Monthly Archives: July 2012

Three Days in the Life of Chapter 24

Friday:  Chapter 24 seems like a good name for a creation that follows on from Chapter 23, so I write that as a heading and then I have a lovely blank page to fill. There are only two characters in this chapter, both bad guys, and I decide to write it from the point of view of one of them. He’s called Donnelly. In the first novel, he didn’t have a first name. I decide to call him Dwight. I write Dwight Donnelly on the page and then urge the man to do something. He fails to respond. Dammit. I get up and walk around, but when I get back to the page, he’s still just sitting there. Correction, standing there. Well, that’s a start, I guess. These guys are holed up in a big old baronial mansion, so I write:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness.

It feels like crap, but maybe I can improve it once I’ve written a bit more. Dwight has paused because he’s about to meet with his deranged boss, following recent events which didn’t go as planned. He refuses to move for me, so I decide on a change of writing scene and drive to the local library. After a strong coffee, I write the next bit:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness. The last group of men had echoed raucously across the terrazzo floor and vanished into the rear of the building. A comforting thrum told him that the generator was back on. A single light bulb shone from the top of the staircase, intimidated by the dimensions of the huge hall.

After half-an-hour of gazing round at the comings and goings in the library, I add:

He breathed in the reek of gunfire, kicked at an empty shell case. It tinkled musically on the hard floor. He turned to his right and walked to the oak-panelled wall on the north side of the space, to the doorway that led into the rooms beyond. The heavy door was open, though he knew he had earlier locked it himself. On the far side of the doorway, a moth-eaten carpet was stained with blood. He pursed his lips and then turned and crossed to the staircase, its mahogany handrail and balusters bullet-splintered.

That’s it for the library stint. Later in the day, I add some more, but it’s not any better and I give up.

Saturday: Spend the day’s writing time staring at what I’ve written and changing words. “Pretentiousness” becomes “ostentation”, for example. By the end of the day, I decide that I’ll give up writing and take up macramé.

Sunday: Start the day by highlighting everything I’ve written, cutting it and pasting into a separate document called “Parking Page” which holds sections I dislike but don’t want to throw away. Over the next few hours, I write:

Dwight Donnelly was a dark shape in a landscape devoid of light. Then, like a firefly in momentary flight, the glowing end of his cigarette described a truncated arc. For several heartbeats, it lit up a fleshy face. Small eyes glistened damply under folded lids, the nub of a nose dwarfed by bulging cheeks. Smoke trickled from his lips and he exhaled. Smoke and mist. The best thing about his day so far. When the smoke was done, he was going to have to meet with Farrell and it would be mostly downhill from there. Behind him, the old house was deaf and blind to the machinations of people. The last of his men had already clattered raucously across its terrazzo floor, heading for the back of the building, companionship and a stiff drink or two.

Adrenalin, pumped up by anticipation, tension and things gone wrong, was dribbling away. He felt tired and depressed. Farrell, he knew, would be taking a dump: an unfailing habit after any excitement. Between times, the man suffered the agonies of chronic constipation and the martyrdom of piles. Donnelly took a last, decadent drag, flicked the stub into the night, turned and marched back into the building.

I take it from there and finish the chapter. I imagine that my editor will have things to say about it, but the important thing is that I like it. For now.

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Pusillanimous Numpty

Whilst trying to dredge up some original thoughts for the Haddon Blog (no laughing at the back please), I wrote down the first two words that came into my head. I have to tell you that I was as surprised as anyone at the outcome.

For a word that starts of with a syllable which means “Yellow discharge associated with site of infection”, ‘pusillanimous’ has a rather mysterious cuddly feel about it, though with a slightly ‘drip at the end of the nose’ ending. ‘Numpty’, on the other hand, is more your ‘fist struck on an under-ripe melon’ kind of word. For these reasons, the two words go together rather well (sit up at the back there, you need to know all this for the test at the end), don’t you think?

Pusillanimous: lacking courage or resolution; cowardly; faint-hearted; timid.

Numpty: (Scots) someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others. 

So. Here’s the challenge I throw out to you – in a wet-herring kind of way, because it’s too damned hot for gloves: hit ‘comment’ and write down the first two words that come into your head, and why. Alternatively, if you wish to send your response to me written on the back of a $100 bill, please feel free.

Oh. And there is a prize for the best response: a  free copy of the Kindle edition of The Butterfly & The Bull. If you’re one of the thousands of people who already have a copy of this fine novel, then worry not; you’ll be first on the list to get a free copy of the sequel, Flight of the Butterfly, when it is published in November.

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