Wednesday 27 April 2016

Red herrings and other techniques.

As I keep saying - a lot of reading is going on chez Evonne at the moment. Some of which is holiday brochures, hence the lapse into French.

But I digress.

I'm eating my way through 'To be reads' and old favourites/classics and have noticed a few things.

First off - red herrings. You don't seem to get so many of them any more. I don't think it's global warming, but it could be the type of thing I am reading, or just that it's not happening. A good red herring is nice piece of craft. Just enough to tantalise. The ripple above the surface, so that the reader asks themselves - Is that really a clue, and am I clever to have spotted it, or am I being suckered? This one came about when reading a fairly new Liza Gardner. I won't say too much for fear of spoilers, but it was a really lovely fish, and made me think how long it was since I'd spotted one in the wild. It seems now as if books start with a big-bang set-piece that totally grabs  - much smoke and mirrors - and go on from there  I read more thrillers than mysteries these days, so maybe that is it.

I've been reading older stuff off the shelf too - and those can have very linear narratives. I'm thinking 39 Steps, which  is a manhunt/chase, and Dornford Yates's Blind Corner, which is a treasure hunt. No sub plots and very few females - certainly no heroine in either of those. Not even a damsel in distress. Stiff upper lip ripping yarns. And interesting that they can still be gripping even with such simple structure. I always promise myself this time I will do simple. Never works.

The other thing that we don't do so much now, and I've commented on this before, is quotes at the beginning of chapters. I wonder if the e-book format has something to do with this? I take my hat off to those who can manage it. We can probably all come up with one or two - Othello for jealously, Merchant of Venice for mercy, but to do it for 20+ chapters? The one that brought this to notice was Ain't She Sweet?, which  has quotes from Georgette Heyer at each chapter opening. Many from Devil's Cub. Which sent me happily back to my copy to re read it, so thank you Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

That got me trying to remember if Cub was the first Heyer I read. It might have been, but I think it was The Black Moth.

So now I've found my ancient copy of that ...

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Critical reading

Writers are picky readers - at least, this one is. Applying the internal editor alongside the reader - assessing technique, tropes, thinking about how you would have written that particular scene. But perhaps is just me. As I have said, loud and long, there is a lot of reading going on at present - so a lot of inner editing. And envy, when the book is good.

Books and tea. What more do you need?

Reading in bulk, as it were, brings up repeated themes and raises some interesting questions. And pet hates. One of my 'favourites' on that score is the unread letter. You know the one - the one that if it had been read on page 20 would have sorted the whole thing out there and then. I must say a book has to show a very great deal of promise for me to get past that one. Otherwise it is straight in the charity pile. I also get irritated by the appearance of children or pets for some reason of the plot - who are then totally in the way and are repeatedly shuffled off to minders, or even worse. not mentioned at all.

But it's not all negative. Trying to work out how the good stuff is done, and the stuff that makes you think about the craft side of writing, is always welcome. But like I said - that's where the envy comes in. I've read a number of time slips - they are perennially popular and I'd love to write one. They almost inevitably hinge on old letters or journals. I'm now trying to come up with something different. I'm not sure whether there can be anything that does not involve the written word - although a piece of art sometimes makes an appearance, but it's keeping me amused. And I've also read a couple of books that feature what I think Alfred Hitchcock referred to as a McGuffin. It's an article or a plot detail that kicks the story off but becomes less and less important as it progresses and by the end has sometimes completely disappeared. Now this does offend the control freak part of me that demands the tying up of lose ends, but it's clever, and done well it works, So that is food for thought too.

You see, all this reading - it's not just entertainment.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

My kind of heroine.

A heroine can be a delicate flower. Or not.
As a convalescent I've been reading a lot. A LOT. When I'm not sleeping, that is. All sorts of stuff - TBR pile, recent award winners, old favourites, a few classics off the bookshelf. And quite a lot of new romantic suspense, because that's what I like to read and write, and if you can't indulge yourself when you're getting over an operation, when can you?

I've enjoyed most of it, but I have noticed a tendency in some parts of the genre for what is known as the kick-ass heroine. You know - runs, jumps, shoots, fights - all that stuff. And I have to say she is not usually my cup of tea. I was never the sporty sort, and I simply don't relate to it. I like my heroines capable - they have a career that they are good at, are able to organise their lives, are not shrinking violets. But not superwomen. The sort of woman who can deal with a tricky situation when it come along, but is not expecting to meet it every day. And they appreciate a little help from the hero, rather than trying to get him in a headlock. (Not that sort of headlock!)

At the other end of the spectrum, there is the TSTL 'heroine'. The Too Stupid To Live. I don't like those, either, and am likely to be found yelling, 'Get a grip, woman!' when I come across one. These can vary from the kind who goes into the dark cellar without putting on the light when the serial killer is wandering the neighbourhood with his sharpened axe, to the just plain wet, who don't know how to change a light bulb.

I think you are supposed to identify with the heroine, or at least want her for a friend. My heroines can be misguided, bossy, argumentative, occasionally give way to tears, but all things in moderation. But that's me. It takes all sorts. A heroine for every hero. Exactly as it should be.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Now I need a lie-down.

Anaesthetic messes with your brain - at least, it does with mine.

It's three weeks since the very nice anaesthetist put me to sleep, so his colleagues could make small holes and rummage around inside me. Once he had confirmed that I would be asleep during the proceeding and awake afterwards, I knew I was safe in his hands. Everything went as planned - many thanks to all concerned. I went to sleep, I woke up. It is not their fault that I have been attempting to fall asleep again ever since.

Lethargy, I think it is called. It is a good day if I manage to ingest an appropriate amount of nourishment and have a shower. Anything else is a bonus. Much of the rest of the time I can be found sleeping, listening to the radio, sleeping and reading. Or leafing through holiday brochures attempting to identify places I would like to go
a) if I had the money
b) I had a long enough attention span to fill in a booking form
c) my consultant had certified me fit to travel.

I do have hopes of b) and c). But a)? Maybe not so much.

Mainly I am sleeping and reading. I am exceptionally grateful for all the authors whose books I am enjoying, when I am not attempting to fall asleep. If I could remember any of your names, I'd thank you personally.