So, here's the thing! I was driving south from Manchester, and I put Blondie in the CD. It occurred to me - as it often does these days - that I used to love Debbie Harry. Oh, she's not the only one I fell in love with by any stretch of the imagination. When it came to women, I was a multiple lover! I also loved Toyah Willcox, and Cindi Lauper - In fact, I still do. (Oh, there'll be other women I'll recall as you trundle down the page - like Judith Durham from the Seekers - I would have joined the Carnival for her!) Now, straight away, when you look at the videos below, you'll notice my taste in women is beautiful and quirky (I don't know what went wrong with the wife)! If you meet those critical criteria, please feel free to apply online for some multple lovin'!
Anyway, those three women were distinctive. As soon as I say their name you dredge an image from your memory banks of what each one looks like. You don't say, "Who?" because you know. Writing is like that! "Say what?" I hear you say. Well, let me give you two examples. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, and The Religion by Tim Willocks. Think of vivid memories, why are they vivid? What makes them bounce around in your grey matter all your life - distinctiveness. When you're writing, you have to make your prose, your characters, scenes, locations, well everything - distinctive.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The seller of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.
So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.
No, not the grass. The salesman lifted his gaze. But two boys, far up the gentle slope, lying on the grass. Of a like size and general shape, the boys sat carving twig whistles, talking of olden or future times, content with having left their fingerprints on every movable object in Green Town during summer past and their footprints on every open path between here and the lake and there and the river since school began.
"Howdy, boys!" called the man all dressed in stormcolored clothes. "Folks home?"
Why have I bolded some of the writing? Well, I think it's reasonably obvious. When I read Ray's book many years ago, I fell in love with his descriptive writing. I mean, sneaking glances over his shoulder! You can picture it can't you? And not only that, it tells you about the man's character. The writing is beautiful - oversized puzzles of ironmongery and his tongue conjured from door to door! I would love to write like that. Oh, I try, but who knows whether I succeed. And what do stormcoloured clothes look like? Magical.
She realised that he intended to murder the priest, and in blood so cold she wondered it wasn't frozen in his veins. She looked at him and he forced a smile to reassure her, and she saw that he was a killer of the darkest stripe, and that for all his broad intelligence and largeness of heart, there was a defect - a hole - in his conscience that was almost as wide. She wondered what had made the hole and how long it had been there. It saddened her, because the cause must have brought him great anguish, and the cost must have been so high that he had forgotten how much he had paid. She thought to object to the murder, but he was taking this stain on his soul for her advantage and she held her tongue. She'd offer no more false faces. She'd not insult the man with pious hypocrisy. She'd embrace the world in which she found herself so bloodily embroiled. She'd learn at last to be true to her inmost self.
You're thinking, "The dastardly scoundrel hasn't bolded any of those there words!" And you'd be right. Any ideas why? Because Tim Willocks uses twenty words where one would do, he wraps them around you like a warm blanket sat by a blazing winter fire. His paragraphs could break world records, but you never want them to end. In this one, we learn about the characters of Tannhauser and his significant other, which forms the basis of their relationship.
So, these are two of my favourite writers who I try to emulate. Here's a passage from the book I'm currently writing, see what you think!
The Shadow of Death
Eventually, the door opened. A flat faced old woman wearing trainers, pink slacks, a flowery waistcoat over a red pullover, large round bottle-bottom glasses, and a red and black scarf knotted like a bandanna holding back her grey wiry hair from her face stood before them. Oversized garish jewellery hung around her neck and from her ears. She had both hands on a walking frame and a long Cuban cigar clenched in her brown-stained teeth.
She took a deep draw on the cigar then removed it. ‘Whadya want?’ she said blowing the smoke in their faces.
‘I rang earlier,’ Toadstone said. ‘I’m Chief Scientific Officer Paul...’
‘Well, don’t just stand there like fossils letting in the cold to bother my rheumatis’, come in and shut the door.’ She put the cigar back in her mouth, swivelled a hundred and eighty degrees like a ballet dancer, and hobbled back along the hall, which had old yellowing newspapers stacked two-feet high against the right-hand wall.
Eyeing Parish, Toadstone held his hand up to his nose and mouth as they began following Terri Royston along the hall with its threadbare carpet. Smoke hung like a fog that had drifted in from the Atlantic, and the stench of cigars was enough to stop a raging bull in its tracks.
You can picture this eccentric old woman with her crazy dress sense, her Cuban cigar, and her impatience. I had in mind Ruth Gordon who played Ma Boggs in Every Which Way but Loose with Clint Eastwood as Philo Beddoe. Also, some might start gagging at the stench of cigars and visualise the fog drifting in from the sea.
So, there you have it! Have what? Come on, pay attention. A beautiful quirky woman is like a descriptive passage in a novel. Make your characters memorable, some a bit quirky. Give them three dimensions. I mean, women don't usually smoke Cuban cigars, do they?
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.