Yesterday evening I joined a huge audience at the Charles Luney Auditorium at St Margaret’s College to listen to Ian Rankin talk about his writing. It was well worth the ticket price.
He talked about his early writing, how he started out, and how he writes his novels. This is what I took from what he said. He didn’t present the following as advice in his talk, but this is what he does, and I think it is probably good advice anyway (from my own biased perspective anyway):
- Write what you know, and draw from the vivid memories that are in your head.
- Create your own universe.
- Don’t plan until well into the story.
- Avoid writing about topics you don’t know much about, if doing so would make you look foolish. Rankin would not write about court proceedings for this reason, because he doesn’t have a legal background.
- Start with an issue, and follow it. This seems a good idea for crime fiction, but also for writing science-fiction.
Every time I see Giacometti’s sketches it makes me feel as if everything is connected, that there are some threads that tie us all together. Chairs are connected to the floor on which they are placed, but are also in some way connected by lines and threads to the ceilings and to the walls. Maybe there are dust motes we can climb? A bad mood caused by a small incident or comment from another can cause us to view other seemingly benign incidents in a very negative way. Or the hint of a smile can brighten our whole day.
In the last week, I’ve been working on a flash fiction horror story. Don’t want to share too much right now, because it is still in the development stage, but it has a werewolf in it. Not a shiny happy Twilight werewolf though. Something more brutal and unrestrained.
I also submitted a couple of pieces of flash fiction to the NZ National Flash Fiction competition last Sunday. I need to train to compress my meaning when writing in prose, so that when I write a longer piece the language is more precise and accurate too.
Yesterday I joined the Australasian Horror Writers Association. It already seems like a very good decision. Aside from being able to participate in a few competitions without paying a fee, membership gives me a chance to get critiqued by other horror writers, get advice on writing markets for horror and dark fiction, and gives me the ability to read what seems like very high quality horror stories published in their magazine ‘Midnight Echo’. I would really recommend the AHWA to other writers serious about the horror genre (‘deadly’ serious, evil laugh) in New Zealand or Australia.
Also, while I was teaching today, C. Day Lewis’ poem ‘Rest From Loving’ came into my mind unbidden, a gift of memory. Let me share these first few lines:
Rest from loving and be living.
Fallen is fallen past retrieving
The unique flyer dawn’s dove
Arrowing down feathered with fire.
The rest can be found in various places. Such as: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00144940.1948.11481413
John Collier’s story ‘The Lady on the Grey’, about a young witch and the way she dispatches two rakes with magic, has been drifting through my head all day.
Collier’s stories are short and very finely written. The one I read today, ‘Without Benefit of Galsworthy’, was only a few pages, but the characterization and the pace of the first person narrative matched each other perfectly. The story was about a self-centred, ridiculously vain Major who only followed the advice of people who agreed with him, thought himself so marvellously poetic, and on a whim decided to divorce his wife and lose everything for the hint of a female servant who in his imagination was his perfect match, but who had no interest in him whatsoever.
I’d recommend anyone interested in short stories to buy his collection ‘Fancies and Goodnights’. Hopefully the publishers won’t mind me using the cover here:
Tim Jones, ‘New Sea Land’
Tim Jones, ‘All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens’
Joanna Preston, ‘The Summer King’
David Gregory, ‘Push’
James Norcliffe, ‘Dark Days at the Oxygen Cafe’
David Eggleton, ‘Time of the Icebergs’
Michael Harlow, ‘The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap’
Marissa Johnpillai, ‘Hymns for her’
Stealing cell phones is becoming harder to resist.
I never used to consider stealing. I was brought up to consider the rights of others and fear the iron hands of the Cybermen. I have lots of wonderful phrases in my head, such as ‘it is wrong to take something that doesn’t belong to you’, ‘stealing is bad’, ‘you’ll never be able to use it anyway, it has a password’, ‘cameras are everywhere’, and ‘you’ll probably drop it, you dick’.
The simple fact is though: cell phones just want to be free. They want a new home.
I can see giant slabs of metal, almost the size of a full block of chocolate, poking out of the back pockets of tight jeans, climbing out of their own accord. All that is needed is for their owners to be distracted, one hand behind the back, and they’re gone.
Of course, someone might detect the lack of weight, notice it. Perhaps you can leave them some chocolate, just to be sure. At the beginning of Indiana Jones, in an ancient tomb holding an ancient treasure, he tries to put down a counterweight to trick the sensor. He gets out okay, but he almost loses his hat. I don’t think doing this would work for me though. The chocolate would be heavier. I would probably end up with a punch in the face.
I think I’ll probably inform people if their cell phone falls to the ground from their back pocket. After all, I might be caught on camera. I probably wouldn’t be able to hack it. Or the Cybermen might come. And I also have to consider whether I really need another cell phone, especially one the size of a small slab of chocolate. After all, since I already have a cellphone, and keep it in my front pocket, the new one would probably have to be put in my back pocket anyway, where it would most likely fall out.
Hi there, it’s great to meet you. My name is Ronnie Smart, as I’m sure you’ve guessed from the big heading to this blog. I write poetry, short stories and flash fiction.
I’m currently training my skills at the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch, New Zealand.