I went for a run today and killed someone. They didn’t see it coming and arguably didn’t deserve it either. It was a bit harsh, but had to be done. Got to make things interesting, you see. I guess I feel a bit guilty, but I didn’t know them that well anyway. Mind you, I suppose I could have a change of heart later and let them live. Oh the power of being a writer…
Thinking on my feet
I’m getting into my running a lot more at the moment. I’m not training for anything in particular, although I’ve entered a 10K race at the end of September. Running exercises the muscles that just lie around unused whilst I’m sitting at my desk writing. It also provides an updated insight to how it feels to run distances and speeds when you’re struggling (good research) and gives me alone time to think about my novel’s plot and characters. Ideas can come at any time – talking to people, listening to people, reading something, watching TV, film or when your mind is desperate to think of anything else other than how the heck it is going to drag your legs home when you just want to lie in the nearest ditch and go to sleep. Sometimes all I can think of is the running – how fast I am going, how long left, monitoring my body for pains, working out my likely finish time. The best times are when I can switch off and leave the body to it, running on auto pilot, and occasionally it gives me time to think of my novel.
A tension deficit disorder
Almost all novels contain conflict. Think of the last book you read – did the main character struggle to overcome obstacles that kept being put into their path? Most likely. For some reason, the concept of having a goal and adding conflict throughout appeals to us. Look at crime novels – they’re always complicated affairs with plenty of problems for the protagonist to solve. And with sci-fi, it’s never a straightforward affair to beat the aliens either, is it? Books and films without conflict are of course possible, but how often do you finish one and feel something was missing? I’ve read nice books with happy endings and then thought, “Well, that was a walk in the park, but nothing really happened.” Think what if Harry Potter destroyed every foe with a single flick of his wand without even breaking sweat? No, you have to make your characters work for it.
But it isn’t easy to get the balance right. You’re writing along, page after page, adding dialogue, descriptions and building the story up and before you know it you’ve done several chapters. You then read it back the next day and realise that there’s about as much tension and excitement as in an England friendly. How do you fix this? Throw in rabid dog to liven things up? Turn off gravity in their world for a few seconds? Add an unexpected visit from the mother-in-law? Well perhaps, but only if it fits in with the story and is not obvious that it’s been added purely to give conflict. I do get annoyed with films where everything that could go wrong does go wrong for no apparent reason.
Captain! We have over an hour before rendezvous with Starfleet Command and nothing is likely to happen until we get there…but my chair wheel has just snapped and I’m careering towards the auto destruct button!
He’s dead, Jim. Then again…
So I’ve obviously got a few things lined up as part of the plot but don’t want to make it easy for my main guy, hence the killing off idea of another character. But is it too much? Would his reactions to it be what I want? I can’t have him shrug and say, “Never liked ’em anyway” nor can I have his character be someone who would take it so badly he’d just stop and shout, “Why them? Oh, the injustice!” and pack up and go home.
So I’m still to decide on this. Maybe they’ll live or maybe they’ll die in a freak yachting accident.
Their fate is literally in my hands.