The Empty Cellar

21 10 2015

My ideas are generated in the cellar. Each room a generator of a different idea, a different view. A story viewed from one room can look completely different if I take a look from the creative sitting locked in the cellar cell next door. A stalled story arc can be resurrected or rechanneled by seeing the whole at 90•. 
Travelling has left my cellar rooms empty. Clean sheets, fresh clothes, pleasantly scented. But empty. Now is the time to think about the minds, the creatives I want to put in each one. Do I want a boho free spirit, a constrained and uptight bookworm, a journo with tight style and logical bent? Or go for random. Try a few and keep what I like the feel of and to the furnace with the dross? Time will tell what minds will work on the next Penny B mystery but she will return from the cellar (of my mind?)
Image care of Stuart miles and free digital images. Net

Advertisements




Who doesn’t love a good villain?

5 08 2014

This isn’t a throwaway title. Carefully weighted and judged.

Villains come in many shapes and sizes. I have written before about “black hats” and “pencil moustaches” in the traditional baddie but the thing about most cads and rotters you read about or see in films and on TV is that they have a redeeming feature. Something to hook in the audience.

Is it a tale of an abused childhood to elicit some sympathy and possible empathy?
Is it a love of stroking long haired cats? How can a cat lover be all bad?
Does he love his old mum?
Carry a terrible secret?
Walk with a limp? (A limp what?)

Most villains are written with something good on the side. Something that either gives the reader or the hero some pause to consider the person behind the balaclava mask, the motives for evil.

However, sometimes you find someone without that redeeming feature. You find a villain written as a villain, pure evil, self-centred, careless with the precious world and all else in it. What does the reader do then?

Typically, they will look to empathise, look for something to help understand this bad guy. And if they cannot find it they start making excuses,
…perhaps he???
…surely he must have???
… he’ll be redeemed in the end – just wait and see.

penguin

As a writer I try to give my villains something for the audience to hook in to. Not necessarily something big or obvious since no-one likes being led by the nose! Sometimes however, sometimes, the villain fights back. Sometimes the little bit of good you give them turns out to be a con operated on you as the writer.

Sometimes a bad guy is just that. Bad!





On the corner of Worship St

9 06 2014

I tweeted the other day (@hhcoventry) about the title of a story which came to me whilst walking through Shoreditch in London. It whirled around in my head with various ideas slotting into place. Some I discarded as derivative e.g. where we first met, where she died, where I was born. Some I discarded because they were just a bit shit.

I am a chick-lit writer. It’s in my soul. But there has to be more. My drawer of ideas fills up regularly and so perhaps it is time to consider other genres, other foci and then do a bit more than just consider them. Chick-lit isn’t dying but tastes change and readers are looking for something different.

Chick-lit will continue to be the bread and butter of my life but why not try a different flavour of jam. Suspense, thriller, psychological nightmare horror. All are in the mix but for Worship St I am thinking about a heist.

I do detectives in my chick-lit novels. Chick-lit-dicks as I have called them before. But now it is time to jump to the other side of the fence and stay within the law when solving a mystery. I see a police detective – a woman of course, it’s what I know – with a snitch who hears something about Worship Street in the wind. A half heard conversation. A hard nut vanishes for weeks only to be seen in Shoreditch. Why Worship St? Just a quiet backwater or a cut-through for a security van when the high st is closed for repairs?

I like the idea of fitting a story to a title. That’s why so many competitions do the same in the writing world.

Now I need to decide which one of my creative minds I will task to bring DI Sheila Cooper to life. Make her breathe. Make her strong. Make her love. Make her real!





Cultural references again. Positive stereotypes in your writing

12 05 2014

I talked in a previous blog about the difficulty of finding an innocuous name for your heroine without the baggage of being named for someone famous, someone your readers associate with traits uncommon to your character. Depending on the age and demographic of your readers, Julian could be seen as Clary or Fellowes, Tom could be Cruise or Stoppard, Maria could be playing tennis or singing.
Instead of seeking to avoid falling foul of unwanted associations you do have the option to embrace them instead. Find a big personality, someone everyone knows with unmistakeable mannerisms – then take it to extremes in your writing. Give your character the name Biggins and everyone in the UK has a picture in their head which you can build on. Use Eastwood and you will struggle to distance yourself globally from the hard man of film. So do it! Build a tale around an Eastwood who is struggling against the stereotype but cannot help but slip into character when at parties, to meet girls. The accountant who acts a film star?
If I want a quiet northern girl to blossom in my story perhaps she should be a Miss Horrocks? Victoria W is always telling jokes in her job and seeking a way to perform for a living?
Of course, the difficulty with this is that you may be in danger of being sued if the person you are obviously parodying to extremes is not 1) dead or 2) willing to play along with your libellous words. So, using positive stereotypes may be one only for the braver writer. Perhaps the rest of us should stick with making people up –made from bits and pieces of scores of others, but made up all the same.
If one is a gay comedian or another is a short, religious action hero then it is just a coincidence and any reader wishing to overlay a real person on the loose descriptions I write is welcome to do so. It’s all in their heads anyway!





Product placement in books as well as films

10 10 2013

“Marcia just loved the feeling as the ice cold Coke slipped down her dry throat, lubricating, satisfying, cooling…”

That will be £1,000 please Mr Cola. Please pay by return. Cash preferred! Oh, you’d prefer a pay per book deal, would you? OK. Should we start at 10p per hardback and negotiate from there?

It works for film makers so there must be an argument for it to work for books as well. Should JKR get a slice of the coffee profits next to the Platform 9¾ at Kings Cross? Should Brown get a piece of the tourist pounds spent at the Louvre or Florence? Jodhpur in India is getting a mention in one of my upcoming stories so perhaps if I mention which airline I intend my heroine to travel by could mean a ticket or two wings its way to me.

I do wonder how prevalent it is both in the rarefied heights of the global author meeting global consumer brand but also down at the grass-roots. Local authors are writing by the thousand all the guidebooks, the walking trail maps, the home-town set novellas – do they get the free coffee for mentioning Kiara’s Koffee shop or a pint a day from the “best little pub in Lower Froyle” which a fictional detective likes to frequent?

Alternatively should writers never reference real things, real places, real people? I do it. All the time. I love that I can base my books on real locations, love that readers may come and see where my imagination placed a character. What does it hurt?

Did I mention how much I like Bentleys and Jaguars – fine automobiles all!





Crossing the genre Rubicon

21 09 2013

I write chick-lit and am proud of it! But some people have issues with being typecast into a genre. He only writes westerns, she’s a feminist author, see when his next historic romance is out, M&B weepie etc etc.

Some people get so annoyed with being ‘trapped’ they seek to escape. There are a number of ways of doing this and we can see in the real world that it really works – if you have the skill and talent to get away with it.
• Iain Banks / Iain M Banks – fiction / science fiction
• JK Rowling / Robert Galbraith – fantasy / crime
• Stephen King / Richard Bachman – horror / oh, er, horror

How do they do it though? I am steeped in my genre. I love the ability to hide hard hitting reality under banal conversation and trap readers seeking a sex & shopping moment inside a complex detective story under a chick-lit cover. Chick-lit-dicks satisfy nearly all my needs as a writer because I work at it and make the genre my own.

Crossing into a fantasy world or horror would be a wide river indeed. I would spend my time fearing I was paddling in the Styx rather than the Rubicon. Would all my readers leave me to pay the lonely ferryman as critics pan the attempt to cash in with second-rate output? Or would it be safer to use the pseudonym until it was proved I knew what I was about and could float your boat (perhaps taking the analogy too far?)

Ask a secondary question. Do genres really exist with boundaries we dare not cross?
B*ll*cks to that! I’ll write what I want





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!