Up to this point I have for the most part written literary fiction that hangs together sufficiently enough to be termed mystery or mythological mystery. Experimentation in other forms is just a keystroke or two away, but I would probably not attempt to write sci-fi, horror, or Gothic romance. Paranormal, yes.
Reading choices > writing choices
I read widely, and have done so for decades.
Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet provided the impetus for Shades Of Persephone, my first novel, 2019. John Fowles’ The Magus gave me the Greek setting.
James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man inspired more than one scene in Lighting The Lamp, 2020, as did the philosophical musing of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Marcel Proust plays a part here also, as do Richard Dawkins, Emily Dickinson, and Albert Camus.
E.A. Poe’s The Raven, the musings of Charles Baudelaire, and the poems of Émile Nelligan are working thematically into Séjour Saint-Louis, a third novel slated to be published in early 2021.
The muse visits me most often when I read the novels of John Banville.
Heroes, heroines, villains, and how they come about
My heroes tend to be protagonist-narrators in pursuit of truth as they understand it or as plot and theme define it. Providing them with creditable personality, background, and motivation is not only challenging but also rewarding when things fall plausibly into place. Heroines present similar challenges; they often assume the role of muse, a muse with both feet on the ground, who exhibits carnal cravings along with the ability to inspire. I favour villains that arise from within the main characters and shadow their every move.
Simple observation of real people in real life exchanges (a young couple in a hospital waiting room, a tête-à-tête in a bar or restaurant, someone behind the wheel of a luxury automobile noticed at an intersection) helps in the general conceptualization of protagonists. Action (plot) reveals character, true; but frequently a situation I find myself on the periphery of demands specific human involvement, which implies decisions and consequences. A particular scene will give birth to characters whose voices demand to be heard, that man wearing a Panama hat or that tiny woman wearing bright red shoes. Imagination informs them with a personal history, with particular traits, with relevant choices, verisimilitude being the objective of the exercise no matter the setting. The character I want the reader “to love” may not be lovable at all. As long as he or she is interesting, has a voice worth listening to, and is capable of reflecting authentic human instincts, naughty or nice.
An idea or stated point of view might need a counterpoint, an opposing view, the right interpretation, the verifiable truth, or just plain obstruction — these factors will give rise to certain characters, main or supporting. Thus, antagonists come into being and help move the action along from crisis to crisis. Antagonist can be well-meaning in their contrariness or destructiveness. They can have malicious intent in their apparent goodness. A plausible personal history goes a long way towards giving them standing. Humanize them through voice, mannerism, idiosyncrasy, tic, flaw, aspiration, success, failure, halitosis, and size of shoe. A stamp collection might indicate how downtime is enjoyed. A black hat might just be in vogue at the time of the story, and not symbolic of a really bad dude with a .45 in his hip pocket. Eschew the stereotypical. A scar might be emblematic of love or a badge of honour. A penchant for odd-ball humour can lighten what appears to be nothing but dark. The antagonist can be a force-field of repudiation or disdain. A troublesome memory.
I lean towards mystery in my writing, with romantic entanglement an integral part of plot development. Greek mythology and literary allusion can contribute to the creation of prominent characters, the monstrous and the mundane equally. Further, reading other fiction can also be a great source for ideas on heroes and heroines.
Lighting the Lamp, a fictional memoir. Terry Burke is the hero, although he would be loath to call himself heroic. Villainous, maybe. He is irascible but sincere, attempting in his retirement to come to grips with what his life has been. A quixotic Everyman, he is inspired to set out on an odyssey across the decades in pursuit of equilibrium and peace of mind. What he seeks in addition to understanding is truthful voice and the purest possible point of view. There are several heroines in this work; the most insistent is mythical Medea. The villain of the piece is the antagonist forces that militate against Terry’s achieving self-fulfillment.
Working on now
I am working on the final draft of a third novel titled Séjour Saint-Louis, where the troubles in a contemporary family mirror those of the tragic Canadian poet Émile Nelligan.
At present, John Banville’s The Sea. [So many great books, so little time.]
Favourite authors —
Contemporary: John Banville, Ian McEwan, and Richard Dawkins
Twentieth century: James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemmingway, Lawrence Durrell, John Fowles; recently enjoyed, Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.
People can find me at
Amazon Author central: https://authorcentral.amazon.comgp/home