Note: This Post Originally featured on the WickedWriters Blog… http://thewickedwriters.blogspot.com/
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…
Company of course, to share all the above!
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!)
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!
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