#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 24: Question 19 & 20

I’m so behind… I’m so behind.

As alluded to in my last post, I’ve been extremely busy both inside work and outside of it; it’s taken up all of my brain space. Nevertheless, I am determined to post this week even if it is short, so here we go…

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

19. Which character is most likely to survive an apocalypse?

I actually think all four of my main characters would fare well quite well in an apocalypse situation. Over the course of The Mayor, Melora, Jaspher, Kale and John have all at some point experienced drastic, life-altering changes — a complete upheaval of their everyday existence — and yet manage to come out the other side alive… Great practise for an apocalypse situation! And if they teamed up and took on the end of the world together, there’d be absolutely no stopping them.

Here’s how I imagine it would go down in my head: John would rally the troops and lead a team of highly trained recruits to take on the zombie hoard; Melora would scrap and scrimp and sneak her way around our evil robot overlords, learning their weaknesses and taking them down from within; Kale would be completely immune to the killer bioweapon gone wrong spreading across the Taro Isles — likely because he caused it — remaining one step ahead of everyone else at all times; and Jaspher–

OK. Jaspher likely wouldn’t survive the apocalypse, but he’d do his absolute damnedest to ensure everyone around him was fed, watered and safe, and later sacrifice himself to save the Chosen Child i.e. the salvation of all humanity!

Or something to that effect.

20. Tell us about… religion in your book

As I mentioned in a previous post (here), religion is an aspect of my world building I consider to be significantly underdeveloped at present.

When I first started writing The Mayor, my characters made references to gods’ names I made up, but I stopped using them because I didn’t like them. To keep the first draft flowing, I let characters say things like, “By God!” and, “for God’s sake!”, but Christianity does not exist in my world, so this is a Problem.

I’m determined to straighten the theology of my world out during The Mayor‘s second draft.

S.E. Berrow

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#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 18: Questions 16, 17 & 18

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

16. Your thoughts on… how to get the words down

There really is only one answer to this, and it’s the one no writer — wannabe, professional or otherwise — wants to hear:

Write.

Sit up at your desk, turn on your computer, open that document and write.

Grab a notebook, pull it over your lap, put the pen to the paper and write.

Grab your phone, turn it on, open that notepad app and write.

Most writers have day jobs, especially — but not limited to —those who aren’t published yet. The last thing we want to do when we get home from work is to sit back in front of the computer screen and do more work. I don’t have the time! you’ll hear us cry. I’m too busy! Too tired! I’m not in the mood! I don’t know what’s going to happen next! I’m not inspired!

Sadly, no amount of excuses is going to change this sad and sorry fact:

Writing is a verb. You can only achieve it by doing it.

Uninterrupted writing sessions are great, but they’re also super rare. I can’t afford to sit and wait for time to materialise (there are always cats to feed, meals to cook, clothes to wash etc.) so I have to carve time out for myself. I kid you not, I have legitimately produced approximately 100,000 words over the course of a single year just by forcing myself to write for at least half an hour every evening — not even every evening, just whenever I can. Sometimes that means going to bed a bit later than I’d like, or waiting to catch up on a favourite TV show. If I’m getting the words down and progressing through my story, then I’m one step closer to achieving my dreams. That makes it all worth it.

Terry Pratchett wrote whole books this way, forcing himself to write 400 words every day before he went to bed. I prefer to work by time rather than word count because I’m super slow, but whatever works for you.

At the same time it’s important to take days off when you burn yourself out. If the well runs dry to the point you actually hate your book and you are mere seconds away from pressing the delete button (been there, totally guilty)… take a break! Go for a walk. Watch some TV. Play a video game. Just make sure you do eventually go back to your book and continue from where you left off. Everything makes so much more sense after you’ve taken some time to recharge and refill your creative well.

17. Unseen Footage: Write a short scene that fits into your book but won’t make the final cut

The following scene is the opening of my planned John novella — something I want to write upon completion of The Mayor when I hand it over to K.F. Goodacre for preliminary editing and take a bit of a break. Though events that take place within this novella are key to the formation of John’s character (and thus important for me to know as a writer), it is not my intention to submit it for publication. Enjoy!

The pirates corralled John and the rest of the crew into a shivering, bloody huddle on the main deck, forcing them to their knees and trailing guns against their heads. Some, like John, had their hands bound behind their backs. Others less fortunate — men too wounded, weak or dazed to stand and fight — the pirates seemed content to let well alone. Where on earth would they go, surrounded and outnumbered as they were? The wooden planks of the deck were slippery and wet, scarlet and sodden with blood.

It took John a few moments to realise the insistent rhythmic clattering in his head was the sound of his own teeth. Chattering and shivering from the cold settling over his bones, he tugged  at his bonds and quailed at the sight of so many strangers — so many pitiless, colourfully-dressed men leering and jeering over the railings. One of the pirates made a show of tugging the rings off a dismembered, bloody hand, laughing as he threw it back at the original owner’s head, whose face had turned the colour of bilge water. Dark shadows bruised the skin beneath the man’s fever-bright eyes. John had no doubt the man would be dead within hours.

“Enough!” bellowed a voice from the quarterdeck, and immediately the pirates fell into ominous silence.

John’s bowels turned to water as the captain descended the stairs and appeared directly in front of him. Beetle-black eyes deep-set in a scarred and leathery face narrowed to pin-pricks, scrutinising his prize.

“Good afternoon, Gentlemen,” he grinned, baring an array of multicoloured teeth, few of which John imagined to be his own. “My name is Captain Rourke Marks of the Hoopoe, which is this rather fine looking vessel you see lashed to the side of your skiff here. Pray tell, which one of you gentlemen calls himself Captain? We have matters of great importance to discuss he and I, and I’ve no wish to dally. I’m afraid I’m in rather a hurry…”

John scrambled sideways as Marks reached down and grabbed one of his fellow sailors, hauling the man up by the scruff of the neck in front of the prize-crew and pressing a pistol to the back of his head.

“Three… two… one.”

Everyone jumped as the gun exploded, fresh blood and brains spraying all over the deck. John watched, horrified as the sailor crumpled to his knees, a ragged gaping wound where his eye had been. As the dead man’s body slumped sideways, Marks reached forward for another victim, and though he too struggled and protested, the pirate held him up before the crowd as though he were no more than a sack of potatoes. Drawing a second loaded pistol from his belt — John counted six in total — he pressed the barrel against the man’s brow and grinned that wicked grin.

“Three… two…one.”

Another explosion. More blood sprayed across the deck, and John flinched as this time some of it splashed across his face, hot and staining the corner his vision red. When Marks reached for him and near-yanked his arm out of its socket, he felt a sense of unreality sweep over, as though he’d stepped outside of his own body, watching everything unfold from a distance. He became aware of every sound and sensation; the broad expanse of the the pirate’s barrel chest against his back, the rotten-meat on his breath—

The cold metal promise of a gun pressed against his head.

“Three… two….”

“Wait!”

Every hair along the back of John’s neck rose as he felt Marks let out a breath of satisfaction behind his ear. His eyes widened at the sight of Reed pushing himself awkwardly to his feet, struggling under the weight of his leg, which was bloody and shaking, the material of his breeches soaked through from the slash of an errant pirate sword.

John gasped as Marks kicked out the back of his legs, taking all the weight off his feet. He hung limp at the pirate’s side, that iron-grip upon the crook of his arm not budging a single inch. Lowering the pistol, Marks kept it cocked, finger resting on the trigger.

“How nice of you to speak up, Captain…?”

“Reed, Sir. Hogarth Reed. Of the Mystic Rosa.”

“The Mystic Rosa? What the hell kind of shit name is that?”

“Well it weren’t me that named her—”

“Oh, nevermind, nevermind. The keys, Reed. Where are they? I seen what you’re carrying in your ledgers.”

“Keys? Keys to wh—?”

“To the cargo hold, you cretin, where else? Why? Do you think I meant keys to your God damned heart?”

“No, of course not, I—”

“Well? Speak up then! Quickly, quickly, I ain’t got all day.”

When Reed continued to hesitate, Marks growled, firing a single shot in the other captain’s direction, causing the him to yelp and throw his arms up above his head. The bullet ricocheted off the mast, narrowly missing a member of Marks’ own crew. One of the pirates up on the forecastle laughed.

Marks hauled John back up to his feet who struggled as he did so, shrinking away from the pirate’s foul breath, dizzy with the fear and stink of it. He froze as once again he felt the muzzle of a fourth gun against his temple, knowing it was all but a  hair’s breadth away from going off in the pirate’s hand if he so much as moved an inch.

“Next time, Captain Reed, I won’t miss. Now. Tell me. Where’re the God damned keys?”

~ ‘Rourke Marks’, extract from Untitled Novella (Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018)

18. Your writing habits

I’ve answered this question before in a previous challenge (click here to view). Not much has changed, except I now write in my parents’ study instead of my own (because I moved out of my flat).

I also now make use of the wonderful Forest app to track my output. Instead of simply timing 30 minute time slots on my phone, I grow trees instead, where each tree represents 30 minutes of uninterrupted time — the tree dies if you leave the Forest app i.e. if you check or use your phone! It’s a good way of eliminating distractions. Sadly it won’t stop cats from walking all over your keyboard…

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 17: Questions 14 & 15

Catching up with this challenge slowly but surely…

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

14. What (if anything) would you like to express through your writing?

It’s hard for me to explain what I’m trying to achieve through my writing when I don’t rightly know myself. I’m not actively trying to get a particular message across; I just want people to get swept up in my story and grow to love and loathe my characters in equal measure, hopefully enjoying themselves in the process.

Of course, it’s nigh on impossible to write completely objectively; my own thoughts, experiences and opinions are inevitably going to bleed into the pages somehow… I’m not comfortable with explicitly stating what these are. It’s much more fun for my readers to guess, or better yet, relate to it themselves without me forcing it down their throats.

Mostly, I just want to tell these characters’ stories so they’ll bloody go away and let me sleep!!!

15. Recipes in your book

I’ve spoken before (see here) about how my protagonist Melora absolutely loves ginger-nut biscuits and how I use them as a narrative tool.

In that vein, below is an 18th century gingerbread recipe taken from A New and Easy Method of Cookery by Elizabeth Cleland, 1755:

To make Ginger-bread.
TAKE half a Peck of Flour well dried, five Pounds of Treacle, half a Pound of Butter, two Ounces of beaten Ginger, an Ounce of Carraway Seed; boil the Treacle and Butter together, then mix it with the Flour and Seeds; You may put candied Orange, or Lemon-peel in it; If you please put three Eggs in it, bake them in little Cakes of butter’d Papers.

Simple, non?

If you can’t be bothered to bake but still want a taste of the past, there’s an English company called The Copper Pot who make and sell foodstuffs based on historical recipes (I can attest to their deliciousness). As far as the 18th century goes, they sell Hot Chocolate, Curry SpicesPink(!) Pancakes and, you guessed it, Gingerbread!

They even sell a herbal mix for you to enjoy a luxurious footbath, 18th century style. Enjoy!

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 16: Question 13

YES, I KNOW I’M BEHIND. I’M SORRY.

This question’s answer is kind of a long one so though so… that kinda makes up for it, I guess…?

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

13. Your book is now a film. What will work well? What won’t?

Authors notoriously have little power when it comes to adaptions of their books. Cassandra Clare, for example, is occasionally forced to explain how she has absolutely noting to do with the (IMO) terrible adaptions of her work, and I’ve heard some real horror stories from people inside the industry about writers signing away their film rights without financial reimbursement (Cecily von Ziegesar, author of Gossip Girl; L.J. Smith, author of the Vampire Diaries… the latter doesn’t even own the rights to her own book series). As such, I shall begin this blog post with a public service announcement:

Should you ever be lucky enough to get a book signed for publication, take a lawyer in with you when you sign the contract!

Now that’s out of the way…

One of my Beta readers  remarked they could envision The Mayor as a BBC drama quite easily. At its heart The Mayor is essentially an 18th century period drama played out in a fantasy equivalent of the West Indies. Small, seemingly inconsequential actions have a tendency to ripple outwards to large and devastating effect, with a heavy emphasis on political dialogue and interpersonal relationships. That kind of story always works much better on the small screen than in the cinema, and although Part Two abandons the claustrophobic confines of New Hardway in favour of adventure on the high seas, I imagine the small screen is probably where The Mayor would end up should anyone be mad enough to try and adapt it.

So, what do I think would work well?

Costume

Blue CoatBeing an 18th century period drama — one of the prettiest and most extravagant eras in terms of European fashion — there’d be lots of opportunity for lavish, colourful costumes. Hair and make-up would have an absolute field-day with my protagonist Melora’s ringlets, and I’d love to see what wardrobe could produce for my villain’s beautiful blue coat.

My characters also encounter other cultures as they travel further up the map which might be fun to play with, such as the Kintaronese who favour light, loose clothing — shifts and kaftans, made from linen in rich turquoise blues — and adorn themselves with vast arrays of gold-plated jewellery (gold is considered common in Kintaro and thus even the poor dress themselves in this way; they even make their fishing hooks from it!).

Mise En Scene

I have written New Hardway is an aesthetically European town situated in a fantastical West Indies-equivalent known as the Taro Isles. A tropical coastline peppered with rainforests and tortugas, the bright and colourful Taro Isles would stand in direct contrast to New Hardway’s grand and austere architecture. There’s opportunity also to make it look the flora and fauna appear even more fantastical through the use of models or CGI, or both. Then there’s the tall ships, the shipping yard, the marketplace… I can see it all now…

Port Royal

Set pieces

As mentioned above, there’s quite a bit of swashbuckling in Part Two of The Mayor with naval battles, piratical pursuits and life-threatening storms… all of which I imagine would look pretty spectacular on the silver screen. Given even television’s dramatic improvement in recent years (see Game of Thrones, Outlander, Black Sails etc.), I imagine it’d look pretty good on the small screen too.

Sea battle

What won’t work well?

Sexual Content

I’d be very concerned with how TV/film might treat some of the sexual aspects of my book, particularly when it comes to sexual assault. Neither TV nor film have a particularly good history when it comes to depicting such things on screen (especially within an historical or fantastical context, of which my book is both), opting for soft-lightning, inexplicable titillation and absolutely zero consideration for the aftermath such a traumatic event might have. I’d want the filmmakers to give this subject some serious consideration and treat it with the sensitivity it deserves. If that means a fade to black or panning away from the whole thing completely, I’d really rather that than whatever the hell HBO did to poor Daenarys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) and Lucrezia Borgia (The Borgias).

Future filmmakers, take notes from Seasons 1 & 2 of Stars’ Outlander please, both in its depictions of consensual and non-consensual sex. Both, IMO, were excellently done.

My Deutragonist

I asked my writing partner her opinion on this question and the first thing she said was, “Jaspher.” When I asked her to elaborate as I didn’t quite understand, she answered:

“A lot of his appeal comes from how clear it is that he means no harm from his thought process. Take that away and you’ve only got his acts.”

Jaspher CarsonJaspher is a conflicted soul; an undiagnosed melancholic who spends an awful lot of time in his head, turning over endless “what if” scenarios and rationalising them away in his head. He is constantly putting others before himself, including my protagonist, Melora, whom he is helplessly in love with. He puts an enormous amount of pressure on himself to keep his family afloat, and would sooner work himself to an early grave than admit he needs help.

He’s a good man, with the very best and most honourable of intentions. Every choice he makes is clearly driven — in the text — by factors listed above, but he makes mistakes along the way.

And when I say mistakes, I mean serious mistakes.

Big Mistakes.

HUGE.

Without being privy to any of Jaspher’s internal monologue, the audience might perceive Jaspher to be something he isn’t: purposefully controlling, abusive and cowardly. It’s pretty clear from the text that it’s not as black and white as that, but a film might struggle to convey such a thing.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 12: Questions 11 & 12

Blow me down, I’m all caught up! Don’t get used to it. I’m moving house next week (eek!).

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

11. Your favourite minor character

I spoke briefly about my true favourite minor character — Ada Lillith — in week 5, question 4 (click here). Today however, so as not to repeat myself,  I’m going to talk to you about Roger Bellamy instead.

Bellamy is a Judicial Officer working for the Town Magistrate, Renwick Jarvis. Described as having a “pinched, pockmarked face” with “beady-black eyes” and a “mirthless smile”, he can often be found sneering and smirking his way through some of The Mayor‘s legal scenes, making life thoroughly unpleasant and unnecessarily difficult for everyone else:

 

“Really, Mr Bellamy,” [Jaspher] said, placing the armadillo down in what he deemed a relatively safe spot; a bureau the officer had already searched. “I’m sure the Magistrate requires you to be thorough, but is it really necessary for you to ransack my office?”

“What’s going on?”

Jaspher turned to find Melora stood in the doorway, pale as a sheet, eyes wide as she absorbed the chaos in front of her.

“Nothing to concern yourself with, young lady.” Bellamy rattled the drawers of Jaspher’s desk, finding them locked. “You got another key for this, Master Carson? None of the ones I have here seem to fit.”

“This young lady is Miss Melora Winship to you, Sir,” said Jaspher feeling his face grow hot. “Mr Winship’s daughter. You should treat her with more respect.”

“I don’t care if she’s the bleeding Duchess of Waite,” said Bellamy, rolling his eyes. “Did you not hear what I just said? Open this drawer, Master Carson, or I’ll be forced to break it open.”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

BeadleBellamy was most likely drawn to law enforcement because of the sense of power it gives him. He enjoys his ability to inflict state-sanctioned misery on others, and because he’s quite young — I personally imagine him to be in his late teens — he’s a bit self-conscious about his ability to command authority. He gets a kick out of domineering and humiliating others who are much older/more experienced than him.

Let’s be honest; we’ve all met and/or worked with someone like Bellamy in our life. He’s not my favourite minor character because of who he is as a person, but because he’s enormous fun to write with. He’s one of those characters I made up on the spot but found myself constantly referring back to to serve a particular purpose (law enforcement). He also tends to elicit extreme, outraged responses from my Beta readers. As a writer who simply loves creating misery amongst her readership, I absolutely lap this up:

  • “UGH, Bellamy.” – Oran Bailey, said 3 times over the course of a single feedback email.
  • “Hit him, John. HIT HIM.” – also Oran…
  • “”When [Bellamy] smiled at him with narrowed eyes, Jaspher felt his fists unwittingly clench.” Same, Jas. Same.” – Oran really hates Bellamy, OK?
  • “Officious twerp.” – Kim Goodacre.
  • “Arsehole.” – Cassandra Beckley.

Thus, Bellamy is my favourite minor character… after the wonderful Miss Lillith of course.

12. Language: Why a character speaks the way they do / unique slang

As far as creating fantasy languages are concerned, I’m about as far from J.R.R. Tolkein as you could possibly imagine. I’d much prefer to write something vague like, “the merchants began arguing in furious Dontaran” as opposed to spelling out actual words, because then I sound less like a linguistically-challenged fool.

Kintaro

I may, where appropriate, include a smattering of the Kintaronese language in the text as my characters travel further up the map, encountering more and more people from that area. Kintaronese typically consists of hard ‘cuh’ sounds combined with soft ‘ma’ and ‘shh’ sounds e.g. “hakirsh” means “hello” (which shortens to “hash” for ‘hi’), “pir” means “bread” (specifically a loaf), “maru” means “ship”… and so on and so forth.

I have yet to even think about what the language of Dontaro sounds like, so I guess I’ll get back to you on that one.

As for why a particular character speaks the way they do…

Technically speaking, although I write in English (I’m from South-East London), my characters are actually speaking a language called Swordish, native to the Kingdom of Sword. I’m not a fan of writing out accents (think Joseph in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights; I think this can come across as offensive as it implies the character isn’t speaking ‘normally’), but I do actively try and put inflections on the way characters speak or choose certain words in order to convey an idea of how they sound.

Mayor Roper and Melora’s father Craven — in my head — both have an extremely ‘plummy’ accents. This is because they hail from the educated upper classes; the Swordish equivalent of RP English. I refrain from using contractions when writing with these two and occasionally use old-fashioned exclamations if I want to lay it on thick such as “jolly good”, “I say”, “splendid” etc. It’s worth noting William Kale also speaks with this accent, though he will occasionally slip…

The Carsons meanwhile are very much lower-middle class, so their accents are closer to the Swordish equivalent of Estuary English. As mentioned last week, John and Jaspher’s father Jeremiah was originally a sailor who married into a wealthy family, so he had to change the way he spoke in order to be taken more seriously (get a drink inside him and his accent immediately starts to broaden).

Jonathan CarsonJohn is probably my most interesting character in terms of language and speech patterns. Raised a gentlemen, but working as a sailor, his accent is very much on the lower-end of the ‘Estuary’ spectrum. It’s not quite Cockney (that’s the reserve of working-class characters like Liz e.g. “That was a nice thing what you did, even if it don’t change nothing”) but close enough that he’s sometimes looked down on for the way he speaks. He’s instantly marked out as ‘lesser’ by New Hardway’s elite (the clientele of his father’s shipbuilding firm), whilst simultaneously being mocked for being too ‘posh’ by his peers. As such, he doesn’t really fit in anywhere; it’s something he’s painfully aware of.

I probably work the hardest on John’s speech patterns because they’re the most fun to play with, making heavy use of contractions and 18th century thieves cant. He’ll slide instantly from being devastatingly articulate (“It’s a wonder you’re able to sit so straight when I’ve yet to see any evidence you possess a spine”) to colourful, brazen and broad by the end of the scene (“Vapouring, swaggering spineless fucking bastard!”).

John’s accent rubs off on Melora too. She’s much, much freer with her speech when she’s hanging around John than she is with her father or Jaspher.

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 11: Questions 9 & 10

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

9. Your favourite secondary character

My favourite secondary character in The Mayor — Part One only, because it’s the book I’m writing at the moment — is probably Jaspher and John’s father, Jeremiah Carson. A man of great integrity, Jeremiah is easy-going, entrepreneurial and quietly intelligent. He has a wicked sense of humour — a trait he shares with his youngest son, John — and knows the value of a thick skin and hard work.

Jeremiah CarsonBorn and raised as a sailor to immigrant parents, Jeremiah Carson found work on a timber trading vessel — one of many businesses owned by the wealthy Gatley family of the mercantile class. Impressing his superiors with a keen work-ethic, personable demeanour and practically acquired knowledge, Jeremiah grafted his way to the position of captain where he soon became acquainted with Roger Gatley’s daughter, Sofia. Perfectly matched in every respect but station, the two embarked on a passionate affair, but when Jeremiah eventually approached Gatley to request his daughter’s hand in marriage, the union was met with derision and disapproval by Sofia’s brother, Rhode. Rhode Gatley believed his sister capable of marrying richer and ‘better’, and thus made a concerted effort to keep the two apart. Roger Gatley meanwhile tried to resist Jeremiah’s request for several weeks, but was ultimately forced to concede when Sofia declared herself pregnant. The two were married at once, but Jaspher Carson did not appear for at least another fourteen months. Realising with surprisingly good grace that he’d been tricked, Roger Gatley at last welcomed Jeremiah into the family, much to Rhode Gatley’s chagrin.

A year or so later upon Roger Gatley’s death, Jeremiah Carson inherited the bulk of the Gatley’s timber trading business. Leaving the day to day management of the firm to the whip-smart Sofia, Jeremiah continued to sail and negotiate overseas, the two of them taking the business from strength to strength. Even Rhode Gatley’s hostility towards his brother-in-law cooled to a begrudging respect, finding it hard to argue with the man’s monetary success.

When Sofia died of an infection contracted from the birth of their second son Jonathan, Jeremiah was forced to retire from sailing. He grounded himself on New Hardway soil, seeking to raise his two sons by himself and take over from where his wife left off. Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, the timber business began to fail, and he began seeking out alternative means of providing for his family.

Salvation came in the form of Craven Winship — a talented but bored accountancy executive whom Jeremiah had become close to over the years through their mutual connection to the Gatley family. Further united by the loss of a spouse, he and Winship proposed to combine their expertise and form a new shipbuilding company. Jeremiah sold his timber business back to his brother-in-law, using the proceeds from the sale to help start up the new firm. Despite their fractious history, Jeremiah also negotiated an agreement with Rhode whereby Winship and Carson could buy timber from him at a reduced rate; a deal that proved to be of great benefit to them both. Winship and Carson went on to be a huge success, and neither Jeremiah nor Craven have ever looked back since.

What I love about Jeremiah is his sheer tenacity; his determination to succeed despite all adversity. He deeply loves and cares for his family, and there’s nothing he won’t do to help them. Having faced both classist and racial prejudice all his life, he has nonetheless managed to carve out a decent life for himself despite a string of familial tragedies which include, but are not limited to, mental illness, suicide and abuse. Occasionally joking the Carson family might be cursed, he always stays positive, and consistently makes light of dreadful situations.

At the start of The Mayor, Jeremiah is desperately ill and, having always lived an active and dynamic lifestyle, is struggling to come to terms with the fact he’s no longer as physically capable as he once was. He relies heavily on his eldest son Jaspher for support — the guilt of which eats away at him — and spends much of his time denying he needs any help at all. As a writer, I enjoy grappling with that slow, reluctant realisation of one’s own mortality; the frustration with one’s own failing body, and how resignation to the inevitable can sometimes be strangely freeing.

10. Your thoughts on… (writing) Gardeners and Architects

I’m pretty sure this originally came from a fantastic interview of George R. R. Martin by one of my favourite authors, Joe Abercrombie (I can’t find a link to it; it was on Sky Arts around the time the first season of Game of Thrones aired… Correct me if I’m wrong!). George has mentioned this concept several times since then, and Joe wrote his own blog post about it shortly afterwards (click here).

In the interview, Joe and George spoke to one another about how they planned and wrote their books. Joe Abercrombie was an Architect, one who “[plans] everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up.” George R. R. Martin meanwhile described himself as a Gardener: “[they] dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.” (Source)

This is also known as Planning vs. Pantsing in the NaNoWriMo world, but Gardening vs. Architecting sounds way more fancy, doesn’t it?

When it comes to starting new projects, I have to unfortunately place myself firmly in the Gardening/Pantsing category. I say unfortunately, because this method is messy, resulting in a lot of weeds growing where they shouldn’t, neglected saplings suddenly sprouting into forests at inconvenient moments, and crying over your favourite flowers because they won’t bloom the way you want them to. I find it difficult to plan novels without first getting to grips with the characters and world they live in, so I start with an extremely high level story idea and dive right in. I wish this wasn’t the case, because as I mentioned in a previous blog post, my original draft of The Mayor got so out of control I ended up putting the whole thing down for several years.

All the tales are told,
All the orchids gone.
Lost in my own world,
Now I care for dead gardens.

~ ‘Dead Gardens’ – Nightwish, Once (2004)

When I went back to writing The Mayor early last year, I made sure I at least had a list of key scenes in bullet points before tackling the rest of the draft. I also started blocking out events in more exhaustive detail at the start of each new chapter to keep myself from getting completely lost. This method has helped enormously with keeping everything under control whilst still maintaining a sense of creative freedom and growth. I will of course still veer off into a plot-hedge every now and then, but at least this time I can find my way back!

In answer to the original question, I’m a bit of both, I guess… a landscape architect, if you will!

V.E. Schwab‘s video below probably best describes my current method, minus the part about writing the ending first; I’d rather save that particular satisfaction for later when I’m done!

 

S.E. Berrow

#AcresOfInk Writing Challenge ~ Week 9: Questions 7 & 8

Yes, I’m massively behind. WHAT OF IT? You’re not the boss of me. Don’t tell me what to do.

Part of the 52 Week Writing Challenge. Click here to view all questions.

7. Favourite relationship in the story

Telling you my actual favourite relationship (which, incidentally, is a romantic one) would be spoilerific, so today I’m going to talk to you about a non-spoilery relationship instead:

My favourite relationship to write in Book One of The Mayor is the sibling relationship between Jaspher and Jonathan Carson.

As brothers, Jaspher and John could not be more different. Jaspher is calm, level-headed and responsible, taking it upon himself to keep the Carson family afloat despite some serious financial difficulties and his father’s rapidly developing illness. John meanwhile is a notorious libertine, fond of wine, women and song with a penchant for attracting trouble.

In some ways, the two brothers perfectly embody their father, Jeremiah Carson, who is an ex-sailor turned shipwright. Despite his working class background, Jeremiah Carson rose to become a wealthy and successful entrepreneur in New Hardway, and is now a respected member of society. Jaspher seeks to uphold his father’s legacy by following in his footsteps as a shipwright. Unfortunately for Jaspher, John is far more interested in sailing ships than building them, and shamelessly engages in activities one might typically associate with that profession such as drinking, smoking and gambling.

John’s carefree, hedonistic lifestyle is a constant source of embarrassment for Jaspher. His peers make snide and insidious remarks regarding his brother’s behaviour and use it to undermine his authority. Being an ex-sailor himself (and for other, slightly more upsetting reasons), Jeremiah Carson prefers to turn a blind eye, but Jaspher refuses to let things slide. He will often step in as disciplinarian, which naturally causes a lot of tension between the two. This is fun to write.

What I like most about Jaspher and John’s relatonship is the complete juxtaposition between how much they love each other — how they’d do absolutely anything to protect each other — versus their complete inability to see eye to eye. Their relationship is fraught with jealousy and misunderstandings; the inevitable result of conflicting ideologies. As the plot of The Mayor progresses and pressure upon the Carson family mounts, Jaspher and John’s relationship will be tested to its absolute limit.

Fun!

7. Alternative realities: what could have changed everything, and how?

The obvious answer to this question would be, “What if William Kale had never come to New Hardway?” Because there’d be no plot, essentially, and everyone would be a lot happier and be able to get on with their lives.

How boring.

No, there’s actually a moment I can specifically pinpoint as being pivotal. It could have changed potentially everything, and I know this because I actually wrote it out and had to do away with it immediately for the sake of progressing the plot.

~*~ Warning! Minor spoilers to follow – I’ve redacted most of them but you never know… ~*~

In the scene before this one, Jaspher and Melora have a huge, relationship-altering fight. When I originally wrote it, Melora managed to catch up to Jaspher and apologise to him:

“Jaspher, wait,” Melora hurried down the stairs. “About last night, I… I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”

“Sorry?” Jaspher frowned, sounding as nonplussed as he looked. “Whatever for?”

“For how I reacted [REDACTED BECAUSE SPOILERS].”

She swallowed, tongue sticking to the roof of her mouth. Seeing him flush red at the reminder of his shame, she ploughed on before he could interrupt her.

“I… I was angry and upset. I lashed out because of it. After you’d gone, I had some time to think about what you said — why you did what you did — and I realised… you were only doing what you thought was best for your family. [REDACTED, FIGHT ME] And I don’t know if what John said about Mr Kale is true, but if it is true, Jaspher, then you need to be careful, because we don’t know what else he’s capable of, and we’ve lost so much already [FIGHT ME SOME MORE].

She felt rather than saw the tension ease in him as her voice trailed off. She stiffened as he pulled her to him in a gentle, one-armed embrace, then relaxed as he released her.

“You have nothing to be sorry for,” he said, slipping his hand into hers. “I’m sorry. I swear to you, I’ve never regretted anything more in my entire life. If I could wind back the clock and refuse to sign those damned papers, I would do it. I’d do it in a heartbeat. But it’s done now, and we’ll have to find a way to work through it. Somehow.”

He gave her hand a gentle squeeze, and she nodded, forcing a smile to her lips. It warmed her heart to see that smile returned, just the barest flickering at the corner of his mouth.

“But now I really, really must go. We’ll talk about this later, all right?” He kissed the backs of her fingers. “I promise.”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

Aww, isn’t that nice? Communication! Resolution! A willingness to understand each other and make things right!

Well I’m sorry, but we can’t have that. For the sake of the plot, I needed to carry on driving as big a wedge between these two as possible, so I ended up swapping the above out for this:

“Jaspher, wait,” Melora descended the stairs, reaching out as he yanked open the front door. “About last night… I just wanted to say that I’m—”

The door swung shut just as she reached the bottom, obscuring him from view.

“—sorry…”

Copyright © S.E. Berrow 2018

… Shame.

S.E. Berrow