Tag Archives: walruss

Writing – art imitating life.

Romeo! Romeo! Hurry up it’s fucking draughty up here!

This has the potential to be a slightly embarrassing subject for me, but I thought I’d go for it anyway. I have this mole…

I don’t have a mole. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but I use humour as a defence mechanism. Seriously. Only last week I smacked a burglar with a joke book…

That didn’t happen. Anyway, this could go one of two ways. Other writers could read this and say “actually, I do that too” or there could be some pointing and laughing involved. Either way, I would strongly advise you to consider trying your hand at a little acting.

Dialogue can be tricky because these characters don’t speak like you, they are NOT you (at least not all of them) and their dialogue has to flow naturally. It has to feel real; it has to sound like the sort of thing a person might say at that moment and in that context. Darth Vader’s famous, “No. I am your father,” line is a fantastic example. This is a PIVOTAL moment in that movie and the franchise as a whole and, I’d be willing to bet, one of the most commonly (and incorrectly) quoted lines of dialogue of all time. Spot the difference a moment:

“No. I am your father.”

“Actually you labour under a misapprehension. It is I that must claim parental responsibility.’

How shit does that second one sound? Of course, no-one would have written that line of dialogue and it’s an over-blown example of what I mean, but what if it was a close run thing? What if it was a tossup between that and “I did not kill your father. I AM your father.” That’s not half bad, but which is more natural? Which sounds like a retort and which one sounds like a carefully prepared line? See, the line was spontaneous. Darth didn’t sit up all night, looking in the mirror and going over the possibilities for when he bumped into his son. “Actually, funny story… no, that’s not right. Your father is I! No no no, that’s not it! PUT THAT LIGHTSABRE DOWN AND GO TIDY YOUR FUCKING ROOM! Is that something a father would say? Oh I don’t know… maybe I should ask Palpatine…”

He had it in mind that now was the time to do the big reveal, but that line was delivered like a blade. In that moment, with Luke at his mercy, he finished the deal with five words that lead to the girliest scream in cinematic history. That line is perfect in that context and as such, it is one of the most easily recognisable lines ever delivered, even to people born years after the first three films were made.

Now, my characters are somewhat… caustic. My universes are unforgiving and the trials I put my protagonists through… horrible. These people are hammered by life in a way that I simply can’t relate to off the top of my head all the time so I’ve gotten used to saying “right, that doesn’t work” and acting the lines out to my shadow like a scene partner. Sure, you feel like a bit of a prick at first (I don’t do this when anyone is around) and it’s so tempting to scream “Gimme the keys you fucking cock-sucker-mother-fucker-aaaaaaaaargh!” but once I’ve had a few moments, I can usually tell whether or not something works. Has the speaker just been punched in the face? Trying delivering that long line while cradling your swollen jaw. Try speaking at length when you’re gasping for breath after a run. Trying firing that retort quickly and seeing how it feels.

Of course our protagonists have the luxury that everything they say has already been filtered by you, the writer, so it isn’t as spontaneous as it sounds, but believe me, this is a fantastic way to make it sound the way you want it to. Soon enough you’ll be able to get right into that character’s shoes without having to do any amateur dramatics at all, but it’s a great technique to refer back to.

Other than dialogue, I would definitely recommend this for fight scenes. I have the luxury of a modest degree of fighting ability and a comfortable knowledge of technique, so I know roughly what moves link one to another. Most of you with common sense will have worked out that you generally can’t deliver a knock-out blow as you’re flying backwards away from the target. You know that if you’ve taken a knee to the stomach you are NOT likely to do much more than go WOOMPH and bend over like an enthusiastic soap hunter, unless you have justified such a capability within the story.

Stand up and act out each strike, block, parry and counter attack in super-slow-motion and see if it’s possible. Go through the motions, make it real and be rewarded by breathing a shit-load of realism into your work. Watch UFC videos on Youtube, do your research and you won’t go far wrong. Prime example: elbow strikes. Seen those in movies, where a guy gets six elbows to the face in quick succession and stumbles back but, unbleeding, continues to fight? Bullshit. Think of the skinniest, least threatening kid at your school and think of the toughest. That kid, connecting ONE solid elbow to the face, probably just won that fight. No shit you have NO IDEA how much power a knee or elbow can deliver and believe me, you want to find out by watching it happen to someone else or not at all.

That’s it for today so the message is this: learn by doing. Sure you’ll feel a right prat if someone walks in and catches you at it, but hey… I bet there’s a least one thing you do regularly that you wouldn’t want to be caught doing and at least this is productive…


Progress report on “Spares” and the following novel.

Well I’ve been busy, to say the very least. The novella is very nearly complete and I am simply awaiting feedback from a couple of truly wonderful people (cheques are in the mail, honest) before I can get it totally polished, completed, formatted and ready to publish, which I intend to do via the self publishing route.

Other projects have been leaping up and down in my field of vision but I’ve swatted those aside in favour of going straight into the novel itself, so that when I come to actually publish the novella the novel will be very much in progress. I get the feeling that it won’t take too long to write either, given the level of information and inspiration I have for this book, and I hope to be able to make it available to agents and publishers at some point in either late 2012 or early 2013. The novella will be on sale and will serve as an introduction to the world I’ve created but, of course, the novel will be written in such a way that you won’t have to have read the novella for it all to make sense. I’m doing this in the main to ensure that when I approach an agent or publisher, they won’t be given a product that makes no sense without something published elsewhere, from which they will possibly never see a penny. If I can persuade them to include it as a promotional download or similar than I will, because the novella is a story in its own right and adds something to the story, but no-one’s going to be scratching their heads if they don’t ever see it.

Cool, huh?

In the meanwhile I’m busily planning away and have the beginning of the novel plotted and ready for writing, shifting everything forward several years and shifting the focus of the novel away from the first person and into more familiar third person territory.

Over the next few months I’ll keep you all posted with updates, samples and any news I have about the progress of the novella reaching the weird, digital shelves of Amazon and the like.

You never know, this could just work.

Here’s to the future.

Well, my novella is basically finished from a writing point of view. Sure it needs further editing and this may or may not require a certain degree of rewriting once it’s back from the beta readers, but the story is there. It needs tweaking and finishing but it’s back onto the back-burner for a while as I await the judgement of my fellows, and that means that I have to get on with some other projects.

Now with regards the novella, I do have a comment and a slight retraction to make. I’m not going to be giving it away. I’ve listened to a great deal of feedback from people who think it’s a good idea and those who hate the idea, and given the time to mull it over I’ve sided with those who believe that you shouldn’t give your work away. I place a fairly high value on my own work, possibly through a certain degree of artistic arrogance, and I believe that the story is worth a small amount of your hard earned money. If this annoys, upsets or pisses anyone off (which I doubt, I’ve got a blog readership of about six people) then I apologise, but them’s the breaks I’m afraid. I could have just deleted the post where I discussed this, but at least I’m being honest with you.

Right, and on to the projects.

First of these is a novel set in a less futuristic setting, one that I’ve had bubbling away in the back of my head for some time. It’s a quest based story (groooooan) but one with a little potential I think, and it feels a bit like a process that I need to go through in order to improve my writing. There are many, many linear quest based novels out there and that style is perhaps a little over done in the genre, but as with anything else the real test is to do it and to do it well. Yes it involves a small group out to journey across the world, uncover secrets and some horrible truths and ultimately take down a powerful witch. Yeah yeah, yawn yawn fucking yawn, but you’ll just have to trust me on this, it will not suck and you will enjoy it.

After this will come the novel length sequel to the novella “Spares” which will take the concept, setting and characters and go large scale with it, hopefully with the view to be pimped out to publishers as soon as it’s reached an acceptable level of quality.

I have other plans beyond this, including but not limited to a vampire story (by the time it’s done people will be receptive to a genre faithful tale rather than one that tears up the rulebook for kicks and crowd pleasing) and one that I started and put back down, featuring the angelic hosts and the Grim Reaper.

Throw into the mix my potential (but unconfirmed) attempts to gain access to the Black Library’s open submissions window and I’ve got a busy few years ahead of me. I’m still not decided on whether or not I want to continue the pursuit of writing in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K universes, but I’m not ruling it out. This isn’t to sound arrogant or dismissive but success with them would mean a greatly increased workload, which would by necessity mean pushing my other projects into the background in the meanwhile. Now obviously success is far from assured and is indeed quite unlikely for a huge number of reasons, but only a complete dickhead would approach something like that without attempting to succeed and consideration as to what that would actually mean.

I have a lot to think about it would seem, not least of which being finishing this blog post and doing something more productive.



I just couldn’t ask for something without offering something in return…

So, I’ve got a plan…

How does a novella sound to you? Specifically, how do you like the sound of a novella that will cost you absolutely nothing to buy, is yours to keep and to pass around with the only requirement upon yourself to be a gentleman’s agreement that you will pass it on, will tell other people about it and perhaps (if you would be so kind) use your own blog, Facebook page or Twitter account to link back to here? Sound good? Sound fair? Then please, read on…

I am a wannabe. There really are no two ways about it, I’m a gainfully employed wannabe-writer who isn’t actually employed as a writer and, like many others, I have a dream. That dream is to gain a readership, to write books and stories that people love and to be worshipped for it. Well alright, not worshipped, but the odd “Nice one, dude! Would you sign my face?” wouldn’t go amiss, nor would enough money to purchase the odd bottle of JD and to keep myself in biros and notebooks. I’m not seeking fame, fortune or glitz and glamour, but I am looking to get my name out there as a writer and be taken sort-of seriously, or at least as seriously as my writing deserves. And this is where all of you (that’s like, what, six people?) come in.

I got to thinking recently about how to get my name out there, how to garner interest in my stories and how to pimp myself in general without involving money, agents or having to quit my job. Don’t look at me like that, I’m a parent and have certain responsibilities that my wife has kindly informed me I’m not allowed to shirk. So there. What I’ve decided on, with no input from anyone else so it’s bound to be a bad idea, is that I am to become a garage band. Or rather, the literary equivalent. Way back when, before you would get sued so hard your balls would turn to raisins and you would crumple into a pathetic heap of dust, people would record themselves as best they could afford, hastily cobble together some “artwork” (bribe an arty type and take the result to the nearest photocopier) and pass around the resulting tape at their gigs in the full knowledge that it would be copied, passed around and with it the name of the band would spread. Of course this means that if the novella stinks, my name either won’t go far or it will go a long way with the suffix “is a talentless bellend.” That’s a risk I’m willing to take as I have a lot of faith in this story and the novel(s) that will follow on from it.

So, in the next month or so, once the edit is complete and I’ve done the aforementioned cobbling of artwork, a link will be appearing here, there and everywhere for my novella, currently going by the working title of “Spares.” A full teaser, blurb and sneak-peak at the cover will be posted in the run up to the day when I freely give away something that has been very close to my heart for the last few months.

I’d love to have you onboard.