Psychopaths, Fairies and a Creative Writing Recipe

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Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us

He will choose you, disarm you with his words, and control you with his presence. He will delight you with his wit and his plans. He will show you a good time, but you will always get the bill. He will smile and deceive you, and he will scare you with his eyes. And when he is through with you, and he will be through with you, he will desert you and take with him your innocence and your pride. You will be left much sadder but not a lot wiser, and for a long time you will wonder what happened and what you did wrong.

– From an essay signed, ‘A psychopath in prison’; Without Conscience (Robert D Hare PHD)

Product DetailsThe belief in a parallel universe that may exist independently of our own and yet occupy the same space runs counter to the concept that we humans are the only sentient life in the universe. Travellers in the modern world rarely walk across lonely moorlands with only the light of a lantern or sleep under the stars in the shelter of ancient stones or a grove of trees – and no self respecting fairy would linger on the subway late at night or frequent a neon-bright service station

– A Complete Guide to Fairies and Magical Beings (Cassandra Eason)

The above quotes are from two excellent books I have read and researched in order to write my third book (as yet untitled). I feel immersing yourself in the book’s issues (if you’re not an expert in them already) is essential.

While below is a Creative Writing Recipe I’ve rustled up…

Firstly, arrange the following ingredients:

A large slab of something you care about (preferably raw)

Chopped Characters (plucked from real life while still fresh)

Mix the above two ingredients until a paste of a plot develops

Pad out with other minor ingredients that compliment the main ones but don’t detract from the overall flavour

Cook (i.e. write) for as long as it bloody takes

Season with five senses (but be careful not to tip too many in)

Leave to simmer even longer (keeping an eye on it and adding anything if deemed necessary)

Give it to someone to taste (but not your wife, husband or anyone else you love too much)

Leave it as long as possible so it goes cold

Heat it up in the microwave and taste again

If palatable send to publisher and hope they dont…

a) find it too bland or b) vomit

Putting pen to paper…

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The amount of people who say to me: “I don’t know how to write a story. I wouldn’t know where to start…”

And then they turn to the person next to them and say: “Do you know what happened last night? Well…”

And they’re off, telling a great story, a funny one, or one with heartbreaking poignancy or a lesson to be learned – and sometimes with all of those.

And I tell them, if you wrote it down exactly like that it would be perfect, it would be a tremendous story. But often, when I say that to people, they give me a bemused look as if I’ve grown something on my head that shouldn’t be there.

Sometimes however, after a few seconds of thought adjustment, people are off and running – it’s all they need, that little piece of simple advice. Others though, often the most talented storytellers, carry on struggling with some obstructive and self limiting thought process. I have two students in my creative writing class in prison like this. They tell the most wonderful stories, would continue telling them all class if I would let them. But when I ask them to write them down, to just pretend they’re telling me and write them down exactly that way, they look at me blankly. Or they get a couple of sentences down and sit back with a heavy sigh. And I think once more: if you were allowed to take dictaphones into prisons things would be so much easier.

It’s as if somehow, in the act of putting pen to paper, something inside certain people changes – or they believe they need to change and writing adopts this hugely serious and formal air.

I think my own story could be useful here…

When I moved back to the north east of England in April 2000 I brought with me the beginnings of what was to be my debut novel. Over the next five years I managed to amount over seventy thousand words. But even though I’d written so much, I’d had my doubts throughout. After six months of leaving it to ferment (as advised by so many how to write books) I went back to my novel with ‘fresh’ eyes. And I realised it was tosh. Years of trying to be oh so clever, of picking up the thesaurus every five minutes and of desperately trying to invent a plot that shocked and dragged the reader forwards were horribly visible through the words. I’m not sure who I was trying to imitate but I was definitely not being myself, not writing in a way that was natural and enjoyable for me. I became dejected. I thought to myself, why do I bother? I will never write anything as clever or as witty as Dickens, as compelling as Ken Kesey. And so I threw it in the bin, deleted it from my computer and entered a slump for a few months.

But I’d picked up the writing bug and it wasn’t that easy to shake off.  Since moving back up north I’d also trained as a social worker, spent two years working in Sunderland Youth Offending Service, six months supporting victims and witnesses in Crown Court and two years working in an emergency access hostel for homeless young people. I was passionate about such work, passionate about my belief that there’s nothing more important than people. And so I started again, inspired by the work I’d done and the people I’d met. Frustrated by the way society and the media are quick to condemn and criticise without any understanding of the ‘story’ that lies behind actions and appearances, I wrote the story of Danny, a sixteen year old lad from the west end of Newcastle.This time the words flowed out easily. Writing became enjoyable and exciting. I couldn’t wait to carry on from where I’d left off the last time. And as anyone who has read the book will testify, I didn’t pick up a thesaurus once. “Kicked Out” is Danny’s voice, and the voice of others in similar situations. It’s a thriller from normal life, full of excitement and tension, of anger and frustration, because that’s what peoples lives are like sometimes…