Anybody under the age of, say, twenty five, might be unaware of the milkman. They may only know them, at best, from old TV shows or as passing references made by their elders. The chances are that the under twenty fives will have never even seen a milkman in the wild. All they’ve ever known is milk from a plastic carton, emblazoned with the logo of whichever supermarket it happens to have been bought from. They won’t have known of glass milk bottles, which I have to say were much more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones because they could be reused, and they won’t know about milk floats, those ridiculously slow, elongated golf buggy type things which the mythical milkman used to pootle around in. Is this a shame? It depends on your point of view.
Aunt Mable started out life as a joke, a portrait of an ugly woman whom nobody had seen for years. This portrait would always appear in some irrelevant incident, as a kind of Easter Egg. In a previous draft of Eboracvm she fell down the stairs and broke. In The Rebels she was found hanging upside down, exactly like the old bat she is. Her earliest appearance was my first attempt at writing Cythry, a book called Satan Claws. She dislodged herself from over the fireplace in an effort to throw in some foreshadowing, a portent of doom. I never had any intention of having her actually appear. She was to remain only as a portrait, a mystery to the reader with only vague hand waves as to who she was. That is no longer the case.
Once upon a time the history books largely ignored the common, ordinary man. They were all about kings and princes and the rise and fall of nations, the grand sweep of history it is known as. The ordinary man never got a look in. Gradually, however, new ‘schools’ of history emerged that focused on other areas, most specifically on the ordinary man. He, the ordinary man, now forms an integral part of what we refer to as ‘social history.’
As a writer it is of vital importance to know when the thing you are writing, or even have finished writing, isn’t working. I don’t refer here to those moments of doubt, where you think something is a bit rubbish. That feeling of doubt is normal and usually should be ignored. What I mean is when something really isn’t working, when the characters are flat and unlikable, when the story is going up the wrong alley or if things are getting a bit too complicated, if there’s too much to the story. In all creative professions self-criticism is just as necessary as external criticism and it is wise to pay attention to both, up to a certain point. When you’re in the throes of a mad writing passion self-criticism is pretty much all you have and your critical thinking skills need to be good enough to allow you take a momentary step backwards and to help you notice when you have a problem.