I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations, responses, apologies, and - more recentlyly - learning to sing. I hold posts to 300 words* finding less is better than more. I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Fancy yourself at fiction?

You can’t run out of blog subjects but you may risk repetition. So - today - nothing about swimming, ski-ing, life in the USA (a veritable encyclopaedia), singing lessons, journalism or corporeal decay. But what about a cry for help?

A short story idea has been buzzing round my head. A 47-year-old single woman, X, has, against her own inclinations, decided to use an online dating service. I see her physically because she existed in real-life fifty years ago. Thus she fits scenes I have in mind. Other than her appearance X bears no resemblance to the woman in my past whom I knew only glancingly.

Here's the kicker. The story ends as X leaves her London flat for the rendezvous. This may annoy some readers, as I know from past experience. What happens next? they ask. My reply: If you care enough to ask then I've done my job. Raising reader sympathy for a fictional character is a worthwhile goal in itself.

Narrative tension will depend on the conflict between who X is and what she is about to do.

Time is slightly out of step. X is considering wearing outmoded dangle earrings. Somewhat cumbersome, in heavy silver, they are the last material link with her late mother who experienced an unhappy marriage. To do this X must first have her ears pierced and is apprehensive, despite reassurances.

I want to write this story. But should I do so? As I see things it demands some pretensions on my part about the inner nature of being a woman.

In four out of my five novels women are central and this was intentional. But in almost all my forty-plus short stories men dominate the plots. I’m not sure why.


  1. Hello RR and happy 2019. If it's of any help, I have personally had experience of the online and offline dating game in my lat 40s and beyond, also wrote and article about 'senior dating' (research involved quite a few interviews), also heard reports fro close friends of their own ventures in that direction. So you're welcome to email me if that would be useful to you. By the way, beinga Guardian reader,did you happen to see me in G2 on rd January?

  2. Couldn't find a way to correct my typos in the above! That was meant to be 3rd January, and the others are obvious.

  3. Natalie: Yup I saw it, could hardly miss it. Congratulations.

    Thanks for the offer. But as the post points out, the actual rendezvous will not form part of the story. I shall however make use of the questionnaire X fills in and her reaction to some of the questions; such questions will however be compiled by me to suit the exigencies of the plot.

    If the errors (in your comment) are severe enough simply delete the comment and post a corrected one. My further recommendation would be to compile your comment in Notebook (the icon is always available on my desktop) or whatever equivalent comes with a Mac. Then copy/paste. Some of my comments and re-comments are quite long and I have learned from bitter experience not to depend on Blogspot to retain what I've written during the posting. Of course, bloggers who use approval systems invalidate this approach.

    Thanks for the good wishes for 2019. Given our respective ages these become progressively more valuable with each passing minute. Cheers.

  4. I do wonder why you would write this from the woman's point of view, and why so many of your characters are women. However, that is just curiosity - no doubt on both our parts. I would be interesting in seeing how it turns out. If it calls to you, then go for it. Why not?

  5. From the insights you have shown in your novels with female main characters I wonder why you are concerned about it now, but I presume you are considering getting down to some microscopic detail in a singular area of the working of the female mind.

    As A Mac user I tend to use the email facility to type draft comments and blog posts - it has a wide range of formatting available and does the job for me.

  6. Colette/Sir Hugh: Why so many female central characters? The most plausible reason may lie with my upbringing and early manhood. I was one of three brothers, no sisters, I went to an all-male secondary school, joined a newspaper where - in those days - women reporters were comparatively rare, did my National Service with the virtually all-male Royal Air Force.

    Thus, when I married and was complicit in the creation of two daughters, I was ill-equipped to understand their inclinations and their needs. Simultaneously I found myself in magazine publishing where women journalists were more plentiful and - through greater involvement in politics at the trade-union lervel - I became a fledgling feminist.

    Note "fledgling". I came to feminism late in life and lacked both the experience and the rhetoric to find approval among politically aware women. In fact, I never really caught up and this state lasted more or less throughout my professional career.

    I'd written several novels as a journalist but I only became serious about novel-writing in retirement. My first "proper" novel was based on a topic I'd held dear for at least a decade: the under-appreciation of engineers in modern Britain's culture. I illustrated this with two parallel stories (a male and a female engineer) in Thatcher's Britain and found myself gripped by what I as an outsider saw of the nature of being a woman. Fiction is based on conflict and it seemed to me that women were regularly at a disadvantage in (ie, in conflict with) male-dominated society. For a male writer I thought I could make use of this. Hence the subsequent four novels where Jana, Francine, Judith and Lindsay plough their individual furrows through today's world.

    That's the technical reasoning. But there's an emotional reason. No doubt about it, I "fell in love" with my characters, which may have undermined or weakened their stories. I hasten to add this is "writerly love" although I can't help admitting a bit of the other sort towards Jana, perhaps my best-realised central character.

    I doubt anyone will have the energy to read this long re-comment but there it is.

  7. I read it ALL with interest, but it still doesn't answer my disguised question or ponder. I guess you will be wanting to describe some of the character's emotions or feelings or thoughts as she goes off on her rendezvous and I wonder why you are finding that difficult when you have delved so successfully, in my opinion, into the working of the female mind. before.

  8. Sir Hugh: If I've had any success with the psychology of women it will have been in the novels. There I've had more elbow room to develop character, motives, etc. What I'm facing now is a short story: fewer words and thus a greater tendency towards recognisable banality.

    As the outline stands, and assuming a word limit of about 5000 words, I will be tempted to compress certain aspects of the story into interior monologue (eg, X thinks, X wonders, X could not understand, etc). This risks monotony and lack of drama; avoiding these problems in a novel is easier - up to a point - in that one may bring in other characters and realtime events to make the narrative more vivid at that point.

    Then there is the overall aim. I am keen to write this story because I think I can say interesting, original and/or enlightening things about a woman of that age deciding to go in for online dating. But I am also aware that some of X's concerns would overlap those of a man doing the same thing. I have to concentrate on the stuff that doesn't overlap. My many gaffes in discussions about feminism has shown me that getting this right is far from easy. And, as I have implied, faults of this sort are horribly obvious, horribly "male".

    On the other hand the difficulties are what attract me. Already, a brief discussion with VR has revealed a conceptual defect in the outline. I realised I was imagining a woman of the fifties or sixties, not of the oughties which is what I had in mind. The question: Should I write this story? was, I suppose, also addressed to myself. How confident am I that I can pull it off? More confident than I was... I think. We'll see.