Kill Your Darlings

This weekend I had what is called an ‘Ice Pick Headache.’ A short, acute stabbing pain at the back right of my head, about an inch inside my skull. It is almost certainly a brain tumour.


Okay, maybe not.

Taking a look at writing from a completely different perspective – plot, not character – has reinvigorated me. What’s the point in creating these great people if they sit around doing fuck all? Put them through hell. And I have been. Lots of murders, lots of heartbreak. Boo hoo etc.

My natural proclivity toward darkness lends itself perfectly to destroying my characters’ lives. Had a bad day at work? Instead of coming home and kicking the cat or shouting at your spouse, write a scene in which your protagonist’s best friend is brutally murdered. Feel better now? Of course you do.

This fixation with plot has made me tear through the planning like I’m binging on a 24 box set.

Just one more scene before I go to bed…No really, that’s enough now…But what happens next? I can’t leave it there…


But one mustn’t lose sight of characterisation. The trouble with those Patterson novels is that the characters tend to be one-dimensional and clichéd. Especially the women; he writes about women by describing their hair colour. ‘The blonde at the bar…The brunette in the Benz…’ It’s laziness bordering on misogyny.

Fortunately, characterisation is something I think I’m pretty good at. I’m constantly observing and noting down the little quirks people around me exhibit. My protagonist – I think I’ve established I can’t really write a conventional “hero” – is someone I’ve become very attached to over the weekend. He’s an asshole, but then with most assholes, if you scratch a little deeper, there are reasons for it. In fact, I now feel so sorry for the guy, I am considering giving him a happy ending…


After a few wobbly weeks, I’m back on track.

Gladwell’s 10,000 hours to become an expert thing…well, I spent the first half of this year writing almost every single day. Before that I had one other (abandoned) novel attempt and I’ve written a diary several times a week since 2004. I don’t think I’m an “expert”, but I’m a hell of a lot better than I was before. And this time – for the first time – I can visualise the finished product. And it’s pretty good.

When I’m happy, my blog entries lack their usual vitriol – sorry about that. I barely even managed to swear today. I’m sure someone will piss me off in the next 24-72 hours and I’ll furnish you with a new cascade of profane misery.


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