11. Show not tell

SO MICKY BIGGS is no more and Gareth Prince has been promoted to the central character in my novel. I have taken the conscious decision to choose the thriller/mystery genre and I have killed many of my babies, including the actual title of the book Sex & Rucks and Sausage Rolls.

I hate pigeon-holing my work like this but from all the perceived advice it seems this is the right thing to do if it is to fly off the “virtual” shelves. So what is left of the original? The overall concept is still there, I guess, of a London-based journalist moving to Wales before a Rugby World Cup and finding the whole environment alien to him. But what made him move?

Micky’s back story was one of an ambitious national newspaper man who over-reacted to being overlooked for the top job of Sports Editor. When his girlfriend walks out on him, too, he decides there isn’t much to keep him in the Smoke and when he is head-hunted by a Welsh media firm he takes the plunge. This, according to Richard Blandford (the author who critiqued my work), wasn’t a strong enough motivation for him, even though he was trying to call his editor’s bluff and earn a promotion by telling him he had been offered another job. The fact this happened to me was by the by. It didn’t convince Richard.

Gareth, therefore, needs a strong and compelling reason to leave his home for the wilds of Wales. I think I’ve got one, but can’t give too much away. It’s safe to say, though, that several things in Gareth’s past have made him an angry man.

To establish this fact with the reader I came up with the brainwave intro: Gareth Prince was an angry man. Then I remembered one of the central mantras by which a writer is supposed to live his life.

I can imagine stumbling across a group of potential authors in a creative writing class walking around in a circle, chanting “show not tell”, those failing to follow the ethos being marched to the blackboard and handed a stick of chalk a la Bart Simpson, so that they can scrawl down those three little words 100 times.

How to demonstrate Gareth’s anger? Well, we journalists are never happy when we have to fill out forms, so on his first day in his new job I decided Gareth should fill out a simple Job Application form. Click here to find out how he gets on…

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