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visitors since May 12, 2002
March 12, 2002
The art of the nickname

Six hours of teaching today, which means that I'm a little weary, but happily so. I teach something called the Professional Skills Program, which seems a little ironic, as I'm the least professional person in the southern hemisphere. I seem to have developed a peculiar need to give ridiculous nicknames to all my students. One bloke is called Corey, which seems a perfectly reasonable name, but then I discovered that he likes to sing karaoke. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this, but yes, I then started calling him "Coreyoke."

Not too sure how long I'll be teaching professional skills for.

Christopher Brookmyre and the extra hard return

I'm on a big Christopher Brookmyre kick. I read A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away last month, and absolutely loved it. But I'd somehow come to the strange conclusion that this was his debut, and that if I wanted more I'd have to wait. The waiting time was much less than anticipated, because then I discovered that he's already written three other novels.

Well, I thought, what about that.

So I found Not The End of the World, and read that, and now I'm reading Country of the Blind. As a general thing, I love what he's doing. He uses the language of computer games; he frequently refers to bands and songs that I've heard of; and, most importantly of all, his novels are recognisably set in the world as it is now. He tends to set things in Scotland (or has at least one major Scottish character), but I have some kind of advantage there, having been there and hitch-hiked around that amazing place. I also know something about British politics and history, which is useful in comprehending some of Brookmyre's context.

A technique he often uses is the extended flashback. There's a moment in Country of the Blind when four prisoners escape and seek refuge for the night. They find a suitable place, and lie down to sleep. Then there's an extra hard return, and, at the start of the next paragraph, this sentence:

Unlike some, Tam McInnes never found himself looking back upon his life and wondering where it all went wrong, because he knew exactly, to the year, month and day.

And the next twelve pages goes on to provide Tam's backstory. Up to now, Tam hasn't really been a major character, but now Brookmyre starts to suggest otherwise. As soon as Tam's background is revealed, he becomes far more interesting.

But I was also interested in the technique that Brookmyre is using here. I found myself intrigued by that extra hard return. It just seemed such a smooth way of moving from one scene to another, even if there are many years between them. And as for the whole extended flashback thing ... I'd just completely forgotten that you could do that.

In TNTIOWABMO (The Novel That I Occasionally Write A Bit More Of) I needed to provide some backstory, but, to my embarrassment, I just couldn't work out how to do it. Techniques that I tried (and discarded) included abruptly saying "anyway, while all this other stuff is happening, let's take a sudden break and go back in time a few years," and "you may be wondering where this guy came from. Here: let me tell you."

So I think I might try just putting in an extra hard return.

The things you think of while walking to work ...

There's an area in NYC called SoHo, which means south of Houston St. It's not too far from Tribeca, the Triangle Below Canal. It suddenly occurred to me today that Sonata for Unfinished Yelling could be abbreviated into roughly the same neighbourhood of cool ... SoFo.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 07:16 PM in the Boring old news category | Comments (0)
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