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Let the fruit throwing begin!

August 26, 2010

A great title… it bears so little resemblence to my post this week, but it is a colourful idea… (thanks C.J.) Watermellon is big here in Greece and it is such a bright colour!

Well, what would the alternative have been?

A more mundane “FIVE THINGS” I suspect! Anyway, I shall continue!

I can announce that Greece does have the internet… but, after 10 days of burning my fingers out on the keyboard of my laptop, working on the sequel to River of Judgement, I have not been checking my emails as diligently as I should (it is also supposed to be a family holiday!) Quelle suprise! When I came on line this evening, to post the blog I had written poolside this morning, after checking the schedule at the weekend, I had to do a double take! But it is too late now to find a new horse, let alone write a new post, so here goes…

FIVE THINGS (no, not five items of fruit, C.J.!)

Expresso, chilled water, ouzo, good wine and good food…

And…

Company of course, to share all the above!

Such a hard life, writing!

But, as I sit here at the poolside bar in the Eagles Palace Hotel on the Athos peninsular in Greece, on what is the last full day of my summer holiday, I believe I may have that angle covered!

“Five things” the program said… (momentarily in Greece, anyway 🙂 ), more specifically list five things I would wish to see more of, in the genre I write in. I do so love these challenges!

I think I might have mentioned, in a previous post, how I am not a good reader (I read very little, for a writer) and how I tend not to stick to a genre label. I am writing a story about a number of characters in a certain situation. It just so happens that the situation – and its consequences – gives rise to some fundamental characteristics. These characteristics may be shared by others stories and, low and behold, a collection of stories that share enough such characteristics becomes labelled a genre.

My own view is that we are conditioned too much by the process of publishing that, for marketing considerations, is driven by the requirement to segment audiences. Publishing is just like any other industry. It has to follow rules of supply and demand. Market research and segmentation is just another facet of commercialisation that removes the need for people to really think about things! OK… So, we live in the real world, I concede this fact… but where is the art in that?

(As an aside, I feel I may be digressing a little here. Perhaps it is the effect of all the ouzo I have drunk in the last ten days? But, no excuses, I shall return to the focus shortly!)

Which one, Dad?

I asked my young son, Finlay, what he enjoys in the stories he reads… he likes mysteries, and action adventures. He is nine (going on 59) and his reading age is such that the books he has started to read contain profanity, which we have been telling him is wrong! But that is another issue… (Had this post been about five things I would like to see less of in the genre I write in, then I could happily expand this point!)

Finlay’s wish is to see more series. He likes to get to know his characters, and this makes him want to read his books faster so he can find out what the hero is up to in the next one! Maybe this is genetic. His mother (she declined to appear in a photo) gave a similar response when I asked her what she likes in stories – and she reads across multiple genres. Although the series angle was played down, the idea of getting to know the character was certainly important.

Where does that leave me? I used to read, and read a lot. I, too, loved series. (There you go! It is genetic!) Westerns, Sci-fi, James Bond. I loved complicated multi-faceted plot lines. Could I possibly cast my mind back and come up with areas that influence my own writing. Well, for the purposes of brevity, and avoiding further procrastination and digression, here goes, in no particular order of importance…

1) More life in some of the characters.  I am not quite talking of writing that brings characters to life here, though that is also important. (As I said, I would prefer the “less of” rather “more of” approach.) How about more life as in less death? OK, so I am crossing borders between crime, thrillers and such, but, really, do we need quite so many deaths to make a good story? High body counts to me smacks a little of sensationalisation.

2) More mundane events. Mundane? Yes, but I thought thrillers and suspense and crime are all supposed to be the antithesis of the mundane. True, but, again, the less is more approach. Why do the high body counts in many “in-genre” thrillers and crime novels also feature such horrific, mutilations of the victims? Do they all die such horrible deaths? Is every criminal also a sadist? I think not! People do die in crimes; sometimes passion leads to excess, but not all crimes are passionate. Many crimes occur as a consequence of circumstance.

3) More suspense. Most definitely! Especially if I have just reduced the excesses of criminal intent. I want the words on the paper to be put there with a purpose – I want the author to “play” with my mind, to “caress” my thoughts, to enlighten my senses. I want the words to act with subtlety, not shock. Like the chords and melody of music come together to build tension then release, I want the words of the story to do the same. I want each section and chapter and sub-plot to be put together with the same thought… to build tension then release. All the while contributing to a whole, in which the intensity of suspense builds through to the very end.

4) More story telling. OK, someone told me some days ago (and I apologise that I cannot remember who) but the Titanic was built by professionals and the Ark was built by amateurs (oops… wrong “arc” still, it gives me an excuse for a brief diversion). But, please, do give me a meaningful story arc to follow. As with suspense, I believe the concept of a story arc should apply at a levels of good fictional narrative construction. The beginning, the middle, and the end. Like a good rainbow, the story arc should climb (suspensefully, in my case) out of the beginning, and lead my eyes on a journey of wonder through clouds of inspiration, before dropping down to its root in that pot of promised gold! And I do so wish not to be disappointed when I get to the end of the rainbow!

And one for C.J. (smiling, here!)

5) Finally, more plausibility. Unless I am blessed with a visit from the author’s very own muse, to sit on my shoulder and help me translate some of the implausibility gaps, the seemingly impossible transcendences, the missing or unbelievable contexts in which some writing seems to be set in, then the story must lead me, effortlessly from my current place of very real, plausible, existence, into one where I can see all the story elements working together to show my a new reality. Even gothic horror and spiritualism can be handled within a plausible reality. All it requires is a measure of sensitivity on the part of the writer. Good writing will always attract cross-over readers – broadening the audience for readership. And how good will that make you feel?

When someone tells you that they don’t read your genre, but that they couldn’t put your book down, how high will you be flying? And I am not refering to my flight back to London tomorrow morning!

Happy writing and reading 🙂

13 Comments leave one →
  1. August 26, 2010 1:40 am

    Hey David!

    On the whole, you will get no argument from me on those well-thought out, chosen 5.

    I especially loved #4 – and am copying that and sending it to my writer friends. That one was awesome!

    Oh, and tell Finlay with great reading genetics like the ones he has inherited, he’ll always have friends (whether with a book or with people who love books!)

    And next time you are on a ten day Ouzo spree in Greece, the least you can do is invite your blog buddies (especially the dynamic duo on Wednesdays) to join you! (*grin)

    • August 27, 2010 5:45 am

      Thanks, George. Glad you liked the musings! May all your rainbows pass through clouds of inspiration! And end in pots of gold! 🙂

      (Finlay thought having a comment from someone State-side was totaly cool!)

  2. August 26, 2010 3:20 am

    I agree with #1. I get downright upset when an author goes on a killing spree or, worse, kills one of the main characters I have come to love! Alright, so I’m guilty of killing of a character or two myself.

    But what I really hate is when a character *dies* and the comes back to life. PUH-lease! Can we be any less original? Unless we’re dealing with vampires, when a character dies, they need to stay dead. Or else I’m gonna roll my eyes and scoff at the lack of imagination.

    • August 27, 2010 5:50 am

      And there seems to be sooooo much lack of imagination these days! I do have to admit, though, as I sat working on the plot of my sequel this last week or so, one of my main characters did depart – to make way for a new one. My argument for this would be that new characters add freshness to a series but that the number of POVs should be kept to a managable number. For the moment my writing uses three main POVs – any more and I might confuse myself! 🙂

    • August 28, 2010 11:25 pm

      Egad. I’m in trouble.

  3. August 26, 2010 10:23 am

    Okay if that was the case and some said that to me, my feet would never touch the ground..Greece enjoy…

    • August 27, 2010 5:52 am

      It’s happend to me and it is a great feeling! Such a simple comment can be worth more than “another review” from a genre fan.

      Greece was great. I could do with a writing holiday like that to kick start every book!

  4. August 26, 2010 10:28 am

    Great points, David. I agree with all of them as well, especially #1 (The Body Count) and #3 (Suspense). Though I write romance, the H/H relationship is always like a good mystery, and the story arc is similar. The suspense in writing is always what gets me, in fact I often skip over the action scenes: decapitating victims, people being blown up, torn apart. And yet I love True Blood, but think that is just because it’s so over the top. And a little action is okay, especially at the climax if this is a dangerous journey. Harry Potter has tons of tension and danger lurking, but not more than the necessary gory details, thank goodness. Lots of YA books are multilayered, just without all the sex and violence. AND THEY SELL MILLIONS.

    In some romance, if I’ve read a few scenes and I don’t like how the writer writes sex, I’ll even skip over it too. I like the mystery of the relationship and the characters, showing the arc as you’ve so wonderfully put it. I want to see something that shows about the characters and how they are feeling, enriching the plot.

    The arc and the Titanic. Must remember that one. Priceless.

    And George, thanks for putting in a plug for us. One of my all-time favorite trips is a Mediterranean Cruise, and I’ve done it twice. If I get another shot at doing a nice trip like that, the Greek Island cruises sound pretty nice to me…Having lived in half-finished houses for most my 39 years of married life, being waited on hand and foot is still wonderful, especially when the scenery is spectatular.

    • August 27, 2010 6:00 am

      Thanks, Sharon. And I do like the sound of a Med Cruise – though I would probably do that with a bare-boat charter and do the sailing myself! (My sport of choice!) Perhaps chartering a yacht for a writer’s retreat round the Greek Islands would work! 🙂

      I like your comment about skipping action bits. I seem to be developing plots where the action (the death/crime bits) occurs mainly off-set. It seems to work. It probably rules out some of the male readership in my potential audience. Certinly the ones that like the blood and guts action, but I reckon there is still a great market segment left for me to take a crack at!

      • August 27, 2010 7:52 pm

        What’s this? Is David hosting next year’s staff meeting, and it’s in Greece? Cool! C.J., you never said anything about this. This Wicked Writer gig is sure paying off. Thanks, David!
        Thanks for the post, Sir. I join with the others and agree with the five as well. As I prepare to dive one last time into my sequel, I hope I will remember some of those pitfalls, and rock the boat by taking the hard road, rather than the easy, formula-driven ones.
        Sorry your vacation is over.

  5. August 26, 2010 10:51 am

    Great post! I loved your fab five! They really made me stop and think. I agree with them and wonder why the market has gone the way it has. It’s as if the industry wants to compete with the blood and guts action of movies, which is fine in some cases, but not always what a reader is looking for.

    I want suspense, mystery, good characters I can see through many adventures, sex and action — and not necessarily in that order. 😉

    I never understood the formula as it was explained to me – the MCs can’t be married already in a romance, your MC has to “grow” (why can’t it just be a grand adventure!!), the story should contain a moral (um, hello? what decade is this?) and an intense black moment (I needed this one explained to me repeatedly, and I fall back on: GRAND ADVENTURE)

    Cheers, David! Happy writing during the trip home!

    • August 27, 2010 6:06 am

      Hi C.J., like you, I am against the totaly formulaic, although a basic structure is fine. I think the idea is to learn the structure and not be affraid to change it to suit your own goals. I do admit to taking a basic formulaic approach, but the formula is usually lost/hidden/disrupted/amended or otherwise manipulated by the time I get the basic plot conceived. It is a place to start, no more. Like a map to the edge of the place you think you might now – then you are on your own exploring beyond that! THE GRAND ADVENTURE INTO THE SUBLIME (A ball of srting might help if you ever want to come back!) 🙂

  6. August 28, 2010 11:30 pm

    Ouch, David. Some of those points were hitting a little too close to home. I guess I’ll have to make my characters off people with a little less Mack Bolan and a little more James Bond.

    Good points, though. Especially #5. Echoed my blog, but you didn’t have the curse of discovering that I’d already mentioned it because you were enjoying the comforts of Greece. I’m guessing the people there aren’t rioting against the government anymore?

    Enjoy the flight home.

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