Man in Winter Excerpt

Man in winter

I’m not normally a huge fan of posting Works in Progress, they change so much, but this is a piece I’ve been working on for some time now and think bits can be shared.

This fragment comes from Chapter Six, keep in mind this is still a WIP and has not been professionally edited as of yet.

For context, Man in Winter is a story about Arthur, an elderly gentleman who lost his wife, Molly, when their home was broken into and she was accidentally killed. The story takes place two years after Molly’s death when Arthur is coming to terms with his own tragic diagnosis and has just moved into a new house the day previously.


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Finishing a Project

Copy of Autumn (10)

I am currently working on several projects, a big one and a couple of small ones. At the weekend I ‘finished’ the latest leg of the big project. I finished the third draft, a herculean effort let me tell you. At times it was almost ridiculously easy and at other times pulling barbed nails out from my skin might have been an easier exercise. But regardless of the peaks and troughs of difficulty involved it is done.

The third draft of Man in Winter (working title) is finished.

The next stage in my process is to make some hard copies and give it to a few trusted readers, giving them time to read and review it critically and just as readers. Once I’ve got it back from them I can then start work on a paper edit (where I review a hard copy of the project, sometimes I miss things on a screen that I pick up in hard copy) probably early in the new year.

But for now it’ finished.

And I feel weird.

Really weird.

Normally, after finishing a big project I dive straight into my next one with no real-time to catch my breath or think about the ‘finished’ project. But this time I’m stuck, as according to my writing calendar (yes I am only happy when life is organised down to the last mini-second) I’m not due to start my next big project until the first week of September.

So there is nothing new for me to start, nothing to do but wallow in the fall out of finishing a project. For the first time in forever, I’m having to go through the entire emotional spectrum of ‘finishing’ a project, something I have avoided for a very long time. It’s such a strange experience, I feel relieved, to the point where I had a victory beer after closing down the laptop and started humble-bragging to my nearest and dearest that I had finally finished this draft. It’s been a pretty positive experience.

But not entirely positive, as under the happy excitement there’s also a ton of anxiety. My overactive brain keeps yelling at me (figuratively, if it were literal it would be very unsettling) how can this be the end of the draft? The project could be so much better! Why are you putting this down? You’re screwing this up.

The battle in the emotional spectrum is certainly an interesting experience and one that got me thinking. Is it possible to ever truly finish a project? In the current culture of constant remakes can even a project that’s been put out to the public ever really be considered finished?

Even when you say it’s finished will it ever be really? Or will you spend forever thinking “if only I had changed such-and-such” How do you silence that little voice?

A conundrum surely.

Classic Reviews: At The Mountains of Madness


Today I want to talk to you about one of my favourite Lovecraft stories, the Mountains of Madness. This story has inspired horror creators for years, resulting in books, films and games. The world would be a much poorer place without this story. I recently picked up an audiobook collection of Lovecraft and have been listening to this particular story on the way to and from work. Listening to it has reminded me of just how much I enjoyed this and now I want to talk about how awesome it is.

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Cliches: Ghosts


It should go without saying really that ghosts pop up a lot in horror stories. Traditionally when a lot of people think horror they will think of ghosts and ghost stories.

This isn’t a bad thing, as ghosts can work amazingly in stories when they are done well.

A good example of ghosts being done well is the Haunting of Hill House television series that came out recently. The ghosts here were very well crafted and it was clear from the first episode that a lot of thought had gone into their conception and creation.

However, despite ghosts being excellent narrative tools they can, and often are, the victims of excessive clichés. All of which, I believe, stems from the same issue, a simple lack of thought.

A recent example of this being when I went to see a play that I will not name here (it wasn’t the woman in black, I feel the need to point that out). The story clearly established the ghost character, her motivations were crystal clear and her abilities firmly shown early on. It was pretty good if a little overdone. But right at the end everything about the ghost changed, her motivations changed completely, they went from “find me” to “join me forever” and her abilities went from “dick around with small technology like radios within the haunted house” to “being able to cause traffic accidents miles away”.

I remember sitting in the theatre ad thinking to myself “Well, the writer clearly wanted a twist and just couldn’t come up with one.” I was disappointed and frustrated, to say the least. But this leads nicely into the main cliché that ghost characters suffer from.

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Writing an Oppressive Setting

Copy of Autumn (10)

What makes a great story? Talk about a difficult question. There is no one perfect element that makes a great story. In fact, it’s almost impossible to break this question down into just a few elements, instead, it’ll be broken down into lots of elements.

I’ve talked about a few of these elements in the past, such as characters, today I want to talk about another key element and that’s Setting.

A well-crafted setting is crucial to a great story no matter the genre. In horror, in particular, you are likely to want your setting to be oppressive in and of itself. A strong setting will add a great deal of tension, atmosphere and challenge the protagonists in such a way that the characters develop and evolve in a compelling and engaging way.

But how can we craft an engaging setting, a setting that oppresses the characters and adds to the tension of the story?

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