Thursday 27 January 2022

Writing Workshop: Be Flexible

So, hands up if you’ve set out on a path to write a particular story in a particular way. You’ve sat down and planned it all out, right to the smallest detail. You’ve micromanaged the interactions of your characters. You’ve set in stone themes that you know need to be explored. Hell, you’ve even got a title and a cover sorted for your grand project.

Then, horror of horrors, your main character goes and does something expected. They fly off piste and find themselves in a situation for which you hadn’t bargained, experiencing emotions that you didn’t realise that they have, hurtling to a conclusion that you didn’t foresee.

What do you do? It is very tempting to try and drag them back to this Magnum Opus that you had planned, to bring them back to the Light and convert them to the one true religion of the way you see their universe running. You can insert twists and turns that will force them to comply with your intentions, making their life hell until they finally bend to your will as their creator.

The problem is, in the long term, it just won’t work. You end up sitting staring at your screen, gawping at the words you have spent the last month frantically typing, trying to bring your story back on track and you come to the devastating realisation that it is utter garbage. In trying to divert the story back to where you want it to go, you have made up unrealistic scenarios, created over-convoluted plot twists and changed your protagonist into a warped and hideous two-dimensional simulacra of what you actually intended them to be. 

And, this is where the dreaded writer’s block sets in. You have dug yourself into a hole and thrown away the shovel. There is no way out. You just sit there and weep.

However, it is all easily avoided. If your story takes a turn that you did not expect, then explore that twist. Never forget that writing is a creative art form. It is not a precise science where an equation states that if you apply one element, another must automatically follow. Let your characters evolve like letting a child grow into their new experiences. Don’t be afraid to play around with new ideas. Write them up, examine them, see if they work. If they’re absolute pants, then save them somewhere and try again to see what else might happen. 

It is crucial to be flexible. In doing so, you will let your story, and indeed your own writing style, evolve in a much more natural way, producing deeper content and far more believable stories.

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Wednesday 12 January 2022

Spalluccipedia: Spliff and His Origins

In this month’s Spalluccipedia entry, I want to have a chat about a much loved member of the Sam Spallucci books, the Reverend James Francis MacIntyre, or “Spliff” to his friends.

One of the longest running members of the Spallucciverse, Spliff first met Sam when they were students at Luneside University about nineteen years ago. Living on the same corridor, they quickly bonded and formed a friendship that would last way beyond graduation. 

Spliff acquired his nickname as he was known as the guy on the corridor who was always able to lay his hands on varying recreational drugs, something which he put behind him when, after university, he went to selection conference and was accepted into training for the Church of England. Ordination subsequently followed, along with a number of disastrous  postings in numerous parish churches. It was finally decided that he should be placed somewhere where he could do little harm and, at the start of the Spallucci series, we find him settled in for a few years as the chaplain of his old university.

Somewhat of a known maverick, he still managed to get himself into trouble with the authorities of  both the church and academia, however he was greatly loved by the students and was never fired, even though his libido often found him in embarrassing situations. Having said that, in the Spallucci series it is apparent that his ecclesiastical superiors are trying to persuade him that perhaps it is time for him to move to a country parish. 

Sam continually refers to his best friend as his rock and sees him as someone who keeps him continually grounded in the world of weirdness that is constantly unfolding around him. However, by Troubled Souls it is apparent that Spliff is, in fact, ill and is hiding the details of his condition from Sam, something which proves to create tension between the two friends.

A number of characters in the Spallucciverse have a certain amount of grounding in real life. Spliff is most definitely one of these. He is actually based around three characters (as I mention in the video), bringing to life a colourful character with real depth of personality who is always there for Sam through thick and thin.