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simon collis

musings of an omnivorous biped

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the short story “Xenon”. To avoid spoilers, please read the original story first.

Of course the name came first. I’ve been doing them in alphabetical order all year, so naturally the name came first.

Instead of the idea coming to me through inspiration, it came to me through ignorance. I’m not really that good at cubic metres compared to litres, although I should be – one of the earliest lessons I remember from school was to show how a litre fitted into a ten centimetre cube. Because that’s how arithmetic works, obviously. But when I looked at Alibaba to see how much xenon is worth (spoiler: not that much), I came up with the idea of a scam – one of the characters knowing about as much about xenon and how cubic metres worked as I’d done before I looked it up, getting duped, and then being made an unwitting stooge for counterfeit money. Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for “The Woman In The Water“. Please read the original story first to avoid spoilers.

This story was the first idea that I had and tried to write for this year of short stories. For some reason, it wouldn’t come then, and it wouldn’t come a few weeks ago either when I tried it again.

My initial plan this time was for there to be an actual ghost, and for the whole thing to leave Eric alone and bemused on the pedalo. About halfway through, when I was writing very slowly and getting distracted every few minutes, I realised this wouldn’t really work. So I decided to change things around and came up with the ending we have here. Once I thought of it, I couldn’t wait to get there. Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” for Veronica. Please read the original story if you want to avoid spoilers.

Veronica came to me while walking the dogs, basically while looking for a story to write for the week. The idea came to me more or less fully formed, and all I had to do is to follow the characters through, so the writing was fairly easy.

One of the things I wanted to try and do was to maintain the surprise until the end, and try to make it so that nobody knew where exactly the story was going until it got there. Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the latest story, “Underground Supporters“. If you haven’t read the original story yet, I advise you to do so as this post is more spoiler-laden than usual…

First off, an apology for this instalment of “Behind The Scenes” being a day later than usual. That’s simply because the release of the podcast yesterday meant I either tagged it onto this post, or delayed it for a day. Since I never really even committed to writing one of these every week (even though that’s what I am doing), I decided that it would be a good idea to delay this a day, so my apologies if you’ve been waiting for this post since then.

“Underground Supporters” was an attempt to write a story set in a not-too-distant, and plausibly wretched, future. Having watched both “Where The Wild Things Are”, as well the qualifying for the Monaco GP, in the days before writing this one the name Max was stuck in my head so I used it for the protagonist. The name Max is pretty well associated with dystopian futures, of course, not only Mad Max, of course, Max Headroom, and (my favourite) Max Damage from the brilliantly bonkers Carmageddon series (although avoid TDR 2000 if you enjoy staying awake). Read more

This is the “Behind The Scenes” post for the story “Trees Looking At Me“. Please read the original story first if you want to avoid spoilers.

I had a great idea for a story last Tuesday. There was a talking tiger, it was set in 1830s India, it was kind of kooky. It was going to be great. Except it was almost impossible to get started.

So in the end I decided to try and write something in under a thousand words – something I’ve not done before this year. I went on a site that generates random titles (http://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/book-title-generator.php) and ended up with “Trees Looking At Me”. And I just started writing. Read more

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