Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Words with emotional freight

 I'm a writer - words are what I do. The building blocks to be manipulated into a story. I enjoy them and what they can achieve. When you're writing, and reading, some words carry more weight than others. As a reader I particularly notice this with the sad words - forlorn, dejected, heartbroken, desolate - all stir something inside that goes a bit further than just unhappy. On the other side, ecstatic give you a lot more than happy, although happy is good too.  

Power to convey an emotion with just one word is heady stuff. It's not just the "emotional" words though. We invest all sorts of words with their own emotional baggage - possibly in a way that is unique to each of us. It all comes down to our experience as humans. Think of something like the word midnight - what do you get? Dark for a start, probably mysterious and after that it might begin to get down to personal association. Maybe romantic - the time when trysts are made and magical things happen in fairy tales. It might be spooky, assignations in graveyards and things that go bump in the night. In folklore terms it might be classed as perilous - boundaries, crossroads and thresholds being dangerous places, and midnight is the crossing place from one day to the next. I go with the romance/mystery - it's secret meetings and the glitter of jewels and swish of silk on the turret stairs, masks and long cloaks and masquerades, although there's a suggestion of the dangerous stuff in there too. 

As a writer it can be a challenge to go against the grain of words. The word wedding usually conjures up a joyful event, so making it an occasion for the predations of a con man in A Wedding on the Riviera was interesting. 

Writers are told to look at strong substitutes for more ordinary phrases - instead of 'walk quickly' you can hurry, rush, sprint, bolt. Even those can have gradations though, or they do for me. Bolt suggests running away - possibly with an element of alarm attached. Or maybe that's just me?

This post may have been inspired by the fact that I am currently doing the penultimate pass though the work in progress. I tend to write long, and I am attempting to chop off anything up to five thousand words, so am looking to make shorter substitutions. The use of words that will convey everything I want in one place is exercising my mind - that and removing some of the descriptive bits. I'm gathering those together as outtakes - maybe they'll be the subject of another blog at some stage. 


Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Creating a villain

 Many authors will tell you that they love their villains - or love creating them. It sounds a bit sinister, but there is a lot of fun to be had making up something that is really nasty. I always tell myself that it's therapeutic, letting out all my inner evil. Some people claim to take out their real life frustrations - with a unpleasant boss or colleague perhaps, by writing them into the story. I don't do that. My villains come straight out of my imagination, which is possibly just a little bit disturbing? 

While  revising the current WIP and thinking about books to come, I've been pondering the nature of villains. They are not all presented in the same way. In the last book I unexpectedly had two - one evolved during the official editing process. Before that he was a shadowy bit player. Sometimes the identity of the villain is a secret - the essence of the whodunnit, with the final unmasking. In the WIP - The Villa in Portofino - the reader knows from the outset who the villainess is - which gives me the chance to develop her personality, and her motives and also let the reader know in advance what she next has in store for the heroine and hero. That is a variation of the pantomime 'He's behind you.' Possibly it's the easiest format to manage. I don't know how satisfying or not it is for the reader - maybe that's one for a Twitter poll sometime in the future. (Makes a note) You do get the chance to enjoy the villainy up close. 

At the moment I am contemplating the shape of the next book - Masquerade on the Riviera - I want to have two villains, one seen and one not. At least that's how it looks at the moment. I'm wrestling with the complexities of keeping the identity of the second player secret, while still showing the reader what they are up to. I will work it out, but at the moment it is taxing the brain. One of my favourite romantic suspense authors, Jayne Ann Krentz is very good at a final twist with a second villain, so I am trying to channel her expertise. 

Does a book have to have a villain? For romantic suspense, yes. In other genres there might be an antagonist - a mother in law from hell, a stroppy ex, a business rival. In one of the favourite romantic tropes - enemies to lovers - the hero and heroine do it all themselves - very economical that. It's not for me - I enjoy my villains too much.

Now, about this hidden villain ...