Inappropriate metaphors are like Jesus playing ukelele – vivid but unconvincing

I have an odd relationship with metaphors. If someone asks me to come up with one on the spot, my mind freezes, becomes unresponsive. I see an endlessly flipping sand timer, and while I wait for my stupid fat head to reboot, I’m standing there open-mouthed with a text cursor blinking endlessly behind my eyes.

But then, if I’m actually trying to explain something – like my mind going blank – it’s pretty easy to convey that particular feeling with metaphor, in this case using the frustration we all encounter with an ageing PC.

Abstract thoughts can be expressed much more clearly with a metaphor, that’s why we use them. But overuse can be tedious – you don’t have to describe every thought, action and scene in some verbose simile. In fact you positively shouldn’t.

Really tight writing uses narrator-appropriate metaphors. Similarly, bad writing spoils the experience with narrator-inappropriate metaphors.

What do I mean by that?

Continue reading Inappropriate metaphors are like Jesus playing ukelele – vivid but unconvincing

Trolling – Flash Fiction

Donald punishes his keyboard. He hammers the keys as though his manifest hate might translate into binary. His yellowing teeth grind like marbles in a bag; his brow pulled taut, head pounding. How is the world so blind?

His face can’t contain his anger – it strains and twists and flexes, a nightmare of sinewed spleen. Pop… A trickle seeps from one nostril, pitter-patters on the desk. He blinks blood-shot eyes, blistered and blurred through pink-tinged tears.

He doesn’t notice when his fingers start to bleed, worn away with hate on antisocial media, staining the letters red and muddy brown. He doesn’t stop to ease the pain when flesh gives way to bone, and thump, thump, thump becomes click, click, clack.

Why won’t they listen? Donald guffaws in disbelief. Hate spits from his lips onto the screen, glistening red, blue and green.

How are they so blind?

—————–

Submitted to a Flash Fiction competition – 150 words, taking the themes of man versus society and obsession as inspiration.

Finding time to write – a new train of thought

As a writer, I’m constantly searching for moments in the day to actually write. It’s not easy; I’ve got a full-time job, I’m organising a wedding, I’ve got this bloody blog thing to write – there’s not enough time to go round!

For instance, I realised just this morning that since completing my plot outline, I’ve written one measly chapter. One! In a week! I have 88 to complete, which means at this glacial pace, the second draft won’t be complete until APRIL 2017.

This is clearly not good enough.

But wait, watch what happens when you cram more work in:

Two chapters a week – Finished by June 2016

Three chapters a week – Finished by February 2016

One a day – Finished by November 2015

One AN HOUR – Finished by THIS SATURDAY.

You see? At that rate I could be a bestseller by this time next week!

Continue reading Finding time to write – a new train of thought

Breakthrough! – ye draft bastard

I’ve finally finished my plot outline! – No easy feat when you’ve been rambling into your computer for a decade, hoping a structured novel will spill out of your head like a Homeric poem, and all that came out was a meandering stream of consciousness that more resembled Lost than Paradise Lost.

The biggest step was breaking everything up into chapters. Previously, I didn’t know if I wanted the novel to be structured chronologically or to shift back and forth according to narrative perspective, so I just left everything in one document per character.

I have no idea why I didn’t change this earlier: it makes the process so much more palatable – as a writer and for the reader.

I mean that sincerely: use chapters, always.

Continue reading Breakthrough! – ye draft bastard

The Lucan Widower – Flash Fiction

Submitted to a Flash Fiction competition – 260 words, taking the theme of guilt, conflict between two men and the work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as inspiration.

—————–

When I arrived at the station, Deputy Bosworth handed me a letter, scrawled in blotches from a blunted quill, as though roughly plucked from some hapless pheasant and dunked hastily in ink.

Its contents read thusly:

Inspector Harding,

Damn your insolent contumely. I’ll have satisfaction, sir; and from you, no less. Call on me by noon, lest I take the matter into my own hands.

Fair warning,
Lord Lucan

“What is his grievance?” I queried, knowing full well.

Through barely obfuscated contempt, Bosworth ejaculated: “Though no aspersions have been cast, he maintains his innocence regarding Lady Lucan’s regrettable suicide, and is belligerent to any fellow he encounters. He insists the constabulary considers him guilty and whispers scandal to the townsfolk.”

I had yet to remove my overcoat; nor would I, as I turned and left for Lucan Manor.

After a lengthy drive, I arrived at the antiquated country home to find the tempestuous incumbent in a state of mad, drunken befuddlement, belching rebukes at a gaggle of geese.

The hills engulfed his clamour with silence. He was alone.

Lucan noticed me: “Harding! You filth-dribbling scoundrel! I know what you’re up to. Lies and skullduggery!” Spit speckled his beard like dew.

“You’re right Lucan – rumours were spread.” My eyes began to well. “But lies aside, you are culpable.”

An obstinate tear escaped me. “You drove her to it, Lucan… My pretty chicken.”

“I knew it,” he growled.

I drew my truncheon, felt its weight. “’Lord Lucan… vanished.’ – whatever will people think?”

I tried, but failed, to smile. “A guilty conscience, perhaps.”

Why your manuscript sucks – (and how to fix it)

A reader reclines, opens your book:

Harry kissed his kids goodbye at the breakfast table and rushed out the door, still pulling his jacket on as he stepped into the brisk morning air of leafy, peaceful Highgate. “See you later darling,” he called to his wife.

Another day to survive this lie.

His guilt tinted the world, made his shame sharper. The cigarette butt he’d discarded – smoking to obfuscate Patricia’s perfume – shone like a beacon in the grass. His car tyres twinkled with the white gravel of her Surrey driveway. Must get it cleaned.

As he unlocked the vehicle, his greatest fear rounded the street and confidently strode towards him: Patricia, out walking her Irish terrier, was in his fucking neighbourhood.

“Harry? But, what are you doing here? I thought you lived in Shoreditch?”

“I do, I was just, I left my car here, my friend, we had a poker game last night, here, I’m just picking up the car… what are you doing here?”

Sally came out of the house with the boys. His throat constricted. He couldn’t breathe. He desperately tugged the knot of his tie and…

Wait wait WAIT WAIT STOP

Continue reading Why your manuscript sucks – (and how to fix it)

Basket case: a balloon flight in Cambridge

The balloon gets laid out flat
Big up the balloon bag

Finally, after two and a half years of failed attempts, the skies cleared, the winds calmed, and Mr Branson adjudged it safe to fly over the fields of Cambridgeshire.

It had been a Christmas present back in 2012. We had tried five times and been thwarted by mild weather conditions – such as “breezes” and “mist” – deemed too hazardous to risk a launch.

At 11pm the night before, we made the call to find out if the flight would go ahead. When it was confirmed, we finished our game of Scrabble – in a haze of excitement and disbelief – and went to bed; we’d have to be at the airfield by 5.30am in the morning.

We met 12 other bleary-eyed passengers at an empty airfield a few miles from Cambridge, and set about helping the pilot inflate the balloon. It took about an hour to get it all set up, inflated, heated and upright.

Continue reading Basket case: a balloon flight in Cambridge

Up, up and a whale of a time playing Scrabble

It’s 9pm on a Saturday and Swarana and I are once again in Cambridge passing the time before we give Richard Branson a tinkle.

We’ve been doing this every once in a while since 2013; driving up to Swarana’s Mum’s, playing a nice game of Scrabbs, eating dosa or bhel puri or tasty shaak, and nervously picking up the phone to dial the Virgin Dick.

You see, back in the Christmas of 2012, I lovingly bought Swarana two tickets on a hot air balloon from Virgin Balloon Flights. But every time we’ve come up to punch those tickets, the flight gets cancelled at the last minute.

Continue reading Up, up and a whale of a time playing Scrabble

Dining Out – Flash Fiction

My heart flitters, as though a moth flutters inside. Christ, was that a heart attack? Need to breathe – stay calm. Was that normal? I feel fine, but that wasn’t normal – was it normal?

Can’t eat. Can’t hold my fork! Just breathe through your nose.

Apologise to Sarah.

Well, go on! Do it!

“I’m…”

Jesus, you sound like you’re having a stroke! Stop scaring her! Pull yourself together – keep breathing!

Fingers are clamping up – body’s tingling. Pins and needles all over. My mind’s a tornado. Got to keep calm.

I’m fine.

“James? Are you ok?”

I’m losing it – I’m losing it.

The Last Family in England – Matt Haig – [Book Review]

Labrador Prince struggles to keep his human family safe
Bought in Pai, Thailand

I found The Last Family in England in a bookshop in Thailand and bought it for my girlfriend. She’d loved The Humans, also by Matt Haig, but had lost it in a hotel somewhere before finishing it, so I figured this would plug the gap until I bought another copy (yeah, you’re welcome, Haig, you’re welcome).

But, before she could glance at it, I thought I’d take a look.

I read it in two days.

Continue reading The Last Family in England – Matt Haig – [Book Review]