- Go Outside – Kate Mosse told us that settings and places that fascinate her are key to her writing success. Whatever the weather, she stands in her setting, lets her imagination run riot and listens to the voices of those who have passed through the place before her. OK; so you may not be able to stand in exactly the right place, especially if you’re writing Sci Fi, but you get the idea – woodland in the rain, sandy beach in the wind, any stately home, castle or gallery may do and even a car park in hot sunshine. ‘See the vista through their eyes.’ Chris Cleave told us of his characters. As James Marrison suggests; a good walk is soothing when the writing gets tough.
- Take the Kids? – Della Galton admitted that much of her writing is driven by emotion. Children are good at provoking an emotional response in us. Yes, cinemas still have Saturday morning clubs – feel free to get emotional; the kids do. Children also have the ability to overlook the macabre in the most natural way, take weirdness in their stride and come up with the original character names. Children are valuable tickets to ‘hands on’ research and ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses that, for some reason museums don’t hand to adults.
- Have a nice day! – High Fantasy Author James Barclay gave us a master class in world building and battle creation in which ‘Be Realistic’ was his advice, ‘A peasant is most unlikely to defeat an experienced fighter’. Individual guides dotted around historic sites or animal park keepers are only too keen to depart with their knowledge. Don’t be shy about asking them either they spend most of their time with people who don’t need to know and then you come along wanting nothing more than to hear their stories. You may not come away with a file full of research, but you’ll most likely pick up a snippet and definitely a feeling.
- Volunteer – ‘Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.’ said Jude Evans of Little Tiger Press. ‘Know your market.’ The Library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge plunges children’s writers right in the middle of their target market. Volunteers are needed to man the Reading Challenge desk where you will need to quiz the readers. If you don’t come away with a clear idea of the literary needs of your chosen age range then you haven’t been listening to your market.
- Rain stops play? – ‘You’re only really listening to the conversation when you’re not in it’ said Chris Cleave. Clare Morrall told us that dialogue is often underestimated as an aspect of bringing characters to life. ‘Absorb the voices around you and let a hint of the waffle remain for believability’, she advises. So, buy a coffee and nurse it till its cold whilst you listen in on the conversations around you. ‘Carry out your market research.’ said Della Galton. Sit in a waiting room and read the magazines.
A Night of Crime and Darkness…
Two purveyors of crime and mystery talked about how they weave dark and compelling tales.
Report by Lisa Nightingale
Special Guest – John Hayes
John Hayes is Smug! Winchester’s first satirical magazine Remember Viz, Mad and Punch? Well, it’s a bit like those. Smug is a mix of humour and investigative journalism backed up by in-depth research – people watching!
Hoping to launch in December 2015, Smug needs input. Spoof news stories, reports, short-stories, anything relevant to the prevention of Winchester disappearing up its own bottom! The deadline is ASAP. Even if it’s just a crazy idea, let John know at email@example.com You should be able to find Smug in the Art Café on Jury Street – John owns it!
Also the very first announcement of the Winchester Short Film festival 2015. John is keen to pair up screenplay writers with directors so if you have an idea for a film of under 15 minutes contact him through the Winchester Short Film festival website http://www.winchestershortfilmfestival.com/submit by 15 October 2015.
In 2016 Winchester Short Film festival is going international! Next year films will can be up to but no longer than double the length of this years. There is also a new category for 2016 – Write a Short Script for any Genre. Entries need to be submitted by December 2015
Speaker: Crime Writer, M.J. Arlidge
‘I am not a woman,’ says Matt Arlidge. One and a half years ago, it was his agent’s idea to submit the plan for DI Helen Grace as gender neutral. Four books later, the name has stuck. Unfortunately for Matt, it is common misconception among his readers that as the main protagonist is a woman then so must the writer be.
It has become apparent to Matt that women are infinitely more interesting than men and that life for a woman is fraught with difficulty. He fully accepts that this is tragic for women. But, not so at all for fiction writers. Plus, it seems to be the time of the female crime solver. So, a female DI with a fetish for leather and motorbikes cannot fail to sell.
Matt admits to finding a story’s baddy more intriguing and so the characters of his serial killers come fairly easily. In a crime novel the denouement is the most important element. So Matt works backwards, meticulously planning and reworking the chapters as he goes. Then the fun part – playing with the characters.
Matt started out a junior story-liner working at the BBC on East Enders before moving onto many happy years writing for Monarch of the Glen, he then moved into writing crime for independent television. This is when Eeny Meeny was born into a society controlled by reality TV. What if a serial killer was to ask the question – who should be evicted next?
MJ Arlidge is a writer of thrillers not police procedure, so he does not have deep contact with the police, in fact he confessed to making some of it up! The come-down after the action of the denouement is important to the reader – they need to ‘come back up for air’. It can also be used to lead into the next instalment.
It is important to remember that writing might be a craft, but publishing is a business. A publishing house is almost guaranteed to like a genre. They will also want to ensnare those readers for a long time, so a series is much more likely to grab their attention. ‘Don’t be shy.’ he says, ‘Think Big.’
A secret – Little Boy Blue, the prequel to DI Helen Grace, will be launched over the twelve days of Christmas in chunks. It will only be available in e-book and on Kindle.
Liar Liar by MJ Alridge was published on 10th September 2015 by Penguin.
Speaker: Crime Writer, James Marrison
Scary music, downloaded photographs, banging a tennis ball on the wall and strict routine all go into James Marrison’s writing day at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
He sets himself targets as most writers do. But, not word-count. He uses time. Rigidly! Have a break or a time when you ‘call it a day.’ And switch off; it is so important.
Plotting is James’ nemesis. He does it in his head which can mean that sometimes, he has precious little in the way of tangible evidence of work. But plotting is work and he has to remind himself that he has actually done a lot today. Agatha Christie, one of his favourite authors was a plotter. And she often hid her killer in the open – a friend or a colleague.
Characters definitely do lead the plot. He fell back on his own emotional experiences of living away from his home for the answers to his main protagonist DCI Guillermo Downes. Once Downes had been given a backstory, he burst into life.
James agrees, it is the unveiling of the killer that is the reader’s reason for choosing crime. But, the day-to-day frustrations of police investigations are pivotal to the plot. Essential information dumps must be handled with care. So, James weaves in the character’s traits, keeping the text interesting. He also has no continual contact with the police but their procedures are not difficult to discover – the internet can give you all the information you need.
In crime writing, pace is imperative. Steer clear of over-describing. Sweep everything along for the ride. Keep working up to that key action scene.
It wasn’t until he started doing it that he actually realised that writing was what he wanted to do. He became a journalist. He collected details of strange and grisly murders carried out by the most demented serial killers and published his findings.
Writing is a lonely job, but James is keen to stress that at times it is also crowded. His agent and editor are vocal and blunt, and he is able to rely on them. Doubt, however can be a destroyer if it is allowed to creep in. Until your work is finished – put publishing out of your mind.
The Drowning Ground by James Marrison was published on 27th August 2015 by Penguin.
THE DROWNING GROUND
Published on 27 August 2015
A man is found dead near his home, a pitchfork through his neck. When DCI Guillermo Downes is called to the scene he realizes he knows the victim.
A decade earlier, Downes promised the families of two missing girls that he would find their daughters. Although cleared of any involvement, the dead man had been a suspect. As the ripples from his death spread through the local community Downes hopes he might make good on his promise.
But as Downes pursues the case he soon finds a darkness at the heart of this investigation more dreadful than he ever imagined.
- The Drowning Ground is James Marrison’s chilling fiction debut and marks the arrival of an exceptional crime writer
- Introduces an intriguing new series characters, DCI Guillermo Downes and Sergeant Graves
- Perfect for fans of Broadchurch and The Missing
James Marrison is a journalist whose writing has appeared in a number of national newspapers. Marrison now lives in Buenos Aires, which provides the inspiration for his lead character, Argentinian born detective Guillermo Downes, in his debut novel The Drowning Ground. James is originally from the Cotswolds and will be in the UK for publication.