Musement on the Virtues of Christ

I’ve been writing a thinly disguised version of the life of Jesus Christ, set in modern times, which exposes (my version of) the Christian religion as being the result of nothing more than a comedy of errors in which disciples come to have faith in, what they think is, God due to a series of coincidences and accidents. Essentially, they start to believe in a supernatural/divine power (aka God) but it’s a hollow belief that has no basis in reality.

I was humming along nicely with this and was planning a big reveal at the end that trashed Christianity, Christ, God and all the associated customs and systems. But then something happened.

To cut a long story short – as a result of my research in Christianity, I became a believer! I’m now born again, having accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.*

This means that my view on what I’ve been writing has completely changed. I’m now very conflicted about writing such a blasphemous ending to this story. Can I, in all conscience, even as a serious writer, persevere with the ending I originally and meticulously planned, even though it goes against all I believe in, or should I throw all that out and change the ending to reflect my new-found faith?

Ultimately, what I’ve described isn’t anything to do with writing, because really I’m asking how to resolve the conflict between my faith and my (next) profession.

My thoughts are that I should move the characters, and therefore the ending of my story, beyond death. In this way I will lead the characters into discovering the ‘truth’ of the matter. What do you think?

*This isn’t true.


The Value of a Day Off from Writing

Sometimes I think to myself ‘holy crud, I’m sat here writing when the sun is shining and the day is glorious and I should be outside enjoying my life rather than wearing out my fingertips against this keyboard’ and I pick myself up (no, not literally) and I set myself outside and tell myself not to come back for a good long while!

I think that it’s good to take a break every now and again, but I’m wondering if it’s okay to do that, providing I do things to keep the razor sharp whilst I’m out and about – you know, like carry a notebook and pen, or listen to the chatter of strangers, or chase down the street with arms outstretched like an aeroplane whilst making a eeeeeerrrrrrrrr type noise so that I have new experiences to … you know.

Hold on – I am going somewhere with all this. 🙂

My question is (and this has been on my mind for a while): is it better as a writer that I get out more in order to get new ideas and refresh my palette or is it better for me to clear my desk, room, house, life so that I have no distractions and can thus concentrate on my writing? In other words – blinds and head down, or smash the window and climb out – which is the most productive approach in terms of enabling my creative writing?

And just to be clear – I don’t want your opinion if that’s all you have available – I want the fruits of your experience as dedicated writers. I only want facts, references and specific expertise in this area. Papers out there that have written up experiments that have lab-tested writers in both these circumstances? Tell me about them. Books that advocate one approach or the other that you have read and have implemented and can report on with scientific accuracy? Give me the low-down. Writerly lives honed to a fine point on one approach or the other? Share with me your learning!

I thank you in advance.

boy arms outstetched plane


I Write Like a Girl

I’m not sure what to make of this, but I apparently write like a female!

I found a website (GenderAnalyzer_v5) that promises to analyse writing and classify it according to whether it was more likely to have been written by a male or a female.

So I thought I’d give it a try. I took the text from a few of my blog posts (Writing – Why Bother!, Saturday So Far and Advice from and for Big Issue Sellers) and pumped it into the machine.

Turns out the I’m between 65% and 68% likely to be a girl!

Like I say – I don’t really know how to take that.

Writing – Why Bother!

A.S. (Ante Scriptum): I’m playing Devil’s Advocate here in the hope that you will ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light.’

It’s a simple fact the there are more fiction books in existence now than one person could possibly read in a lifetime. Add to this the supposition that all plots, themes and genres have been thoroughly explored, and you surely come to the conclusion that no-one need write anything ‘new’ for a long, long time.

In the face of this inescapable logic and the ocean of printed matter we have, surely it’s time to gather a huge pile of our favourite tomes, find somewhere cosy, and just curl up to read all those lovely books.

My question is: what techniques can we use to motivate ourselves to exercise our creative writing spirit when it’s all been done before and in such volume?

Mission Impossible – ACCOMPLISHED!

Daddy Long Legs:

cellar spider closeup photographyPhoto by Mircea Iancu on

I know daddy long legs (dll) from way back. Used to try to catch it in my cupped hands. And it’s easy to do. Kinda. Except that when you let it go again after it’s done tickling your palms, it always (always (always)) leaves behind a leg or two or three. I don’t know – maybe they’re meant to be detachable. Maybe it’s something to do with remembering and not forgetting. Who knows.

Anyways – my mission (impossible) today was to get dll out of the bathroom without detaching any of his legs.

Cue the plastic beaker and flat cardboard technique. Probably the cupped-hands method of my youth was fatally flawed.

Whop! Pop the cup over the dll. He never moved.

Sleee! Slide the cardboard slowly under the cup. Now he decides to move!

And lift! Pick up dll, cup and cardboard and carry them to the window.

Whoosh! Off he flies into the pale-blue distance of the English morning sky.

I checked the beaker. No legs!

Mission Accomplished! 😀

(And yeah, I know – it’s really a Crane Fly, but “in colloquial speech, crane flies are sometimes known as mosquito hawks or daddy longlegs” (Wikipedia))

How to Write Interesting Dialogue

I can’t stand it when people speech at me rather than giving me the opportunity to have a two way dialogue with them. In the same way, I’m not keen on characters in stories talking for a long time without letting the other character(s) have their turn. And, when you think about it, the character’s probably aren’t keen on it either.

As well as that, it pays to be nice to your people. Give them a drink of water every now and again. Let them cough, clear their throat or think about what they’re trying to say. It just ain’t natural for someone to talk for a long time.

So yeah – break up your dialogue into bite sized pieces. Here’s how:

Remember Physicality
Remember that your characters are in a physical location and let your readers perceive that scene. Tell them about the sights, sounds and that disgusting smell when the person they are talking to burps after eating that chilli-dog for lunch.

Stick to the plot
Just as you don’t often get descriptions of people going to the loo in books, cut out the banal parts of conversations. Focus on the words that contribute to the story. No-one (apart from the odd grannyphile) wants to know what the character’s grandma said when they spoke to them the day before yesterday if Gran does not otherwise appear in the book, so leave that sort of stuff on the cutting room floor of your mind. That should cut down on the dialogue a little.

Cut the exposition
Exposition in dialogue is all about characters telling readers lots of information about why this and that happened. Whilst it might seem like you’re saving time when you infodump in this way, there are better methods to get information over without resorting to such a crude (and potentially boring) technique. Instead, give your readers a set of bright, shiny images to wrap their interest around. In other words show them a series of pretty pictures rather than telling the facts.

Silence speaks volumes
Don’t be afraid to let your characters pick their nose and stare out of the window every now and again. Okay, maybe not the picking the nose part, but definitely give them time to pause and take stock. Let the reader see their thoughts if your POV allows. A sweet spell of introspection can break up speech quite nicely all by itself.

But if you can’t or don’t want to do any of that, then at least make what is being said interesting. Again – show rather than tell by making the characters give us strong images to tickle our jaded mental palettes. Build tension and drama by letting the characters move the plot forward with their words. Reveal the inner workings of the characters by what you choose to let them tell us. In summary – make it all as juicy as you can.

One of the nicest things for me about a page of dialogue is that I can turn it more quickly. This is down to there being a bigger percentage of white space. Don’t take that away from me by letting your character talk too much.

I, as your reader, thank you in advance.

Wait for it …

I just watched a Ted Talk about procrastination by Tim Urban called Inside the mind of a master procrastinator.

This is what I learned:

Brains of people who do not procrastinate have a ‘rational decision-maker’ (RDM). Brains of procrastinators have this too, but they also have an ‘instant gratification monkey’ (IGM).

The RDM says ‘this is a great time to do some work’, which is fine for the non-procrastinator – this is the time that they get stuff done.

But for the procrastinator, the IGM pops up and says ‘no, we have to watch a Ted Talk about procrastination instead!’

Basically, the RDM wants to do things that contribute to the big picture; thinks that might not necessarily be pleasant, but they move life on. But the IGM wants to stay in the ‘dark playground’ – the place where we do things we shouldn’t be doing when we’re supposed to be working. And the IGM is happy so stay in this place, playing merrily as long as  there is no deadline in view. This means that a long term procrastinator often feels like a spectator in their own life.

Fortunately for the procrastinator, there is also something called a ‘panic monster’ (PM). The PM is the only thing that the IGM is scared of. The PM appears just before a deadline.

Like now.