FINISHED?

A while ago I posted about the importance of deadlines and the effect they have on us as we go about our lives but there’s another thought that grew from the deadline I’ve been working against recently.

With or without a deadline, how do you know when you’re finished?

As a writer, my style could be described as ‘Blitzkrieg’. I tend to write off in a direction aiming for a specific point and I end up getting there pretty quickly. I then have to go back and flesh out what I’ve just done to create the wider detail, the true heart of what I was saying. I blast off and try to go as far as I can then hang the pretty colours on the skeleton. If I was to finish the book using just the first half of that process it’s likely that it would be nothing more than ‘he did this’ then ‘he did that’. But at what point do you recognise that the story is done? Where is the point before which, it’s still in need of tinkering yet after, you’re over thinking and making things worse?

I’ve heard the phrase that ‘films aren’t released, they escape’ and it applies exactly to other media as well. I spent years fiddling with the first book before it was actually released. Every so often I’d have another read through and find another word or phrase, or indeed, scene, which I felt needed work. Ultimately these weren’t major structural changes, more like choosing the right type of polish, but it dragged me back from actually doing the business.

I suspect that this has come from my fears surrounding the release. I’ll continuously be thinking about the possible permutations in the book but it’s going to have to run free eventually. I suspect if I hadn’t just decided to bite the bullet and go for it, I’d still be fiddling with it now.

At least that isn’t happening this time.

And on a totally unrelated matter, the poor guys from the electricity company are back out in our street. They’re not working near us this time so we’ve had no issues with interrupted power but this will be the third time that unlucky team have had to deal with issues in our street. There can’t be much old wiring left!

FEAR

Welcome to 2015 all.

By way of welcoming all returning readers and acknowledging all of those intrepid first timers, I thought I’d examine the most relaxing and beautiful topic I could lay my hands on.

So welcome to the new year of possibilities and chances and I give you all a walk through fear.

So, first of all, what are you afraid of? Spiders? The dark? Enclosed spaces? Cheese? We all have that one thing, that singular thing, that has the power to drag us from the comfort of a settled mood to pulse racing, sweaty palmed horror in the blink of an eye. Some people have more than one. Some have more than ten. Some have more than that.

Fear is deemed as a response to a stimulus which has been maintained through the various stages of evolution to keep us safe. We’re afraid of the dark because we can’t see what’s in there waiting to eat us. Heights are an issue because falling from them doesn’t tend to end that well and creepy crawlies are just horrible.

But fears are also learned. They can be a response to something taking place which lodges as such a strong memory that our brains are wired to avoid the same situations in the future. I have a very strong fear of being a passenger in a car and of surgical needles. Both stem from a single event and are very specific. I can drive a car no problem and judging by the tattoos I have, needles in a different context don’t concern me but under the correct conditions, I will dissolve under the weight of my own fears.

But how to make the best use of fear?

When I write my creepier stories I always trying to weave situations which put me on edge but also nudge at others. I want to scare as many people as I can.

I’d suggest that everyone re-read ‘MAKE BELIEVE FRIEND’ as a way to examine how I created fear in what I was doing with my character ‘Mimp’. There are what could only be deemed as the classics of fear, the dark, loss, the unknown, monsters and skittering things. The elements of the story are specific to what I was saying but they all come from common places.

We all know fear but we all know we enjoy it. Why do Horror films, extreme sports and all of the scary things in the world do so well if we don’t?

We all want to overcome our fears, to show that they don’t have power over us so delving into them allows us the chance to re-claim our control. We all enjoy the chance to square up to our own monsters in a controlled setting. Being afraid of the dark isn’t as bad now we don’t have sabre-faced beasties coming to get us.

And so to stories which elicit fear in all of us.

Horror stories allow us to be transported to situations and events which would terrify us in the real world so give us the safety net. Indeed stories of all kinds of nastiness are available which trick, persuade, demand or drag the fear fear from us but we reading public just keep going back for more. Maybe it has to do with the lives we all lead? We don’t have the same risks in our lives ( no sabre faced beasties ) so maybe our more primitive brain is looking for ways to keep us challenged, keep us sharp. Who knows?

All in all, fear is something we all need to accept and embrace. It’s something that will keep us aware of the risks of life and able to avoid the pitfalls but it’s also that mighty brute which needs to be overcome. The classic quote is bravery isn’t the absence of fear but continuing in the presence of fear. I like that idea. Carrying on despite the mind numbing terror of a less than favourable outcome.

Just remember that when you all read my first novel, The Circle of Fire. Defeating my own fear of failure was instrumental in completing the book and sending it out into the world.