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12 Books in 12 Months

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Western Tropes

Obviously you can’t write a piece of genre fiction without researching the genre.

Well, technically you can, but chances are it won’t work.  Sometimes it doesn’t work even when you do research the genre, as with my first novel, which was supposed to be a Mills and Boon romance parody but became something very different – even though I read ‘The Millionaire’s Inexperienced Love Slave‘, one where an American tourist falls for a Greek Tycoon, something about a Rake, a deeply disturbing one in which a grieving widow falls in love with her dead husband’s long lost twin brother… the list goes on.  My one regret is that I never got around to the charmingly alliterative ‘Mediterranean Billionaire’s Blackmail Bargain‘.  I say regret, but that’s not what I mean.

Anyway, this week I’ve been researching the Western genre by reading short stories from a rather amazing website called Rope and Wire.  This is essentially a bunch of Western enthusiasts enthusing, and as such some of the stories are quite fun, whilst one or two are kind of terrible.  I enjoyed ‘Mexico George and the Cabin at Rio Del Poncho‘ in the same sort of way as I enjoyed the Owen/Gwen dialogue up against a tree in the ‘Countrycide‘ episode of Torchwood – slightly open mouthed in disbelief and going ‘really?  You thought that would work?’

As I go along I’ve been compiling a list of elements to consider including and updating for Book 3.  Here are some of them.

– Area used to be home to an industry such as mining (in my book could be steelworks, or some other factory) but is now very poor
– Injuns (maybe mine could literally be a person from India – possibly owner of a local business or something)
– Shaggy eyebrows (well, those are timeless)
– Whisky, straight up (ditto)
– A weatherbeaten complexion (he likes gardening…)
– A mysterious stranger to blame ill fortune on – who ends up saving the day (not sure how to use this yet)
– A trusty steed (scooter?)
– A nemesis (slightly older teenage lead of the gang)
– Guns (air guns?)
– Mention of the war (the one mentioned in Westerns is obviously the American Civil War between north and south – Victor’s would have to be one that happened in the 1950s or later – could potentially be a ‘war’ as in industrial action rather than armed combat?)
– A beautiful woman with a tragic past
– People in need of help (someone to stand up to the kids who are terrorizing the street)

Any more for any more?

Writing Routines

Just read an article on different authors’ writing routines, and was thinking it might be quite fun to try them all across the year to see whether they work for me.  The obsessive routines of C.S.Lewis and Toni Morrison would undoubtedly do wonders for my productivity, but I wonder whether I would come to associate writing with all that I hate in life (very early mornings, not being able to do anything spontaneous, and suchlike).

Some might prove more difficult than others, though – will need to procure a dog from somewhere for Wordsworth‘s technique, and I’m not sure how well George Sand‘s 2 year affair strategy would go down with my partner…  But it would be interesting to see how standing up to write would affect my productivity, as per Philip Roth, or how my body would react to a minimum 50 cups of coffee a day like Balzac.

AD 39, June 10th

Today is the first anniversary of Drusilla’s death.

It’s clear to everyone that I need cheering up, so to that end I have commissioned a statue of myself.  It shall be like me in height, appearance – every respect, in fact.  But instead of marble or bronze, he shall be cast in purest gold.  Perhaps jeweled eyes, although I think that might just look a bit strange.  And every day he shall be arrayed in the exact attire that I have chosen to wear that day.  I will need to employ someone whose specific task that will be.

Why?  Because I can.  I am the emperor of Rome, after all.

Revisionism and Excerpts

As I suspected a few posts back, Roman historians like Suetonius were pretty biased against Caligula, and had a tendency to write down the most outrageous rumours without assessing their validity in any way.  So whilst what I have written so far is stuff a bit like:

Had to have a consul executed today.  He forgot to announce my birthday in the public records.  Seriously.  A child of five could have remembered to do that.

Now I’m wondering whether he was actually as bad as all that.  The gaps in historical evidence make it hard to judge, but it seems pretty clear that it was in the interests of all the sources that survive from the time (Suetonius, Dio, Claudius, Seneca) to make Caligula out to be an evil nutjob.  So, the question is really whether to go with them and write him in a sort of cartoony, madder than a box of snakes type of way, or to take on board the revisionist work available and write him with a bit of empathy. 

My answer to this is to try both.

Perhaps I should use Incitatus [the horse he was meant to have made a consul, according to Suetonius] to upset senate a bit more.  That’s always fun – I still get a kick out of the time I made them run alongside my litter for ten miles in the blazing sun.  Served them right – all that time feasting and sitting indoors and conspiring to kill me makes them pasty and unfit.  They should try going to battle, see what that does for them.

I think I will commission a legion of men to carve Incitatus a stable of marble.  And he will have a collar blazing with precious jewels, and a manger of ivory.  I’ll have the grooms mix flakes of gold into his food, too.  He will live in as lavish and decadent a manner as the gods themselves.  Senate will be furious!  But frankly that horse is twice as clever as all of them put together.  Self important, plotting dunderheads that they are.  They’ll soon learn that they can’t have any effect on me.

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