Rejuvenating My Writing

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I’m one-quarter of the way into writing my sixth Cornish Detective novel. As mentioned elsewhere I tried a different way of creating this story, for my mind was still cobwebbed with technical problems that dogged me in early 2019. I’ve now placed the chunks in order and am proceeding in a linear way (with lots of zig-zags!) o_O

In writing a series of stories featuring the same characters, set in the same location, it’s vital to stay true to the world I’ve created. To help consistency, I’ve compiled profiles of my detectives and those they interact with—the coroner, forensic pathologist, newspaper reporter, local businessmen and informants.

I like to surprise, even shock the reader, while staying believable. As thriller writer John Buchan advised:

'A good story should have incidents, which defy possibilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.'

Despite this awareness of the danger of falling into the humdrum, I still worried about becoming repetitive and predictable. How to lively up myself?

I’m an avid reader, but, as we all know, reading when you’re a writer means you’re constantly examining the way the author has structured their story, denoted characters and even used punctuation; it’s hard to relax.

So, to stimulate my imagination, I’ve been watching favourite films from years ago. As a young man, I was delighted by French films of the late 20-century, which were so different in their storytelling to British and American movies, so I’ve been acquiring DVDs on eBay.

Taking time out from writing and editing, to have a film show in the afternoon has been a treat as well as an education. I’ve watched such films as Les Valseuses, companion pieces Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, Tenue de Soirée and Nikita.

I enjoyed watching Italian Frederico Fellini’s Amarcord and I revisited some favourite American films, including two great mystery thrillers in House of Games and The Game. Tom Cruise should have won the best supporting actor for his performance in Magnolia which was totally unlike anything else he’s done. I think it would have changed the course of his career. Instead of running around saving the world, he’d have been drawn to serious dramatic roles.

Screenwriting is different from penning a novel, but it’s still possible to pick up tricks.

What have I learnt from journeying into my cinematic past? That I need more chaos! Sometimes, things just happen. Not everything needs to fit into where you think the plot’s going. For example, the unexpected kiss at the end of Lost In Translation:

Kiss scenes that were never supposed to happen

How do you rejuvenate your writing?

By reading outside your genre?

By analysing how song lyrics work?

By imitating famous authors?

Or, do films inspire you?
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