While on my desert island recently, I was thinking that it might be fun to bring a writerly perspective to some of the more random, even philosophical questions I’ve been asked over the years. Some are pretty run of the mill; some have personal resonance and most have nothing, specifically, to do with writing. But I think they’re interesting enough to run a series of author interviews in the future. See what you think. Continue reading
I was recently on holiday in Northern Ireland, where we visited the Giant’s Causeway on a wet and windy day. I was intrigued to see that the car park was laid with a hexagonal brick-weave, reflecting the basalt columns that make up the Causeway. I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a car park surface before. It’s only when we go on holiday, take a walk in unfamiliar territory, move to a new neighbourhood, that we actually take a note of our surroundings. We don’t realise how little we notice our immediate environment until we change it. And this can have a big impact on our writing. Continue reading
Conscious that this writing lark is not very conducive to maintaining a decent level of fitness, I recently started swimming again. Now I don’t have a pool of my own, so when I was invited to join some friends in their time-share slot at a local private establishment, I jumped at the chance to use a pool that I didn’t have to share with the world and his wife (and their children). Even better, the next week none of my friends could go, so I went on my own.
Brilliant, I thought. I’ll have the pool to myself; I’ll get that all-important exercise, and I’ll be able to devote some serious thinking time to the development of my new novel, unhindered. That’s the good thing about swimming: the very mindlessness of ploughing up and down frees your brain to wander. You can concentrate on nothing but the number of lengths you’ve covered, but if you’re a true daydreamer, you can use the time much more effectively.
Or that’s what I thought. Swimming alone turned out to be a very spooky experience indeed. Continue reading
We’ve had some good sessions discussing plot in the writing group lately, which is useful as I’m midway through the first draft of my next novel. The outline, plot and its overarching narrative has been established, but the story needs a subplot or two to allow me to explore the characters’ personalities more deeply and examine their motivations. I also need to be clear on the story. A plot doesn’t make a story but for there to be a story, something’s got to happen. I was all set to share some thoughts last week. Then life got in the way.
No, I’m not suggesting actually going out and holding up your local post office or committing a murder. I mean, writing a crime story or even a novel, where you can let your imagination run riot. I couldn’t kill someone in real life – apart from the occasional parking ticket I’m usually a law-abiding individual. But in my head it’s quite a different story: I can visualise all kinds of lives lived on the other side of the law and all manner of grisly ends for a variety of people, some deserving, some not so much.
There are various forms of crime fiction and the choice of form and plot is huge. Should I write a police procedural, with a protagonist on the police force, like Peter James’ Roy Grace or Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne? Should it be a traditional whodunit, when we get to know the identity of the perpetrator at the end of the book, or perhaps the more modern inversion, where the crime and the identity of the perp is revealed at the start and the novel describes the attempts to solve the mystery.
An interesting event this afternoon. Actually, ‘event’ is too grand a word for it. It was more of a moment in time, but quite a strange one all the same.
This week we’ve had some old friends and their children staying with us. Today being the last day of their visit we decided to hire a couple of canoes and paddle up the river to the pub, where we would have lunch. There was a break in the clouds and the sun shone on our little expedition; the river was calm and almost empty of other river craft. Our journey through the bucolic countryside was punctuated with wildlife and the city-dwelling kids were enchanted.
Now that we’ve sorted out the peripherals, we can get down the process itself and examine some of the rules of writing from a beginner’s perspective. A lot of what is written about the art of writing applies to those who’ve been writing a while. It’s easy to get bogged down in does and don’ts even before you pick up a pen or sit at a keyboard.
But before I begin, I must add a note about a point I made a few posts ago. Regulars to this blog might remember I was having a go at Stieg Larsson for leaving a plot point hanging – see the ‘Chekhov’s Rifle’ post. Well, I have some humble pie to eat. I complained that one of the main characters in ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ had a perfect opportunity to use a weapon she had previously dropped into her pocket, but she didn’t. I wondered at the time whether Larsson had just forgotten about it.