Writing A Character Series.

Check out this excellent Guardian newspaper article interviewing a host of essential authors writing in the detective genre.

Lee Child, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Val McDermaid, Ann Cleeves, and others talk about how they came to write their series and the impact of doing so.


Day 437 – What You Know.

There is an old writing adage which exhorts you to write what you know.

Sound advice.

If you have never been a police officer, or investigated a murder, then you might want to avoid crime novels.

Yet plenty of writers ‘do’ crime.

Why? Possibly because they want to murder someone and they’ve really thought hard about it?

Fake it until you make it?

You get out of your writer’s room and ride along with the police and detectives so you do know what you are talking about?

But what do you know that can be used in a different way?

George Lucas knew Westerns and Japanese Samurai movies but he had a fascination for space.

Think about your setting and drop in different characters or point of view.

Think about your characters and drop them into a different setting.

See what happens.

Day 432 – Dark-side of the Moon.

This isn’t an inspired by Pink Floyd post – not that I have anything against the band.

The anniversary of the lunar landings let people know what was on the side we all can gaze out of our windows and see.

Sure, it took a lot of effort to get there, but very quickly we kind of knew what we didn’t know before.

So then people started to wonder what was on the other side – the dark side.

It is a metaphor that’s been there in creative arts forever.

So what’s on the other side of the ideas you’ve been working on recently?

Day 404 – Understand This.

Books and Vinyl Records.

The covers, the textures, the background noise.

E-books and digital downloads – somehow books seemed to have managed to miss out the equivalent stages of the CD and MiniDisc.

The future is . . .

. . . Books and Vinyl are making a comeback.

But there is a difference now.

The audiences are expecting something different.

They don’t consume in the way they did before.

Perhaps what is drawing music listeners back to vinyl is the art work of the album covers, the liner notes, the lyrics, the thank yous from the band. The things you don’t get is the same way when you stream or download.

For writers the landscape is somewhat different.

In his article on Medium, ‘The 3 Biggest Trends in Publishing Right Now‘ (June ’18), Steven Spatz writes:

What authors need to understand is this: you’re no longer just competing against other authors and books in the digital space. You’re also competing with TV, social media, games, movies, and more.

Writers are competing for the attention of readers who consume stories in different ways to before.

TV tends to be a character driven narrative over a number of episodes with discernible cliffhangers at the end of each one.

Film provides for 90-120 minutes of attention in one sitting – if there is popcorn.

Games focus on first-person action where you become the main character.

Social Media allows you to comment and influence your friends in bite-size chunks.

When your novel reaches 12 hours on audio-book and your 3rd Person narrative weaves an intricate web of symbolism throughout multiple chapters, you might not get many comments.

There is a market for the above, as I’m sure some people still proudly listen to their minidiscs, but to carve out a career as a writer you might need to pay closer attention to how and what your potential readers consume.

1st Person, quick-paced, climax to every chapter, in a story which keeps you guessing and motivated to chase the story to the end, might be one place to start. I’m sure this will work in every genre.

One hundred-ish page books, where a story is told over several volumes, might be another good place.

After all, Charles Dickens published some of his novels as chapters in his weekly magazine Household Words.

And we are back to vinyl again . . .

Day 403 – Tradition.

Watch this.

It takes 6 minutes.

It’s about a Scots Gaelic singer named Julie Fowlis.

She was born and brought up in Northern Uist, in the Hebridean Islands.

She talks about musical traditions, some going back to the Twelfth Century.

In many creative endeavours tradition(s) is(are) normally quite important. But I think in many instances they are becoming less so.

In your particular creative pursuit, what are the traditions? Do you know?

Why does your detective have an assistant?

Why does your thriller protagonist insist on working alone?

Why do you use that particular perspective in your painting, or frame in that particular way when you take a photograph?

Why do you use those chord progressions, or verse and chorus combinations, in your music?

Research and learn your traditions.

They may provide you with a new direction in your creative art you were not expecting.

Day 400 – Think Inside The Box.

We are all aware of the phrase ‘think outside the box’.

The ‘box’ being the confines of the problem we are contending with.

It is ironic that colouring outside of the lines often gains you chastisement rather than praise.

Life is full of lines. Most of them have penalties for crossing them. We are encouraged to stay within the box.

Then you are expected to think outside of the lines, and that is seen as a good thing. You’ve done something new and novel.

What you have done is admit that you can’t solve the problem, so you’ve had to go outside of the lines to achieve it.

Next time, stay in the box. Solve the problem, within the confines.

The writer Larry Cohen, if my memory serves me correctly, took around ten years to finally solve the problem of how to write a script where the main protagonist is in a phone booth for the majority of the movie.

He didn’t colour outside the lines.

He thought inside the box – literally.

Work within the confines of your genre, or main character, and work out how to tell your story more perfect than those before.