The police seized my light bulbs this morning. At 4 a.m officers from the serious crime squad broke down my door and my smart LED lightbulbs dutifully switched on, allowing London’s finest to see where they were pluck them all from their sockets in a matter of minutes.
I was forced to switch on my dumb bedside lamp to read the warrant they thrust at me. Blah blah they had the right to seize my lightbulbs and download the bulbs activity logs, recently bumped up from a 24hr rotation and deletion cycle to a 12 month retention cycle by legislation rushed through by our surveillance happy government.
One way to try and break my alibi; perhaps I had thought to program my TV to switch on and play a football match to prove I was at home, but had I remembered to tell my lights to switch on too?
The coppers left and my kettle asked me if I wanted tea as I stumbled bleary eyes into my kitchen and threw the warrant onto my table, which scanned the warrant and uploaded a copy to a server. My kettle had detected five people in the flat – me and the now departed police – and filled itself with enough water to make five cups.
“Judas,” I said, and my mobile rang Julian. I pulled the phone from my pocket and cancelled the call. He was the last person I needed to speak to right now.
1. Move and keep moving. Tell the story you want to tell without shilly-shallying around. Move your characters out onto the board, get them into interesting situations, and have them do big, consequential things as early as you can. Then, continue making situations interesting, and keep the big, consequential actions coming.
Note: Strong characters who assess, decide, and react quickly are especially good for holding the reader’s attention. Our eyes are naturally drawn to objects in motion.
2. Make it consequential. To the greatest extent possible, have later events be caused or motivated or shaped by earlier ones. Every causal or consequential link you can build into the story is a steel cable holding your narrative together. When you can’t find any way to link an event via consequence, see whether you can link it thematically to what has gone before.
3. Recycle your characters. Give preference to characters already used in earlier episodes, or to characters connected with them, when you’re peopling later events. Characters are made more interesting by being reused, and it increases the overall consequentiality of the story. One-time single-purpose characters are occasionally necessary, but they don’t support as much weight.
Cherish your good secondary characters. They’re infinitely useful.
4. See if you already have one. Whenever you need something new — prop, plot thread, setting, minor character — go back through the parts of the story you’ve already written and see whether you can find it there. It’s surprising how often the exact thing you need is already sitting there in plain sight.
August 7, 2011 by wetwebworkComments Off on Writing…
I think it was Jeff Atwood who wrote about sharing something he had written with someone at work and having them recoil in horror*. So when people ask to read something I’ve written, I’m generally reluctant. I don’t think I’ve lived that an outrageous a life, so when writing I write what I know about and push it. Spin it beyond the acceptable. It’s fiction. It’s a chance to explore ideas and topics and things I wouldn’t want to explore in real life. So while a short story may have a character that sounds like me, it’s not me. As every book and TV show and film states: All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. But people read it and see you. They think the character represents ideas you hold.
I also used to casually throw up short pieces on the interweb without a care back in the day. One was a review of a stay in a cell in Lavender Hill Police Station. Some years later I had an email from a policeman who worked at the Police Station at the time that piece was set. It’s a wide world, but a small one too.
Anyways, this long pre-amble is a way of hopefully pre-empting any fallout from posting a few pieces I’ve written on this site**. Take them as you find them, but take them as fiction.
Update: Finally got round to rescuing a small selection, find them under “Writing“.
*I did search for it, couldn’t find it, you may continue the search because Jeff’s site is generally brilliant so even if you don’t find what you’re looking for, you find something worth looking for. And that’s why I stopped searching, I wanted to write this, not get distracted.
**Yes, now I need to get around to posting them. Did I mention I have two sons, play in a band, am currently working on a game covering the “Arab Spring”, work as a developer for advertising agencies, and – shit – have a gig next Saturday and should really have picked up a guitar recently? That’s another way of saying “don’t hold your breath”. I’ll get to it, just so much to do…