Sunday, 21 June 2015

Writing - People of influence

Irrespective of the type of writer you are, or in which genre you prefer to scribe, someone will have been an influence.

Image result for alistair maclean

Alistair MacLean must have influenced my writing and the genre I write to. The first book I read wasn't the one shown above which was made into a successful film but rather HMS Ulysses. What struck me initially was the level of description MacLean employs in the early stages of the story. I was reading Caleb Pirtle's blog about the dos or don'ts of writing about the weather. MacLean spends almost two pages describing the state of the sea early in Ulysses but does it in such a way that you can't help but feel you have experienced those conditions personally. Up to present I've avoided lengthy description because of a different and very influential author Charles Dickens.

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Charles Dickens

Dickens is renowned for detailed description and yet has got away with lengthy descriptive prose, for the most part. 'Barnaby Rudge' is one of his stories in which, in my opinion, the story loses out in the sheer quantity of description. Another of his works, 'Bleak House', is almost as turgid and yet it is a better story.

In Inceptus I began with the weather writing,

Having often heard the rain in Ireland variously described as ‘soft’ and ‘warm’ I now had evidence of what was meant by that. Lying in a place of concealment in Eire just south of the border with Northern Ireland I was not cold but felt extremely wet. 

This is a short and relatively tame use of the weather as when I wrote the story I wanted to convey the concept of the dampness one can experience on that beautiful Ireland without interfering with the pace of the story. Looking back it could have stood a little more description of the greyness without damaging the story.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was a divisive character in my opinion. He was also a writer and an artist. Churchill was the right man in the right time and place for Britain during the WWII but he was not the most popular man with all branches of society. At the end of the nineteenth century Churchill became a war correspondent with the Morning Post and described his adventures during conflict in South Africa, in the book 'The Boer War' which I found to be an edifying and entertaining read. Churchill's description of the trains and the landscape were an easy read and I would recommend the book to anyone who enjoys a historical read. His style is somewhat flowery at times including, on the very first page his description of travelling by sea,

What an odious affair is a modern sea journey! In ancient times there were greater discomforts and perils; but they were recognised. A man took ship prepared for the worst. Nowadays he expects the best as a matter of course, and is, therefore, disappointed. Besides, how slowly we travel! In the sixteenth century nobody minded taking five months to get anywhere. But a fortnight is a large slice out of the nineteenth century; and the child of civilisation, long petted by Science, impatiently complains to his indulgent guardian of all delay in travel, and petulantly calls on her to complete her task and finally eliminate the factor of distance from human calculations. A fortnight is a long tome in modern life.

(The Boer War by W S Churchill)

Quite a paragraph to describe his frustration at the time taken to travel from London to Ladysmith. Churchill's view of what was 'modern' is quite amusing when you consider that this was over 100 years ago. Such journeys are only possible because of the influential writers of past times.

I could continue with influential people in my life but will suffice with a list which should allow you to delve or not into why the people named could have been an influence on my life and eventually my writing.

The Beatles
Dick Francis
Geoffrey Boycott
John F Kennedy
Dire Straits
Margaret Thatcher
Tony Blair
Peter Reid
David Beckham
Stephen Hawking

The list is by no means exhaustive and as I'm sure you're aware that people, famous and not so famous, drift in and out of our lives leaving crumbs or mountains of influence. We all will have such a list and it can be fun to delve into why they have had influence.

God Bless