The Richard Whiteley Effect

Well, a nice surprise in my inbox this week: my story ‘Coming Home’ has been published in Issue 6 of ThisIsIt magazine, a bewilderingly-designed online mag full of interesting stories and artwork. I note that the editor, recounting the submissions process, laments that home and death seem to be closely related for many writers: the majority of her submissions under the theme ‘home’ were about characters popping their clogs. Surely she can’t be talking about my little story? Well, yes, she can. My girlfriend has often asked me why so many of my stories end in suicide. Er, pass. (As long as it isn’t the last resort of a desperate writer tyring to conjure a twist from thin air, I don’t mind.)

On the theme of ‘the lighter side of life’ – and, interestingly, ‘home’ too – work continues apace on my new novel (working title: ‘Proper Job’). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: writing humour is the Devil’s own work (and this is me speaking as a science fiction author, not a humorous author yet, at least not by track record). When I wrote parts of Déjà Vu, it was clear that I had certain freedoms in writing scenes: as long as the scene climaxed in a particular way (i.e. an interesting one!), there were dozens of paths I might have trod to reach that climax. Writing humour is a fishy kettle of a different persuasion. If there are twenty ways to express a joke, one is funny and nineteen are not. The way I write, I can count on writing something funny appearing about one time in five. I often know there is a good gag in there somewhere (I write a note to myself in the margin saying as much), but it could take draft after draft, working like an archaeologist, to dig the bugger up. That’s before the normal constraints of story are applied: keep the characters developing, keep them in conflict, etc. All the time there exists the nag that what you’re writing is simply not funny.

Oh the hilarity.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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