Well, that wasn’t what I was expecting

As usual, the exact details of my story are worked out as I go. I need enough flexibility in my plotting to implement the good stuff which inevitably comes along after I’ve already started writing. On the other hand, sometimes figuring out the important parts when you reach them doesn’t always bode so well. Sometimes you hit a challenge which is solved in an even more difficult fashion.

Ever have a story or plot point you’re not sure if you should write for its intensity? I’ve come across the first instance of a fully justified, genuinely evil action which fits in exactly with the story. It ticks all the right boxes for reasons and rational in the world setting and for the characters in question. But I’ll be damned if it’s not one of the worst ideas I’ve ever come up with. For all the murders I’ve already written, the characters eaten alive, those betrayed and hurt beyond recovery, this one idea actually makes me pause. I got teary just coming up with it, and it sure would be hard to write.

The thing is, as I said, it slots right into place. It’s the big, awful catalyst I need. It works with all these other plots and subplots swimming around it. And I kind of want to write it. I want to be scared of what I’m creating, if only a little bit.

On that subject, I will always remember reading an interview with my favourite author, Matthew Reilly. In case you haven’t read any of his work (go fix that problem now, don’t worry, I’ll wait while you buy one of his stories), you need to know this: He kills any character. Not a single one of them is safe, no matter how important they are, and Matthew wields that power with a deftness and investment which really makes my experience reading his work superbly memorable. In one of his books, he kills a major player. It’s huge; this isn’t just killing a very important character like all those others, we’re talking “central to the setting he’s built” kind of character. In this interview, he spoke of debating over whether he could go through with it. Writing that particular death over all others he had put to paper. What it would mean to him, and to the readers, when that character is killed. He admits he had to take a break after getting the words down. But the important part was, for the story to go the right way, and for the surviving characters to face this challenge and grow, it needed to happen.

I know what it’s like now, in a surprisingly intimate way. Do I go through with this? Write this horrible event, knowing what it does to the characters, knowing how challenging it could be to readers?

You probably already know the answer.

~A

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Scarecrow

I am a huge fan of Matthew Reilly’s writing. It’s all kinds of opposite to everything else I read, and that’s part of why I love it. The weaponry, the pace, the action, the brutality, the fact that anyone can die. Anyone. Including, and especially very important main characters.

My first foray into the insane worlds Matt writes was Ice Station, and remains my tied-for-favourite book of all time. Incidentally, the other book which shares tied-for-favourite is The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway, and it shares many qualities; military setting, action, and ridiculously awesome characters who you desperately want to spend time with. I got my copy of Ice Station from a little secondhand book store over a decade ago, and it has now gone beyond the stage of “much read”, to “lovingly battered”. Well over 30 read-throughs will do that to a book. I also went on to purchase a brand new copy of Ice Station; this second copy has been signed by Matt three times so far. Come November, when he’s on a book tour again and visits Perth, I intend on getting autograph number four in that book (and of course, a lone autograph in his new book!).

I just finished reading Scarecrow and the Army of Thieves. It took me a few hours to finish. That’s one of the things undeniably Matthew Reilly: the book is so fast-paced, and he’s so adept with words, you absolutely fly through reading it. Everything happens, bang, bang, bang. There are moments interspersed in the action, looking in on other characters that aren’t in the middle of a gunfight, that only spur you to read on more. Those moments are usually the ones that reveal a key piece of information that you just know will change the course of the story and throw everything into even greater chaos.

If you aren’t familiar with the four existing Scarecrow novels, and one novella, the main character is a Marine, Shane Schofield, call-sign: Scarecrow. There is absolutely every reason to love this character, cheer him on, and feel completely satisfied when he triumphs – albeit, usually missing most of his team by the end of the books. Trying to describe him would be a terrible injustice.

Reading Matt’s books always get me revved up. They are like all the great action movies, but 100% better. I see what he does, and I want to make awesome stories, too. Sure, I won’t ever write military action novels, but I sure can put every effort into being just as entertaining in my own chosen genres. After all, that’s the best goal possible for an author.

As always, Matt, fantastic work. Thank you for writing.

~A