A faint singing, half heard

1 11 2015

It wasn’t clear. High pitched, likely children. Girls perhaps? More than one, maybe three. Voices raised hesitantly. Learning a new song, practising?

He walked towards the noise, hoping for clarity but he knew clarity in this tiny mystery would bring no peace, no resolution. 

It was children. He could see them through the bay window, through the gap in the curtains struggling to keep out the darkness, to hold in the warmth of family. He would twitch them if his hand could but pass through the glass. Twitch them  as if a secret watcher standing guard on a lonely residential street. But he was the interloper here and onwards he must go

The piano they’d been standing about in their innocence had triggered a memory. A conversation so long ago. Where she’d gone as a child to find peace. 

Perhaps, just perhaps? 

He turned his face from the warmth and let the cold moonlight caress him. It was as he deserved. 

He searched the rooftop silhouette for God and set his course to his house.  

Advertisements




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





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!





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!





Homophobe or Racist – which do you prefer?

18 09 2013

As a writer you have to live inside other people’s heads for much of your life. I’m a bloke, have been all my life, but I find myself inside the minds of my heroines. The creative mind sits inside someone I will never be – but women (obviously) face many of the same issues as men and I can empathise with many of the others!
In much the same way I sometimes find myself inside a bigot, a rapist, a killer – trying to understand them, trying to make their voices plausible, their actions consistent. And I don’t always know if I am doing it right!
If a bigot hates gays does it follow that he/she also has to have a problem with black people or Jews or the Welsh? If they don’t ‘have to’ be universally bigoted is there somewhere I can go to find out the correlation. Do 90% of KKK members regularly protest against vegans or is it only 5% or not correlated at all? Does the national census track this? Do Which? produce a report? Who knows these things?
I’m being deliberately flippant about this because it is all in my head. If I want to make my baddie even worse I will throw some casual racism into their dialogue because I see that as a bad thing in a person. But if I make them racist can they also be gay – do people with one unjustified subjectively dodgy bias automatically have to have more? Does a homosexual racist criminal have to hate straight people?
Sometimes I think it is better to steer away from such questions but sometimes a writer just can’t. Characters develop with a story and sometimes they aren’t consistent and sometimes, to be blunt, they turn out to be complete b**tards!





Is too much detail drowning your readers?

24 08 2013

How much imagination do you have? How much should I, as a writer, assume you have? Can you see your way through an allusion to an Egyptian deity or are you stumped by a simple simile or metaphor?

I ask because I am intrigued. I read an action book the other day. Non-stop rollercoaster ride of guns, explosions, capture and miraculous escape, mysteries quickly solved and a handsome, strong, lucky and brilliant hero (with obligatory wise-cracking sidekick). I turned my imagination off and just read and read and read and it was great.

Then I opened the book at random and read a page or two critically. Do I need to know the exact engine specification of the Bentley Continental or just that it is big and black? Does it help me visualise the action? Do I need to exact model of the gun, the specification of the telescopic sight or a comment on the range and capabilities? It was a sniper rifle handled by an expert marksman – they wouldn’t choose a toy cap gun would they?

Perhaps I’m being overly cynical. I don’t tend to give too much detail – just enough, I think, to let readers make their own pictures in their minds. Which is the right way to do it? Are my books too hard to read and put people off or are his too easy to read and … put people off?

Each to their own. Each genre has its own requirements. I didn’t think the nameless action book was a literary masterpiece but I did think it was a cracking read.

But I will only read it once!





Topical fiction – It’s Alive! Alive, I tell you!

21 08 2013

Sometimes an author gets lucky! They’ll be beavering away, writing hard about, say, a dark psychological view of a man’s twisted world. Then they’ll be taking a break and see on the TV news that their anti-hero was real. There was someone out there who’d just been caught doing exactly the same thing. Something that some in the real world would call a crime!

Two things would run through that author’s mind. Firstly – they are not alone in the dark. Second – is this prime publicity for their book?

Is it? Should he quickly finish it off, even if second rate finishing, just to get it out in time to get some fillip from the fourth estate, ride some wave of rich ghoulish publicity? Or should he continue on his way, writing what he wants to write – perhaps taking some elements of reality into fiction – but not letting the world’s priority impact his inner creative urgency?

A third thought comes…

This was a particularly dark tale from suburban American. If he doesn’t get the book out soon, will some pulp fiction author steal his thunder with a piece of reality-based-fiction and leave him with only the dregs and reputation as a coat-tail-hanger, a genre-stealer?

No – if the public want tales from beneath ground level, they’ll get what they want!