Eulogy – Guest Post by Thomas Haynes

July 26, 2013

We are very pleased to introduce this guest post from Thomas Haynes, who is a frequent attendee of the monthly WordWatchers social at the Lock Stock and Barrel and also a member of : Newbury Writers. He is first and foremost an ecologist, botanist and nature conservationist, loves music, model-making, writing and photography.

Thomas on Twitter

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Thomas Haynes

I have a confession: Last night I killed someone. I knew I was going to do it. Today, the moment has played over and over in my mind and I thought I would share it.

Writing my story ‘Memories of Arma’ has been difficult over the past few weeks, trying to rekindle the rapid flow from last summer. This year has felt less fluid, more mechanical, until last night.

My deceased character was developed to support my plot line. He was first introduced in a flashback chapter as a background character. For some reason, when it came to develop my ‘plot-explaining’ character I called upon this background person to serve the purpose. I fleshed out his history. He went from ‘random background scientist’ to a leading neurologist, responsible for significant breakthroughs in his field. His research interests led him to make some very, very bad decisions. He has a difficult relationship with a young girl. He has spent the later part of his life trying to redeem himself from past mistakes. I even wrote a flashback of his time studying for his PhD, and there are at least two more flashbacks where he will play an important role in the future.

But now he is gone.

I was unsure how I was going to write the death scene, but I think that the characters were writing my story last night. I didn’t really play a part in its creation; I was just some kind of medium. His final scene concluded with not one, but two deaths and I sat typing with tears in my eyes. Spotify played-out a song called ‘Last Night’ by Foals and the moment was fixed forever.

This memorable experience has made me wonder about these characters we create and how they suffer the slow progress of their writer, but ultimately, when it comes down to it, they will live and die their way and sometimes it hits you hard.

I will look forward to revisiting him in the two flashback chapters I am yet to write. R.I.P.

How I feel right now!

July 20, 2013

I’m not sure this is a blog, but more an observation. After two solid weeks of creating at least one 75-word paragraph a day for my book my brain has suddenly found a creative vein not previously tapped. I’m seeing stories everywhere. The simplest, most normal moments suddenly take on a fantastical, sad, happy, gruesome spin and demand to be written down. Capturing them in a 75-word paragraph is like trapping a fly in tree resin, eventually it solidifies as amber, a moment encapsulated forever.

Some of these stories will never be more than what they are now, a self-contained tale, locked into their 75-word format, but others, well, I see characters, ideas, scenes that I want to explore in much greater detail…

I’ve had to leave a notebook and pen in the bathroom because most of my stories come to me while I clean my teeth, or at least, ideas which have been there, but intangible, corner-of-the-eye things suddenly come into focus. I scribble while I brush and then in the morning type up my scrawl.

Sometimes, I go to bed, lay there for a bit, then get up, get the notebook and then go downstairs and write it up there-and-then.

My fellow WordWatchers have been great during this period too – I share most of my paragraphs with them – their immediate feedback is invaluable and very precious. They’re finding the paragraphs I have intended to be funny, to be funny. I have found that it’s easy to be grim, sad and terrible in such a concise format. If anything the 75-word format encourages it – nothing brings a 75-worder to a convenient close like a sudden demise. However, trying to be funny, trying to set-up a scene so that you can deliver a funny line, twist or situation is surprisingly tricky, but I seem to be getting there. When the book comes out, hopefully you will think so too.

Tonight, I created the picture below, it’s how I feel right now, so that’s my smiling face in the picture.

Am I finally a writer?

Am I finally a writer?

Thank you Doug

July 6, 2013

Not many people will have heard of Doug Engelbart, even though his recent demise means he was on the news quite a bit over the last few days. However, any writer who has used a PC to capture their words, is likely to have used a package such as Word, Open Office, Libre Office or the equivalent has a lot to thank Doug for.

Doug invented the mouse.

Doesn’t sound like much really does it, but think for a moment, about how intuitive that little device under your palm is. Move the mouse, move the pointer on the screen. Click an icon to select a function, click on a piece of text to jump to it. Highlighting, dragging and dropping… All (most) achievable by remembering a host of multi-key keyboard shortcuts but nothing quite so nice, or as simple, as the interaction you get with a mouse.

I started writing on a computer when I got my Commodore 64 back in 1983, I even invested in a proper WYSIWYG Word Processor called GeoWrite which ran under GEOS (effectively a replacement OS for the C64) – but it used the cursor keys to move around and a host of function keys to select, erm… functions. It wasn’t until 1989 when I got my Commodore Amiga A500 which came with a mouse and I had yet another investment in a Word Processor called Wordsworth. Wordsworth had fully embraced that potential interaction between words and writer. All the things we now take for granted were there, the icons, the drop down menus, left click to do one thing, right click to do something else. It was a revelation.

When I got my first laptop – a HP Omnibook (800CT) it came with a funny little mouse on a stalk that popped out of the side of the machine – it’s still possibly the best mouse I have ever used.

Now of course, writing this blog on my little Asus Netbook, it has, like pretty much all (non-Touch) portable devices a touchpad and while it’s OK, it finds ways to screw me up in ways a mouse never did. I don’t think I ever worried about my mouse suddenly doing something odd with the position of the pointer, or misinterpreting a single click as a double. Convenient though the touchpad is I’d still rather be using a mouse.

Although we’re being dragged into the era of the touch screen, the tablets, phablets (or is it Tones?) the layout of a writer’s interaction with the application that collects, collates and structures their words still has a lasting legacy, a tip of the hat, to that initial mouse driven interaction with the computer.

Thank-you Doug.

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