Saturday, 17 May 2008

The woman in white

I have started to re-read Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White and I'm already hooked, just as I was when I first read it twenty-odd years ago. My son bought it for me for my birthday last year and I find that it helps to read a Victorian novel when I am writing my Victorian/Edwardian-set creepy stories. I read David Copperfield when I was writing Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror.

At the moment I am writing a book that has the working title of Tales of Terror from the Tunnel's Mouth. Like Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror and Tales from the Black Ship, it will feature a storyteller who tells (hopefully) sleep-disturbing stories.

I am working my way through several stories, not all of which will necessarily make it into the final book. I still have stories left over from Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror and the Black Ship, that I felt did not quite make or the grade, or that were waiting on that certain something to lift them out of just being OK. If a story is not quite right, the best thing to do is put it to one side if you can and see what happens when you next read it. Often it becomes very clear what needs to be done once you stop staring at it so closely.

It is amazing the difference a small change will make to a short story, and particularly stories such as these where you want to make sure that the reader is going just where you want them to go and nowhere else. I want to be sure that I have set everything up in the best possible way. It is rather like a magician and misdirection. A lot of the work is in not letting the reader anticipate the ending, or in encouraging them to anticipate a different ending. And just as with a magician, this effort should not be apparent. It should all seem effortless and inevitable. It should be the swan and not the paddling feet they remember.

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