Inventing A New Language In Science Fiction

Thinkpol. Doubleplusgood. Chepooka. Govoreet. Skazat. IMG_2740

Some of you will recognise the words above the image. They come from two dystopian books. Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Both of these books use an invented language to accentuate the idea of a future world. When I decided to write a Sci-fi/dystopian novel, I too chose to use experimental language. I knew I was taking a chance and that I would probably be turning off a lot of readers because of my choice of language. However, I knew in my gut and heart that the distinctive narrative style worked perfectly for my imagined futuristic world.

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

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In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

First Three Books in SOF Series only 99c Each!! (1) copy

Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer.

My New Book – Historical Crime Thriller – Black Danube

I have finished a labour of love. It took me months of exhaustive research to be able to write my new novel, Black Danube. I am trying to get an agent/publisher interested in it, so I am prepared for a long slog of pitching and being rejected. I posted some articles about my research a while ago, you can view them here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2019/03/08/forgotten-women-madam-dora-part-one/

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/the-inventor-of-crime-scene-photography/

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A bit of blurb 

To escape an abusive marriage Sophia Jäger becomes Leo Katz, a shy young man with a camera walking the streets of Vienna in 1899. Mingling amongst other immigrants, he successfully passes for a journalist and crime photographer until pathologist in training Lucy Strauss becomes the object of his affections.

When a series of macabre killings thrusts them into Vienna’s sordid underbelly of secret societies and corrupt officials, Leo risks revealing his true identity to save an innocent woman accused of the murders. Now, exposed and in mortal danger, Leo struggles with a choice. Should he confide in Lucy, telling her he is a she, hoping Lucy will love the person behind the disguise? Or, should he keep his dark secret, ending their passionate relationship forever?

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Anyway, I thought I’d post an extract from the first chapter. Hope you enjoy it. Please feel free to comment.

Black Danube

I stood on the platform of the Kaiser Franz Josef Railway station in bare feet. I had no luggage or hat. People ambled past taking side-long looks, shaking their heads as if to say, ‘Ah, another penniless immigrant. Vienna is going to the dogs.’

The top two buttons on my dark brown waistcoat popped open. I clutched at my chest, hunched my shoulders, and pulled my gaberdine tight to hide my defective attire. A high-pitched whistle blew and a cloud of light grey smoke surrounded me. Metal wheels scraping along the track screeched so loud I thought I would never hear again. Gradually, the noise faded. I wiped mist left by the steam train from my face and tried to focus. But my eyes were fuzzy as though I had indulged in an excess of alcohol.

I unfastened my stiff shirt collar to let in some air and scuttled to the exit. Once outside I halted in front of the grand pillared entrance. Not daring to move, in case I loosened more buttons on my constrictive garments, I observed the washed out faces of men and women walking along the street. They stared ahead not looking at anything or anyone. I blinked rapidly. They shimmered and faded becoming nothing more than ghost-like figures floating above the raised wooden pavements.

A swirling wind blew the phantoms away. It caught at my coat-tails, whipping them up and down so fast I almost took to the air. I held onto them until the gusts decreased and glanced down the steps. At the bottom lay my black shoes. Heels broken, soles ripped off halfway, they gaped open like the mouths of dying fish.

I stumbled down the stairs and crouched by my broken footwear. Rain pelted my neck and shoulders. I raised my head, and through the rippling water that slid down my lashes, saw gigantic eyes appear in every window of the massive grey station that loomed over me.

Standing quickly, I ran across the road, tripping over the newly installed tram lines. I stepped into a deep puddle, it splashed my trousers with blood-red water. I tore at the stained fabric with my elongated fingernails and ripped the garment from my legs, revealing white bloomers that flapped in the wind like an injured bird trying to take off. I attempted to cover the girlish underwear with my hands, but my fingers turned into dumplings and melted.

‘Kazab!’ Yelled an old flower seller dressed in a voluminous white high-necked blouse and billowing black skirt. Her face was so wrinkled it caught the water that fell in the deep crevices of her cheeks. She grasped a bunch of dead roses, held them before me and shouted louder than before, ‘Kazab!’ I put my hands over my ears but her cry of, ‘Kazab!’ was deafening. My knees buckled, and I fell to the ground. ‘Kazab!’  She screeched the word over and over. It pounded my head like rocks being thrown. ‘Kazab! Kazab!’

They say the truth hurts, and it does, for I am indeed a liar.

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If you want to know more about my books you can visit my website where you can download a FREE copy of Changeling Fog. A short story from The Song of Forgetfulness Sci-fi/Dystopian series.  http://oddlybooks.moonfruit.com/

Or my amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Nicola-McDonagh/e/B00D4NAH0S/

 

The Inventor of Crime Scene Photography

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In my last post I talked about my Historical Crime Fiction novel and in particular, a pioneer in crime photography, Alphonse Bertillon. You can view it here:

https://nicolajmcdonagh.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/the-man-behind-the-mug-shot/

Today I continue the story on how this man influenced the advance in Forensic Science.

Not only did Alphonse Bertillon invent the Mug Shot, but a variety of ways to interpret how a crime happened. From simple burglaries, to murder, he came up with methods of measuring the amount of force used in break-ins, known as the Dynamometer. He was also responsible for using ballistics and materials to preserve footprints as clues to how a crime was committed.

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Bertillon was quite a celebrity and even appeared in a few Sherlock Holmes stories, most notably, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when the following dialogue between Dr James Mortimer and Holmes.

“I came to you, Mr. Holmes, because I recognized that I am myself an unpractical man and because I am suddenly confronted with a most serious and extraordinary problem. Recognizing, as I do, that you are the second highest expert in Europe–”

“Indeed, sir! May I inquire who has the honour to be the first?” asked Holmes with some asperity.

“To the man of precisely scientific mind the work of Monsieur Bertillon must always appeal strongly.”

Yet it is his ground breaking use of photography at crime scenes that is his lasting legacy to present day methodology employed by detectives in solving crimes.

Bertillon School of Forensics

His use of taking a picture from above, was unique to crime procedures. Previously, an artist would draw the scene from their eye line, sketching the things that came in their limited range, but Bertillon gave the world a ‘god’s eye view’ showing the scene accurately and in more detail. Greatly improving the police’s chance of solving the case.

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He even used a special laboratory to take the Mug Shots, practice his precise methods and to process the ensuing prints.

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To view the actual photographs, Bertillon took of crime scenes, please go to my Pinterest page.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nikkimcdonagh56/arty-stuff-my-stories-including-glimmer-and-crow-b/

However, when Bertillon’s CSI photographs became known, they were thought of as unsavoury, even ghoulish since they showed the victim’s dead body. Yet these images gave detectives the necessary information to help them discover important clues such as body position, cause of death, wound entry, footprints, murder weapons, blood spattering and so on, that could easily be missed from an initial survey of the scene.

It is thanks to Alphonse Bertillon, that CSI has progressed from somewhat dubious facial measurements, to accurate fingerprinting, and his meticulous way of photographing a crime scene is still used today.

Berillon-Protocol

Here is another small snippet from the first draft, I shall call The Leo Katz Mysteries for want of a better title:

Chapter Three

I confess to being somewhat squeamish. As a child I could not even bear to squash a fly. Miriam had no such qualms and would race about my bedchamber with a rolled up newspaper swatting anything that buzzed. ‘Nasty things that eat dung. You must kill them before they lay eggs in your ears.’

I believed her and before falling asleep would probe my lugs for signs of infestation. I am not sure how I would have reacted if I had discovered an emerging bluebottle in my cochlea. Perhaps something akin to the way I retched on witnessing Klaus probe the severed nasal cavity of Ira Weiss.

‘Stay with us, Leopold. I need your expertise on imaging. Are you going to faint?’

I gulped hard and backed away from my tripod. ‘No, not at all. It’s the smell of the body mingled with the chemicals you use, it is overwhelming.’

‘Perhaps Herr, I mean, Leopold, would care for some fresh air? It is an acquired scent. Shall I escort you to the corridor?’ Lucy wiped her hands on a towel that hung from a nail in the wall next to the half glassed door of the mortuary.

‘Thank you, but I will continue. I must endeavour to overcome my reticence at observing the dead.’

‘Ha! There’s my fellow. Solid and dependable. Well, compose yourself, my little friend and come closer. I need a shot of the entry wounds.’

With shaking hands I lifted my tripod and placed it close to Ira’s pale body. Lucy wiped the last remaining spots of blood from his chest, and joined Klaus by the cart laden with sharp knives and a variety of different sized saws. She did not flinch from the sight of the poor man’s shredded face. Leaning close to observe the raggedness of his wounds, she said, ‘Was he disfigured before or after death?’

My next post will continue the findings I have unearthed during the research for my new book. Watch out for Madame d’Ora!

For more information about my books, please visit my website:

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http://www.oddlybooks.com/

The Man Behind the Mug Shot

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Inspiration comes at strange times on occasions. It hit me quite by chance when I was cleaning the cat litter tray. Why not write a crime thriller set in Victorian times about a photographer who has to find out who has been committing a series of murders? Wow, I thought, no one has done that before, or at least, I’ve never heard of a book quite like that.

Next I needed to set it somewhere. Vienna. Why not? After all it was the place for art and music at that time. After a bit of research, I unearthed some very interesting information about the politics of the time and how it adversely affected the Jewish population of the city. A plot was forming. The protagonist is a photographer that gets caught up in a series of brutal murders of Jewish activists in 1899 and has to solve the case via the use of photographs.

Whilst researching the history of criminal photography for the book, as yet untitled, I came upon the name, Alphonse Bertillon.  A nineteenth century French forensic documentarian.

It is thanks to this man we have access to the recording and storing of the physical details of a criminal. Before his efforts, offenders were hard to keep track of. They could give false names and addresses, so finding those who recommitted a misdemeanour, was often impossible.

Enter Bertillon.

Bertillon,_Alphonse,_fiche_anthropométrique_recto-verso-1As a records clerk at the Prefecture of Police in Paris 1879, Bertillon became irked by the chaotic way they kept criminal data. He worked on a better system to store and classify offenders to make it easier for someone to find them if they re-offended. Using his interest in anthropometry, the scientific study of the proportions and measurements of the human body, he developed a recording system for detailing the size and shape of a criminal’s distinguishing facial features.

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These facial descriptions, classified the shapes, size and breadth of the nose, eyes, ears and other facial features, which he called, “Portrait Parle”. Although the coded lexicon he Invented to use alongside his method was too difficult to use and later abandoned.

However, his idea of “Portrait Parle” lead to his definitive method of identification and recording of a suspect/criminal in the shape of the Mug Shot.

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For the first time a criminal could be photographed alongside his or her name both front and side view. Therefore, their identity could be accurately logged ready for use if they re-offended.

Bertillon’s index card system along with the photograph of the lawbreaker, identified re-offenders better than any other system before his invention, and as we know, the Mug Shot, is still used today, alongside fingerprints, to keep detailed records of criminals ready for use if needed.

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Next time, I’ll be discussing Bertillon’s influence on what we know today as Crime Scene Photography.

Here is a little taster from my book. Please bear in mind that this is just a first draft you will be reading. 

‘Oy, oy, where do you think you’re going?’

An officer broke free of the policeman chain and put his hands on my shoulders. I brushed them away and stood firm. ‘I am expected. Katz.’ I held up my case, shouting above the raised voices, ‘I’m to take images of the crime.’

‘Ah, that stuff. What do you need to do that for? The case is solved. She murdered him in cold blood. Ghoulish is what I call that.’ He pointed at my camera. ‘Some say it takes the soul from the body and the dead can’t go to heaven.’ I shook my head and sighed. ‘Oh, I wouldn’t expect a Jewboy to believe. Your lot haven’t got any souls anyway.’

Aaron stiffened and blurted out, ‘Hey, that’s not true. Take it back.’

‘Or what? Bloodsucker?’

I grabbed Aaron before he lunged towards the policeman. He relaxed a little and hung his head. ‘Do not become aggrieved at this Gentleman’s outburst. They are just words. Nothing more.’ He gulped and raised his chin.

‘Ya. Gift of the gab your lot and no mistake. Go on, get going, join your Yiddish pals.’ He spat at our feet when we shuffled past him towards the murder victim.

It was indeed a gruesome sight. I turned to Aaron. ‘You must go now. This is not a fitting thing for a boy to witness. Go home and be with your mother.’

If you would like to know more about my books, please go to my website:4632622310_242x254

www.oddlybooks.com

Is This Censorship?

Amazon has a put a warning on my book Whisper Gatherers. A Dystopian/sci-fi novel set some 350 years in the future.

They emailed me to say that they have received complaints that the book has an excessive amount of typos. Now, I use a slang-based language that often combines words to make one long one, much the same as George Orwell does in 1984 – Newspeak, crimestop, thoughtcrime, goodthink, oldspeak, pornosec, unperson, and so on.

I have emailed Amazon to tell them that the ‘Errors’ they showed me are in fact intentional, and add to the futuristic tone of the book. They tell me that I must make the changes they specify or they will keep the warning sign up. Now, that is censoring my writing, isn’t it? Also, since when did Amazon become editors? Because that is what they are effectively doing, editing my work.

This book, Whisper Gatherers has been for sale on Amazon since 2015 without any complaints. In fact, I have received many 4 and 5 star reviews that enjoyed and recognised the quirky use of language. Here is a snippet from one such review:

on December 6, 2016
Dystopian is one of my favorite genres and I try to stay up-to-date with the latest novels. How come I missed this one so late? I don’t know!

The author created a very complex and appealing world I traveled with Adara with great pleasure. I must say the experimental English was at first hard to understand (English is my second language) but as I got used to it, I found it stunning. It helped develop the feeling of being there with the main character who narrates the story.

You can see more here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00YMSP1UA

 

Here is the email from Amazon:

Hello,
We’re writing to let you know that customers have reported some quality problems in your book. We confirmed the issues are present in your file and as a result we have temporarily posted a warning message on the book’s Amazon.com Kindle detail page until the issues are fixed.  Please make the following changes and resubmit your content to us as soon as you can:

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 281; Errored text: bordercheckpoint.; Context: We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint. ; Comments: “We stopped just in sight of the bordercheckpoint.” should be “We stopped just in sight of the border checkpoint.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 341; Errored text: clothesspace; Context: It worked a treat and I diverted my gloomy musings by searching my clothesspace for stuff to wear at the ceremony. ; Comments: ” searching my clothesspace” should be ” searching my clothes space”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 755; Errored text: dryingsheet,; Context: I would have ablushed more of my bod, except there was no dryingsheet, so I wiped my damp flesh upon my tunic before returning to the others. ; Comments: “dryingsheet, so” should be “drying sheet, so”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1362; Errored text: cleansingplace; Context: Go fetch the medikit from the cleansing area.” “Will do.” I went all quickly into the cleansingplace and opened the cupboard. ; Comments: “cleansingplace and” should be “cleansing place and”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1580; Errored text: nanorope,; Context: It was as light as a bub’s eyelash, as strong as nanorope, and as see-through as a raindrop when it came into contact with its owners heartbeat. ; Comments:  “strong as nanorope” should be  “strong as nano rope”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1581; Errored text: girlygigs; Context: The Synthbag was a thing all the girlygigs in Cityplace hankered after. ;

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1584; Errored text: cleansingroom.; Context: I grabbed some of the Medistuff that Santy used to heal my wound and went into the cleansingroom. ; Comments: “into the cleansingroom.” should be “into the cleansing room.”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1591; Errored text: cleansingarea,; Context: I sloped off into the cleansingarea, and packed my bloody bits with a reddysponge. ; Comments: “I sloped off into the cleansingarea” should be “I sloped off into the cleansing area”

Error Category: Typo; Kindle Location: 1632; Errored text: comtext; Context: A whole load of comtext appeared. ; Comments: “A whole load of comtext appeared.” should be”A whole load of context appeared.”  This change does not even make sense in context to the narrative, as the character is talking about text on a computer screen, hence the word ‘comtext’.

I have received another email stating that Amazon have taken on board my intentional use of language, and that my book is now in the hands of a Quality team:

Hello,

Thanks for letting us know that your book’s reading experience was intentional.

We’ve forwarded this information to our Quality team for review and we’ll get back to you within three business days.

Now, if this Quality team is an automated programme, I’m stuffed. Putting a warning that states a book is full of typos will have a detrimental effect on the sale of that book, surely? I have added my own ‘warning’ to the book description so that any potential purchaser knows that the language is intentional.  I am very upset about the whole thing.

What do you think?

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What if your last day at school turned out to be your first day as a rebel warrior?

When Writing Is Hard

Over Christmas I broke my right wrist rather badly. Emergency surgery and a metal plate  later, I am unable to type with both hands. So, my writing has suffered a lot. I find it slow to type with my left hand and by the time I have written the word in my head, I’ve forgotten the rest of them. Yes, I tried dictation, but it’s not for me. I find my muse by staring at a blank page and letting the words fall from my fingertips.

Still, this glitch is giving me the time to do research for a new genre I wan to try out, psychological crime thriller. I’m rather enjoying discovering about how to manipulate people to get them to do your bidding for evil purposes. Also, I am editing and getting ideas together for more stories, so it’s not all doom and gloom. I just need to bide my time, let my wrist heal and get back to the job of writing when I’m better.

purple cast

sqiud hand q

Squid hand haiku

Dark hides broken bones

Of finger cephalopod

No ink to write with

In the mean time, here is a short video and Haiku in honour of my injury.

Link to video:

https://youtu.be/A6M6_aUWvqs

If you want to know more about my work, go to my website: 

https://www.oddlybooks.com

Or visit my Amazon Author page:

Author.to/BooksonAmazon

Short Story Anthology Launch

Here is a blog post about short story writer Paul Toolan. I was drawn to his anthology because of the subject matter, ageing and dementia. We all grow old and with it subjected to illnesses and lapses in memory. Paul uses these themes to conjure up twelve tales to tackle this often sensitive subject.

Please read on and learn some great insight into how the author gets his inspiration.

The characters in this collection are looking back into the half-shaded landscapes of memory. (5)

‘Where do your stories come from?’

 If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

a view from memory hill

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:  smarturl.it/avwm

 

Paul Toolan