Story Ideas with ‘Legs’

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I finished writing Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 recently. I reminded myself that it was the easiest phase. Having said that, I’ve now also completed the first full edit, which as any author will tell you can be a mind-boggling task.

You would think that having written a trilogy and two mini-series I would sail through completion of another trilogy–not so, and I don’t believe it should be easy.

Occasionally, when an author sets out to write a story, apart from the desire to create a new world where they have complete control, it’s sometimes not clear if the tale has ‘legs’. By this, I mean that in the early, exciting stages the idea might be to write a trilogy or a series. These multiple titles create an opportunity for an in-depth and ongoing tale with a cast of impressive and well-rounded characters. Authors must always remember that some story ideas don’t have the ‘legs’ for a trilogy.

What happens if the story doesn’t have ‘legs’?

The honest answer is, it becomes a book. Yes, it’s that simple. Any decent author will know as the plot unfolds whether that daydream of a saga with those interesting ideas was simply that–a daydream, and not a great prospect for a longer story.

What happens if the story does have ‘legs’?

Ah, now we’re getting back on track. In this case, the author will get underway with the tale and enjoy developing the plot, the scenario and, of course, the characters. This is what happened for me with Light at The End: Surviving the Apocalypse. My head buzzed with ideas and characters were falling over themselves to be involved. Some of the people I considered never made it beyond the first auditions. That’s showbusiness.

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This particular story was intended to be a single book, an attempt at post-apocalyptic fiction.         I had three main things I was aiming to do with my glimpse of a world after Armageddon.

Firstly, I wanted to portray the effect of survival on a disparate bunch of people who were thrown together and would be trapped by circumstances. Secondly, I wanted to do it without the use of zombies or any other ‘undead’, which seems to be a pre-requisite for some authors of the genre. Thirdly, I wanted to involve and explore the use of the ‘Hollow Mountain‘ and the hydro-electric power station created and operating from within.

When did I know my idea had ‘legs’?

Surprisingly, this happened about halfway through the first book. I invented two people in personal situations which are poles apart. The interaction which evolved in both cases when these two individuals entered the story was the turning point. I expanded my brainstorming sheet, which is something I create for all of my stories. I knew that if treated properly, the concept had the capacity to be bigger than I’d first intended.

Did I know it would become a trilogy?

No, and again, the reason is simple. I had to wait for the response to my initial tale. For example, the cover didn’t have ‘Book 1’ added until recently. Most of the feedback was good but there’s always going to be a zombie fan. 🙂 At this point, things changed slightly. I felt that I’d accomplished something with the first book and I’d absorbed so much background information which blended with personal experience and this was indeed a story with ‘legs’–a trilogy.

Light to Dark: Light at The End – Book 2 was a tale specifically written to explore how far people might go when they’d come to terms with their ‘second chance’ and gained confidence. I believe it’s a plausible follow-up to the opening story and not a filler. There are extensions to the plot, further adventures, and character development, but for me, it had to feel that there were a natural progression, entertainment, and a satisfying ending.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and as I develop and polish the third part with many more drafts and in time send it out to beta readers, I’m feeling good about that initial daydream and my three aims for the story.

Dark to Light: Light at The End – Book 3 will be available in early November 2020.

Thank you for any comments and suggestions.

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One step beyond … Beyond The Law

 

Originality is relatively easy when an author is working on a single title. When the title/premise goes to a second, third or more, the idea must be examined closely to see how far it can be taken without repetition.

Certain sub-genres can run for several books and if the author is careful and inventive the fictional world will remain exciting to the reader. This must be paramount in the mindset of the creator of the work. Reader satisfaction is everything.

Beyond The Law: Formation was published in 2013, Beyond The Law: Retribution in 2015, and Beyond The Law: Consequences in 2017. In terms of timing, I’d be on target now to produce the next if it were an ongoing series.

I have no worries about a continuing story, but I enjoy stretching my writing creativity in different directions, which is why I ended the Beyond The Law (BTL) idea and proclaimed it a trilogy.

As a reader and a writer, certain characters lend themselves to the spotlight and become favourites. For me as an author, one such character is Rachel Donoghue. When the BTL trilogy ended, the door was left open for several characters to make another appearance. Rachel was crying out to be given a standalone adventure. From this premise was born Codename: NightshadeRachel’s antics will provide continuity, closure in certain areas, and further entertainment for those who have enjoyed the BTL trilogy.

As a precursor and to get me in the right frame of mind I recently reread and made several edits to each book of the BTL trilogy. Plot and detail were not affected, but some dialogue and narrative were tightened to improve the reading experience.

In the new story, a few names from the past from both sides of the law will show up, combined with new good guys, and new bad guys. This will not be a fourth BTL story, but by its nature, it will lean in that direction. The key aspect of the tale for me is to highlight an individual character.

The first five chapters of Codename: Nightshade all appear in my Work in Progress menu. They’re not the finished article, but they give a flavour of how this individual character will demonstrate her skills and how much promise she has as a central protagonist. As an author, I’m thoroughly enjoying expanding my notes and ideas, many of which have been made over the past year. For me, Rachel is already real, and out there doing her best … to the worst.

I aim to produce the book in June 2019, which means that by May I hope to be asking for beta readers to help refine the tale.

In the meantime, thank you for reading and in particular, thank you to the followers of the BTL story. I have to go now … gangsters, guns and a girl are waiting for me. 🙂

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Treasure Island – a review

Treasure Island Cottage - Braemar
Treasure Island Cottage – Braemar

    If you’re wondering why this review is supported by the picture of an old building, it’s quite simple. The picture shows ‘Treasure Island Cottage’, which is situated in the tiny, but beautiful village of Braemar amidst the Scottish Highlands. I had the good fortune to rent the cottage for a week in October 2013. On the front of the building is a plaque, assuring the visitor that the great Robert Louis Stevenson wrote part of the book whilst he lived there.  

I first read Treasure Island away back in … 1966,the Football World Cup year when England won the tournament. I was 14 then, and wasn’t interested in English football, which is just as well, because my father would have disowned me. I digress.

If the task of the writer is to suspend belief, and whisk the reader to some other place and time, then RLS has succeeded with this timeless tale of adventure, mutiny, treasure hunting, and summary justice.

Did I read this book again at the age of 60 to see if I could learn anything to aid my writing? No, I read it quite simply, because I remembered I enjoyed it for the escapism and pure entertainment it gave me as a teenager. It provided those same things for me all over again.

The characters are well-drawn, and come to life as the story unfolds. The twists and turns are as good as any modern author could produce, and even if there is no intention to learn anything; I think all writers could learn from reading it – as adults.

There is no problem with the dialect, because the way the characters express themselves becomes part-and-parcel of bringing the tale to life. Sufficient imagery is provided to have the reader believe they are observing the events, but nothing over the top.

It’s a wonderful tale which I would recommend to any who have yet to read it. As much as I tried to make the pleasure of it last, I read it in two days.

I have a yearning now to read ‘Kidnapped’, which I last read all those years ago when I went through my first phase of admiration for Robert Louis Stevenson‘s work.

Am I crazy … or not? – Part 2

White Lillies – in acrylic on a 3ft x 2ft box canvas. Oct ‘2012

On the subject of questions – what possible connection am I going to use between my painting of white lillies and this post?

The lillies were real flowers, so by painting them I’ve given them a new lease of life, albeit on a canvas.  It took a few weeks but I completed it at the weekend.  It was also at the weekend that I completed my time in Retail Management.  The connection to the subject of this post is therefore not so much the flowers themselves as much as the painting.  It’s about continuation, but with a bit of a change to circumstances.

With effect from Monday, 8th October I started work in the local branch of Ryman, but as a Sales Assistant.  I’ve no doubt I’ll occasionally be asked to do more, which I don’t mind, but my new part-time position will be for three days per week.  It will provide me with a little financial support and keep me in touch with reality.

Part 1 of this subject suggested there was more than one factor that had motivated me to make the move and reduction in hours.  In the first place I wanted more time to write and explore my capabilities.  There was also the small matter of travelling for an average of three hours each day – and that’s when the trains were running  and on time.

Apart from those things, which may seem trivial to some, I’m only five years away from retirement.  I don’t want to look back in five years and wish I’d taken the step earlier.  One important factor, which I mentioned previously is that I have the support of my wife.

My debut novel, ‘Ten Days’ is almost ready for publication as an e-book and I have plans to compile another book using a selection of my poetry.  I have a second novel underway and I know it will feel better having the luxury of time to pursue my objectives.  With regard to the second novel, I feel I’ve learned so much from the first one.

When it comes right down to it I feel I’ve done my bit in the world of work over two separate careers.  While I can, I owe it to myself to grasp the opportunity to do what I want to do.  If I work hard enough at it, my success will be measured in the entertainment I provide to my readership.

Got to go now, I’ve got some writing to get on with … oh yes, and a new lifestyle.