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Donkin's World: Overcoming The Monster

Richard Donkin tells of the absorbing business of writing a novel.

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I'm nearly four weeks in to my novel. It's absorbing most of my waking hours. All the people I have come to know this last month are those inside my head. The book is set in the future and I'm bursting to tell you what it's about, but you'll have to wait. I don't know all the story myself yet even though I've written a detailed story plan. Things keep changing.

This morning it was the second chapter. The chapter reads fine - about 4,000 carefully crafted words but something wasn't right. I have been reading Christopher Booker's book, The Seven Basic Plots - or rather bits of it. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Seven-Basic-Plots-Tell-Stories/dp/0826452094 This is frustrating because it's a very well written and readable book and I would like to read it from beginning to end, but there just isn't time. Besides, I'm also reading Andrew Roberts's great book, The Storm of War, covering the second world war. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Storm-War-History-Second-World/dp/0713999705/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264861042&sr=1-1

Roberts has some wonderful little snippets, including something picked up from the war diaries of National Labour MP Harold Nicholson. Writing in early 1940 during the so called Phoney War, before the Germans moved in to Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands, Nicholson recorded that British aircraft had dropped some two million copies of a leaflet over Germany. Ministry of Information censors, however, had refused to publish the contents of the leaflet on the grounds that "We are not allowed to disclose information that might be of value to the enemy."

But back to Booker. His seven basic plots are: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, and rebirth. As you might guess from a book of 700 pages it's a little more complicated than that. I was reading last night about a sub plot of "overcoming the monster". This is the so-called "thrilling escape from death". Reading my plot again I decided I had just a few too many thrilling escapes from death. Maybe I have been over egging the pudding. So it has been back to drawing board with the creation of a new character, a powerful and rather aggressive woman who, I should add, bears no similarities to any of the individuals discussed in my previous blog.

A friend asked yesterday whether one victim of the forces of good and evil might be a prominent pink-paged newspaper. In a novel, the options are not so much about intent but choice of weapon. It's like Bruce Willis as Butch in the gun shop in Pulp Fiction, choosing between the sledge hammer, the baseball bat and the chain saw before settling on the samurai sword. It's tempting to nuke a previous employer but not very subtle and far too indiscriminate. Besides there's a fate worse than death for the Financial Times and that's a takeover by Rupert Murdoch. So maybe all my characters will end up reading an online Wall Street Times. Or maybe the FT, if it features at all, will end up having a thrilling escape from death.


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