A Life Of Fiction CXL

For those of you new to this WordPress site, this site is about me and my writing – and a little about my role-playing, as well. It gives readers a chance to sample my work; and gives me the chance to say a little about the genesis of each novel, or about the process of writing in general.

Beer, beer, beer: Well, I am trying to be a little more upbeat after my last post. So I will talk about beer – something which always makes me, if not happy, at least at ease with the world.

When you are writing – whether novels, short stories, or poetry – it always helps if you can write about what you know about. It saves you a lot of research, for example; and the reader can often tell if the author enthuses about a subject. It comes across in the prose (or the verse). I’m not saying, here, that you should write about beer if you have no interest in alcohol. No, if you are a person who loves horses to such an extent that you have your own stables (as my sister does), then, perhaps, horses should feature in your work. Perhaps you might even become the Anna Sewell. You need to write about what interests you. And I’m not talking non-fiction here, either. You can interweave anything into the plot of a novel. Are you a fanatical philatelist, seeking out Cape of Hope Blues? Well, you could easily have your hobby as part of some novel. For example, a character might be a philatelist. Perhaps, while some lonely kid was growing up in some grim northern town, stamps brought colour and happiness to his life. Or maybe you could write a thriller about the theft of some very rare stamp. Or you could right a horror / fantasy story about stamps which have their images come to life, perhaps consuming people and turning them into images on other stamps.

It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be horse, or stamps, or beer.

There is a Taoist saying which roughly translates as in work, do what you enjoy. Well, in writing, write what you know. And I know the beauty of the first sip of a real ale on a Friday night, surrounded by my friends.

Am I a writer who drinks, or a drinker who writes? That is the big question, isn’t it? I don’t think that I could give up writing. But I could give up drinking if I had to. But I would prefer not to, though.

So, in the meandering way of my blogs, we finally come to beer, beer, beer.

Beer does feature in some of my favourite novels. I think that everybody who has read the Lord of the Rings recalls how much the hobbits like beer. Beer is something to be enjoyed, like pipeweed. One of my favourite scenes from the movie version is when the hobbits are in Bree and they realise that beer comes in pints. That always makes me smile.

Bree is even an anagram of beard. Call me thick, but I have only just noticed that little fact.

I’m guessing that Tolkien, as one of the Inklings, had not minded enjoying the odd brew.

Beer, of course, has featured in a lot of my tales, without the ale, hopefully, swamping the prose. Although I do have a few notebooks with a few beer stains on them. but more on that later.

In my Briggs and Prenderghast stories John Briggs enjoys an occasional pint of beer (Prenderghast is an absinthe person). He enjoys beer which has taste. Not all Victorian beers were all that great, unfortunately. Buy Briggs manages to find a few to wet his whistle. He is also surprised to find one or two English lagers during the 1890s. Those would have been proper lagers, unlike some of the cans of tasteless rubbish which you see advertised on television, and which will remain nameless here (you know what they are).

A couple of my short story collections have even been set in pubs. The Man Who Became Ray Davies, and other stories and Pub Tales generally speaking have the tales related by people sitting in a pub, even if the stories themselves go into other places. But what better place to tell a tall tale than in some public house, where many a tall tale has been told in the past.

As I said a little earlier a few of my notebooks have the odd stain where droplets of ale have freckled the pages. I always take a notebook with me, wherever I go. All writers should have a notebook with them, so that if an idea should come to them they can jot it down. It’s easier than noting something down on a mobile phone. When I’m waiting for people to join me I will make a few notes in my notebook, either parts of a poem or bits of a short story. I find that a beer or two can ease me into the writing, so that I’m soon scribbling along. I have written considerable sections of short stories while drinking in the pub, just waiting for people to join me. the only problem is that the further I get into my cups the more illegible my handwriting becomes, so that it can almost become impossible to decipher my squiggles the next day, when I come to type up and edit, on my computer, what I have written.

It is not only the writing which I do in pubs. I listen to as many conversations as I can. It is not that I care about the secret lives of those people. But I do actually care about the rhythms and cadences of speech. They are rarely as written down as in novels. Have a beer, listen to the fragmentary way in which a lot of people talk, and get it right.

I have written about beer enough for one week. Any more and I will need a drink.


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