Sunday, 17 June 2012
When I write, I can see the action in my mind. I picture the camera angles and can hear the explosions or klaxons or whatever. As well as whatever's in focus, I also have a fairly clear idea what the room or compartment or whatever looks like. However , I don't inflict a detailed description on the readers unless it's relevant. I did it in Ch 1 of Echo because I wanted to get across the impression that starships were battered, workaday, grubby tools like the Nostromo rather than the clean and shiny world of Star Trek. As a writer, I want to create the broad outlines and then allow the reader to colour the picture in. Your camera angle may be completely different to mine, and the characters are likely to look completely different in your head to what's in mine. I described Echo as having jaw length, bobbed hair and green eyes. That was it. It wasn't till Cathy Helms did the cover art that she became a brunette (and acquired a trout pout). One of the first readers thought the Bad Girls were 7 feet tall (they're not, but they can be if you want) and, if you were paying attention, you may know that Acre is blond and has her hair plaited into cornrows, Pearce is tall and thin, and I may have told you that Hemingray is small and has a blond bubble perm. However, if you want them to look different, that's fine. Some writers want to transfer the cinematic experience that's in their head into yours without allowing the freedom to interpret it as you see fit. Have a look at this: Jason Bourne eeled his way through the mob. He was assaulted by the bone-juddering, heart attack inducing, soul-shattering blast of music coming from ten-foot-tall speakers set on either end of the enormous dance floor. Above the dancers' heads an aurora boreal is of lights splintered, coalesced, and then shattered against the domed ceiling like an armada of comets and shooting stars. That was taken from one of the posthumous Jason Bourne novels. It's a 100,000 word adventure wrapped in a 200,000 word book. Part of the problem is that Jason himself isn't very interesting. I've read several of the Ludlum and post Ludlum versions and, unlike say James Bond, it's quite difficult to get a handle on the man himself. I enjoyed the three Bourne films with Matthew Damon. Not for their portrayal of Jason Bourne, but for the way they handled crises and action scenes. The realism used in the Bourne films was taken up by the Daniel Craig version of Bond. Violence is brutal and ugly rather than stylised or glamourous. Part of Echo's (genetically engineered) DNA came from the Jason Bourne. Another DNA donor is Jack Reacher. He's a much more interesting character although I've never really warmed to him as a person (if you see what I mean) which is no mean feat in itself. I like the way that we see Reacher's process of deduction and I particularly like the way he previsualised a fight. I forget which book it's in but, at one point he's faced with three men and it described, succinctly but effectively, which one he's going to batter first, how he's going to do it and why he's made those choices. So, Bourne is a boring cardboard cut out and Reacher is an interesting, if slightly unpleasant, character. I'd like to think that Echo is a reasonably interesting and sympathetic character and that's why I've had such positive feedback. It's difficult to judge the value of your own creation. In the next post I'll talk about whether you can have well drawn characters, strong plots and detailed description or whether something has to be compromised to create a book that works. Actually it's just an excuse to talk about Hulk underwear.