Things to keep me writing when I'm not writing other things
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Her Name is Rio ...
As a writer, there's a temptation to name characters in your stories after people who really exist. There's a grand tradition of that in Doctor Who novels - go back far enough and you'll find any number of characters christened with the names of people who then have gone on to write for the range themselves.
I certainly do it - if the character is human and the name fits, why not? - and in turnI've had it done to me. I was certainly flattered, and in my limited experience so were those whose monickers I've plundered.
As far as I know there aren't any hard and fast rules to using other people's names for fictional characters. I've picked some up as I've gone along - if a certain writer friend of mine uses your name, for instance, you can be damn sure that character won't make it to the end of the book alive. I didn't understand why that should be until relatively recently: if you kill off a character with a friend's name, sometimes that friend can take offence. So it's good to be able to point out that every one of the characters with a borrowed name bites the dust. That way no one can read any favouritism, or indeed any insult, into it. Everyone dies, everyone's equal.
Another thing I used to do was ask people if I could use their names in a story before actually doing so. It's only polite, right? That one came back to bite me in the arse when I had to drop the name of someone I'd asked because it caused a 'technical problem'. She hasn't spoken to me since.
It's the 'technical problem' that inspired this post, however. What happened was this: the editor of one of my stories - quite rightly - pointed out that the name I intended to use was remarkably similar to the name of one of the other authors in the book. Seeing that similarity would, in the case of some readers, jar them from the fictional world we were creating.
It would break the spell.
That all popped back into my head today, when I had the spell broken for me by a writer who not only used the names of real people in his story, but who was too damn clever by half about it.
I'm not going to name the writer, nor the story, nor even the medium in which I read it. What I will tell you is that the scribe concerned was writing for a predominantly American readership and must have forgotten that there are countries outside the US, with readers who'd see exactly what he was doing.
Picture the scene: a top-secret lab, from which an alien has escaped, causing all manner of problems for the organsation running the show. The hard-nosed but beautiful agent in charge takes the scientists to task. Her name is Ms Ferdinand. The first person she addresses is Doctor Rooney ...
As the verbal bashing continues, she summons a mysterious agent called Giggs, ticks off a Doctor Figo, witnesses the hypnotic brainwashing of a man called Gerrard and refers to a superior officer named Keane.
Granted most of the readers in the States (and some in Europe) won't pick up on any of that. For me, and I daresay hundreds of others, it disrupted the narrative flow completely.
Actually that's not true. I did stick with it for a while. Then the pneumatic, coldly beautiful Ms Ferdinand revealed her first name.
After far too long out of the saddle - thanks to holidays, illnesses, paying work and the like - I finally got some writing done at the weekend. Not plotting-writing, which tends to go on at the back of my head regardless of whatever else I'm doing. Proper writing. Stringing words together on a page and all that.
And didn't it feel good. Better still, about three-quarters of it was useable at the end of the day. I normally end up rewriting at least half.
Meanwhile I've received tacit approval from higher-ups about a short story I've been waiting on. That's to say I've had a message saying that if I haven't had a message before this message I'm good to go. Which is nice.
More exciting than all that, though, is news that my wife's teaching stint at UWA has led to an invitation for her to do a PhD there.
Spring has sprung down this way, with another summer of hellish 40 degree days simmering in the distance. And as ever, the heralds of heat have arrived first - the flies.
Walking down the street now means incessant divebombing from the buzz-tards and the need to self-consciously flap your hands around your head to keep them away. Even then you're not shot of them: the lazy sods just land on your back and hitch a ride home, detaching and swooping around once they're past the flyscreens on the doors and windows.
So tomorrow I'm tooling up with spray cans and going on the rampage. Unfortunately - because I know at least one of you will be thinking it and snickering - I won't be buying a hat with corks on it though. I mean honestly, how daft would that look?
(A bit less daft than the spastic swatting dance as I walk down the road, probably).
I hate saying,'I told you so', so I think I'll just bury my face in my hands and weep quietly.
(And in reply to Mr Bishop's question below, one pundit summed it up best with the words 'kamikaze defending'. No point having a front line worth a squillion pounds if your defence couldn't stop an arthritic sloth from sticking the ball past them.)
On a slightly different note, there's beenanother review of In Bad Dreams, this one again positive about the collection as a whole but this time more 'up' about my own contribution as well.
Interesting point here: the thing the reviewer liked most about my yarn was the very thing that pissed off the previous critic.
Well no sooner was my good lady wife up and about than it was my turn for the lurgy, starting with complete lethargy on Thursday and Friday, moving on to vomiting and feeling like I was being slowly lobotomised with a broken bottle right through the weekend.
Back to something approaching normal today, but I'm extremely annoyed to have lost two full days of writing to the illness, especially since I'd worked double-time on something else to ensure those days were clear. Still, both projects I need to work on have deadlines that are a way down the track yet, so I'm hoping the loss of productivity won't be too disastrous.
So apropos of nothing else, a premonition of impending doom (switch off now if you're not a football fan).
You know the feeling - you can see the disaster coming a mile off, but just can't do anything at all to prevent it ... well Spurs (much as I love them) are a little lacklustre at the moment. Tonight they are playing away from home at Newcastle, and they desperately in need of a win to get out of the relegation zone and prove they're not entirely rubbish.
Now I also think Spurs manager Martin Jol is the best thing to happen to the club in a loooong time, but under the circumstances should he really begiving it the old verbalabout how Spurs are in a different league to their opposition?
Well they'd better win tonight or they bloody well will be.
Well it's taken a week but things are more or less back to normal. My wife's off her sick bed; some emergency surgery has saved the traumatised hard-drive on my computer - with all its contents intact; my son's got over waking up between five and 5.30am and my daughter's ecstatic because she's got her first wobbly tooth. Hurrah!
With the pressure easing - and due to lift more tomorrow with the end of the school holidays - I'm even getting some other things done. Two short stories are now well underway: the first is pending final editorial approval, and while I wait the various writers on the anthology are being digitally introduced to one another. And what a fine bunch of people it looks like too. The second story is waiting only for me to see a man about a map before I can submit an outline.
Meanwhile I'm about three-quarters through In Bad Dreams and my initial impression is that it's a book full of 'ambush creepiness' - you won't necessarily feel the impact of a story while you're reading it, rather it'll sneak up on you later when you're thinking about something else. For thems that's asked, I'll let you know how to order the book as soon as I get more information myself - but I understand it'll be widely available from October 31.
Just a quick update on the 'mystery illness' front - my wife went in for a post-hospital check-up this morning and was informed that three other women had presented with the same symptoms. The conclusion that's now been reached is that it's not the serious embolism they originally believed, rather a particularly nasty virus that's just started doing the rounds - starts off with chest pains, mutates into the worst flu you've ever had, multiplied by five, then toddles away. She still feels like crap, but we're not talking life-threatening any more.
Well, Caroline's out of hospital, but the doctors are still no nearer working out what the problem is. The embolism, it transpires, hasn't been ruled out completely, but the likelihood of it being present is so small as not to warrant a scan (with the attendant risk of radiation side-effects).
So, best guess then: a virus. And if all she's doing in hospital is sitting in bed and taking drugs, it's been ruled that she can do that just as well at home. Nonetheless, we've been told what to look out for, embolism-wise, and the hospital is only five minutes away, should we need it ...
Which really means that while the location may have changed we're still at the wait-and-see stage.
Well, it's been murder getting one, at any rate. The relevant blood tests came back last night, the results indicating that she doesn't have a pulmonary embolism after all. That's the good news.
The less good news is that my wife's now been filed under Medical Mystery. The hospital's biggest names have lined up to poke and prod her. They've even vanished to have one of those meetings you see on TV medical dramas, where the bizarre case is discussed and metaphorical beards are stroked until conclusions are reached. But while her status does mean she's getting plenty of attention, there are still no answers.
So my wife's now been moved out of A&E and is on a ward for observation. The pain's still there, and we've just got to wait and see what happens.
Thanks to everyone who commented on here or emailed - much appreciated. I'll be back later with updates.
Seemed like everything was going to be a bit better today - then I got a call to say my wife had been rushed from work to hospital with severe chest pains.
There's no definitive diagnosis yet - four hours in we're still waiting for tests to come back - but it's looking like apulmonary embolism, although she's not been doing anything obvious that could trigger one. Likewise, the severity is unknown at the moment: she could even be home tonight if all's well.
Anyway, I'm posting here early because there are some members of her family I can't get in touch with and I know they sometimes swing by the blog. Drop me a line if you're one of them. Meantime I'll post again if there's any news.
After a day and a half of him throwing up, we finally decided to take my son to hospital. He went with my wife while I did the work I had to finish this morning, then I walked in to meet them. Arrived at the hospital after an hour of trudging to find he'd been discharged and gone home half an hour earlier. My wife had my mobile so I couldn't be contacted as I walked. And anyway, it had run out of charge a few minutes after she arrived there ...
Home again, and decided to make Brownies for my daughter, who's on school holidays. They turned out like, well, not to put too fine a point on it, stools.
Received an email informing me that one of the regular jobs I do for Sydney will end this week, effectively slashing my weekly income by 40 per cent.
A minor thump to my external hard drive was sufficient to completely snap off the connection for the USB port that links it to my computer. It's now impossible for me to access any files on it. Took it into the shop where I bought it for repairs and was met with eyes rolled skyward in dismay and a prognosis along the lines of 'Well that's completely buggered then.'
Left the computer shop, slogged up to the right level of the multi-storey car-park, got into the car and was backing out when I remembered the bag I'd carried the drive in was still in the shop. With my iPod in it. Parked, ran back and found the shop had closed. Eventually got the attention of someone milling around inside, reclaimed the bag and returned to the car park.
Where the rate had ticked over to the next half hour and cost me another five bucks.
Returned home. Burnt the pasta.
And there's still four hours or so before I go to bed ...
Spent most of the time I should have ben sleeping last night cleaning up after a vomiting child, so today's been a bit addled, concentration-wise. Been on-call for a mag in Sydney, but thankfully they've had nothing for me, so it's been a day spent with about the only thing I could manage ... the FIFA World Cup 2006 game on the XBox.
I now have blisters on both thumbs and RSI in my right wrist. But I steered England to a 2-0, win over Argentina, so that's all right then.
Must do some writing tomorrow though - so many ideas, so little focus ...