Characters

One question I’m often asked is, “Do you base you characters on real people?” In reality it’s a silly question. Of course you have to base your characters on something real. Each invented personality must be believable and the most believable people are real people. Always when writing I imagine the character is here with me. I can hear them speak and see the silly faces they pull and of course they always look like someone I met, or know.
Real people are so much fun if you carefully observe them. One slightly humorous story I recall was my nephew. At the time he was only seven and I was visiting England. On this occasion I found him scooting down the street using a bicycle as a scooter. He had one foot on a pedal and was virtually riding beside the vehicle.
“Why don’t you ride properly?” I asked.
In his funny but sweet Fen accent he said, “I in’t big enough.”
“Can you ride a bike?”
“Oh yes, uncle Malcolm.”
Being the good uncle, I held the bike while he climbed aboard. A slight push and he was on his own. He certainly did know how to ride it. After a while he came back and I caught him and allowed him to climb off again.
“That’s great, in’t it, uncle Malcolm?”
“Yes it is. I’ll tell you what, I’ll show you how I used to get on a bicycle when I was little.”
I showed him how the bike could be leaned up against a wall or a lamppost and without difficulty a young lad could easily climb up using the crank as a step. Once balanced, just ease away frown the wall and off you go. With excitement and gusto David followed my instructions and in seconds was haring down the street on the slightly oversized bike.
Pleased with my afternoon’s work I walked to my brother’s house and continued my visit. About an hour passed when there came a loud banging on the outside door. Being the closest I got up and answered the frantic banging. Opening the door I saw David standing there with mud from head to foot, his shirt was torn and his trousers ripped. His glasses were lopsided and one lens broken.
“What the heck happened to you?” I asked.
With a beautiful smile and in his quaint accent he said. “Wull, you didn’t show me ‘ow to get off.”
When I wrote the story ‘Him’ I could imagine young David for in my mind’s eye this was the character. ‘Him’ is not yet published, but it most likely will be sometime next year. The real David was gentle and kind and had a deep interest in the Middle Ages, but unfortunately some years later he was killed by a drunk driver.

Kid’s Stuff

Many moons ago I was young and foolish, now I’m old and foolish. Not far from where I lived was an area of the shore where the Royal Air Force practiced live firing. They would tie half a dozen empty oil drums together and anchor them. When the tide came in the thing would float. This was the target that fighter planes would attack with live ammunition. Being children, inquisitive and daring we often cycled to this forbidden place and when the tide was out collect unspent ammunition. Airplanes have electric guns and to prevent awkward jams whilst in combat the gun loads a shell and fires it then ejects it whether it fired or failed. Walking over the sands we found dozens of 50 caliber cannon rounds, complete and un-fired.
Without getting deep into the science of ammunition, the 50 cal, is literally huge and has three explosive regions in the cartridge alone. The percussion cap when struck by the firing pin would discharge into the primary, which is Mercuric Fulminate. The fulminate then sets off the main charge, which in our cases was some black crystal stuff that looked like black sugar.
As ingenious kids we had a use for all the components of the cartridge including the missile. The percussion cap was fun to place under someone’s chair leg, which resulted in a large bang when some poor unsuspecting individual sat on the chair. The fulminate was useful for making small bombs. You merely place some in a nut and screw a bolt into each end. Tie a string to it and launch it into the air. On hitting the ground it would explode most violently. The black crystal was neat stuff for making homemade fireworks, just add iron filings or magnesium, or copper and you could create a marvellous display.
All sounds simple enough, but the problem was dismantling the weapon to extract its glorious parts. On this particular occasion I was with a friend who will remain nameless. We were in my father’s workshop where I had a 50 cal neatly restrained in a metal vice in order to perform the usual operation of extracting the goodies. To start with a very special flattened and sharpened nail was used to ease off the brass cover and expose the percussion cap.
I remember suddenly finding myself on the floor, my hands and chest felt as though a million bees had stung them. The room was filled with smoke and all the windows had vanished. Somehow I managed to walk out of the building though I don’t remember it. I looked at my hands and found that a stream of blood poured from each finger like a miniature tap.
My next recollection was the grinning face of the doctor who removed some three hundred pieces of brass shrapnel from my arms and hands. The only lasting damage from the explosion was a fractured eardrum. I did however learn one lasting lesson. Never tamper with explosives.

Why?

For some strange and intriguing reason, whenever I go to a new publisher they always give me a questionnaire to answer. One of the dimmest questions that always appears is – Why did you write that story? Good grief !!! Well, I equate it to this. There are three cookies on the table, one a raisin cookie, one is a marshmallow and one a chocolate. I eat one. Why did I pick that one?
The answer is simple, it was there. I’ll get to the others in good time. As for why did I write that story? Well, like the cookie, it was there, not on the table, but flying around in my head. They say that everyone could write one book in their lifetime, and a few could write two. I have to admit that I do not fall into either category. All in all I have published thirty stories, but I have written and completed some 60 full-length novels, twenty short stories and have the beginnings of about 45 other stories that I haven’t got around to writing. I have actually published 2.8 million words and have more than double that amount standing in the wings.
The question should be – Why did you submit this particular story? Rather than why did you write it. I always boast that I can rip off 500 words on any subject in less than half an hour anywhere anytime. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to talk about rockets – their use or history. Likewise with any subject, all you need is an opinion. As for writing stories, the world is full of them. Everywhere you go – keep your eyes open and you’ll see a tale on every street.
If you’ve read any of my books you will have noticed I don’t like to go into great detailed descriptions. The reason for this is I believe anyone who reads a book must have some imagination or they’d be watching TV. When I say so-and-so met a beautiful blond woman, there is no need to describe every curve and every detail. If you don’t have an inkling of what a beautiful blond woman looks like I suggest you must be either dead or in a coma and the book wouldn’t interest you anyway. That actually relates to another question they usually ask. Did you model your characters on a real person? Doh !!!
Dim question. If I’d never actually ever seen a real person then I wouldn’t know what they were like, but like most people I live on planet Earth where there are millions of people. Of bl—y course I modeled it on a real person. I like to think my readers are smart, worldly and have enough intelligence to apply their own judgment. (Pssst- that was a clever statement, because anyone who writes to say I’m wrong has to be admitting he or she isn’t smart or worldly.) Ask Newf, he’d be the one to put his foot in it.