Tag Archives: story

Reality too close to home

Police at scene in Enfield

Candice:  I like reading ‘police procedurals’ – I love the mystery and trying to work out who done it, often with some downtrodden main character leading the charge.  The gore, the horror, what happens next, the twists; they are all part of a good story.

However, the other week my local area became part of its own police drama which made me think about things a bit differently.

Monday morning I’m getting text messages from friends, ‘hope you are ok’.  Ok, ok in relation to what?  We are out with the in-laws in a park an hour away from home.

I reply – what do you mean?  They respond to say that there has been a double murder not far from our house!  Shocked to say the least. I log on to the web and discover that the night before, while we’d been tucked up in bed, a young man had decided to stab his ex-girlfriend and her mother.  It comes out later that he has a history of violence and she’d been calling the police earlier in the evening because of problems but one thing led to another and he decided to step over the line and viciously murder these people.

Reading this story in a book it would have been a great opener; screams heard in the street, two people lying dead outside their house and a van seen driving off at speed.  But this isn’t a book, its real.

For the next week, if I drove around the area I’d find my route blocked by TV crew vans and police tape. It was most surreal, like being in a show.  There were times when it felt like you do on the motorway when there is a crash,  you can’t help but look.  But I also thought of the people involved and the horrible impact on their lives in having someone taken away.  It made me hug my daughter a bit tighter at bedtime.

The experience won’t stop me liking my reading material but it will make me think about how fiction can become fact and how different that is for those involved.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

Throwing a spanner in the works

 

Phil: I know I am a writer, because sometimes I get an idea in my head and it bounces around my tiny brain until I’ve written it down. It’s almost like I’m pouring the words out of my ear.

Last week, we met up for a planning session, Candice produced a timeline in different colours to help our thinking and in my mind, our discussions had started an idea forming.

My work is a bit stupid busy sometimes, but I have managed to find a semi-regular writing slot late on a Thursday evening, so I sat at my laptop and started typing. A couple of hours later, the scene was complete and unexpectedly, had turned out to be rather more pivotal to the overall story than I’d expected. I tend to just write and let the plot flow. Editing is for later, first, the words have to head to the other half of the team for approval.

It’s a slightly nervous wait for each of us as the other is reading. We both want a “Well done” but are happy to take criticism – from each other at least. I was confident though, this was good stuff.

The response, “Hum. You’ve thrown a spanner in my works.”

Oh.

“But I like this and it’s not in the timeline.”

I scramble to find the timeline and look through. When I came up with the idea, I thought I knew where it fitted.  Sadly, it didn’t quite slot in as I’d hoped, a bit like an annoying jigsaw piece that you are sure should go in one of the remaining holes, but stubbornly won’t go in no matter how hard you push.

Never mind, I’m not precious about it. I just needed to stop the idea bouncing off the insides of my head. We exchanged a few more e-mails looking at the plan and finally, I opened one to read,

“Hang on I think I’ve got it…”

Result! With a little bit of re-working, this idea does move the story forward. It isn’t going to slot in quite where I thought it would, but like the jigsaw, if you attach it to the big pile of pieces already assembled, it helps complete the picture.

I’m pleased with the result, after a bit of worry, my new words are an excellent fit for a major turning point 2/3rds of the way through the book. They galvanize our heroine and stir her into action. An action that will culminate in the love story reaching the place we planned it to be by the end of the book and blasting through a couple of major impediments along the way (can you tell how hard I’m trying to avoid spoilers?).

Writing as a team isn’t always plain sailing, but working this way brings a dynamic to the early stages I don’t think you find plodding away on your own. Knowing that someone else who cares about the book as much as I do is about the comment keeps me on my toes!

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

Yin and Yang

Image result for post it notes on a tableCandice: Phil wanted me to write about our trip to the Writing West Midlands event, which I will do, but actually I thought it would be good to comment on our meet to discuss Book 3 on Friday.

People always ask us how we write as a partnership, who does what, and how it works.  To be honest, it’s like being in a working relationship with anyone, some are better at some bits than others.  I’m more ‘task’ focused and Phil can be more ideas.  We are each others ‘Yin’ and ‘Yang’. I can be as creative as you like when the need takes me but I had limited time on Friday for discussions so wanted to get our timeline sorted.  Why was the timeline so important?  Well, we had reached that point, 35k words in, that we’d written lots of sections that tailed off at the end because we kept asking the question ‘what happens next?’.

Everything, whether book or work project has a beginning, middle and end.  There are probably ups and downs before you get there but without knowing your end goal then you won’t be able to achieve it through these bumps.  Writing is the same, if you don’t know where your characters end up, all the lovely set pieces and plotting come to squat as you end up writing something that doesn’t make sense.

Part of the other problem with Phil and I is we like a chat.  He talked about his holiday, I talked about mine and the next thing we knew an hour was gone.  Then he starting firing storyline ideas at me.  I had to put my hand up and say ‘STOP’.  The ideas might all be great but we need the timeline.

The other thing you need to make sure you can deliver on your project is the right tools.  I hadn’t ga ot pen or paper so off I walked to WHSmiths and bought post-it notes and coloured pens and then we were ready.

The first job was to write out what we’d already written and put it in the correct order (as in the book it’s not linear).  And then work out the gaps.  Time was ticking and it became like a game of ‘Countdown’ – we’ve got two minutes how do we solve it.

In the end, we only built the comedy storyline, the love one still needs work, but that means that a few more thousand words can be written; and a few other ideas were bounced around.

Tea drunk and off home I went, feeling satisfied with our activity.  Now I just need the time to write 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

Phil: Three things can be guaranteed to put me off a book:

  • It’s set in wartime, or involves a war.
  • The Daily Mail likes it
  • Someone has made it into a feature film and this is on the cover

A fourth one is that the book is described as “An International Bestseller” – I’ve been caught out before by that one. Just because lots of people bought something doesn’t mean I’ll enjoy it. I’m looking at you Girl on the train.

So I approached TGLPPPS not really expecting to get very far. To be honest, if I’d given up a couple of chapters in, that would have been par for the course.

Faced with a long train ride, I stuck the modest-sized book in my bag. One return from Leamington to Brighton later, I’d read the whole thing and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book centres on author Juliet Ashton, a wartime “gel” who wrote a funny column in the press and a somewhat more serious book about the Bronte sisters. The war is just over and she is suffering from writer’s block but out of the blue, someone from Guernsey writes to her and a correspondence ensues.

The book is written as a series of letters and this propels the story along with a bit of pace. The reader has to suspend disbelief a little at the shortness and speed of delivery of some, but we let it go for the sake of the plotline.

In many ways, this is chick-lit. There is a love story. We can spot the ending a mile off, but this doesn’t matter.

Subtley slid into all the fluffy stuff is a description of life in the only part of the British Isles to be invaded during the war and have to exist under Nazi occupation. The history has been well researched and there are a few gruesome bits along with allusions to worse.  This matters as without it, the story could easily have been some bumbling locals and a smart London girl.

Weirdly, I also want to see the film. I really don’t see how you adapt a book made of letters – but I’m keen to know.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

The Party by Elizabeth Day

Image result for the party book

Candice: After all of this talk of holidays I thought I ought to write a review of one of the books I read while I was away.

I picked up The Party as I liked the sound of the premise, not unusual but thought it would be a change from my usual police procedural.

The story is around Martin and Ben who met at boarding school, went to University together and are now about to celebrate Ben’s 40th.  They come from two different worlds, Martin from a single parent family of little means who managed to get a scholarship to the school, Ben from an old moneyed family.

Martin is an odd, isolated character, who displays almost psychopathic tendencies with some of his actions; as when he kills a bird that has fallen, injured into the school playground.  This gives an insight that all is not well with him.

By the time he meets Ben he is a boy very much on his own and Ben takes him under his wing, for no reason that I can see. Ben makes sure Martin is not bullied and takes him back to his house during the school holidays.  By the time they go to University Martin’s mother is doesn’t really feature in his life. But that’s Martin’s plan.  He can see opportunity in Ben’s family, and a life that he thinks he deserves, a life of money and privilege.

The book cuts back and forth between past and present, explaining how Martin met his wife as well as scenes at Ben’s spectacular party.  Now turning 40 Martin is a journalist who has just published a successful art book, Ben a stockbroker with an obscene amount of money. His party is being held in the grounds of his lavish pile in the Cotswolds with all the current celebs and political figures attending.

Their relationship is not as it was, Martin hero worships Ben but he starting to move away from him, neither of their wives like the closeness of their relationship too.

Intercut with Martin’s story is his wife’s, Lucy,  told to a therapist.  We discover she is currently in care because of something that happened at the party.  As the story unfolds we find a woman who lacks confidence and was swept off her feet by the silver tongue of her husband.  But she’s not that stupid and over the years had put two and two together that there is more between the two male friends.

With the party coming to a close Ben and his trophy wife break the news to Martin and Lucy that they need to stop seeing them.  Ben is standing to be an MP and Martin carry’s a dark secret,  at University they were involved in a car accident where a girl died.  What Ben’s wife doesn’t know (but Lucy has worked out) is that Martin took the fall for Ben, mainly to tie himself even more closely to his friend.  Ben’s family has been funding Martin’s lifestyle ever since.

I was disappointed with this book.  I read it very quickly, interested to know how it panned out though I had an idea that something like the accident would have happened.  But how disappointing was the ending?  To me Martin gives up at the end, he is just left living on his own talking about making a plan to get back to Ben but that feels weak.  Lucy is the strong character as she separates from him and also shows her anger at Ben and family by lashing out at them, hence why she is seeing a therapist.

So worth a read but prepare yourself to fall off the edge at the end.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

That’s not a printing error, it’s a plot twist

Phil: Time for me to read a bit of unashamed chick-lit. If you are heading for a sun lounger, the sort of book to pack with the suncream.

The One we fell in Love with centres on Phoebe, Eliza and Rose, identical triplets and the man at least two of them fell in love with – Angus, the hunky next door neighbour.

It’s difficult to tell you much about this book without giving away spoilers. Suffice to say that everyone gets paired up as you would hope.

So far, so normal for the genre. Yes, there is a bit of “will they won’t they” and some angst, but by halfway through the book, you know how everything will turn out.

It’s the middle of the book that threw me. All the chapters end and then on the next page, the next one begins.

Except that at the end of chapter 24, the words stop halfway down the page as normal. You turn over and they carry on again for half a page before chapter 25 starts. Someone has dropped the big twist in and fiddled with the layout to make it more of a shock. I actually thought the printing was duff at first until I read it properly.

This annoyed me a bit.

The preceding chapters hadn’t hinted at a twist and yet I felt they could have done it easily enough. As it is, this seems like a bit of a gimmick. Shame really, as there was no need, the story doesn’t need tricks.

Another issue is that there are an awful lot of diaries being read. Is this a girl thing I’m not really aware off to deposit your innermost thoughts and feelings to the page? Thinking back, Candice did mention hers some time ago

Anyway, a pleasant read. Marrion Keyes was uplifted, but I wasn’t. I was entertained though and there’s nothing wrong with that.

1 Comment

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing

Blood on the Shrine

Phil: With Candice on holiday, I get to do a book review with a steam engine on the cover and not suffer “the look” that says, “What are you doing Parker? I told you, NO TRAINS.”

To be fair, the book isn’t about trains, but the author, Chris O’Donoghue is a railway modeller among his other skills (also award-winning garden designer) and I met him at a model railway show.

Blood on the Shrine is the second Inspector Sonny Russell mystery. Set in the 1950s, the only connection with railways is that the Inspector lives in a converted railway carriage. This wasn’t so common years ago – you could buy a coach for a fiver and have it delivered to your plot of land. Many were then added to to make domestic dwellings and some still exist to this day.

Justifying the cover photo, the story involves a robbery from a train, but that’s incidental. Back then, trains were far more central to life than they are today, it could just as easily have been a van. We have the police charging around in cars, so nothing will be too unfamiliar to a modern audience but the world is very much just post-war and the atmosphere and detail works well.  There’s been a lot of research carried out before any writing started. Chris isn’t old enough to have known the world except as a small child so he’s not just working from memory.

If you’d like to see some of the reasearch – check out Chris’s Blog.

Not so much a whodunnit, more a will they get killed/captured. The book opens with a death, but oddly, not the most important one.  There’s a secondary storyline which follows the first book in the series, Blood on the Tide, and makes me want to read that one too.

I managed to read most of the story on a return trip to London with a couple of hours to finish the last few chapters. I was engrossed enough not to stare out of the window on the journey, something unusual for me. That’s quite a recommendation!

Blood on the Shrine at Amazon

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Phil, Writing