I Am A Writer

Forget about me for a moment. Think about yourself. Do a check of where you’re at. Where are you? Read on while you acknowledge your location. It shouldn’t have taken more than a moment to say ‘in the loo’, ‘on the heath’, ‘under the bedsheets’ or something similar. Now let me ask you this: ‘what were you doing before you started reading this?’ I understand that you may need more time to answer this one because it requires accessing your memory and that can take time. However, if you’re thinking too much then you can fall back on something like ‘I clicked on the link in my email and arrived on your blog.’ You may even append the word ‘duh’ to your assertion if you think that I should have known already. Bear in mind, however, that as I write this, I have no idea who you are, where you’re at or where you came from. I’m a writer, not a psychic who can see into my future. That said, I’m going to ask you one more thing that will necessitate you doing precisely what I cannot. To whit, I need you to see into the future. Don’t worry, all will become clear. Here’s my next question: what are you going to do next?

I am a writer and I am in the throes of writing. You are a reader and you are, like it or not, in the throes of reading these words. I will stop writing and post these words. You will stop reading and do … something else. What? Tell me. What are you going to do? You’ve committed to reading thus far and so you might as well complete the task I have set. You have a Comment field below. Don’t be afraid to use it. I’m not going to say anything of note beyond this point and so you might as well stop reading now.

Under the table, a man was sitting and thinking of the war. Which war? The one in his mind. He thought about the armies that marched inside his head and the dreams he had, nightly, about things he could barely remember when he awoke, but which he knew were bad. Not bad in the sense of moral outrage, but more in the sense that they made him feel very uncomfortable about the fact that he had bookcases full of books that he barely touched whilst, in some poorer part of the world there were people who hadn’t the means to feed their love of literature. He was pretty sure these people existed but didn’t know their names, or their addresses. That didn’t stop him from feeling bad about it. Not did it stop the dreams.

The man was called David. An ordinary name. Not one that would excite interest at cocktail parties were he ever to be invited to one and consequently to be invited to share it. His parents were staid, solid members of a Christian-based religious community. But see: I’m bored with them already and so I won’t mention them again.

David is stirring. He has done thinking of the war for now and is emerging from underneath the table. The flap of the tablecloth raises and his face peers out. He wears black-framed spectacles that give his round face the appearance of an old owl. He blinks once in much the way you would expect and then his shoulders follow his head and, inevitably, his body follows. He’s thinking about his hair and how it might as well fall out now as wait thirty years for him to reach the grand age of forty-five. He likes his teeth, though. Teeth are useful. He intends to make good use of them before the day is done. It’s eight in the evening already and so he should hurry.

Ten minutes later he’s walking down by the river. The house backs onto the water and so this isn’t much of a feat. It’s dark, but he knows where he’s going. It’s secluded, but he knows he will not be alone. It’s clear to him that if he were to lie down on the ground now, someone would discover him before too long. He lies down.

Pretty soon someone trips over him and falls to the ground. The earth is soft. Muddy, in fact. There is a curse said that I’ll not relate here because David wouldn’t approve. When he hears it, he says something like ‘la-la-la’ in his mind until the echoes of the sound have died down and then he jack-knives his body until it is covering the mud-besmirched form of the man he has tripped. I’ll not tell you the name of the fallen man because that might lead you to feel some sympathy for him and for what’s going to happen to him next.

I’ve started watching a movie about JD Salinger who is, as you might remember, the author who wrote The Catcher in the Rye. Now, I’m not entirely sure what Rye is, not what a Catcher catches whilst in the Rye, even though I have read the book. But I do know what David does next. If you tell me what you’re going to do next, I’ll tell you by way of reply. David is real. The man whom David has tripped and pinned to the ground is real. The mud in which they lay has actual substance and the thoughts of war that David has in his head are real, as will be his dreams tonight.

Share with me.

You’re Not the Murderer

Steps you will take:

  • Work out a crime (don’t make it in any way mysterious)
  • Begin to cover up the crime
  • Outline what the culprit does to hide his or her tracks
  • Leave three definite and accurate clues.

On the basis of what you have learned throughout the course draft your detective story. Remember: plot, characters, location and the art of the detective.

“The crime was murder. Nothing too mysterious. Nothing that you haven’t seen on the bestseller lists a thousand times over the decades. Nothing the newspapers haven’t reported hundreds of times in a slow year. And nothing you haven’t thought of doing yourself in your darker moments.

Let’s think about this for a beat? Who would you murder if you could get away with it? Come come; play the game; there’s always someone who bugs you so much that you’ve fantasised sewing their mouth shut with a pretty, blood-red ribbon and thrusting a snapped fishing rod through their heart with a viciousness that would shock even the most hardened detective. Would that be your MO? Your modus operandi of choice? Or would it be something sneakier? Arsenic in the sugar? Pillow over the face? But I digress.

This was a simple, commonplace murder and I didn’t do it. But, let’s be honest: I’m not so sure about you.”

I sighed and sat back from the keyboard glaring at the words I’d just dragged from the depths of my mind and plastered on the screen in front of me. It sat mockingly on the desk of the upstairs study I used as my writing den. That is, when the wife didn’t want to use the room for another endless Zoom meetin with her cronies.

I took and deep breath and then coughed as a stray crumb shot straight into my windpipe. It shot out and landed on the screen with a wet plop and began to drift past the lines I’d just spent and hour creating. Yeah, that’s what I thought of that!

This writing lark isn’t as straightforward as it’s made out to be. It’s not some cookie-cutter thing where you just follow a list. It’s subtler and yet coarser than that. It’s only the most delicate, nuanced plot that’ll grab your readers by their delicate parts hard enough to drag their attention through to the last page. I mean, take …

“God in hell, what was that!”

I stood up, only dimly aware of the chair scooting across the carpet behind me and smashing into the wall. A hellish sound like banshees being torn apart beneath my feet and protesting their pain with every tortured breath. What was the wife doing down there?

“Ethyl? What is it?”

The sound abruptly stopped to be replaced by a phlegmy gurgling sound. As if someone were trying to breath through a hole in their throat. A bloody hole.

As I rushed towards the stairs I imagined (not fantasised – don’t get me wrong) the wife lying there on the kitchen floor with blood pouring out of her wounds. When you’re a writer, you get that a lot. Your imagination takes over. You fear the worst, even as you hope for the best.

Turns out she wasn’t dead. It was the latest gadget in her arsenal. No, arsenal – don’t be rude now. Some blender, grinder thing. Some kind of disappointment to the writer in me, but to the loving husband I really am (honest) – it was lovely see her stick her finger in the mix and then pop it in her mouth.

And then she dropped like a sack of meat and I could tell, just by the expression on her face and the twisted way her limbs arranged themselves on the lino, not to mention the blue tinge rippling across her face, that she was a gonner.

I’d seen enough zombie movies to know what would happen next and I scanned the room for something sharp enough to push through her head into her brain. Nothing. Okay, it’d have to be decapitation then. My eyes fell on the spade. I’d just been digging out a bumper crop of spuds from the garden and so there it was, propped up next to the door on a sheet of newspaper. Keeping a close eye on the wife, or the thing that she’d become, I strode over to the door and snatched up the weapon.

Advancing on her with the spade held over my head ready for the severing stroke I was aware of my mind working out the best angle to come at her neck from. The downward slice would be best because it would deliver the most force, but it’d be messy. A slightly sideways stroke would be cleaner, but not so sure to do the job. What if I missed and hit her shoulder instead? Gah, enough of this. Downward stroke it is. I tensed my muscled and started to release the spade downwards, but then stopped myself. Wouldn’t it be best to make sure? I mean, what if she wasn’t quite dead? What if she didn’t turn? I stood there in an agony of indecision.

Then, as luck would have it, the Director resolved my dilemma for me. He stood up and yelled “cut!”


blurred on phone

I was walking down the street the other day, minding my own business as much as any writer does; which is to say poking my nose into every sound, shape and smell that happened across my path, when I walked past three young girls. The oldest, she might have been about ten, was holding a mobile phone.

She peered at the screen and read this:

“Hi, I’m Michael and I’m seven. And my sister just murdered me.”

The girl then laughed, and by the time anything else was said I was out of earshot.

Around the corner and far away I realised that these words were still bounding around inside my skull. So I typed them into my phone thinking ‘that’d make a good opening for a story!’

I notice that I seem to be writing a lot about death (and about death a lot) recently. This worries me somewhat. I don’t go through life thinking about death. I don’t dream about it. I think it’s fair to say that death is not a big part of my life. And yet, still, I keep killing my characters.

If there are any psychologists, psychotherapists or psychiatrists reading this, then feel easy about giving me a free thirty-second consultation.

Other than that – have yourself a fine day.

And don’t worry – I’ll do my best not to incorporate you into my fictional world.