Monday, 25 March 2013

Introducing a Man with a Gun

Raymond Chandler once said. “If you are suffering from writer's block. Introduce a man with a gun.” Or words to a similar effect. 

He didn’t mean that literally a man with a gun had to turn up. What he meant was – make something happen, stir things up a bit. As a writer there are lots of things that can be done to stave off the dreaded block.  

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with as ways to shift focus. 

  • Injure someone: a trip, slip or burn can set in motion a chain of events which may be used to add characterisation or conflict. eg, “you could have told me that was there / slippy/ hot”
  • A minor character such as a neighbour or postman can deliver something which will move events on. Ideas include divorce papers, severed finger or a ransom note.
  • A telephone call, email, text or social media discovery can also be used to progress events.
  • Cut to a different thread and come back to the scene after a while. You may have had an epiphany while working on the other thread or written something which can be used in the area you are stuck on.
  • Move the characters to a different location. It doesn’t have to be far, another room would do but by moving them you are moving the story and offering up new things to be used for conflict. eg “ For fuck’s sake. Will you switch off that TV / food blender / lawnmower when I’m trying to talk to you.” Result = instant conflict.
  • Introduce a man with a gun. Why not? It’ll certainly give you something to write about. Obviously “gun” can be substituted by any other weapon you want to have the man use. 

Naturally you can’t keep bringing a man into the room or moving locations, but you can mix and match a bit to get yourself out of any dead ends. Dead ends are of course also good for mystery writers as they raise tension. 

I’m incredibly fortunate in that I haven’t ever really had to deal with writers block. With me it’s more a case of trying not to forget all the ideas I keep having for things to put into my novel. 

Please leave comments on ways that you cure this dreaded disease or have a gloat that you've never suffered from it.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Lots to Look Forward to

I have been absent from my blog for a wee bit as Mrs The Wife insisted I lay down my laptop and pick up a paintbrush. After months to delaying tactics I finally ran out of excuses. We now have a new look kitchen which is somewhat brighter than it was. I hate the boredom of painting so when I held that brush my mind wandered in the direction of things to look forward to. 

So, for the lack of something better to say here is what I am gonna be enjoying in 2013 

First off I’ve a story in Near to the Knuckle’s debut anthology “Gloves Off” My tale is about revenge, lies and retribution.  It’s an emotive subject I’ve tackled and my story will either entertain or repulse you. 

Also in the anthology are Richard Godwin, David Barber, Aidan Thorn, Paul Brazill, Gareth Spark and a whole host of other excellent writers. It’ll be on sale next week so look out for it and buy it to read the other guys stories. Any comments about me lowering the tone will be entirely accurate. 

Next up is a fantastic new crime fiction festival titled “Murder In Moffat” On the 20th and 21st of April top names such as Christopher Brookmyre, Michael Malone, Alex Gray and Lin Anderson. Tickets start from as little as £5. More information including a programme and booking details can be found at 

In July I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to the spa town of Harrogate for the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. I’ll be doing my usual rounds of interviews and will be talking crime, writing and rubbish depending on the time of day and amounts of alcohol consumed.

The last big event on my calendar will be Bloody Scotland in September. Info at (they haven’t yet updated it from 2012)

On top of all this excitement I will be hosting Mo Hayder and Tom Bale on my Blog in April, with the possibility of other top authors in the coming months. Lee Child’s name has been mentioned (to me not by me!!)

Life is good. Or it would be if Mrs The Wife wasn’t hovering over me with a paint chart.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Creating Different Character Threads to Form a Tapestry

How often have you been engrossed in an exciting part of a book only for the chapter to end, then when you start the next chapter you find the author has moved to a different character altogether?

This shifting of a novel’s emphasis is one of the many tools in an author’s armoury. It allows the author to create a cliff-hanger or two keeping the pages turning. 

Character threads don’t have to be about the hero, victim or villain. Sometimes they can be of a minor character that has an important piece of information or sub-plot to share with readers. 

These different threads can also be used to help with the ebb and flow of a novel and with the aforementioned cliff-hangers, are a great way of building a tension over a large amount of the novel. 

The best example of a book which uses this technique is the second installment of Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers). Tolkien tells the reader three separate stories by interspersing the action between various characters that had been split up at the end of book one.

Authors may also use varying points of view between chapters to add different perspectives to the same thread or multiple threads. Matt Hilton (next week’s guest blogger) writes his main character in a first person POV and all others in a third person. This lets him have different threads while retaining the urgency of first person point of view. 

When you analyse books as I do (I’m always trying to learn) then you can see the mechanics better and I cannot think offhand of many authors who continually write with just one character thread.
Any suggestions would be welcome.
P.S. It's Crime and Publishment this weekend. We still have a place or two available if anyone wants to attend.