Friday, 19 February 2021

A spark of an idea

 In this quiet time  it can't hurt to revise some of the generally accepted rules of writing good fiction. The tips I have gleaned over the last decade are not intended as Rules To Be Obeyed by any means. Sometimes I need a refresher and to remember that a story may start with no more than a spark of an idea and a living character. Though characters rarely come fully formed,  they can be built. What is needed?

Personality
Abilities/disabilities
History, hang ups and goals
Relationship to career/house/city/weather/ traffic and of course
Relationships past and present to family, friends, lovers and pets.
An attitude to love and marriage.

If you have all those fixed in your mind, then what does the story need?

A plot goal and an opening conflict or problem
Obstacles between the characters and their goals
A setting - and, of course, the character's attitude to that setting.

Then there is Motivation

The Hero/Heroine should have one major motivation driving them (The Prime Motivating Force)
It is often linked to a dramatic incident in their past and goes without saying that for a Romance and possibly every other genre the Hero/Heroine need conflicting goals

I often need to remind myself that one thing should not overpower everything else. For example, I have been reading a thriller set in Rome and I found myself getting very irritated - or perhaps bored is a better word - by the amount of words devoted to Rome itself. Since I have never been, the names of streets or buildings mean nothing to me and I felt the author had let his love of setting overpower the
story. 

Sunday, 14 February 2021

Too much gore?

 I have just discovered Val McDermid. 

I know she's been writing for years, but I haven't been into thrillers at all until recently. And I especially like psychological thrillers. I always veered toward historical/historical romances and ignored the rest. OK, I read Ian Rankin for his Rebus stories. And then I discovered Peter May and his Lewis and Enzo stories. But slowly over the last couple of years - partly because I couldn't find a decent historical I hadn't read, because thrillers they are so easy to get on Kindle and there are so many of them  - I started looking at thriller titles.

I'm still picky. I tried and abandoned some of the younger thriller writers who have shot to the top of the Kindle sales charts. Characters I don't like, settings I find depressing, poor language and some that are very readable but instantly forgotten - I worked my way through them and have finally found a writer I like. Chilling, perhaps, but that is to be expected in murder stories so I can't really complain about that. But too much gore I will avoid. I have a good imagination, and don't need blood and guts splashed across every page. A threat, a darkened room, a stealthy sound.... my muscles tense and I glance over my shoulder.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Veterinary Blues

 45 minutes to get to Hexham this morning on very snowy roads so that Tim could have his scan. There was good news - no sign of stones forming, so the allopurinol can be reduced. Another scan in March just to check that the lower dosage is not allowing stones to form and then perhaps we'll be in the clear. Or rather, Tim will be.

While we waited for him we walked around Hexham. Hardly anywhere open, so no coffee and scones at Mrs Miggins Tea Room to while away the time. I was wearing wellies and due to two or three inches of snow my feet were freezing when we got back to the car, so I opted to go down the hill to Tesco. At least it would be warm there, and sure enough, after ten minutes my feet were back to normal. Even Tesco was quiet, the car park  mostly untrodden snow. Hardly got in there before the phone was ringing to say come and pick up your dog. (He howls once the sedation wears off, so they don't keep him long! Our Tim is a bit of a diva, if that term can be applied to a male dog.) 

Snow may look attractive but it plays havoc with getting anywhere in this country.


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Second edition of Abduction

 Two young Englishmen plan to abduct the infant Scots Queen from Stirling Castle. The executioner's scaffold awaits them if they fail. The times are dangerous. Scotland is unstable, heretic England fears invasion from Catholic Europe. Headstrong Meg Douglas offers help but secretly works to secure her own reward. Minor characters are beautifully portrayed in this romantic adventure; the anxious Dowager Queen of Scotland, fearful for her child's safety and a subtle negotiator in a man’s world; Lord Lennox, keen to make the best marriage he can amidst changing allegiances and ambitious nobles; and that bull of a man, Archie Douglas, sixth Earl of Angus, desperate for a son from his pregnant, teenage wife. Best of all is Matho, the likeable, rather diffident young Englishman who meets the love of his life on his first important mission.

I have completely revised and edited the story I published in 2014 as Abduction of the Scots Queen.  Now it is shorter, sharper and so much better for the pruning. The cover pleases me more than the old ones, though I thought they were fine at the time. The truth is I have learned how to do more with Photoshop! 

Now I shall start work on the second and third stories in the series.