White hats, black hats, masks and pencil moustaches – who’s the baddie?

14 10 2013

I don’t write children’s books where, for the very young, an author has to make the baddie obvious. They cackle rather than laugh, they lurk rather than wait, they are sly rather than cunning. And they often wear a black hat.

In the world of adult literature the role of the baddie isn’t so clear cut. Nor should it be. There are bad people out there – people without redeeming characteristics, without a care for the social convention. But they are pretty rare. Most of us live in shades of gray – not 50 necessarily, but quite a few and those shades can lighten or darken depending on what we are doing at any one point in time.
Ask anyone not locked up in my cellar and they see me as a good man, someone with obvious flaws, attractive ones of course, but nothing which would put me on a register or lead to imprisonment. Ask me, and I might give you a bit more background about hidden motives behind good deeds which may cast shadows on your perception. Does that make me a baddie? How would I portray myself as a baddie in the written word to put the reader on notice or should I leave it to them to work out for themselves?

The latter is the obvious answer. Leading my reader by the nose is not how I see the contract between us. Every one of us has had a bad day, most of us succumb to the darker urges to varying degrees at some time in our lives. I think it is my job to show by actions, by written thoughts, by implication that this is the villain of our show. If you, dear reader, are worse than the bad things I illustrate him or her with then I rather imagine you will keep it to yourself!HH Coventry wears many hats but does not have a pencil moustache!





Try it before you write it?

12 08 2013

Do you need to try something before you write about it? Ask Arthur C Clarke.

A flippant answer but pertinent. Did Mr C go into space, did he meet aliens, did he redraft the laws of physics. No. But should he therefore not have written about it?

We are fiction writers. It’s made up. Of course there will be elements of truth  in all our stories – human’s breathe, walk, live in houses, have sex. A plan will transport you between cities, countries or continents. But I have faith that Egypt is in North Africa even though I’ve never been there. If I had a guide book to hand and access to t’interweb I could probably write you a rollicking chase through the souks of Alexandria. But I’ve not experienced either the chase or the souk.

Did Mrs James have to try all 50-shades before she wrote about them? Does Dan Brown read latin or just have a phase book? Did A A Milne really have a hunny-loving bear telling him his thoughts?

There are areas, even in fiction, where experience is beneficial. A knowledge of anatomy is useful when writing a murder scene. Understanding of police procedure helps set up a detective story. Your first book will probably have more of your knowledge than any subsequent because you will write what you know before you really get into making everything else.

Do you need to try it before you write it? No. But you should know it. Don’t piss off your readers by putting Birmingham at the end of the M23 motorway – unless of course you’ve made a world where it really is!

Why not just make up the fact that you’ve tried it!