Czech Mate – early moves

 

Any creative writer who is honest will admit that it would be nice to make it big, but while we wait for a movie producer to call – we continue to work, honing our craft.

Blog posts made by our fraternity are wide-ranging. Depending on how things are going with the Work in Progress (WIP), it could be a post about how the previous book is selling (or not), ideas for the new one, a review on somebody’s book, or many other topics.

If it’s a promotion, it might be shouting about the latest idea, or trying to push it when the work is done, and it’s available. I thought it would make a change to talk about a new novel in those introductory stages of its life.

 

How did I come up with the idea for my latest?

This is the year I retire, and our son, Andrew, (who lives in Amsterdam), got in touch a few months ago and suggested that we had a father and son reunion to celebrate my special year. We’ve both seen a lot of Europe, although he’s seen more than me. I was delighted when he said Prague was our destination for a four-day stay. I decided I’d write a story using the Czech capital as a backdrop.

Within twenty-four hours (and an early morning cycle ride), I had considered romance or thriller and had a basic idea for my plot.

What came next?

It took less than two days before I had my working title, Czech Mate, and I began creating my main character, a Scottish artist called Bryce. As my morning cycle rides were conducted each day I considered locations, action sequences, other characters, and crucially who were the good guys and the bad guys.

I dedicate a notebook to each of my projects and this one was no different. When I went shopping with my wife, or we went somewhere for a day out, my Czech Mate notebook went too. I listed names, ages, nationalities, and a few personal details for each new character.

What about research?

Google is good, but, in mid-September I flew from the north of England to Prague in the Czech Republic, to meet Andrew, who had flown from Amsterdam.

Andrew is a keen photographer with an eye for detail, so when he was setting up his tripod, I had ample opportunity to take pictures, make notes, and gain a ‘feel’ for my surroundings.

To us, streets, restaurants, pubs, theatres, galleries, churches and regular tourist attractions are not simply places of interest, they are ‘subjects’, or ‘locations’. For four days we were both able to indulge in our chosen passions.

Prior to the trip, I spent hours reading up on the history of the Czech Republic and had several pages of notes on people, places, and political events.

How did I follow up my great trip?

Since my return, I’ve written four thousand words, invented a few action sequences, and worked out who is good, bad, or on the fence. A few locations will be in the UK which will help to balance the story.

What about character detail and development?

I’m presently filling out my characters’ details as I let the early part of the story rest. Each person will have a date of birth, a physical appearance, a profession, an allegiance, a background, and certain skills. No, not all detail will be brought into the story, but it’s important to create a rounded character in the author’s mind which helps to develop the character for their part.

When will the story be published?

I aim to have the basic storyline completed by end December 2017. Like all my projects, it will be printed and left aside for three weeks, or perhaps a month. During that time I’ll work on something else. There are three main projects in my stable at present which is healthy, because they will each be allowed at least three weeks between drafts.

At present, I’d like to see Czech Mate being published in the spring of 2018.

As always, thank you for taking an interest in my work and my words. All feedback is welcome.

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Re: Cycling, and Recycling

writing-recycling

What connects my title topics to creative writing?

As a teenager I was a keen cyclist and would be content to go on a ride alone, or with my best friend. Since my childhood I’ve valued solitude as much as companionship. While I spent time alone, away from regular surroundings my mind was free. The time to let my thoughts roam provided me with an unequalled exhilaration.

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bike-shots-plus-025Move forward fifty years. My trusty steed of recent times has been a re-cycled mountain bike I bought in a charity shop a couple of years ago. Function ruled over appearance, but I gave it a re-spray for good measure (from red/blue to black). During the spring as I pedalled to work I recalled how I felt all those years ago when cycling far from my usual haunts.

In the summer of this year I treated myself to a new road-racer. I’ll admit the idea behind the purchase was a two-pronged attack.

I yearned for the sensation of freedom a long cycle ride gave me, but I also wanted a regular exercise to help shift a few unwanted pounds. A change of diet was underway, but to achieve a lasting result takes more than extra fruit and less chocolate.

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bike-shots-plus-033How have things shaped up?

Since July I’ve re-discovered the joy of cycling solo. Not many folk want to join a person who sets off at six o’clock in the morning for a twenty-mile ride, but the other benefits add to my contentment. The two bonuses are worlds apart.

I’ve lost 25lbs which leaves me at a personally acceptable 10st 12lbs (152lbs). For perspective, I’m 5ft 8ins tall.

On each ride I rehash and mentally rebuild one or two scenes or sequences from my latest work in progress. I replay a passage often enough to recall it clearly when I return to my keyboard.

In business terminology I’ve found a win-win situation re: cycling, and recycling.

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How does recycling work as a creative writer?

A good writer will not throw out an idea, but store it to be retrieved at a later date. It might be a character profile, a sentence, a paragraph, an opening line, a title, or the main points of a story which isn’t gelling as required. Whatever the aforementioned item might be, it can be brought back to life at any time.

When a writer creates an article for a magazine or newspaper, the creative material is capable of being used with another magazine, thus increasing earnings from the same research. The effort required after the initial article is in the rehashing of the words as the ‘piece’ is prepared for recycling.

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blog-two-books-one-story

 Do I have a favourite way of recycling a story?

Yes. It took me many attempts at reviving certain stories before a simple solution hit home. In many hours of reading text books and other people’s work I saw how a tale could be affected by the point of view.

1.  How the story is told might be the difference between a good story, and a great story.

2.  Whoever tells the story has a crucial bearing on how it comes across to the reader.

For example:

A story told in first person creates a ‘me and you’ intimacy between character and reader.

The intimacy is intensified if the narrator is the main character and creates a personal introduction early. Empathy between reader and narrator evolves rapidly.

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What’s my favourite recycling project?

A Life of Choice - Part OneA Life of Choice is without doubt my best example of recycling a writing project. The story is loosely based on my personal experiences during military service, and has undergone more recycling than water in a space station.

My career in khaki ended in 1992, but the intention to tell the story occured before I handed in my uniform. The urge to relive it through writing was strong. Unfortunately, what wasn’t as strong was the requisite writing skills. Undaunted, I put together hundreds of passages and snippets of long-remembered conversations.

In 1996 my working title was ‘1001 Short, War Stories’.**

I had no knowledge of point of view, back-story, info-dumping, formatting, or … well, you get the idea.

I had no serious intention of producing a tale for anybody other than me and my family. As it happens, neither my wife, nor our son (now 33), enjoy reading fiction.

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How have I brought cycling and recycling together with my favourite project?

As I write about a particular time period from my past I listen to music of the era. I’ve found inspiration from a single track, and on occasion a ‘sound’ like: The Sound of Philadelphia, the New Romantics, Synthesisers, the 80’s. The idea works when at my keyboard, but is equally useful when on the road.

Prior to my ride each morning I get into my cycling outfit, but before setting off, I listen to a single piece of music from a time period on which I’m working. The most recently heard music is rememberd naturally.A Life of Choice - Part Two

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Many people think of recycling as a task. They consider what they might be able to recycle, and a lot of materials are simply discarded, because it’s easier. Laziness is a human trait.

Writers are a breed apart in a lot of ways, and recycling should be a major ingredient of our lives – at least with regard to our literary intentions. We tend not to give up, and those who know their craft will hold onto written material which another person might consider meaningless.

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As always, any comments are welcome, and I thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and reasoning.

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A Life of Choice – Part One, and A Life of Choice – Part Two are available on Amazon now. A Life of Choice – Part Three will be published by the end of November 2016.

A Life of Choice - Part ThreeThe final two parts of the tale will be published in the spring and summer of 2017 respectively.

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**1,001 Short War Stories has never been more than my earliest attempts at creative writing. I recently produced the cover seen above to support this post.

Resources – Shopping Catalogue

This, like my other ‘resources’ posts is aimed mainly at the writing community, but might still be of interest to fellow readers.

How does a shopping catalogue assist in writing?

Which would be your story's character?

Which would be your story’s character?

Let’s look at a scenario, but not one from a book – a scenario that portrays the writer, and in particular the novice writer.

The screen is filled with the description of a scene that the writer decided would be a good start to the new chapter. Great. Now, unless the people concerned are in a nudist colony or are on the telephone, logic suggests that the reader might want to know what they look like – and how they are dressed.

I know from experience that the words can flow and everything looks good on the screen, or in some cases on my Moleskine notepad. A quick revision suggests that I have issues imagining the scene now, because I don’t actually know what these characters look like. I did when I wrote the passage, but now, no mention of age, hair colour, eye colour, complexion, outfit.

There was a time when I would stare at the screen and perhaps make some idle notes about those details I’ve just mentioned. That then took away the pace of my thought process and dented my confidence in what I had written.

Prior to writing a new character now I write them a brief bio which gives them an individual appearance and a background. Their taste in clothing can be quite diverse, but they must have an outfit to start with – enter; the shopping catalogue.

Let’s say somebody has a ‘walk-on’ part in a story and you have their position all lined up, but you need to give a description – enter; the shopping catalogue.

Perhaps it’s the actual characters that are causing the delay in producing words on the page – yes, enter; the shopping catalogue.

Do you now see where I’m coming from here? I thought so.

In summary, a shopping catalogue presents the writer with ready-made, anonymous characters of many skin colours, ages, hair colours, physiques, many age groups, and of course both sexes.

It also provides us with clothing, footwear, accessories, jewellery, household goods, toys … and so on.

Did you look at the heading to this post and think, he’s joking?

Well, whatever you thought, perhaps now you’ll realise I wasn’t joking – and more to the point, you might have become a convert to the idea.

Today I really must visit some blogs. I’ve been spending so much time building characters from my catalogue. Seriously, I have been writing on a daily basis recently and I sometimes focus only on the plot I’m working on and lose the plot to everything else around me.

Until next time, thank you for dropping by.