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!

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Ebbs and flows in writing output

28 07 2014

You’ll have noticed the clever name of my blog site. “Writer’s Blog”. It’s a pun you see, a play on words. Writer’s Blog = Writer’s Block. (I know you know this but in case one or two people missed it thought I would spell it out – it’s not a great pun, not a classic)

It’s funny though. (not the pun, obviously!). It’s funny that since I started blogging last year I have mentioned writer’s block only once. In passing. In a blog about something else.

Why?

I do believe in it. Can’t deny it. Sometimes a story just doesn’t want to come, a character seems to suddenly not have the capability, the capacity, to escape from the situation they have got themselves into. How do they get out of the locked cellar, get away from the man with the big chopper and black balaclava? They don’t have the skills and suddenly giving them a Houdini backstory without at least a couple of signposts earlier on will stretch reader credibility. More importantly, it will stretch the picture you carry in your head of your hero/heroine.

They have to be real.

But that’s for another blog. For now I give you my solution to writer’s block. It’s not advice, self help, guidance counselling. It’s just what I do.

I open my mouth and speak aloud and tell, just TELL, my subconscious to get on with it and find a solution. I tell it three times. Think about it hard for a minute or two to reinforce the need.
Then
Forget
All
About
It

And so a write something else, read a paper, cut the grass. Anything!

If it is only a minor problem I might carry on with other aspects of the story but if it’s a biggie I’ll just let my mind get on with it and eventually I will stop chewing mid-muffin and know the solution.

I suppose this isn’t pure writer’s block when nothing will come out but that has only happened once and that REALLY is “a HH Coventry revelation” for another day.





The short story – cut to the bone

13 07 2014

I love a good short story. I dabble with them but never overly seriously, never competitively. I see them as an excellent way to practise the art of writing small. If you want a novel to read well you should write it as a short story is, one with a word limit. Cut every extraneous word, slice them to the bone. Flowery prose is fine if intentional but lazy writing is just that.

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

My blogs are quite flowery. I don’t slice them as thinly as I do my fiction, don’t spend the hours honing. It’s nice occasionally just to write, cast a single eye over it for obvious errors, then release to the four winds. Typos happen, using which instead of that, practise instead of practice (US readers won’t understand this one), me and I and has and have etc etc etc

But the short story takes a bloody great chainsaw to that. This blog would probably be summed up as “His short stories are better” but that doesn’t give the meat, the fat, the gristle, the wart on the chin with hairs coming out.

I was never into short story competitions but see them cropping up more and more. Read about the HG Wells Festival in Folkestone the other day (https://twitter.com/HGWellsfestival) . Not my geographical patch but the name caught my eye as it would any writer. I don’t think I’ll enter but I have suggested to a few of my mentees they consider it. Interrupt their novel writing and have a crack at something different. “Perhaps write a story whilst populating the head of one of your characters”, I said.

What kind of short story would Robert Langham, Harry Potter or even Han Solo write? Symbols, wands and blasters.





When is a small car not a small car?

8 07 2014

I’m having a break from writing about writing. With a novel put to bed I am in short story mode for a while so my mind flits and floats like a dandelion seed.

I had a Mini once. A proper one. Old style. It said Leyland on the front and was bright yellow. Like the one in the picture I found on t’interweb attached. Loved it.

yellow mini

It was small, tiny, mini.

I saw a similar one in the street yesterday. Parked next to one of the new Mini Countryman. That isn’t mini, isn’t tiny. It’s f*ing huge.

big mini - little mini

I can see the lineage but really, I mean really? It just isn’t ‘mini’ at all. Nothing is mini.
Sure it’s a good car and all. Sure it is fun to drive and has all mod cons. But it isn’t a mini.
This isn’t a rant from a car purist. I’m not saying they should scrap the millions of perfectly good cars. I’m just pointing out the use of the word mini is a bit “trade description”!

As for the Fiat 500 L where L is for Long. Don’t make me go there.





Cleat Update

4 07 2014

They’ve arrived. Shoes and pedals on separate days but they have arrived. Tried the shoes on. Very tip tap tap. Feel like Bruce Forsyth on stage – but without the annoyingness.

Pedal spanner ready. I’m going for it.

I’m excited. You’re probably a bit bored and just looking forward to me falling slowly sideways whilst being watched by a pretty blonde in a convertible. It could happen. This is the place to be if you want to know where and when I fall – for fall I will!

Chocs away!





To cleat or not to cleat

30 06 2014

fallen rider in cleats

fallen rider in cleats

cleatsA diversion in my blogging to consider cycle cleats. I am a cyclist. For pleasure, exercise, to get away from the blank page staring at me. I like the freedom of the open road, the danger of the ever-menacing tosser-late-for-a-meeting and the feel of the blood pumping.

Then a hill appears, or a long gradual incline. It’s fine. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wimp out immediately, switch to granny ring (low low gear) and dawdle along like a toddler learning to walk. I still go for it, push on and up. But I’ve been told there’s a better way.

I don’t have a racing bike. Well, I do, but the shifters are on the frame rather than the handlebars and it is a tad awkward so I use a mountain bike. I have knobbles for the mud and wheels with hybrids for the low rolling resistance on road. I don’t, however, have cleats.

I’ve always used flat pedals. Never bothered looking at other things. Upgraded everything else but pedals are just for sitting your feet on.

I’ve bought cleats. I’ve bought shoes with clicking soles but not for the stage. They’re in the post, winging their merry way to me. I’m eager and nervous. It’s like a first date. Will it be a massive disappointment or the start of something big?

Watch this space and I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks.





I’m so vain, I bet I think that shelf is about me!

26 06 2014

bookshelf
Is it vain? Is it a sin to be proud of your achievements? I go to friends’ houses and see proud displays of the children’s degree certificates, sporting trophies, awful daubs and I wonder if my shelf is viewed as self-promotion, self-obsession or just natural. Should a grown man be proud enough of his achievements to dedicate a shelf or two of a prominent bookcase to his own output?

I don’t think it’s so bad. I am proud and it’s not a sin. Nor is it a ‘vanity bookshelf’ as one journalist once cuttingly called it. I am what I am and what I am is just a writer. I don’t do sport (unless wobbling across Surrey hills trying not to fall over when I can’t loosen the cleats counts), I don’t paint, and education was a long time ago. I write and haven’t done at all badly at it.
I don’t have pictures glad-handing the PM or a B-list celeb on the wall. That puts me one up on some vain sods in my view!

PS Apologies (and credit) to Carly Simon for the title and to Jerry Herman for the steal half way through.