crusoe's read about old Croesus:
"Be practical, not ethical", say sources
Of ancient wisdom, well-known to our scouser,
And so he showers money from the Crusoes
Upon the jury trying him for rescous.
"And if they ask, you won it at race courses."

Although it's not the lawfullest of courses,
It's how the law works, if you're rich as Croesus.
Don't worry, if you're charged with fraud, or rescous -
Enrich twelve good true men from secret sources
And that will save the good name of the Crusoes.
Now hear the foreman, who's another scouser:

"This scouser who is twice as rich as Croesus,
"Got so at horsey courses, say our sources,
"So Crusoe's clearly innocent of rescous."

And so from archaisms to neologisms – newly-coined words or expressions. Most of them are to do with computers.

To Google – I think we all know what this means.
App – not sure whether the youth of today are even aware that this is short for application.
Crowdsourcing – getting lots of people to pay for you to publish your book…
Hashtag – a word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used mainly on Twitter by Donald Trump.
Meme – coined by Richard Dawkins to describe ideas that evolve and proliferate the way genes do.
Geek – originally a circus performer who bit the heads off live chickens.
Chillax – something all authors need to do now and again (also a portmanteau word, of course. I’ll deal with those later...

There are many occasions when a writer needs to invent a word, especially if they dabble in fantasy or SF.

This is the way I went about it in my alternative world in The Divide. I needed to come up with names for a number of mythical/magical/purely invented creatures, as well as their given names. I tried to suggest each creature by combining different characteristics – a japegrin (mischievous pixie) starts from a jape, which is a practical joke, and a grin is the joker’s facial expression when he or she is watching the result. I liked the idea of ragamuckies being the opposite of what brownies are in this world (sprites, originally from Scotland, who tidy people’s homes in the middle of the night), because there wouldn’t be any human houses to clean. Rags suggest ragged clothing, and mucky for dirty. A lickit reminds you of ice cream, or candy – and lickits are cooks specialising in magical sweets.
A sinistrom is very close to the word sinister. The tangle-folk are elves, who were once identified by their very tangled hair. When it came to the names of the characters, rather than the names of the species, I tended to use themes. All the tangle-folk and japegrins are named after plants – Betony is a pinky-purple flower, and an ancient medicinal plant used in herbal remedies. Snakeweed is a pink flower, also known as Bistort. For the brazzles (griffins), I combined the name of something hard or sharp with a body part – Ironclaw, Thornbeak, Flintfeather, and for the brittlehorns (unicorns)
I used something that suggested a pale silvery colour – Pewtermane, Milklegs, Chalky. The one-off names weren’t accidental, either. Leona, of course, suggests the lion part of a sphinx. Turpsik (a female cyclops, with a penchant for poetry and dance) is an abbreviated form of the muse of dance, Terpsichore.  

Portmanteau Words:
The term portmanteau was first used by Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass:
“Well, ‘slithy’ means “lithe and slimy” and ‘mimsy’ is “flimsy and miserable”. You see it’s like a portmanteau—there are two meanings packed up into one word.”
Interestingly, the word portmanteau itself is also a blend of two different words: porter (to carry) and manteau (a cloak).

Some of them have become so familiar that we’re unaware of their origins:

email (electronic/mail): Us oldies still think of it as electronic mail – I doubt that the younger generation does!
bionic (biology/electronic): artificial body parts that have been enhanced by technology.
brunch (breakfast/lunch): a meal that is eaten after breakfast but before lunch.
dumbfound (dumb/confound): Greatly astonish or amaze.
ginormous (giant/enormous): large, huge.
modem (modulation/demodulation): an electronic device that makes possible the transmission of data to or from a computer via telephone or other communication lines.
smog (smoke/fog): a form of air pollution that has the qualities of both smoke and fog.
workaholic (work/alcoholic): an individual who works excessive hours.
banoffee (banana/toffee)
alcopop (alcohol/pop)

Others still seem strange:

babymoon (baby/honeymoon): denotes a certain enthusiasm on the wedding night
guyliner (guy/eyeliner): eyeliner for men
hazmat (hazardous/material)
listicle (list/article): bit like this, really
ecoteur (ecological/saboteur)
bankster (banker/gangster)
frogurt (frozen/yogurt)
frolf (Frisbee/golf): How on earth does that work?
Cosplay (costume/play): wearing costumes and accessories that resemble those of characters from various forms of popular culture.
insinuendo (insinuation/innuendo)

Although I tend to be a bit of a stickler for correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, I can’t resist making up words every so often. Have you come up with any goodies?