Character forming

I've been editing my second thriller, Line of Sight, a work in progress. Perhaps because I know the characters better (from Standpoint), I find it easier to get swept along with the manuscript as a book and sometimes have to pull myself back to the editor's chair. One thing I have observed is the way in which small details illustrate character. The way Thomas irons his tie for a funeral or the way Karl cracks jokes when he's aware of tension. Or the way Miranda bursts the bubble of intimacy with a well aimed crude comment or two.

I've also turned that lens on people I met upon life's journey. Small details, and each one of them a billboard of the soul.

Mick, who made a key ring made from a dead dog's ear, supposedly as a mark of respect.
Michael - no connection - who spent a whole weekend turning my angst ridden teenage lyrics into songs and recorded them for me.
A nameless former colleague who put on the lingerie that his wife refused to wear (once she'd gone out of the room).
The man who put a cold hammer against my temple and demanded money.
The woman who thought it'd be funny to share an intimate secret, just to see what would happen.
A landlady who lowered the rent just because we got on so well.

Maybe character is best revealed by those things we do when we have freedom of choice and there's no one else around.

Hogwarts Lives On thanks to Erkin Bekbolotov and his friends

First came the books.

Then came the film.

Then came the merchandising.

Then came the other films.

Then came more merchandising.

Then came the theme park.

And now there's... Mugglespace.

I checked out a sample member - Erkin Bekbolotov is an MBA graduate with a self-confessed HP obsession. Then I remembered that I've still got all the books and - like Erkin - my favourite book is Chamber of Secrets.

Now if I could just drum up some publicity (and a publisher) for my own books, I'd be a happy man!


Kipling may have written: ‘… If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same…’ but I’ll bet his novel hasn’t just been declined by a major UK publishing house. Of the two imposters, I know which one I’d like to write to me!

There are several positives, despite their decision. The editor in question had generously allowed me to resubmit an excerpt from Standpoint after a full edit. And she'd passed it to one of their senior commissioning editors, who specialises in crime and thrillers. So I can’t say my manuscript hasn't been given a fair opportunity.

There was some useful feedback as well: ‘…although she thinks you write well and clearly have potential in this area, she did not think that the material was strong enough yet since it is extremely tough to break out a new author in the thriller market. She complimented the pace of your writing, but felt that the beginning of the novel was confusing and that Miranda’s role did not flow naturally.

Her advice would be that, rather than submitting direct to publishers, which is a notoriously difficult route, you should find an agent to represent you and to work with on your writing.’

Naturally, I'll heed the advice of the professionals. I'll take a fresh look at the opening scenes and ponder what could be done about Miranda, and what she'll let me do. And of course, I'll review my trusty spreadsheet of thriller literary agents; I might even chase up the one who's taken 5 months to not respond to me so far.

And I'll do all this with a clear sense of purpose, trying to ignore that inner critic's voice, which whispers, 'What if your novel just isn't good enough, whatever you do to it?'

Right this minute though, having waited six months for news, I can't help feeling like the contestants in Bullseye who lost out in the final round, when Jim Bowen puts a fatherly arm around them and says, "Come and have a lot at what you would have won."

Meantime, if you know of any literary agents looking for thrillers, point them in my direction.