About Owen Elgie

I'm an author who likes to explore strange ideas. The world is a very strange place filled with very strange ideas. Maybe make believe is the only way out?

BUT I THOUGHT ………….

As it turns out, I was very lucky that I didn’t get the book to a point that it was out in the world when I’d originally been aiming for. I was so certain that all was going swimmingly and things were in the process of getting it out and about, when I ran into a brick wall.

I discovered a quite horrible plot hole and it’s been taking me this time to rectify it, shovelling narrative earth in to said hole and tamping it down as hard as I can.

But it seems that that wily plot hole has been making counter moves to everything I’ve attempted, leaving me facing new issues to replace that which I’d fixed.

The Circle of Stars is fighting as I try to bring her onto land but I’m stronger than I look and I’m not a fan of even considering the idea of failure.

Onwards for the final big push.

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THE OTHER SIDE

Did you miss me?

I usually do this on a Monday but this week, I thought it would be good to appear at the other end of the week, just to take in the view from here.

I think we all need to check out the other side occasionally.

We might just learn something.

DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING

The cricket world cup is taking place in the UK as I type and I’ve been enjoying the small bit I’ve been able to see. I used to play the sport back in the day and just loved bowling. The idea of pitting my skill against a batsman who was not only trying to score runs, but in doing so, was avoiding being dismissed.

I started out as a fast bowler but as the years went by, I switched to bowl leg spin a bit as well, but in both cases, being able to have the batsman overlook or mis-read what I was trying to achieve was always a major part of what I was going for.

Sport has helped me look at life in a great many ways and I’m incredibly thankful for the insight into myself that the seasons of play have given me and now as a writer, I see that making the reader mis-read something, giving the facts in such a way that point one way but really reveal another, is a vital skill to have in your locker.

I’d hold the ball in a specific way and it would behave very differently. The shined side allowed the ball to swing but its deployment dictated the direction of the swing. Bowling the leg break ball, one that hit the ground and then changed direction due to the spin I’d put on it was a useful weapon but the googly was the hidden explosive. You bowl it with a similar action but it spins the other way. Disguise it correctly and it just looks like any of the others that will spin the same way but when it hits the ground, it almost seems to take on a mind of its own.

As a writer, being able to disguise what may or may not be taking place at a pivotal juncture gives me that most delightful of weapons. I can make the reader expect things that aren’t going to unfold. I can lead them on a Pied Piper-esque parade of narrative until the googly in the story spins and reveals itself for what it really was.

We all have to do our best to examine what’s in front of us and make choices on the facts as we see them. Finding the right moments to move forwards and attack and when to sit back and defend. Unfortunately, life is a very patient adversary and will so often catch us out with that most obvious hitch which we don’t see until it’s too late.

I was caught out in this way at the weekend. Blazing sunshine and I was going to be doing a bit of walking about so I had to be careful not to burn my face or head. Slapped on sun cream so all was covered. Didn’t consider the long drive there. Burnt my left arm as the sun was always on that side as we travelled.

I’d taken in the information at hand and promptly missed a pretty basic fact. My arm stung a bit that day.

Wally.

THE FALLING GLOOM

Greetings all.

Last week, I discussed how the way that we view the world can have a powerful effect on everything in our lives and that there are coping mechanisms that can mean that when you’re confronted by problems, you can navigate a way through.

But flipping the coin, we will always experience times where the darkness wins. Then what?

As an author, I’m very aware that when I write a story, there more often that not has to be a ‘happy ending’. If you think about so many of the stories we have in our lives, the couple who’ve been so close all the way through, finally fall in love, the terrible monster is vanquished or the moustache twirling villain has their dastardly scheme foiled. It’s a warming feeling when the characters we’re invested in are able to beat down the challenges and emerge victorious.

Painfully, the real world isn’t always like that.

We can lose.

Now last week was the joyous knowledge of at least being able to break problems apart and deal with the fragments rather than the whole thing but it’s very easy to have that mindset become, well if I do this, everything will be fine, and you don’t see the huge storm as it approaches.

Have you met the eternally optimistic person who just always glosses over any possible downside?

It always then comes as a crushing shock when something breaks and can have the chance to shatter their whole world view. We’ve all been in a similar position when the smart money says one outcome and you end up with the other. I asked my cousin if he wanted to go for a few beers and watch the Wales v Fiji match in the Rugby World Cup and he said that he was going to give that one a miss but he’d be out for the Quarter Final match against South Africa after Wales beat the South Sea islanders.

Wales lost and were knocked out of the tournament.

I walked home from the pub in a numb state of disbelief that the result had gone that way having been thinking the same thing that my cousin had. Wales were obviously going to win. And then they didn’t.

Neither of us that day had even prepared for the outcome that was delivered and it was that shock that did the damage. We both just assumed that Wales would turn up and the game would be a relative formality. Not that Fiji would be crushed but the idea that Wales lose? Preposterous.

When the darkness of our own minds reaches out to drag us into the depths, having considered the realities of what could happen before can allow us to at least have some understanding of what’s taking place while we suffer through the darkness. That understanding can ultimately give us the first step on the climb back from our own dungeon.

Recognising the risks that are inherent to the lives we lead means we can make sure we do our best to avoid them. Having a permanent sunny outlook means you end up missing the potholes as you walk. My characters will have the same worries as I write them because that’s what people go through but having too much of one or the other gets you nowhere.

Hope for the best and enjoy those sunny feelings but we all know how important a little bit of shade can be on a hot day.

NEW GLASSES

Hello world and welcome to Monday.

This week, despite what the title of this post suggests, I’m not talking about a new addition to my face. Instead I want to look at how we can be our own worst enemies just by how we see the world.

Is there someone in your circle of friends who’s always up beat, regardless of what’s happening around them? How about someone who just sees the very worst in every aspect of life and automatically defaults to expecting the world to end?

It’s fair to say that the world at the moment is a scary place to be but when push comes to shove, isn’t it always? There are political disagreements everywhere, as there always are in some form. Wars rage, again, as they always seem to be doing, and ideologies of all shapes and sizes fight one another, each certain of their own righteousness.

I’m not going to try and say that each of the things taking place in the world at the moment are nothing to worry about. I know that Brexit in the UK is a tidal wave waiting to crest and crush massive swathes of the country and Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un are, to borrow a phrase, two cheeks of the same arse, both sure of their own divine right to be above everyone else. What I’m more interested in is the way that we hold the power over ourselves to view the world, not through rose tinted glasses, but maybe at least with the slightest sun sheen.

On a day to day basis, we’re confronted by a thousand tiny choices that range in size from ‘the what should I have for breakfast?’ to ‘how are we going to make this month’s rent?’ and any one of these things has the potential to slow our progress on the road of life. The challenge is to try and see the events in the context of what they are.

If you forget to put the bins out, just do it next time. Miss something in a film that everyone else got? You just couldn’t see the wood for the trees. Miss a turning on the motorway? Definitely don’t reverse or jag across lanes, just carry on to the next junction and come back.

Facing serious issues is a major drain and they can become behemoth monsters threatening to squash you flat but in each case, there will always be ways of breaking things apart to at least make the challenge more manageable, even if not totally beatable.

When I write my stories, I want the characters to have to go through that kind of thought process to resolve the tasks but that’s also how I go about things to create the story. Ten small tasks are easier to achieve than one big one.

Maybe if we all came at the world with a more ‘Why not?’ attitude instead of ‘Why?”, we’d all be able to get more done and live happier lives all round?

Next week I’ll consider what it’s like when, no matter how hard you try, you can’t turn that smile upside down and it’s the darkness rather than the sun that wins out.

SCI-FI IDEOLOGIES

The two biggest sci-fi universes are those of Star Wars and Star Trek and they are two really different places to see life unfold.

Star Trek is based around the crew of a star ship who are out there to explore the universe to expand the sum total of the knowledge of the whole collective federation that they all belong to. There are different ranks and the characters on the ships are in place like a modern day navel vessel and the ships are all armed with an amazingly powerful array of armaments yet the whole premise of the stories that come along are sat squarely on top of the idea that everyone is equal and should be treated the same. The crews of the ships are all explorers first and the ships are filled with families.

Star Wars has a monolithic power exerting influence over the galaxy while those people on the outside struggle against the totalitarian life of the Empire. An ancient religion becomes the core strength of the fight to push back and there is a clear marking of the light and dark, the good and bad.

Star Trek sees religion as a right but the characters always explore ways to make things happen themselves. Star Wars has the characters trusting in the Force as the guiding light to show them the way.

Both of these universes are filled with such possibility that anything and everything outside of those central ideologies can take place and the spaces where this bumps up against the core theme is often where the stories take place. Star Trek with the different races and ideologies which appear against the Federation, Star Wars with Han Solo, Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt existing in a world that falls between the cracks of the Empire and those fighting against them, dealing with both sides of the fight.

As in the real world, these universes have very different ways of crafting the way the world fits together. Star Trek is built on the relative realities of what can be faced and explored, Star Wars has magic and laser swords and space battles.

We see every day that the way that people view the world and the way that they go about solving the conundrums that are thrown in their way differ due to an ideology. The starting point will have a powerful effect on the choices that you make after you begin the journey. If I trust that the Force will ultimately guide me to where I have to be, whatever happens becomes the will of the Force rather than me making active choices. If I just expect that my own ingenuity and understanding of the world is what’s going to get me to where I have to go, would that mean that I was going to ignore the input of others who may have a different view?

Both worlds have at their core, a drive for individual freedoms and for everyone to live their best life, but take us on very different routes to explore the meanings of freedom and what it is that we’d be expecting.

Some would see freedom within the Federation as stifling, not wanting to be a part of a much larger whole in the same way that living by your own rules and existing on the very edges of society could be viewed as a massive danger.

And I think that understanding where someone would be starting their journey from can allow us all to break down the misunderstandings between us.

ONE THING

Each and every day, we all go about our business happy in the knowledge that, for the most part, we know and understand everything that’s around us. We don’t really consider the specifics of so many things, that it’s a far too regular occurrence that we could ‘zone out’ because we just expect that everything will work the way it always has.

Bridge

The picture above is taken from Google Maps and shows the footbridge that sits over the A20 road in Ditton, Kent. It’s a bridge that I’ve walked over a great many times over the years as I lived on one side, and the schools I went to from ages 5 to 13 were on the other. It’s a solid structure and hasn’t changed over the years. It sits there no matter the weather, and provides a grateful public with a method to cross a very busy main road.

The reason I bring this up is that every time I walked over the bridge, save for the occasional icy morning, I never felt the need to hold onto the railings. I was happy to march up and over and then down the other side freely swinging my arms from an early age. It never ever crossed my mind that I was in danger up there so I just went on my way happily.

But take the railings away, now it’s much more dangerous and I doubt very much that anyone would want to risk making their way over just in case.

Now this is the challenging part.

Why wouldn’t I be just as able to walk over that bridge without the railings there as I had with them in place?

I was able to happily stroll over the top of that bridge without a care in the world, never coming close to the edge of the concrete platform and not even threatening the possibility of ever grazing my hand onto the metal barriers, yet take them away and I’m sure I’d be reduced to crawling over the bridge on my hands and knees if I even did that. I didn’t use the barriers but they were there to give me the protection if I asked for it.

I recognise that this is a relatively odd example but how about this one.

Basin

Another picture from Google Maps but this time it’s of the old aqueduct in Aberdulais. Another area that I know well thanks to spending a huge amount of time playing around here when I was a child visiting my family in Neath.

Now you can see from the image, the aqueduct travels over the river to the canal on the far side and it’s easy to walk across the aqueduct to the other side. Importantly, there are no barriers.

When the water level is low as in the picture, it’s simple to just casually wander over the old structure and we did regularly. There was a twenty foot drop to the river but we just carried on. Now I’ve also walked over the aqueduct when the river level was much higher. Huge heavy rain had swelled the river to have reached up to around three feet from the top and it was thundering along at a remarkable speed. Walking over the same familiar pathway became vastly more terrifying because of the increased proximity of the water.

I recognise that there was more danger from the risk provided by the force of the water hitting the aqueduct and the chance that a fallen tree could have been washed up and onto us as we walked so please don’t think that I’m just saying that each situation should be treated the same. What I’m looking at is how the change of a single element of what we do can spin us out of our comfort zone but that before we let the spinning commence, maybe just by examining the details of what it was that’s been altered can allow us to handle the change more smoothly.

In each of the examples above, the actual task of being able to walk over the same route, hadn’t changed. I was able to walk over the bridge and the aqueduct without there being any concerns when the surrounding conditions were one way yet the task of doing the same thing with a single detail altered changes the dynamics hugely.

I’m always looking at options for characters in what I write and it can become all too easy to fall down on the idea that something massive is needed to shake up the casual calm of those involved when all you need to do is make something mundane become suddenly more uncomfortable.

Imagine doing this and feeling casually blasé about it.

Jimmy Kimmel Live on You Tube.