Short story writing, don’t try this at home (5)

This is not meant to be a treatise on short story writing.  Far be it for me to advise anyone on the subject.  I prefer to say how it is that I do it so you can learn all of the pitfalls in one go.

Now, there’s this thing called continuity, but it covers a whole range of writing sins, most of which I eventually get caught out.  Films sometimes miss a few items, like back in the roman days, there are plane trails in the sky, in a 1920’s period piece, there’s a mobile phone sitting on a desk.

Like one minute the hero has a gun, and the next he’s fighting for his life with a knife, and, hey presto, there’s that gun again.  The error might not be that big but you can’t pull out a weapon you don’t have or wasn’t there in the first place.

Similarly, the hero pulls out a mobile phone, but there’s only one problem, it’s 1980, and there are no mobile phones.  Our problem might be that we are so used to doing and using certain things that we might forget, for a minute or two, that were not available in the past.

The same goes for the fashion of the day.

And my all-time favourite, getting the right make and model of car.

Oh, and just for good measure, back in the old days they used acoustic couplers to attach to phones via a serial port to dial-up not a server, but a BBS, Bulletin Board Service, at a rate of 300 baud, or a little while later, 1,200 baud.

There was no internet in general use.  If you wanted to call the office when out, use a telephone box.  Or carrier pigeon.

And the use of language, there’s a lot of stuff relevant today that was not used back then, and there was a lot of stuff back then that isn’t tolerated now.  Some of it might be hard to get your head around.  It isn’t for me, because I can remember the 1970s and 1980s, but I’m not too sure about allowing some of what happened then to creep into my work.

So, you get the picture.  Try to use the past as the past, or leave it in the past.

Unless it’s a book about time travel, then all bets are off.

Short Story writing: don’t try this at home!

This is not a treatise on how to write short stories.  Everyone has one in them, possibly more, and me, well, it’s how I keep the wolves from the door.

Yes, I read my stories to them and they fall asleep.

Or maybe not, I’m never quite sure what effect anything I write has on anyone.  And, reading a lot of the posts on how to handle bad reviews and rejection, such a recurrent theme, I don’t think I want to.

Ignorance is bliss, is it not?

Well, one day I’m sure something will happen.  It’s probably in the seven stages of writing:

 

Euphoria

Planning

Research

Writing

Failure

Search for the guilty

Distinction for the uninvolved

 

I guess you don’t fail if you don’t put it out there.  Searching for the guilty, well, there’s only one person to blame, the editor, and distinction for the uninvolved, didn’t your friend, relation, confidente, significant other, say it wasn’t going to work?

But, despite everything, I like writing short stories and try to produce one in a single sitting.  I try to keep the word count down, but the stories, somehow they just evolve in my head and don’t want to end the main character’s story.

In reality, there is no end to the story unless they die, and then, of course, the story branches off, just like a family tree,

Some stories are so intricate, they need another story to fill in the gaps, and then another because the plot is running through your head at a thousand miles an hour and your fingers won’t stop typing, because if you do, it will all dissipate into thin air like smoke.

Stories can, you know, dissipate like smoke, one minute your mining a rich vein the next, you’ve hit a ton of worthless quartz.

Then all the constraints come into play, nagging at the back of your mind, and you find yourself waking up in a bath of sweat crying out, I didn’t do it, the crime that is, not lose the best 2,000 words you’ve ever written.

But that’s all of those words you write, isn’t it?

But I digress, and I’ll write some more on the subject, what was it again?

 

 

The first case of PI Walthenson – “A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers”

This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

 

An excerpt from the book:

 

When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.

Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.

It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.

Doug what?  Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.

But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake.  A very big. and costly, mistake.  Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.

His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.

At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place.  The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.

For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go.  Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime.  Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.

Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.

Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it.  The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament.  He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence.  It was to no avail.

Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.

It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.

 

It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.

Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule.  Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer.  Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.

So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.

There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.

So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.

There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister.  Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.

She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.

Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.

Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items.  What he really wanted was a missing person.  Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.

Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor.  The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.

Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him.  No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.

Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.

© Charles Heath 2019

 

Trying to pick up the pieces

I can see how it is that a writer’s life is one that, at times, has to be shut off from the outside world.

It’s a bit hard to keep a stream of thoughts going when in one ear is some banal detective show, and in the other, a conversation that you have to keep up with.  I know how hard it is because I’ve tried doing three things at once, and failed miserably in all three.

So, out I slink to the writing room and start by re-reading the previous chapters, to get back into the plot.  I should remember where I am, and get straight to it, but the devil is in the detail.

Going back, quite often I revise, and a plotline is tweaked, and a whole new window is opened.  God, I wish I didn’t do that!

Then I get to the blank page, ready to go, and…

The phone rings.

Damn.  Damn.  Damn.

Phone answered, back to the blank page, no, it’s gone, got yo go back, blast, another revision, and back to the blank page.

Half an hour shot to pieces.

The phone rings again.

Blast scam callers.  I nearly rip the cord out of the wall.

All through this the cat just watches, and, is that a knowing smile?

It can’t be, I’ve just learned that cats can’t smile, or make any sort of face.

I’m sure his thoughts are not a vague or scrambled, or wrestling with the ploys of several stories on the go, getting locations right, getting characters to think and do their thing with a fair degree of continuity.

The cat’s world is one of which chair to lie on, where is that elusive mouse be it real or otherwise, and is this fool going to feed me, and please, please, don’t let it be the lasagna.  I am not that cat!

Unlike other professions, it’s a steady, sometimes frustrating, slog where you can’t just walk away, have a great time, and come back and pick up where you left off.  Stories have to be written from beginning to end, not a bit here and a bit there.

It’s a bit like running a marathon.  You are in a zone, the first few miles are the hardest, the middle is just getting the rhythm and breathing under control, and then you hope you get to the end because it can seem that you’ve been going forever and the end is never in sight.

But, when you reach the end, oh, isn’t the feeling one of pure joy and relief.

Sorry, not there yet.

And no comment is required from the cat gallery, thankyou!

 

The first case of PI Walthenson – “A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers”

This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

 

An excerpt from the book:

 

When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.

Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.

It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.

Doug what?  Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.

But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake.  A very big. and costly, mistake.  Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.

His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.

At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place.  The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.

For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go.  Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime.  Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.

Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.

Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it.  The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament.  He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence.  It was to no avail.

Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.

It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.

 

It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.

Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule.  Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer.  Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.

So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.

There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.

So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.

There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister.  Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.

She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.

Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.

Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items.  What he really wanted was a missing person.  Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.

Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor.  The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.

Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him.  No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.

Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.

© Charles Heath 2019

 

“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1

In a word: Blank

Yes, I’m drawing a blank, which means I have no idea

It seems that I do this a lot these days, perhaps one of the perils of being a writer

But…

Using blank in a story doesn’t necessarily convey the antagonist is clueless, more likely he or she just used one in a gun, put there by a person who didn’t want to get shot.

No, still drawing a blank on this one.

A blank space means there’s nothing in it, and you see a lot of these in crosswords and sudoku, even when the user has been toiling for hours

I’m thinking anyone who met me might misinterpret my blank expression, well, it’s not too expressive in the first place

Perhaps before the coin becomes a coin; it is a piece of blank metal to begin with.  How good would it be to get a one-sided coin, that’d be worth a lot?

And the very worst description of blank; having a blank piece of paper in front of you, and you really are drawing a blank!