Showing posts with label Tracy Darnton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tracy Darnton. Show all posts

Monday, 17 August 2020

Family memes: how Bernard, Fix-It Duck, Charlie Bucket and many more infiltrated our lexicon by Tracy Darnton

A short blog this week reflecting on why some books leave a lasting impression on the family lexicon...

I'm assuming that everyone has adopted certain lines from favourite books? We have plenty of 'in' phrases in our household. They're subsumed into the club of our family and sometimes I forget that not everyone understands what we're talking about. 

"Not now, Bernard!" I'll exclaim to a friend (not called Bernard), who looks bewildered. Or I'll pick up a dropped credit card muttering "Precious, my precious" in a Gollum-like voice. It's not just books; I can't help using famous film lines like "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope". It just pops out when I want help with something as mundane as the washing up. And Charlie Bucket's "I've got a golden ticket" comes in surprisingly handy as does Dorothy's "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto". They have family meme status. No doubt they are memes on Twitter.

But families also choose less obvious 'memes' when something about a book captures the imagination of that particular family. One of our all-time favourite shared reads is the brilliant Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce. For those who haven't read it (and you should immediately because it's a masterpiece!) one of the terrible pushy parents, Monsieur Martinet, tells his child at one stage "You. Are. A Winner!" Not a big line from a major character, not a constantly repeated refrain, but something about it made us laugh and it stuck. My kids knew people like that (not us; no, no, no) and the way it was read on the audio book which we took on holiday was absolutely spot-on and so funny. It will always remind me of sitting in beach car parks with none of us wanting to get out of the car until the chapter finished. We read it so much our copy fell to bits and one of my kids bought me the special edition shiny cover version for Mothers Day. The perfect gift for me.

And whenever anything breaks in our house, the loveably hapless duck created by Jez Alborough springs to mind and we use the line: "This is a job for Fix-It Duck" and as we're fairly useless on the DIY front, it just seems to fit. 

So what makes something like that stick within a family? 

Firstly, because Jez Alborough's story works so well. The reader is led to that repeating line by fantastic rhyme and rhythm. It fixes in your head, it becomes a natural conclusion to what has gone before. Secondly, repetition. I must have read Fix-It Duck to my kids about eighty trillion times - and we all still loved it. 

And now I have a new reason to use those phrases: nostalgia and empty nest syndrome. Those phrases remind me of a time when they were cute and not taller than me and we shared books and stories.  I shall pack them off again in the next few weeks with a Fix-It Duck screwdriver and roll of Duck tape, and the heavily accented "You are a winner!". And they'll know exactly what I mean. 

And that's all part of the wonder of writing for children and parents. The language and characters of a book take on a life of their own. Once the book's out there, in some wonderful ways it doesn't belong to the author anymore. Readers react in their esoteric way, adopting parts they love, sharing phrases. "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."

Tracy Darnton writes YA thrillers. Her latest The Rules is about a girl on the run from her prepper dad. 

You can follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDarnton

Friday, 17 July 2020

Twitter bunker book launch by Tracy Darnton

Like many authors in this blogging community, I’ve just launched the book I’ve worked so hard on in a virtual way. 

Launches are normally a time when your professional writing life meets your personal life and your book team of editors, publicist and agent join you, family and friends to celebrate, make speeches and create a buzz around the book. My planned bash at Mr B’s Emporium was cancelled at the start of lockdown but at that stage none of us knew what the situation would be in July. Would we still be completely locked down? Would everything be back to normal? Turns out we’re in a strange hinterland somewhere in-between and any indoor, crowded event still feels a really long way away.

I experienced the old school, live action launch version for The Truth About Lies two years ago at Waterstones, Bath with drinks and food into the evening. 

Last book launch - A crowd of people! Indoors! 

And now I’ve experienced the 2020 virtual version for The Rules. 

In recent weeks I’ve also popped in on others’ book launches on Facebook Live, Instagram Live and of course lockdown wouldn’t be lockdown without a zoom launch. Due to some bad experiences involving bandwidth in our household, we stuck with the Twitter option. The Rules was published on July 9th and I had a Twitter book launch/takeover in the afternoon.

So how did it go and what can I share with any other writers thinking of the Twitter route? 

Luckily, my Lockdown hair and general disarray met the brief of a book about preppers/bunkers/disaster. I took photos and recorded videos beforehand down in our repurposed bunker basement or in the woods. 

Me tidying up and staging our storage vaults

I wrote and saved to Twitter drafts of my thank you tweet with video and a couple about getting ready for the launch. (If you are more organised than me, you could use the scheduling option on desktop Twitter, HootSuite or similar.)

The format was set by my lovely publicist Charlie Morris at Stripes and we had graphics for each question so that they were easy to read. I retweeted and gave my answer. Like any Twitter chat, we had a hashtag #TheRulesTrustNoOne so that anyone could follow it and not miss any tweets. Charlie tweeted every five minutes starting with a welcome tweet and me reading a very brief opening. Next a (recorded) speech from my editor. I think the twitter max video length is 2 mins 20 so you have to keep it short and sweet.

Next, questions just for me including:

Followed by quick fire questions open to everyone to reply to, like:

We also included:

And a competition

and rounded it off with my thank you video filmed in the bunker.


So what have I learned?

👍 The Upside

-          Nobody has to travel or spend money

-          Readers and bloggers can join in more easily

-          I liked the interaction and hearing other people’s answers

-          It did feel that people had rocked up to support me

-          You don’t have to do your hair/dress up/make speeches in live time

-          You don’t have to feed people and provide chilled prosecco and source an amazing cake

-          You don’t have to decorate a bookshop space on a budget of £3.50

-          You don’t have to clear up

-          It’s much cheaper

-          You’re creative – find a creative way to talk about your book in tweets

-          You don’t have to be the centre of attention standing at the front of a packed room

-          You can be tucked up in bed early

-           (And this one’s just for me, but we finally got round to tidying up our vaults ready for the bunker photos!)


👎The downside

-          It’s not a party!

-          It’s multi-tasking on steroids, trying to reply to every question, retweet, like tweets, cut and paste answers, attach photos, refresh the hashtag. I enlisted one of my kids to man the laptop and I was on my phone.

-          You don’t sign any books and chat informally to people

-          Your friends and family not on Twitter don’t get to join in and may find the whole idea incomprehensible

-          You will have to be on social media A LOT

-          No one feels compelled to buy the book

-          Conventional launches are the only time I get all my bookish family of agent, editor, publicist together and  I missed seeing everyone and properly thanking everyone who’s had a part to play in the book 

      It's public - so my family weren't involved in the event and I didn't get to talk about them in the speeches

-          I ordered deliverable gifts online (and they didn’t arrive in time) instead of handing over at an event

-          It felt ephemeral - no photos of the event for you or others to put on social media and I doubt we’ll be reminiscing about it in the future

-          (I had a three-hour trip to the tip after tidying the vaults.)

That feels like a long list of downsides to end on. Sigh. I know given everything else going on in the world, it’s only a book. But it was still my book. And now I must go and write another one. 

But the upside list was still pretty long too. Take a look at both and see if it would appeal to you.

Here’s hoping that when my next one is published we can safely meet again. Because quite a few of us are owed a big party with everyone in the same room.


Tracy Darnton is the author of The Rules about a girl on the run from her prepper father and his extreme rules. She is determined to set the next book somewhere way more glamorous than a bunker. 



Wednesday, 17 June 2020

Putting Lockdown in a box - Tracy Darnton

This blog has crept up on me in the strange time warp of lockdown. What week is it? I've no idea. This is blog number four (four!!!) since this started. As I'm measuring my life now by Bin Day and Bin Day Eve, rather than by actual dates or months, I'm afraid this one is rather last minute. 

So I thought I'd share my Lockdown Box. In this weird twilight world of Lockdown/Not Lockdown, I've been thinking that even though we as a family are still largely marooned at home, something has shifted and we should assess Lockdown and better still, put it in a box. I want to do something practical in the same way I do after a bereavement or a momentous family occasion. I curate it, tame it, make it something I can put a lid on and file on a shelf. Something we can revisit in the future. What did you do in the Lockdown, Great Granny? Well, I shall say. Hold my cocoa and pass me that dusty box.

What's in it?
I half wish I could include that letter from the Government but it was ceremoniously ripped into tiny pieces. Or the giant catering can of tinned tomatoes that my local greengrocers improvised and kindly delivered to us. Or one of the lids of ice cream cartons from Deliver Moo keeping us supplied from our local Marshfield Ice Cream. Or the terrible 21st birthday cake I made from any old rubbish in the cupboard. 

I do have celebration cards for my kids stuck with their parents instead of celebrating rites of passage end of A levels and uni finals. And mementoes from the Hay festival they recreated in the garden for my birthday. 

And we've added the art we painted after watching Grayson Perry and a picture of our Lockdown Reading Pile. And the map of footpaths we discovered on our doorstep for all those walks which kept us going. And the menu from my Come Dine With Me Sicilian evening that I hoped would start off the rest of the family to do the same - but sadly didn't. 

And the book I worked so hard on but am bringing out with no book launch party - just a supreme sense of irony as it's about the effects on a family of preparing for disasters like pandemics. Yes, dear Reader, I foresaw the toilet roll shortages. 

Lastly, I'm a list maker - To Do, Shopping, Birthday gifts to buy, TBR - so we're starting another list. A family list poem. 

        The Lockdown A to Z. 

The poem's too personal, too angry in places, too mundane in others to share on this blog. And, anyway, you can guess what my Z stands for. I recommend it as a way, whatever your age, to remember and to make sense of what we've experienced so far. 

It's not finished yet - because Lockdown/Not Lockdown isn't finished. But when it is, it's going in the box. 

Tracy Darnton writes YA thrillers. Her latest novel The Rules is published on July 9th. It will be launched in a socially distanced way on Twitter @TracyDarnton but she's looking forward to a future party. 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Lockdown Bookish Sculpture Part II - Tracy Darnton

Welcome to part II of my bookish sculpture course. Part I was about making a simple animal by folding. Check it out here if you missed it. Rest assured, I'm not cutting up lovely new books, I'm repurposing withdrawn from stock or charity shop rejects.

Scabbers the Rat, for one, is very grateful to have lived out his days on display in a junior school library, been part of an exhibition at our local library and now being semi-retired on my son's bookshelf until last month's blog, rather than the alternative of *gulp* the pulping machine....!!!!

Scabbers' grateful face

As promised, we're progressing to trees and using sharp scissors or a craft knife.*

Scabbers the Rat and Tracy Darnton are not in anyway responsible for any injuries caused by the use of sharp scissors or a craft knife. 

This is one I bought at the RUH, Bath craft stall.

First though let’s stick with therapeutic folding.


Make a standing cone-shaped tree using a similar folding method. Remove the book cover as this time you want your sculpture to stand up vertically once you’ve joined the sides together.

To get the sharp slanted edge of a cone shape, fold the top right corner to the spine making a triangle. Smooth the crease.

Now fold the page to halve it and bring the crease you just made to the centre spine of the book, making a sharper triangle (the edge of the tree).

There should be a small triangle hanging over the bottom edge of the book. Crease a line along it, across the edge. Tuck the triangle back up inside the folded page. This forms the trunk or stand.

When you’ve done the whole book, fold it round, loosening the spine, to form a cone. Glue in place.

Add decoration - use green or silver paints or pens, ribbons used as garlands or add tiny beads as baubles. To make it a Christmas decoration, add a silver star for the top and use festive printed ribbons to decorate. 

Tip: Use a peg or bulldog clip to hold together the folded pages you’ve done as you carry on working through the book. 

So now you've mastered animals and trees. The folding methods work well where you need straight lines and triangular shapes. But for sculptures with curves you’ll need to cut pages and this can be too tough with scissors. Use a craft knife and cutting mat instead. 


Take an old book and remove the cover. You just want the inside pages. 

Make a template to lay onto the spine. Start with a simple shape like an apple (or pear). Because you’re going to open out the shape like a fan, you just need half of the shape (shaped like an ear) to cut out on the template. The final 3D piece of fruit will be held together by the existing book spine. 

Draw round your half apple template on to the book then cut out with a craft knife, unfold and glue if necessary to hold your 3D fruit in shape. 

Use the offcuts or coloured paper to make a stalk and leaves. Glue in place.  

You can ‘dust’ the edges with green acrylic paint or use a pen to finish.

Once you get the hang of the method, you can make plenty of shapes. 
  • For a pumpkin – dust edges with orange and add a black stalk and black card triangles for the pumpkin eyes and nose. Finally, add a black smile or frown. 
  •  For an angel cut a basic circle (head) on top of a triangle, add paper wings and tinsel halo. Edge with silver paint or pens. 
  • Make hanging bells for the Christmas tree.
Or if it all goes awry, just go for abstract sculptural shapes and pretend that's what you wanted. 

You have now completed the Tracy Darnton course in Bookish sculpture. Well done! I’d love to see any of your creations.

I'm going to end with a pic of a book angel that I didn't make - I bought them at the Bookbarn near Bristol and gave them as Christmas gifts to my lovely writing group. So looking forward to the resumption of tea and book chat and hugs and book folding and the occasional bit of writing. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is out in July. The Rules is about a girl who’s spent her whole life preparing for disaster like catastrophic climate change or pandemic. Tracy is still not enjoying this unexpected immersive research period. 

Friday, 17 April 2020

Lockdown Bookish Sculpture by Tracy Darnton

We’re still here in Lockdown, many of us struggling to concentrate or to find the bandwidth to write or read, despite our good intentions. So how about doing something hands on with any tatty, unwanted books you’ve got in the house? 

I’ll do a couple of blogs on easy book sculpture. Normally I’d say ask at your local library or charity shop for the books they’re going to throw away but you’re going to have to find one at home. Maybe one with a few missing pages or one you dropped in the bath. Or maybe there’s a book you just don’t want on the shelf anymore.

First up, making an animal.

This is Scabbers the Rat which my son made when he was ten from an old Harry Potter book.  It’s not difficult, no cutting, only folding. You can do this!

Just by folding the pages of a paperback book you can quickly create a basic animal shape like a hedgehog or mouse.

Use a book of minimum 150 pages to give yourself enough paper to work with.

Open the book to the first page.

Fold the page in half towards the spine, smoothing down the crease neatly.

Now make the pointy nose shape for your animal by folding over the top left corner to make a triangle. Smooth the fold well. 

If you want your animal to have a shaped rear end you can fold in a triangle from the bottom left corner too. 

Repeat with the next page and the next until you have finished folding the whole book, creating a semi-circular shape with a pointy nose. 

Keeping the cover gives a more stable base but you can cut it to match the shape of the animal once you’ve finished folding. If you’ve made a creature who is a character in the book you’ve used, like Scabbers, leave the whole cover on.

Add a nose, ears and whiskers to your animal using paper offcuts, buttons, pompoms, pipe cleaners or googly eyes, whatever old rubbish you’ve got in Lockdown.

Et voila – a whole new Lockdown friend to talk to. The folds can be used to hold photos or cards as a desk tidy, or, if you don’t want to give it houseroom, a perfect gift for your agent/editor/writer buddy.

Next month we’ll progress to trees and I may let you have a go with scissors and a craft knife.

In the meantime, take inspiration from the amazing work of paper artists like Malena ValcarcelSusan Hoerth or Jodi Harvey-Brown who create stunning sculptures from books. Their work is full of exquisite scenes or ‘sets’, sometimes beautifully illuminated. A mad hatters tea party rises from Alice in Wonderland, or a forest scene leaps from Little Red Riding Hood. The bookish possibilities are endless!

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is out in July. The Rules is about a girl who’s spent her whole life preparing for disasters like pandemic. Tracy is not enjoying this unexpected immersive research period. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Welcome to working from home, everyone! by Tracy Darnton

Authors are no strangers to self-isolation and working from home. We can offer pearls of wisdom about changing out of your jimjams, getting fresh air, using a standing desk, how to structure your coffee breaks and how to live without an IT department, HR or accounts department. 

Some of us will be having to share our already limited workspaces with partners exiled from their rapidly closing offices. I’m working on some induction training to outlaw excessively loud telephone calls and a whole loud of etiquette around use of the big desk and dining table. Special training will be required for my new co-worker about how to clear all the washing and ironing without breaking concentration. 

My fantasy workspace - not my rather messy actual one
I know that compromise will be required so I’m prepared to bring in a tea rota, a water cooler for casual conversation and dress-up Friday. However, only I can use any of my bookshop mug collection. No one touches my pencil cases but me.

I suppose we’ll have to form a committee and hold some pointless meetings just for the hell of it.

Please let this all be back to normal before the office Christmas party. Avoiding an office Christmas party is one of the few benefits of freelancing. 

Good luck everyone. See you all on the other side. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is out in July. The Rules is about a girl on the run from her prepper father and the effects of continually preparing for disaster. She is not enjoying this period of unexpected immersive research.

Monday, 17 February 2020

An attack of the adverbs by Tracy Darnton

Ah the joy of getting out the red pen! 

I taught a session to new writers on building up an editor’s toolkit this week. We thought about the ‘tics’ we all have as writers and the merits of a list of our overused words or bad habits - and how to employ the Find and Replace (I prefer Seek and Destroy) function in Word.

I issued red pens and everyone enjoyed ripping to pieces a page which I’d managed to cram full of problems with voice, pacing, tense etc as well as a healthy dose of typos and style errors.  It’s always easier to spot mistakes in other people’s writing than your own – and much more enjoyable to red-ink them. 

Get out that red pen yourself and slash and burn your way through my Attack of the Adverbs exercise below. Think about how adverbs can weaken a meaning or make the whole section annoyingly tentative and wishy-washy, but also how that might be exactly what’s required for characterisation or effect. 

“Well, as always, it’s basically down to you and the sort of style you truly want to achieve but it’s also kind of a useful exercise somehow. Suddenly your writing might seem really tight or indeed it might just appear somewhat bare. It’s utterly your choice,” the editor pleaded defiantly.

And now do the opposite. Use your red pen to add to this writing which is very tight (or bare, depending on your point of view):

“It’s up to you,” said the editor.

Somewhere between the two you might find your sweet spot. We’re making these stylistic choices in every sentence we write. So fish out your red pen and analyse your own prose once in a while and notice the choices you make.

And don’t get me started on speech tags …

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is based on her short story in I'll Be Home for Christmas. She has an MA in Writing for Young People and a wide selection of red pens.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Buried beneath the TBR pile by Tracy Darnton

New year, new resolutions. Time to ring the changes. 

I have books to review, set texts to read for my weekly lit course, friends’ books, Christmas presents received, books by other YA authors I really want to read etc etc. All in all, I’m frankly overwhelmed by my tottering TBR (To Be Read) pile - which is weird because reading is meant to be a pleasure. I became a writer because I’m a lifelong reader with a major bookshop habit. And yet I’m thinking about scheduling reading like a kind of regular date night. How did my reading pleasure go from treat to chore? How can I change that and how do other people manage to read so much?

OK, first off I’m going to blame Brexit. Newspapers, social media, new addiction to the BBC Parliament channel and general existential political despair have definitely drained my time and mental energy in 2019.

Next, I blame writing itself. Writing takes up a huge amount of time and when I’m writing or fully immersed in editing I don’t want the distraction of someone else’s YA style.

Too many books. Maybe if I only read, say, Scandi-noir by only one author, I’d have a better shot at at reading everything BUT I have an eclectic taste in books. I read adult fiction and children’s and YA. I have classics to read for a course. And I like non-fiction; I’m interested in memory and psychology and still carry a torch for my old profession of the law. I’ve been researching prepping and survival skills – and how to rebuild the world. (That’s a lot of pages!)

And let's be honest, it can be hard in family life to find the time for an essentially ‘selfish’ activity. Other hobbies can have some tangible benefit for everyone: baking, knitting etc produce a product. But reading…

I don’t do as much waiting around for pick from kids’ sport matches or activities as I used to. That was always a prime time to catch up on reading. Inconveniently, I get horribly travel sick so I can never read in the car, seldom on a train even. Instead I stare dead ahead, crunching extra-strong peppermints.

And is it just me or is it harder to concentrate and switch off from everything else as you get older? 

So what I can do?

I asked one of the extremely well-read booksellers at my local independent bookseller Mr B’s. She reads for approx. two hours per day.  TWO HOURS! How on earth does she manage to do all the reading around working and family life? Well, her tip was not to watch TV at all – which could be a problem as we’ve just signed up for Netflix and I’m hooked on a German series callled Dark (a sort of time-travelling Stranger Things) which I justify as it’s very ‘YA’. And I do all my ironing in front of the TV.

What about targets? Some people love to use target tracking lists from Goodreads or similar. Or just keep a list in a notebook. I don’t think that would work for me – just another thing to fail at.

But I’m going to get back in the habit of reading more. Bottom line is I know I enjoy it. It gives me empathy/insight/something else to talk about. It hones my own writing craft – seeing how an author pulls off something amazing - or how they fall short. It means I can discuss books with my friends on the course I do every week. And how can I expect other family members to read if I don’t model it as a priority and a pleasure?

So …

I’m going to split my TBR pile into little piles so it’s not so overwhelming. (Simple but effective)

I’m not going to keep a list of books I read.

I’m not going to stop buying books. I love it.

I’m going to get a bigger bookshelf (or two).

I’ll report back this time next year.

(After posting this, I realised that I am not alone in trying to make more time for reading for pleasure – have a look at the very recent posts by Anne Rooney, Vanessa Harbour and Dawn Finch for some excellent advice and thoughts.)

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is based on her short story in I'll Be Home for Christmas. She is slowly disappearing under the size of her TBR piles.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Playing games by Tracy Darnton

I love games and puzzles. I play board games, do quizzes, sudoku, codewords, word games. My idea of fun is an afternoon in an escape room. My favourite board game shop has opened a branch a mere ten minutes walk away from my house - with a cappuccino machine! I realise this is a wholly irresponsible way to spend my time...

But, in my defence, I think all these games and puzzles keep me sharper and feed into my writing. I write complex plots. I don't write much description. I like the satisfaction of a complex web and clues well-laid. Someone in my crit group spotted a subtle clue early on my WIP the other day which gave me a huge amount of satisfaction. But I'm also convinced that 'playing' aids creativity and we can all benefit from it. One day I shall do a PhD on the link between playing games and writing books. These are the things that work for me as a writer, that keep me fired up to keep writing. And you have to do what works for you. 

An escape room proprietor asked me recently if I'd be interested in being his literary consultant on a Jane Austen themed escape room. One of my kids blurted out before I could kick him in the shins: "Pay her? You don't need to pay her to do that - it's, like, her fantasy dream job!" 

Even now as I write this, my head is whirring with puzzles based around dance cards, harpsichords, smelling salts and the Napoleonic wars - and a touch of Mr Darcy - whether or not the 'job' materialises. I've given up caring whether this is normal behaviour for a woman of my age.

This time of year is peak game season. The clans are gathered back at home, round a warm radiator and a biscuit selection tin. Visitors have to be polite and join in. Here are my suggestions (updated from last year's blog) of literary games for this festive season: 

Quiz! Inspired by being on an author team for the South West heat of #kidslitquiz in November, I've got this little lovely to try: 

The Hidden Books game

I had a completely lost morning in November when this year's hidden book titles puzzle was released by National Book Tokens. Luckily, my publisher gave me an extra clue to my two outstanding ones to put me out of my agony and make sure I got back to working on my actual book. Have a go, but be warned they're addictive. Hidden Books Puzzle

The Great Penguin Bookchase – I bought this at the Hay festival many years ago and it’s basically trivial pursuit but much harder and slower with usually at least one visitor disappointed that no actual penguins feature. The kids groan when I get this one out but don’t be deterred because, look, you collect little books for your little bookshelf! How sweet is that!

Story consequences – pen and paper.

First fold – Once upon a time there was a …………..

Second fold - who wanted to ………

Third fold - But ….

Fourth fold - So he/she …..

Fifth fold - And in the end….

Who am I?

We played a version of this on a Sassie winter retreat and it works well for large groups. Split into two teams. Everyone secretly writes down at least five authors or literary characters or any famous people if you want to widen it out, on slips of paper which are folded and placed in a bowl/hat/Christmas stocking.

Each team takes it in turn with one member having one minute to describe as many of the names on the slips as they can without using the actual words written down. They get a point for each correct one and they can pass once. Carry on until all the slips have been used once. 

Now, it gets trickier. All slips go back into the bowl. This time you’re only allowed to use one word to describe the person/character – though remember that everyone will have heard them described in full once. Carry on until all the slips have been guessed. 

The final round has all the names back in the bowl but this time no words are allowed - only actions. The team with the most points across all three rounds wins.

Don’t forget all the classic word games like Pass the bomb! Taboo! Bananagrams, Boggle, Scrabble and Codewords.  And of course no Christmas games session would be complete without Charades! Books only. 

Quick round of Elmer bingo, anyone?

Merry Christmas!

Tracy Darnton is the author of The Truth About Lies. Her next novel, The Rules, is based on her short story in I'll Be Home for Christmas. She wastes way too much time doing games and puzzles.