Writing Blog

CLEAR VISION

A few years ago my mid-teen daughter asked me, why aren’t there many all-out adventure novels featuring girls as the main characters?

I shrugged, as I hadn’t given the subject much (ie. zero) thought. What about TWILIGHT, HUNGER GAMES and stuff like that, I responded, revealing the full extent of my knowledge. “They are all right,” she said, “but they’re filled with vampires, romance, misery, dystopian teen angst and kids with missing or deceased parents.”

Her words got me thinking and led to the writing of BLURRED VISION.

I had a story bubbling along in the back of my mind that, the more I considered it, the more it appeared to be perfect. An all action science fiction story filled with humour and ideally suited to feature two confident, resourceful, no-nonsense girls as the main characters.

The idea floating around the enormous amount of space between my ears was about a teen schoolgirl who swaps places with a girl from another planet. The working title was TEEN ALIEN, but I decided not to go down the alien path. I wanted space to be filled with humans, inhabiting a chaotic, ancient and growing galactic confederation the people of Earth (which is yet to be invited to join) don’t know exists.

This premise allowed me to explore many more of my own interests in addition to those suggested by my daughter.

When I was a child I loved Enid Blyton’s SECRET SEVEN and FAMOUS FIVE stories. Those kids didn’t muck around. They were fearless and jumped into danger at the drop of a hat and, by George!, they were going to solve the mystery at hand. I wanted Polly and Kylie, my BLURRED VISION characters, to take the same no-nonsense approach to life and to danger. An overall attitude of, in the words of my wife, ‘be scared and do it anyway!’

I also grew up reading classic science fiction and non-fiction alien invasion and flying saucer books, so I now had the opportunity to set the record straight with the ‘real’ explanation and history of interstellar contact with Earth over the centuries and particularly since the 1940s flying saucer craze.

In addition to these elements, I had to invent an entire universe, complete with its own history, laws and conventions. Not an easy task, even though it was a very enjoyable one. I decided on a mainly human universe, filled with extremely diverse people who are also recognisably human, with all the good and bad that suggests. Based on my own general ignorance – I wouldn’t survive five minutes in a dystopian world – I decided the general population of ‘my’ universe would also suffer a lack of knowledge. Here on Earth, most people can drive, but they wouldn’t have a clue how a car works, let alone build one. I watch TV, but how it operates might as well be magic. Electricity, the same. Phone, building a house, hunting for or growing food, assembling a boat; all of them alien to me, if you will pardon the pun.

In the universe of BLURRED VISION, humans using advanced technology way beyond anything seen on earth generally don’t have a clue how anything works. Just like us (well, me anyway).

All of these elements meant I could have a lot of fun and employ a great deal of humour and I hope BLURRED VISION works for readers of all ages and on a variety of levels.

Dear New Writer…

Ever heard advice like this… “head-hopping is very complex and difficult, so new writers should never try it.”

I absolutely agree with the first half of the sentence, but the second half, which is extremely common wherever you see ‘writing advice,’ is so negative and condescending I can’t find a profanity extreme enough to condemn it.

You would not throw an infant into a swimming pool and say, “swimming is extremely difficult, so I suggest you don’t attempt it until you are more experienced.”

It is dramatic to equate the two issues, but it does demonstrate how bad advice can kill or stifle raw creativity. Head hopping is only one example. I hear the same advice about multiple points of view, flashbacks, prologues or most other element of writing. In other words, if you are a new writer, don’t write!

There is something I believe that new writers should definitely avoid (and I am serious): other writers.

These other writers are, on the whole, well meaning. They have suffered the trials and errors, traps and blind alleys, frustrations and exasperations common to this joyful experience we call the writing life. They presumably don’t want new writers to experience the same angst and blood-boiling agonies and are doing them a favour by telling them to avoid the same path.

But they ignore the damage they are causing with this terrible advice. First of all, just because they failed or struggled to master a particular aspect of writing doesn’t mean some newbie writer can’t come along and instantly, or with a little practice, master the technique or, as I like to define this kind of ability, get away with it.

Secondly, avoidance of difficult aspects of writing means that a new writer may not experience misery and despair, two fundamental elements a writer must experience in order to improve and develop their own voice.

It’s not difficult to identify a writer who has managed to dodge the necessary lessons and mistakes required to gain an understanding of the complexity and breadth of the art. Their writing is bland and superficial, lacking an understanding of the power of the written word and the techniques of conveying an idea, however simple or complicated, in a sophisticated manner.

There may be limitations to a writer’s abilities, but only the individual writer can find out what they are. And the great writers never stop pushing them further away.

It will come as no surprise to learn that I hate writing advice. When I am told I must never do something, I take it as a challenge. When they say I must always do something else, I make a point of doing it another way.

It will also not surprise you to learn that by following this path I have made and continue to make many mistakes. I have made lots of them for years and it is my hope that one day I will have made enough of them to be considered a good writer.

And my thoughts on the thorny subject of head-hopping? It’s not for me, but that’s based on my experience.