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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Bakelite and the French Foreign Legion

The fourth chapter of 'Luxembourg' begins with a phone ringing in a pub. A bakelite phone. From 1986. And two things sidetracked my writing. Firstly, had I spelt 'bakelite' correctly and how do I describe the ringing of a phone in the hallway of a pub. Checking the spelling of bakelite led me to learn that the technical name for this plastic is 'polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride'. I absorbed, dismissed and moved on. That was the first sidetrack dealt with. Then - there was the description issue. I know what a bakelite phone sounds like - the ringing noise is in my head. I considered watching some old re-runs of The Sweeney as a bakelite phone is always ringing by John Thaw's bed - maybe that would remind me. And ITV4 rerun this show most mornings these days. But in the end I will probably settle for an 'empty drilling noise, interspersed by echoed pauses'. The character on the calling end of the phone is based in Corsica. The friend in the English pub he is trying to contact is someone he hasn't spoken to for almost a year. Pete, who has just signed away 5 years of his life to train and eventually become a French Foreign Legionnaire is a complicated character - in fact when he joins the Legion he is placed within a unit called the 'Deuxiemme Rep' - a unit renowned for parachuting from extremely low heights. It is where the Legion puts men who they consider to be slightly unhinged. Pete needs to contact Tom to connect to a sane part of his life. Pete needs to speak with a normal person. Someone that knows how he used to be. Away from this madness. In future chapters Pete will visit Tom during his periods of 'leave'. Tom later describes being with Pete as 'like walking around with a loaded gun'. In real life 'Pete' was someone I knew very well and 'Tom' - that was me. And the 'adventures' when 'Pete' visited 'Tom' during his leave will be accurate and true. Personally, I am looking forward to detailing events in my past as they were exciting and entertaining. Inserting 'truth' into fiction is a good way of making a story readable.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Chapter 4 - The French Foreign Legion

The snow has melted and suddenly the worship has moved away from the woodburner to the sun that shines outside. The birds that we have been 'feeding' via strange elastic-type food-balls are now ignoring us like a well-worn fast food restaraunt and flitting around the garden, taunting the cat. So - withdrawing the bird food I contemplate starting chapter 4 of 'Luxembourg'. I have drawn out a plan on a home-made whiteboard and this seems to have fed my mind with plenty of writing fuel. I have linked characters via marriage, split others through death and one character is destined to join the French Foreign Legion - the gem in my story - the subject that I have inside information on. And yes I knew someone who was in the Legion for five years and I know the reason they joined. It will supply me with plenty of ammunition. When this character left the Legion I met up with them in a small village in England and it was one of the more memorable evenings I have spent with someone. It led to many consumed beers, two crying French girls - one of whom wanted to sleep with me (instead of the ex-Legionnaire) - note: if possible do not piss off an ex-Legionnaire. This in turn led to a crossbow appearing from somewhere and being fired into an empty suitcase (we had moved back to the Legionnaire's flat by this point). And for the record - when fired into the case it sounded like a 'plop'. Still, as I was thinking at the time, better to be plopping into the suitcase than my head. Chapter 4 will be full of action.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

3 Chapters finished...

I have reached that 'benchmark' of completing the first 3 chapters of 'Luxembourg'. It's unnerving as I have spent so many months on this piece of work that I am still not sure it hangs together yet. I cannot see an ending for the story yet and I have calculated that I need at least 12 chapters in order to make this a 'real' book. So, 3 chapters written and no real plan of how the book is going to go from now. I have decided therefore to formulate a plan. To take each chapter in turn and describe what is happening in the hope that a string will magically appear that will hold each chapter onto the next. And that this string will lead the way onto Chapter number 4 and 5 and so on. Summarising the contents of each chapter has helped me to focus a little on where the story is going - other ideas have started to formulate - ideas that will take up whole chapters and that will add quality and content to the story. I am leaning heavily on personal experience and I am still reading only books written by Graham Greene, in the hope that his brilliance will somehow leak into my writing. Greene was known to only write 500 words each day (when he was writing). To the point that he would finish mid-sentence in order to adhere to this habit. I don't do this. In fact I don't stick to any of the advice given by other writers. Advice such as always write at the same time every day. Or find a good place each day to write. Me, I just write when the feeling is good. And if it's not, I don't. I don't tie myself to any schedule. If the book takes two years to complete at least I know it will have been the best that I could have produced. Or - maybe I'm just putting off finishing the book and - to paraphrase Martin Amis - pushing it out to sea to see if it floats.