Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Well

The WellThe Well by Peter Labrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the most useful devices for any horror writer is the trap, or the closed room story. It's been done so many times and is still effective. Peter Labrow uses it in his debut novel with a clever twist. If I was reading a short story about two teenagers trapped in a well away from anybody they knew and no chance to escape I'd have licked my lips. But a whole novel about it? Well I was curious.

Obviously Peter’s gift for writing a multi-layered story ensured this was no single thread arc. The kids in the well was peg on which he hung some very interesting and well-crafted subplots. These took the novel into crime, horror, supernatural, domestic and historical avenues. All of which were balanced perfectly to keep the story ad momentum moving fast.

This is a thrill ride of a thriller and a heart racing horror. Witches, telepathic children, predators and ancient pagan curses all combine to build a story that will leave you with sore thumbs in this fast adrenaline filled page turner.

The only criticism I would point to is the dénouement could have been a lot leaner. But given the many strands that had to be tied up I can’t really see how else he could have written it. However that minor detail apart, this book kept my interest right until the final sentence.

If this is what Peter Labrow can do with a debut I can’t wait to read his future novels. 

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Monday, 2 July 2012

I Took the Long Way Home.

I like the idea of The Hero's Journey. I've read the Christopher Vogler book,
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, I've read essays by Joseph Campell and I've hit so many websites talking about the structure that I feel like I've been on the journey myself.

Well of course I have, we all have. We've all had to overcome adversity, found love, lost love, battled our demons, taken a leap of faith and all the other aspects of Campell's monomyth theory. We do it in our personal lives and careers. We do it in our examination of ourselves when growing up, and if your'e over thirty, re-growing up. 

There is on thing about The Hero's Journey I could never really come to grips with however. It always felt too rigid to me. This may be the cause of it falling out of fashion in recent years. Though Hollywood still seems addicted to it. Well if it worked for everything from Star Wars to Harry Potter who can blame them?

I pull this lever, my jet-pack will takes me home.
I've structured stories using this plan then gone all native and pantster on my next piece of writing. I always felt like I needed to escape, to free my self from the bondage of the thing. The problem is I kind of accidentally structured the novel I'm writing using the Hero's Journey template. And it feel right. It feels like I'm writing a true novel, one that looks at all the half finished manuscripts in my drawer like they are delinquent children.

So how will I cope? Where will with this retraining structure take me?
Well these question have not only kept me awake but also forced me to abandon this novel several times. Then one sleepless night I had an epiphany. I look back now and realise it was simply an awaking to what everybody else already knew. Maybe I was so blocked in my anguish and fear of failing at yet another novel that it held back free thinking. But I reached the answer just in time.

I can continue with this template and adapt it. "What, did I hear that right?" Yes you did. I said I'm using a version of the Hero's Journey. I'm not adhering to the strict structure. If something needs adapting or changing to suit the story then I'll do that. I like the arc the Hero's Journey offers. I like the way it forces us to think about the characters and their personal arc too. But maybe I want things to be more organic while retaining that rainbow of the journey.

Coincidentally, or through synchronicity, I had a stab at writing a two page screenplay for a short film competition. While looking for tips to refresh me on the art I came across this Powerpoint presentation on Big Spaceship on how to write a screenplay that utilises the Hero's Journey, while expanding it for the good of the story.

It was exactly what I needed to read. I hope you like it too.

Paws: The Revenge.