Making the Best of Things

Sometimes life can be cruel. It leaves us wondering if anything will ever come right or if the struggle continues forever. OK, not forever. But that’s something none of us likes to contemplate. The end of it all.

The more difficult life is, the more interesting. This works especially well when you’re writing fiction, as I do. Allowing my characters an easy life is something which would not rest kindly with my readers. They’d say ‘so that’s alright then‘ and put down the book. Vonnegut once said that the best way to kill a story is for love’s young dream to find fulfillment. Atom bombs could be falling everywhere and all your reader feels is ‘as long as they’ve got each other, that’s all that counts.’

Conflict is the watchword for a good story. Not necessarily the fighting sort, though that can work well, but anything that prevents your protagonist getting what he or she wants. The more things you can throw at them the better. If they ever get close to a happy ending quickly snatch it away. That’s when they become doubly upset. And twice as interesting.

There does have to be some progress and resolution, even a happy ending isn’t a bad thing to offer as long as it is the end. There has to have been trouble and toil all along the way if we’re going to feel any pleasure or satisfaction from it.

Boy meets girl, he loves her, she loves him, they get together. Not a story anyone wants to read. Not for long, in any case.

Boy meets girl, she loves someone else, he becomes disillusioned and falls into a life of crime. Better, but still not very interesting.

Boy meets girl, they love each other but there’s a big misunderstanding and they don’t realise the real situation. Every time they interact, the love grows stronger but the confusion gets worse. In the end they both settle for someone else. Then they meet up years later and gradually become aware of how they really felt. Not my cup of tea but I’ve seen this plot in lots of books and films.

Conflict then resolution. That’s what’s interesting.

If you’re writing something, especially a short story, get the conflict right.

In real life, unlike fiction, there’s rarely any form or resolution. Have you noticed that the thing that you’re preoccupied with at the moment is something that wasn’t on the radar yesterday and certainly will be well forgotten in a year’s time? That’s because it will have been superceded by something much bigger and scarier.

My heroine, Jenny Parker, has plenty of conflict in her life. Too much, some might complain. Maybe I should be kinder to her. In Critical Analysis, the fourth in the series, she is having a tougher time than ever. I could be kinder to her if that’s what you want, though. There’s still time to let me know if you feel that she deserves a break at last.

photo credit: Tom Simpson via photopin cc


Writing and Astrology

The first Jenny Parker novel, Due Diligence, was published a couple of years ago and sold (is selling!) remarkably well. I’d actually use the word spectacular in this context and not be overstating the facts.

This triumph seems now but a distant memory. Once I had a readership, writing took on a more urgent quality.

Still, it’s nice to take a trip down memory lane.

I’m reproducing the early designs for the cover, both of which I liked. Obviously we eventually settled for the one you see at the side of this blog and I’m glad we did. It provides a style that can be continued over the four novels in the series.

So, the fourth Jenny Parker novel is on its way. What actually started as a writing exercise is now a series. There was me thinking that Due Diligence was only a bit of practice before I returned to the fantasy/science fiction. I’ve been wrong before, but not quite as mistaken as this.

Now my novels have to be written to a deadline. No more absently admiring the word count and being very proud that I managed a book a year.

The fourth Jenny Parker novel, Critical Analysis, will need rewriting, editing, all that kind of thing. Fortunately, I have Dea Parkin to help. She did a great job on the others and I’m hoping she’ll like Critical Analysis just as much.

It felt much better to be writing crime fiction after I consulted an astrologer. She told me the time for fantasy would come two and a half years later when something or other enters the house of something else. Now that time has passed and I’m well on with a cracking fantasy novel that’s giving me endless joy to write. And I’d completely forgotten what she said to me. How spooky is that?

For those of you raising eyebrows at me mentioning an astrologer, relax, please. I don’t run my life on the basis of a paragraph in the newspaper that must apply to a twelfth of the world’s population. I don’t actually believe in astrology but I do believe in Margaret Koolman.

For fans of my crime fiction, I think that four Jenny Parker novels is plenty. It’s three more than I intended, after all. And you just might learn to love the fantasy books as well, you never know. Try asking an astrologer about it if you don’t believe me.