I’m in the mood for some experimentation right now and feel like trying to write new things. So how about a couple of recipes from the heart of my own literary universe?
In June of 1283 Dafydd ap Gruffydd was captured by the invading army of Edward I. Thanks to a betrayal by Einion. Bishop of Bangor, he and his family had been discovered at a place called Nanhysglain, allegedly somewhere close to the rocky mountain of Bera Mawr, in the Carneddau region of Snowdonia.
This scant patch of detail is pretty much all that the internet can tell us about the capture of Dafydd, the last true Prince of Wales. One or two places mention that Dafydd was injured in the capture or that the area he was hiding in was boggy, but little else. For myself, what irritates the most is that there is no mention of where precisely Nanhysglain was, or even what it was. There are almost no details about Nanhysglain whatsoever. Continue reading “Looking For Nanhysglain”
I would like to introduce you to a new set of short stories: Requiem. How many there will be, I don’t know, maybe four, possibly five. Maybe more. They can each be read individually but there is also an overarching narrative linking them all. We shall begin here, in the desert scrublands of West Africa…
Things were going from bad to worse for John Major. Though Labour’s lead in the polls had been slashed, it was still well in advance of the Conservative’s position. There was little hope that they could retain power at the next general election. The government majority, which had been at ten, was being eroded by a series of defections and by-election defeats. They lost all but eight councils in that year’s local elections and the party was rocked by numerous divisions, especially over Europe, and by a continuing series of scandals. Future prospects were bleak. In an attempt to reunite his party Major resigned as leader of the party, igniting a leadership election between himself and the recently resigned Secretary of State for Wales, John Redwood, the only other candidate to put themselves forward. Continue reading “1995: The Enemy Within | A History Of My Lifetime”
Writing fiction is hard. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. You have to first come up with a decent plot and then you have to fill the story with characters and then those characters have to be affected by the plot, affect the plot themselves, interact and counteract with and be influenced by other characters… All the while you have to make everything naturalistic and believable, even if it is a fantasy story. Even if you do all that there’s no saying your fiction will be any good. It could still be the worst thing ever put to paper. Writing a good book takes skill, patience and a lot of time to get right. It isn’t just about sitting in front of a keyboard and hacking out a few words. You need thought, planning and a fair few internal tantrums before you’re done.
As of right now I’m in the middle of attempting to write No Angel Born In Hell, the fifth and penultimate instalment of the epic Dark Legend saga, and it’s proving problematic. It’s proving a fine example of why writing fiction is difficult. I’ve restarted it twice already and this is having written it all once before, in the form of a TV series. Getting everything right, getting it down right on paper, just hasn’t been working.
To sum up where we are in the story, and I warn you there will be spoilers ahead, will only take a moment. At the end of the previous book, Sting, Manchester and most of the North of England had been obliterated, leaving Worton as an island, barely holding out against the apocalypse. Jonathon Harris had escaped from prison and Randy Barnes, thanks to manipulating the late Cornelius Barabbas, had taken control of NIRA and had teamed up with the aforementioned Harris. Doug had also gone away to find his parents.
We’re up to the start of episode nine of the original twelve episodes here, and apart from Harris escaping prison, the above had either not yet happened or not been revealed. NIRA were still a mystery and one that wouldn’t be revealed until episode ten. When I wrote Stop The Cavalry (book 3, which was all new material) I pulled the whole plot forward, giving it room to breathe and allowing it more natural development. The NIRA arc was the main thing that got pulled up, and this was absolutely necessary in order for it to work. Meanwhile, Randy teaming up with Harris came a bit out of nowhere in the tv version and wasn’t revealed until episode ten. Randy wasn’t even known to still be alive until ten, though now it’s been common knowledge since the end of Swarm. All of that is now dealt with. I can move on to the climax of the arc, which forms the basis of No Angel- Randy, as I established in Sting, is out for revenge against Will and Joe, and this is where he takes to the stage to get it. As for Harris… I intend on saving Harris’s scheme for the last book, but it ties in with Randy’s plan for revenge and I can build up to it here.
As far as the Doug thing is concerned, I needed to get him out of the way for the moment. At the start of the original episode nine he stormed off in a huff but having thought about it, that doesn’t fit with his character. So, for now, I’ve invalided him out of the army and sent him off to find his parents. I did that at the end of Sting, so as not to convolute this book. Originally he was gone for only episode nine, turning up again in ten, but this time he won’t be back until the finale. Having him turn up mid-way through this book just won’t work. So he’s playing no part in this particular part of the story.
There was also another event that got pulled forward, this time from episode ten. That was the death of Peter Fisher, which happened at the end of Sting. Originally I had Randy slit his throat on an isolated country lane but I felt that was an injustice to the character. He needed a more appropriate, significant send off. He’s been an important authority figure since the start, so to just have him bumped off didn’t fit with his development Before, his death was inconsequential to the plot (and a bit pointless) but now, in sacrificing himself to save the man he’s come to see as a surrogate son (even if the man only ever saw him as a friend) his death is more impactful. His overall role in nine and ten was limited anyway, so by writing him out earlier I’m tying up another loose end. It clears things up and streamlines what I need to happen.
With most of the plot tidied up and all the superfluous characters gone I should have an easier time telling the story I need to tell in this book, the story of Randy’s revenge for wrongs committed in the first two books. I should be clear for finally demonstrating Will’s ultimate character development from arrogant, destructive teenager to a hero who actually lives up to the legendary mantle that has built up around him. He’s got to go through a bit of a car wash in this book, facing his past and putting right what he once did wrong. It ought to be simple to write, but it isn’t. Writing fiction never is, not even when you’ve written it down before.
It’s been the the build up to Randy’s reveal that has been my major stumbling block. It’s been too slow and too talky, trying to incorporate too many sub-elements, instead of focusing on what I need to focus on. In my first couple of attempts the whole revenge/reveal was a long way in. In my first book version it wasn’t until the end of the second chapter of the first half, twenty thousand words in. That wasn’t right. In the latest version it’s now kicked in gradually over the first eight thousand words or so, culminating in Randy playing his first hand. That Randy is going to be the main antagonist I now reveal at the end of the introductory chapter and from there Randy’s revenge kicks in almost straight away. There’s a bit of set up for some later character conflict and for the eventual resolution, but once I’ve done it we’re into the revenge. As for the other sub-elements, I intend to introduce them as and when they are necessary, those bits that I’m keeping anyway.
The thing I realised was that I was going in a direction that was too convoluted. I was also telling, not showing. A lot has to happen in this book, especially in terms of character, including an important revelation that was thrown in at the end of the last episode during the original version. I’m actually planning for it to be an important part of the climax of the book and the resolution of the central, revenge conflict. It feels more satisfactory that way. It feels like an actual pay off.
A major sub-plot involving a romance has been trimmed right down to a couple of scenes. It was conflicting too much with the main plot and they couldn’t be brought together. It was getting in the way. I can’t get rid of it entirely, because it contributes to a major piece of plot development for the whole saga. It also creates character conflict, which is always important. My first version concentrated too much on this sub-plot and, even though it was the main thrust of the original episode nine, removing it actually makes the whole thing go a lot smoother.
The thing with fiction is that everything needs to matter, somewhere. It needs to matter for either character or plot. This, for Dark Legend, is proving to be the trickiest part. There is so much story that it is almost an impossibility for absolutely everything to matter, but it is an impossibility I have to tackle head on. Some things are best left unexplained, like what happened to Harper after Swarm. It’s quite clear why she disappeared but I think the explanation as to where she went should be left to the reader. Other things, however, need to be resolved. Murdoch and Alison? They ran off way back in Spawn and that is an issue that needs resolving. So far they’ve both been inconsequential and that needs to change. There’s a weirdo in a cloak who’s not been seen since Swarm as well. We need to find out what’s under that hood. And then there’s Dan to sort out… Or more specifically Dan’s body-snatched corpse. Put together those three are going to take up a fair bit of space and though I know how to tie up each strand, getting those strands into the narrative in a good way is unfeasibly hard.
The only way to get them in, I’ve found, is to chop the book up into smaller chunks. Usually each book is split up into several three act segments, with a one act segment somewhere in there as well.* Each three act segment represents the equivalent of one TV episode. That isn’t going to work for this book. So much needs to happen and be dealt with that, under that format, the plot quickly becomes convoluted and messy. So smaller segments is the key. It also makes this book stand out from the others. It freshens the series, which this far in is a necessity.
I obviously can’t talk a lot about the actual plot and story arcs of this book, especially as it is a long way from being released. Every little thing has to be right, and so far No Angel hasn’t been. It’s taken me over a year of hacking and reworking to get it as far as I have, to work out how it needs to be told. Out of all the six Dark Legend books, the last two are the most important. They are the ones that have to be right in order to leave the reader with a sense of satisfaction and closure. If the ending isn’t done right then the whole thing falls apart, and we can’t be having that.
Dark Legend- Spawn, Swarm, Stop The Cavalry and Sting, are available now in eBook and paperback from Amazon.
*The actual numbers are as follows- Spawn has 3 three act segments + 1 one act. This corresponds to episodes 1-3 of the original TV series with the one act segment being new to this version.
Swarm has 4 three act segments, 1 one act segment and an epilogue chapter. The one act was new, the first three act corresponded to episode 4, the second to the first three quarters off episode 5, the third was an extension of the last quarter of five, and the fourth was episode six.
Stop The Cavalry, as I say above, was all new material but it does still contain a single act intro chapter and a single, massive three act segment.
The two three act segments of Sting cover episode 7 and 8, which was a two parter. The last chapter serves as an epilogue to all that.
The intention for No Angel is to cover episode 9 and 10 whilst Extinction, the last book, will cover episode 11 and 12.
A quick refresher- At the start of the war Aunt Mable came shuffling out of the fog. Her nephews despised her and tried to get rid of her. They failed. Now, a year on, they’re stuck with her. Last time, Crusty the Chauffeur was almost caught with some stolen military grade petrol but thanks to Edward he got away with it. Now, it’s time for everyone to relax a little… Continue reading “Aunt Mable Beside The Seaside (Story)”
Sometimes you don’t want the sun to shine, but shine it seems to insist on doing anyway. When you want it to rain until September, the one year you’d rather have no summer at all, just like every other year, it doesn’t happen. There isn’t a cloud in the sky. It’s blue up there and the birds of early June are singing away somewhere under the hot, mid-morning sun that is blazing down through it. Continue reading “A Walk With The Dead”
Time and again and again I see books, films and television programmes, stories, where the characters just don’t have any life to them. They are flat, uninteresting, two dimensional some people would call them. Writing good character is hard, there’s no denying that. Not only do you have to flesh them out and give them backstory but you’ve also got to figure out how their brain actually works and how they’re going to react to the other characters and what is going on around them. In other words, they have to live. They have to become more human than it ought to be possible for a fictional being to be. It is so easy to go wrong, and even the tiniest slip can turn a story into a disaster. Continue reading “Havisham and Magwitch: How To Write Character”
Nothing that was ever worth doing came without hard graft. So it was with Charlie Fuller. His tale has been brewing for fourteen and a half years and now, finally, it is available to buy and own and keep forever and ever and ever.
What started out as a bit of a rubbish, hashed up mess has become this beautiful, romantic and tragic story of a little boy whose one goal in life to grow a moustache… Which inevitably sucks him into a world of espionage, charismatic spies and fascist psychopaths.
I’ve said enough about this book in all the time I’ve been writing it, so now I shall say no more.
The book is out now on Amazon Kindle (worldwide) and at the time of writing is processing on other platforms and in paperback.
US Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BZJCJP8