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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “She And Him“. Please read the original story first if you want to avoid spoilers.

I stumbled around looking for an idea for this week’s story until Friday night – I knew we were going out Saturday, and that was also the day of the Eurovision final, so the evening was out.

I started with a few different titles – I began writing a story about a surfer called “Son of the Beach”, which not only suffered from having a pun for a title, an author who knows next to nothing about surfing and no idea of what I was going to do for a plot.

Finally I just typed “S” and started off with the idea of someone looking down at their hands and not recognising it. Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “Road To Back Home“. Please read that first if you want to avoid spoilers…

Yet again, the curse of not being able to think of an idea for a story struck again, and yet again my backlog of ideas bailed me out. This one has been in my “to write” list for a few years now, and this was a good time to dig it out.

The house itself is based on one that I lived in a few years ago, internally at least. The arrangement of the landing is exactly as I remember it, although the garden and front room are from a different house. To be fair, the layout is generic enough that it could be from anywhere, and I’m sure there’s a hundred thousand houses that could be described in exactly the same way within a mile of where I am right now.

I’m trying a new approach to the writing this time, trying to take more time while writing and imagining the events in more detail before writing each section. I then read it aloud to Rebeca, which really helps – that made me conscious of plot issues, repeated words (and I am terrible for repeating words within a sentence), and other issues (at one point, in the first draft, time ran backwards… oops). It’s a good technique, and I recommend it.

Another technique that I’m experimenting with is something I was told years ago – if you read a book, read it twice: once for fun, the second time to see how it’s done. I’m doing that now and it’s interesting to see how other authors handle things once you know what’s coming. It’s early days, but so far that’s something else that I would recommend, if you’re trying to write.

The post “Behind The Scenes: Road To Back Home” first appeared on simoncollis.com and is Copyright © Simon Collis 2018. All rights reserved.

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the most recent story, “The Quick Brown Fox“.

I have to say, I quite enjoyed writing this one, despite spending three or four hours staring into space trying desperately to work out how to end it. In the end, I went with the idea of them smuggling the ghost into the flat, after removing the bearer bonds.

The initial idea for this one came to me, in the way that quite a few of them do, because of the next letter of the alphabet, and I pictured a vintage typewriter with half of one of the famous sentences sticking out – “the quick brown fox”. Although I have made a point, over the years, of typing “jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz” instead, because it’s shorter and I like being contrary. Read more

This is the “Behind the Scenes” post for this week’s story, “Penny Drops”, which you can read here if you haven’t already

This one didn’t really come together in the same way as the others. Penny’s a character that I’ve had in my mind for quite a while, although I’ve never had a surname for her but always the initials “PC” (that tied in with another story that I was writing that I never finished, and then when the name came into my head, somehow the idea brought in to drop her down a well.

I kind of based this on a castle I visited on the Isle of Wight, which had a similar well in the courtyard, but theirs had a grid put further up. My assumption with this was that when it dried up, the original owners of the castle started to use the well as a place to dump people from the dungeons if they didn’t cooperate. The grid was installed in the well simply because there was the opening and that was the most obvious place to install it – plus it would provide a great little “added extra” for tours, I suppose – at least, in the days before people started to pay proper attention to health and safety concerns, anyway.

I wanted to concentrate on the experience of being in a well, and to try and make the exit plausible. I didn’t want to explain too much, so how Craig opened the well, and what exactly Penny’s revenge will be (assuming she isn’t just dialling the police, of course), is up to your imagination…

I’ve wanted to bring back Munro ever since the story “Elkwood”. (I also want to take the story Elkwood and rewrite it a bit, but that’s another story.) I had the name first and then wondered what would be special about this ring, and what it would do.

Of course, it was evil, naturally. I wrote the thing in one hit, printed it for editing and my other half pointed out that there was a couple of problems. I fixed those, but she was still left wondering why he was OK in one scene and paralysed in the next. I thought that was obvious: he wished for money, the ring decided the only way to arrange that was compensation, and the only way to organise that was to cripple him. Hmm. So much for subtlety. Read more

The idea of a were-man – a wolf that turns into a human at the full moon – came to me some time on Monday, but I couldn’t work out exactly how to make it work. Rebeca suggested the answer one day while we were out walking the dogs, that I tell it from the point of view of the were-man. I couldn’t really work out what exactly this would entail, so eventually in desperation I started writing on Saturday night, going carefully to try and get it right.

I basically followed the narrative through in my head, at each stage trying to work out what was happening. OK, so first he escapes from the zoo before the other wolves see him as an intruder and kill him. Fine, but then where does he go? The keeper who raised him as an abandoned cub and now has retired. She’s got clothes out for him and is baking cookies because he’s almost a son to her (I’m assuming she’s a widow, separated or divorced, of course). Read more

First off, I have no real idea what inspired me to call this one “The March Society”. The idea that a music journalist wouldn’t see the name and immediately think of John Philip Souza and other purveyors of vaguely military-style pieces in two-four time is nonsense. Second, the idea that someone who was opera mad wouldn’t question that either is a bit silly. I can only hope that people will assume the character is either changing the name of it and it originally had nothing to do with the word “March”, or that the narrator has chosen to skip over that no doubt hilarious misunderstanding.

I actually started writing this one on the Monday, which is early for me. It’s a story idea I’d had years ago, at least the first part: the idea of something hideous, so sinister looking you can imagine it haunting Lovecraft’s nightmares, and yet all it wants to do is to sing, and you listen to its amazing, pure, delicious voice and suddenly all the other singers you’ve ever known and loved sound like ashes in your mouth and you can’t stand them any more is like catnip to me. But the question I didn’t have resolved in my mind was how to end it? I’d thought about having the society break up, be exposed… in the end, something so pure just wasn’t made for this world. (Did I really write that? Maybe I’ve got a career writing Mills and Boon beckoning…) Read more

The clichéd question that every writer gets asked is “where do you get your ideas from?” Well, I’m not sure, but for the last few weeks the ideas haven’t really been flowing freely. In fact, this was the third attempt to write this story. I started off thinking I’d bring back Mr Munro of the antique shop, but re-reading Elkwood just made me want to fix the problems I saw in that story. Besides which, I couldn’t then think of a decent scenario to use them in. So that was enough of that one.

The next attempt to write it was actually a resurrection of the very first idea that I came up with. I won’t expound on that one as yet, for the simple reason that I probably will end up writing it before the year is out and I don’t want to give any spoilers out. But suffice to say that this time I didn’t even get as far as the first time, and that was particuarly galling.

In a bad mood, I ended up some time on Friday evening trying to come up with something. Finally, I came up with the title, and the rest – as often seems to happen with me – flowed naturally. Read more

When I first wrote If, Never three weeks ago, I didn’t think it would have a sequel. Even in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into a trilogy (and some of those dreams and pretty funky, thank you for asking.)

The initial premise of the first story was expanded on, and I enjoyed writing the second and coming up with another twist. But the next question was whether that was the last twist, or whether there was another twist somewhere to be had. I realised from some of the comments I’d had in person that some people were a little confused what had happened, and even thought that the carrier bag had been hidden outside. That made me realise that there was still some scope in these events, and that maybe that second twist should be resolved. Read more

Having written last week’s story “If, Never”, I started reading it through for the final proof, and wondered not only why Jenkins was murdered, but how. And so the idea of writing the story again, this time from the view of the murderer, started to take shape in my head.

It was actually easier to write this one than the original story, as I had the outline already written. I came up with most of the major plot points over the week, but during the actual writing on Friday and Saturday, I had to be careful to make sure that the dialogue matched exactly between the two, although the reactions to the same dialogue across the two stories are quite different, which was fun.

My big question was how the trick was achieved, how they deceived Carson enough to be able to use him as a fall guy for their crime. Read more