THE LAW

In all of the story ideas that I’ve had over the last few months, there’s been a core of importance around the relationship of the people and the law. From dystopian futures and a rag tag uprising through to the police racing against time to prevent a catastrophe, how the population react to the authority figures and then, how that relationship can permeate every part of life.

What do you feel about the Police?

I suppose it’d depend on a great many things but in there will have to be what kind of interactions you’ve had with them.

So what interactions have you had with them?

If the only time you’ve ever had the chance to deal face to face with the Police was a passing nod at a village fete, you’re going to have a very different opinion than someone who’s a career criminal who keeps getting arrested. In each case, we would be built by the experiences and that’s the same as pretty much everything, but the next place to look is the Police themselves.

No matter the reasons you have to deal with the law, those people of the thin blue line have a very important role to fill in society. Have you ever thought about the kinds of things that members of the Police force have to deal with?

If you’ve been broken into, the Police will be there to investigate and not only catch the person responsible but also maybe retrieve your lost belongings. If you break the law, then they’re coming for you. But also, if you’re attacked and they’re the first on the scene, they’ll care for you, they’ll comfort you should they have to deliver the horrific news that a loved one has been killed.

The Police put themselves in harms way on a normal day at work. Drunken fights, abuse, broken bodies and the possibility of being the target of violence themselves aren’t the sort of job ‘perks’ that most of us would put up with but the men and women of the Police accept that they have to deal with these things and more yet still head off to work.

So we should be cheering for the law every day?

Well, maybe not.

There have been a great many examples of members of the Police force not quite reaching the high standards we expect of them. Indeed, in storytelling, the idea of the ‘dirty cop’ is startlingly common and there will always be examples in all walks of life of people who just think abhorrent things so finding some in the Police shouldn’t be a shock. But whereas in other jobs, these people are now gifted with a remarkable amount of power to explore those ideas. Just a tiny step and the power is being used far outside the rules.

I’m writing stories where there is a strong focus on what a ruling force can do. In The Circle books, the main character is placed within a very strict framework of rules but that doesn’t mean that that framework can simply be viewed as existing for the good of everyone with no possible dark side. Recognising that there may be some darkness within the very force that is there to protect us all and maintain the boundaries of our society allows for a much more expressive and nuanced collection of prose. If the good guy can go bad, what does that mean for the rest of us?

The law is needed and as an extension of the law, the Police are a vital part of how our societies are stitched together but like all those superheroes out there, they have the great responsibility that comes with the power. The Police can far too easily become the clenched fist of the ruling power and destroy any and all dissenting voices but without them, we all find ourselves living in the film The Purge.

 

Advertisements

LUCKY ROUTINE

Have you been watching the football?

I’ve watched some of the action though I’ve not been glued to each and every second of it, work and all that, and I’ve enjoyed what’s been taking place for the most part.

Now this post isn’t going to be about the clear superiority of rugby to football, which I think has been yet again proved due to the antics of so many of the players as they either roll around on the floor as if someone has shot them in the soul or they square up to the referee in a gang as they scream their opinions on any all aspects of his decisions. No, this time, I was reminded of the various little rituals and superstitions that players engage in all around the world when they play.

Why are superstitions so powerful?

If you’ve watched England play rugby over the last decade, you’d have seen some pretty decent goal kicking from Owen Farrell and before him, Jonny Wilkinson. Before that, Neil Jenkins of Wales was metronomic in his accumulation of points. And each of them had a very specific ritual they used before each and every kick as a way to do everything they could to maximize the chances of the ball sailing between the posts.

When I played, I did the same.

I’d banged over a penalty from inside my own half when playing for the school and because it went over, I did all I could to each time from then on, to copy what I’d done. Now I accept that there are things that will improve the chance of success which come from the science of what I was doing. Optimal angle of approach, correct angle of the ball on the tee, contact with the stitches rather than flat on the panel of the ball. All of these things would have been a part of what I did but I’m not sure that making sure I took three breaths before starting the run up or the particular way I swayed before that, would have had that much impact.

Never the less, each time from then on, the same routine was plugged in and off I went. I wasn’t perfect as a goal kicker but I wasn’t too shabby either, and that success came from the practice I put in but also in the fact that I had my superstitions with me. Following the same routine which had worked on that one occasion would give positive results, obviously. Each game I played, I clutched at my lucky process, just like Dumbo and his feather, to make the odds lean in my favour but just like Dumbo, the ability was inside me all along but I needed that superstition.

People all over the world have lucky objects or rituals that help them through their days. It’s been the same through the far reaches of time. We’ve tried to understand what goes on around us and do all we can to weight the dice in our favour. It worked once so if we repeat what we did when we were successful, maybe it was that thing that was responsible for the positive result. If you were successful the second time, that just reinforces the idea and from then on you can’t think of a time before the process.

Now civilisations all through time have dealt in the same things.

How many religions are there in the world? They can’t all be right so that leaves superstition. Someone once suggested a way of behaving that would bring positive results, a particular ritual to follow, and it stuck. Animal sacrifices. Stone formations. Dancing for rain. All of these things came about as ways to influence the world in your favour, to show that you were doing the right things and the more people that did them and good things happened, the stronger the belief.

Superstitions are there to allow us a feeling of having even the slightest sliver of control over the uncontrollable. They go beyond all of the effort and work that may have gone into the preparation for a specific event to act as the added bonus to what you’ve done. You’ve explored all options you had available so if things don’t work out, there’s not a great deal more you could have done.

So everyone out there, cling tightly to your superstitions to help you feel positive but never let them overshadow the true power that we all have inside us to really achieve greatness, it never came from the lucky rabbit’s foot at all.

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?

Have you ever crashed into a secret?

You either have one or know someone who does and you want to know.

With all of the ideas I’ve been working on for The Circle of Stars and some other bits and pieces, the idea of secrets seem to keep floating to the surface.

We all keep secrets of one kind or another. What you’ve bought someone for a birthday, the cheque’s in the post, and all the way up to the gladly less common, I did kill that man. The whole of the process just involves keeping said fact away from view or for just a select group and when it comes to story telling, the struggle to either uncover said fact or keep it hidden despite the efforts of others is very often a central tenet of what goes on.

Now in the real world, these things still happen but as always, it’s more than just the two choices that can cause problems.

Keeping a secret can cause problems beyond just the keeping. Guilt potentially about what was done and also for the fact you have to keep it under wraps. Trust issues as you may recognise that a significant other isn’t being fully truthful. Resentment that everyone around you may know something yet they’re keeping you in the dark. Intrigue at the thought of a puzzle to solve.

Imagine you’re not told something at work, which you then know that others around you do know. Everyone’s sworn to secrecy and you’re out in the cold. Why don’t they tell you? Have you done something wrong? Is it about you? Don’t they like you? Are you going to be fired?

Your behaviour would suddenly be altered at the thought of all the questions which come with not knowing. You’d want to know. You’d try to find out. And you’d look at the others differently. It wouldn’t matter what the detail was, things would be tilted because you were he odd one out.

A secret as a story telling tool, is a wonderful chance to plant seeds for the narrative to grow as the story progresses. It can allow you to explore character dynamics in a way that can create conflict without the need to rely on flying fists.

All in all, secrets can be useful things for a story, though in the real world…………….

ALSO KNOWN AS

Are you known by another name?

Now I’m not looking for a list of aliases you may have available to you in the world of international espionage, although if there are any spies out there reading this, your secrets are safe with me, rather this is an exploration of the nickname.

I’ve had a few nicknames over the years.

I was known by Snowball, I didn’t drink when I started playing club cricket and that was the suggestion of a drink that the rest of the team had to get me started. As Fingers, I kept breaking my fingers when I was playing rugby in the late 90’s. I was The Elg with my friends until a throw away line from my dad made me the Son of Elg which my friends grabbed onto with vibrant gusto. I guess I’m The Elg again now. And currently at work, I go by Captain, not because of any seniority, rather because I’m a Star Trek Fan.

All of those nicknames came along because people recognised something about me, a trait that everyone knew about and could use to describe me. They all represent a shared shorthand for a group about one of its members and as such allows everyone to share in a specific detail that marks them out from everyone else.

A nickname, a pet name, they represent a level of familiarity. They show that someone has seen something about you. Granted, that may not be a trait that you may want to have highlighted but it’s something that everyone else can see.

That nickname is a potentially defining characteristic and it’s not something that should simply be ignored.

In my second novel, The Circle of Duty, one of the characters is given a nickname by the protagonist, becoming Leatherpants. It’s a description of what he wears but it’s also meant to create a level of absurdity. The character is at odds to the hero of the piece and the hero wants to be dismissive of him, thereby giving him the nickname. It allows that the main character removes a great level of the power that came with the person who was given the name.

A nickname is a shorthand moniker for someone, which can be bestowed with a smile or a snarl. It can be a great thing or, well, not so much. I guess the difference between the two is whether or not you know about it.

MEAN IT

Last week I spoke about the importance of treating everyone with respect and holding a level of understanding for the true mechanics of situations as they arise to test us. This week, I report on the fact I had to put all the ideals into action.

Holiday in Kos went really well and we relaxed and relaxed and relaxed. We get picked up at the scheduled time to go back to the airport for the return journey only to discover that the flight has been cancelled following an incident at Birmingham airport in the UK.

And so we come to the point.

I made it clear last week that I feel it’s important to make sure that we don’t throw our weight around with those who are not in a position to really be responsible, so this weekend gave me the chance to show that very behaviour. Plane cancelled, not sure where we’d need to go to wait, hotel or stay in the airport. Not sure what to do and the staff at the airport only having so much information and so much sway to get things organised.

What do you think happened?

So very many people started to shout and complain immediately, berating any and all staff they could find, but happily, I spoke to the staff, listened to what was being said and they did their best to help. The issues were being caused by a problem in the UK which then knocked on all over Europe by the sounds of things. The staff on the ground were doing the best they could and if I’d waded in and started yelling like some people did, I’d have added nothing to fix the situation but could have aided it getting worse.

As a writer, a character or organisation which doesn’t follow through when they give description of noble ideals they’ll stick to, is a wonderful way to create conflict and explore all manner of character dynamics. The same can be said for characters who don’t stray from their path and how those around them then react.

We ended up in a 5 star hotel for the duration of the delay so all the staff organising the accommodation had dealt with things pretty well. We even had a larger plane for the return trip and I got to watch Justice League.

Maybe we all need to be more understanding and try to look out for any bright side we can.

SPIN ME ROUND

Something I’m playing about with at the moment while writing the next book in the Circle series is being completely honest with everything I say but telling lies with that honesty.

The way words are used on any given day can hide the truth despite there not being anything false being said. We all know that politicians the world over are amazingly adept at moulding all manner of sentences which don’t lie at all, yet also can’t be trusted fully, just in case.

A good example of how the truth can be covered up would be that all those thousands of years ago when I was still a fresh faced young thing and still in full time education, I collected, after much hard work and studying, all manner of qualifications. GCSE’s, A-Levels and then off to college. In fact, I studied ten GCSE’s, six A-Levels and then graduated with a qualification in Sports Science from Nottingham Trent University.

Impressive. Ish.

None of that is a lie but it’s also just fuzzy enough to lure people in the direction I want.

If I were to ask how many A-Levels I passed, what would you say? Six? Nope.

What city did I live in when studying Sports Science? Nottingham? Wrong.

When I’ve used this example in the past, I can paint a picture which people can then extrapolate their own ideas. You hear ‘Six A-Levels’ so go with that, overlooking the ‘studied’ rather than passed. You hear Nottingham Trent University so assume Nottingham but associate colleges are beyond just there.

Now none of this is there as any kind of confession to wildly misleading people or that I’ve been making up huge aspects of my life, rather that depending on how you spin the details, you can allow the information to point the way and just let the road unfurl before people.

As an author, I need to try to paint a clear picture of what’s happening but that doesn’t always mean that every aspect of every narrative is saying the exact thing you’d expect. Making the reader travel happily off in one direction for that to lead them to a different destination makes all things so much tougher, but so much more fun.

Honest.

NOT TALL

I wrote last week about the importance of being a role model and how there are always eyes on us.

And I took over a thousand words to get my point across.

Just throwing words at a problem doesn’t always mean it’s going to help get the point across.

Because sometimes, less is more.

So last week’s post could have looked like this.

‘You’re a role model, act like it and set a good example.’

Less is more.

That could work.