People I'd Like to Smack Upside the Head

la gifle / the slap

Fictional people, of course. *cough*

First on the list (but not necessarily most smack-worthy), Catherine from Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. “Nelly, I am Heathcliff.” Right. So you married the pusillanimous twit next door instead. Why, exactly? Not that Edgar’s any worse, but hey, I’m not the one who says she’s in love with Heathcliff.

Top Withens Moorland Panorama

Next up is Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger. Apparently Catcher in the Rye is one of those love-it-or-hate-it books? Well, I don’t love it. I believe I’ve mentioned this before.
Holden may have a genuine point about everyone being phoney, but when he’s compulsively lying to everyone he meets, his repeated claims that phoniness makes him sick ring a little hollow.

Vivien Leigh Gone Wind Restaured

Then there’s Scarlett O’Hara (from Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell). Again with the being in love with one man and marrying another! Or in this case, a number of others.
A friend of mine, once called upon to summarise Gone With The Wind, described it as “there’s this woman who marries three different guys”. The American Civil War didn’t even rate a mention…

I watched the film version with another friend, and we took a walk in the intermission – just after “As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again”.
All sounds very stirring and heroic, but out in the fresh air you realise she’s basically saying “I’m going to look out for number one, regardless of what it costs anyone else.” And to think Margaret Mitchell originally planned to call her Pansy…

Bust of a young Newman

Just for a change, a man who loves one woman but tries to marry another. St John Rivers is the cousin of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The man’s stone cold, and not in a tinsel-faced vampire kind of a way. The one love he has he ruthlessly extinguishes, and then, having told his new-found cousin that he will be her brother, he tries spiritual blackmail to get her to marry him. Not because he loves her but because he thinks she’d be useful: “You were formed for labour, not for love.”

A verse from the Good Book for you, Mr. Missionary: “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Perfectly played by Andrew Bicknell in the 1983 miniseries, in my opinion.

Looking back, I see I am railing against the separation of love and marriage. Well, horse and carriage, people…

Bride arriving on carriage - A quick shot from today's wedding. - Litchfield Plantation

What do you think? Is Scarlett your heart’s darling? Or do you think Holden is merely misunderstood? Who are the characters that bug you – that you’d like to slap upside the head (or even rewrite out altogether)? All opinions welcomed!

A Crisis and its Consequences

After Saturday, I didn’t think I had anywhere to go but up.

I wrote a grand total of 729 words on my WIP last week. I sat down on Saturday, gritted my teeth, and wrote. I managed 37 words before I realised what the problem was.

It wasn’t so much that I had no ideas – I had a few, and enough to be going on with. The problem was that I was bored with the story.


Because the story was boring. It had got to the point where it didn’t even seem worth the effort of writing the next word, so I stopped in the middle of a sentence and did some serious thinking.

It didn’t take long to realise where the problem lay, at its deepest root – I’d long suspected, but hoped it would go away of its own accord. (It didn’t. They never do.)
The main character was flat and boring. Yes, she was supposed to be naïve, and completely uneducated in practical matters, but she had become the literary equivalent of blancmange: pale, flavourless and trembling.


Well, no more! I’ve kept the bit of the naïvety, and her knowledge of the world is still largely theoretical, but she’s no fool, and she knows her own mind (particularly in the matter of taking forbidden lessons in the nature and properties of explosive materials). Think of a cross between Scarlett O’Hara and a young Queen Victoria, with a side of pyrotechnical ability.

But then, of course, everything and everyone else had to change too. I had to kill off half the characters and perform radical surgery on the rest, but the result is much stronger and much more interesting.

I was surprised by how little pain it cost to kill my darlings. I had a twinge for the invisible minstrel, but he may yet return, if he can earn his keep.

The invisible man working in the nude

Unfortunately, I’ve also had to come to terms with pretty much starting all over again: most of the 27,387 words I have written so far will have to be ditched, because they just don’t fit any more. Even the (few) good bits.

Of their adventures in the Forest of Roxburghe, this chronicler shall say but little. Tsifira wandering away from the stream and getting lost shall be barely mentioned; Riordan and Berengaria going to find her shall be touched upon but lightly; and how they subsequently were lost all together and had to wait for sunrise to get their bearings will not even be spoken of.
The fraught incident involving Berengaria and an incidental bear, which was only resolved by the quick and judicious application of half an onion, shall, however, be divulged in full. (But not in this book.)

Ooh, the irony.