Tuesday, 16 July 2019

you're still alive, she said...


Finding your voice

Sometimes a fear of making mistakes will sabotage your writing process. It may stop you from putting ideas on the page, or it can cause blocks while you’re in the middle of a project. To develop confidence, challenge yourself to write a short story in one sitting. You’re not allowed to go away from the project until you have a completed draft. It can be any length, but tell a complete story that will satisfy a reader. Don’t do too much editing while you write, just let your ideas flow and then structure them once you’ve got everything on the page.

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There’s probably never been a better time to be undead.

Fibre-optic broadband, 24-hour cable TV, Netflix, every possible boxset you can imagine streaming directly to your phone or tablet or flatscreen, widescreen plasma television on demand to satisfy your every viewing whim…. There’s really no need to be bored as the rest of the world sleeps. Those days are long gone.

How can the witching hour exist when you can have Deliveroo delivering you an almost-warm burger from your favourite fast food outlet at the click of a button at any time of the day or night? And hey: I won’t judge if you don’t really fancy the look of that burger. Perhaps the courier that brings it to you will be more to your taste? The beauty of a zero-hours contract is that no one really knows enough about these guys to really miss them. My back garden is full of bikes. Every so often someone comes around with a van full of scrap metal and takes them off my hands. I like to imagine that they’re passed on to the next generation of couriers in a form of up-cycling. I like to think I do my bit for the environment, but perhaps I should include the uniforms too so that I can reduce my carbon footprint a bit more to make the whole thing even more sustainable. David Attenborough himself might approve. You have to take your hat off to the guy: he died years ago and that seems to have been absolutely no impediment to the progression of his career. In fact, I think he’s even more popular now than when he was alive, even if he does seem to have become a little self-righteous since his heart stopped beating. When you’re dead yourself, you start to recognise other people in the same position. There’s a lot more of them around than you might think.

Generally, I’m happy enough, I think. If you really twisted my arm, I’d probably say that the thing I miss the most is cricket. I was never really much of a player, but I did like to while away my days sitting in the sunshine with a nice, cold beer pretending to be absorbed in the finer details of the game as I daydreamed. An Australian summer looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition at 3am on a cold December morning, but the best television in the world and a comfy sofa isn’t quite a convincing substitute for sitting on a hard plastic seat surrounded by chanting drunks inside a cricket ground yourself. Sunblock technology has come a long way over the years, but even with the broadest of brimmed hats, factor 50 and long sleeves, I’ve never had the courage to spend more than a session or so out in broad daylight. Bursting into flames isn’t the sort of entry you want to see in the scorebook for delaying the resumption of play. Besides, I look pale enough at the best of times without adding a thick layer of suncream. I do not tan well. Never did before and definitely don’t now. Luckily, the goth look is never out of fashion. As long as Robert Smith is still a thing, I can wear all-black on the hottest of days and not raise a flicker of attention.

I suppose the biggest change in my life was when I started dating. It wasn’t something that I set out to do, but if you spend enough time on the internet, you get talking to all sorts of people and eventually, if they let you in, you get to know them really well. Over time, one thing leads to another and you find that someone on the other side of the world just, you know, really *gets* you. Not everyone is who they say they are, of course. But that’s just life, isn’t it? I’ve always been fairly direct and I’ve never lied about who or what I am. Not exactly, anyway. People claim to be all sorts of things on the internet, don’t they? Perhaps some of them really are what they say. Who are we to judge? Whatever works for you, right? I can’t really use the expression ‘live and let live’ with a straight face, but taken entirely metaphorically, it’s a great motto to live by.

I met Dorothea through blogging. Her blog mostly, not mine. I don’t really post all that much any more. Somewhere along the line, I just lost the urge. Dorothea’s blog is buzzing though, and it always has been. Where comments are now as rare as hen’s teeth on my page, below the line is where all the real action happens over there and that’s where you meet the most interesting people. Sure, some are just robots trying to direct you to some advertising site somewhere, but they’re always pretty easy to spot and to ignore. What you’re looking for are those threads where the chat really takes off and where your host is happy to give and take below the line. I can’t remember how I first found her page, but I think Dorothea really caught my attention when she posted a review of some stupid sci-fi tv show that I liked and we just got talking, initially in the comments but pretty soon swapping to messenger. One thing soon led to another, and before long we were virtually inseparable (virtually being the operative word at this point as we still hadn’t met and lived in countries on opposite sides of the world). It was nice. I know that might seem like a woefully inadequate way of describing the beginnings of a significant relationship, but that’s exactly what it was: nice. They say that love makes your heart beat faster, and in my case that obviously can’t be true, but I definitely felt a surge of warm feelings through my cold, dead heart. I liked it.

We discussed my animation status fairly early in the relationship. What would be the point of trying to keep something like that secret? She didn’t seem to mind, and actually it seemed to kick-start the relationship to the next level. Almost immediately, we were making plans to have her come over and visit, which she did a couple of months later. It’s always going to be a frightening moment meeting someone who means so much to you face-to-face for the first time. What if that spark just isn’t there? I was as nervous as I’ve ever been, but when that cab pulled up outside my door that night and I invited her in across the threshold and into the house, it just felt so right. We’ve been inseparable ever since.

It hasn’t always been easy. For starters, she’s alive and I’m dead, she eats food and I survive only by consuming the blood of living things to feed my immortal soul. But every successful relationship is built upon tolerance and compromise, isn’t it?

We’re happy together and happy that we found each other. That’s what really matters.

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I don't know if I've discovered my voice or not.  When I put this story into the I Write Like page (recommended in the workbook to today's masterclass chapter), it told me that its analysis concluded that I wrote like Anne Rice ("Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O'Brien; October 4, 1941) is a best-selling American author of metaphysical gothic fiction, Christian literature and erotica from New Orleans, Louisiana. Her books have sold nearly 100 million copies, making her one of the most widely read authors in modern history."

Hm. This guy is hardly Lestat, is he? Yesterday's story is like Daniel Defoe, apparently.

To be honest, I'm inclined to think that this analysis may be flawed.

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