Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Novel Endings

I finally got to the end of Dickens 'Little Dorrit 'and whereas I prefer to close a book with a deeply satisfied sigh, I was left wanting. All the nice little parcels of conclusion were not fully tied with ribbons of closure, which was a first for a Dickens novel. I still had a bad taste of painfully-true seedy characterisation in my mouth and the good guy had to suffer the idiots around him way beyond what I expected.

Its been a week for deep thinking. First I had 'The Tree of Life' to twist my noggin and then as a complete contrast I watched 'Dinner with Schmucks.' At one point I cried with laughter once I'd gotten through all the slapstick and into the zany meal scene, one even Monty Python would have been proud of. But, again I had a bitter taste in my mouth having balked at the premise of a meal to which idiots were invited and then ridiculed under the banner of 'unusually talented.'

My next viewing choice then took me to Britain's Got Talent and I at first thought how the only thing in common with the previous film was David Walliams before realising there was more to it than that. The audience bayed for the idiots who arrived on stage convinced of a serious talent or so caught in ego that everything they did was rose-coloured.

So - endings? Do I really want my reading novels tied up with neat little bows? Do I want to share my dinner table with highbrow, like-minded people? Do I want the shining talent to always win? Truthfully - no.

Little Dorrit couldn't have ended with the complete satisfaction of A Christmas Carol. Dinner with Schmucks? - who were the Schmucks exactly? And, BGT? - without idiots it would be boring. I concluded that I had worked myself into a rut lately and it was time I mixed things up a little.

I was taught to think of Easter as an ending followed by a new meaningful beginning and with Spring now rapidly running away from me then it is time that I too had a new beginning. You may notice a few changes to my website and social media outlets during the next few weeks.
Easter 2014, so what's next?


Friday, 11 April 2014

Beware of Writer's Rules

Every few weeks I come across a fresh list of writer's rules published in a periodical or on the Internet. I always read them and then find I'm questioning what I do and how I do it, maybe not such a bad thing but definitely not good when I'm in the middle of writing a chapter.

However, there are other considerations and so I decided to pen my own rules with tongue in cheek.

1.  Moving ones butt - writing is bad for physical health and although I have heard of authors who stand up when writing it is always better to encourage endorphin production through some good old-fashioned regular exercise, plus it helps the thinking process.

2. Watch for a drinking problem - no I don't mean alcohol! Tea and coffee can become a vital part of the writing process and you'll know you have a problem when you are awash with caffeine or somebody asks you if you've been using shampoo with tea extract in it.

3. Try to look interested when a new acquaintance tells you that they always meant to write - becoming a writer means that suddenly everyone you know or meet has that "one novel" in them.

4. Be more self-aware - during conversations it is easy to stare into aimlessly into space whenever a new idea takes hold. It is also disconcerting when you are very attentive and suddenly start watching the other person's every move because they have something you can use.

5. You are expected to say something interesting - part of the territory.

6. Sleep - When you are on a roll, it is difficult to settle down and if you are not on a roll then your mind wanders.

7. Posture - slumped in your favourite comfy chair or over a laptop plays havoc with your back. Sit up and don't play balancing acts.

8. Wondering back to your favourite place - it's easy to say to yourself: "I can write without constraint when I sit here." Get out of your comfort zone.

9. Do word counts and chapter lengths really matter? Don't become OCD about them. Write and then pick up on them during rewrites.

10. Beware of writer's rules - If you want to write according to someone else's formula then join a class. Rules are there to be broken!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

When the fog lifts

This is the second day of highly polluted fog over the UK and as I gaze out from my balcony at the murkiness below just one thought comes into my mind. It is a thought I once had and was reminded of this week.

The fog from my balcony this morning
'Silk', a UK legal drama ended this week. It does not have the tongue-in-cheek humour or quirkiness of the US 'Suits' or 'The Good Wife', it has a heady reality and its protagonist Martha Costello kept me enthralled for all 3 series. She is a strong Northern woman with the heart of a lion and the temerity of a champion for the underdog and it ended quite unexpectedly. Her colleagues continued their chosen path, one slowly drowned it in drink and another reluctant to let go of the only path he ever knew, but Martha? She woke up.

There comes a point in real life when the whirlwind of a high-pressure career is blown away by something quite unexpected. All the relentless striving, effort, sacrifice in the pursuit of personal satisfaction or doing 'what's right' is swallowed by the politics of the workplace or that once-loved whirlwind becomes a treadmill and your feet so used to walking, it was never noticed. For those without the reward of self-satisfaction or stuck in a job out of necessity then the treadmill was always there and difficult not to notice but, with a whirlwind or not, the sudden monotonous whine of the treadmill awakens a part of you that has slept in ignorance.

"Is this me?"
"Is this all that I am?"

This epiphany, this absolute conviction that you have missed something along the way is difficult to live with if you do not pay heed.

Looking out into the fog, covering the farmland, distant hills and tree tops I usually see from my balcony, I remembered the expression on Martha's face when she awoke to her epiphany, her absolute conviction. It was the same expression I once saw on my face when I turned off my work laptop at the office and caught a glimpse of it in the black lifeless screen. It was the same expression I saw on Sam Tyler's face at the end of 'Life on Mars' (UK series).

How many of you said as a child: "I want to be....a fireman / ballerina/ pop-star / artist / daredevil stunt-driver.... "?
How many of you did it? If so, then congratulations - was it really all you ever wanted it to be?
How many of you put away your childish things and dreams?

Fog can be cold, damp and cheerless or a muffler, a cosy blanket to disguise what is really there - I do hope it lifts soon.