Buzzword Books - unusual, intriguing, intelligent, perceptive

Here, you'll find musings from our authors and staff. We don't promise daily updates. Just posts worth your time.

Monday, 18 March 2013

How to Write a Thriller

Thriller writer, Clinton Smith, has written down a checklist that he refers to when he writes his thrillers. You can download five of his books from the Buzzword site. His list is compiled from advice from his early mentors - an exceptional editor and a best selling crime writer. It's very short. But, for what it's worth, here it is. (For the uninitiated, POV means Point of View):

* REMAIN IN THE PRESENT.  FLASHBACKS ARE DEADLY. Delete all possible. Best way to show characters is to put them in a situation that brings out their qualities - an incident that shows them all as they are - a forced landing for instance.  Private conversations should be overheard by Hero. (The less you know of the villain's POV, the more mysterious he is.)


* DO IT ON THE TOP STORY. A CHARACTER NEEDS TO TAKE US BY THE HAND AND LEAD US THROUGH THE STORY. Events from Hero's POV because he has gone or been ordered to places and sees them.


* Hero forced to participate in order to survive.



*  INTEREST MUST BE MAINTAINED. WITHHOLD INFORMATION. We gradually learn details of character's past histories.

*  Don't be predictable.

*  SHOW. DON'T TELL. If character is a drunk, don't say it, show him getting drunk, let's smell his breath.

*  DON'T INTRODUCE TOO MANY CHARACTERS TOO FAST. The rule is one per chapter in ordinary (not thriller style) fiction.  In suspense writing they can be used only when the reader is hooked beyond recall.



*  Include well researched facts for authenticity.(Check research with those who know.)

*  SPLIT CHAPTERS. Shorter chapters work.
*  TOO MANY ADJECTIVES - LEANER. Remove all surplus adjectives as well as the 'rather's the 'quite's, the 'very's and so on. Also attention to prolixity, overused words.
*  DIALOGUE NEEDS 'EDGE'.  READ DIALOGUE ALOUD.  NO QUOTATIONS. Tell the story through dialogue.  But not dialogue that is cosy, coy or wordy.  Three word speeches. Cut dialogue to the bone. 'Flip comments don't usually come off.  They divert the reader and interfere with the building of tension'. 'Don't leave out subject of the verb too often'. 'Don't show off'. DON'T PHILOSOPHISE IN DIALOGUE.

*  Flesh out a pleasantly labyrinthine and complex 'nasty' plot studded with apparently informed facts about a number of subjects, professions and locations which provides 'intelligent escapism'. 'Lively superficial entertainment.'

*  Belt out the first draft.  Get it all down on paper, then revise by cutting scenes, rounding out characters, adding


*  STORY MUST BE 'TIGHT, HARD, FAST, TERSE, HOT, DIRTY, TENSE.' 'Have a short, sharp, nasty way of writing violence.' Hard energy.

*  WATCH BALANCE AND WEIGHTING.  More on action, less on dog food.

*  Only break unity of place if it is a natural act 2.

So there you have it. The essentials. The good guts - from someone who knows. And if you want a real treat, download Smith's latest - PROJECT THUNDER from Buzzword. Just $3.99.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Commentary on the Gurdjieff Work

Among Rosicrucian and Hermetic scholar, Joy Lonsdale's papers, we found copious notes originally written to another writer in the field as a commentary on his new book on Gurdjieff's Work. We have abstracted some of the more general comments here. 

No, we don't really wish to know and accept that transformation and freedom are very hard to achieve. We like to feel it should be easy. Therefore, it doesn't help us in any way to imagine that anyone at all had it easy (the condition messengers from above must enjoy, who did not feel like this, but had a future of bliss assured them! Ordinary human beings don't have such assurances). Gurdjieff suffered, like most humans, physical and no doubt emotional pain, death of loved ones, failures, financial and otherwise, frustrations, ill will towards him, insults, treachery, jealousies, etc. etc. I think this is why people can relate to him - he was so human! As he said himself, he's not only been through the mill, but even through all the grindstones!

p.46. There are many who would say that G's cosmology was just another theory, among others. I do not believe he has laid bare in his writings all the secrets of everything you've mentioned. If, as I believe, he was an Hermeticist he would have been under oath not to do so anyway, and it's why he wrote allegorically. I have come to learn that it is not wise to put all our faith in any one theory, or line of thought, but to leave our minds open to all possibilities, provided they make sense and are not too fantastic. G's Ray of Creation is a wonderful portrayal of the way things could have occurred, not necessarily how they actually did occur, for who can know this anyway?

p.56. I tell people that Gurdjieff was a Rosicrucian! Not that I equate him with what currently passes for this word in its outer garb, but definitely with its older and inner meaning. And yes, I agree that the Fourth Way IS a Rosicrucian manifestation, as you say, for they, the real masters, by whatever name they are called at any time, go underground periodically and resurface under a new guise. I think it's ever been thus. R.N. feels that there never was any real Exodus of the Jewish race, but rather it was an exodus of the Jews (allegorical for initiates) from Heliopolis when Egypt was overrun. G himself predicted that his teaching would go full circle, and then retreat for a time. And I remember that P.O. said that a conscious teaching was not under the law of recurrence, so that if we met it once we may not meet it again so all the more reason to work now.

p.68. Can't agree with you that a really free attention is the desired state. The attention must be captured, fixed and then controlled through the will-power, when it becomes one-pointed concentration. Mercury represents the attention, and with his winged sandals plays a double role. He is the agent, or messenger, of the subconscious, but also becomes a fugitive servant, forgetting his real master and becoming a plaything for all the caprices of the conscious mind, a real will-o'-the-wisp. It is why the old alchemists said one must work with the right type of mercury to succeed. Let's not forget, too, that Mercury wore a helmet, symbolic of invisibility (for the attention is not a visible manifestation) and his winged sandals show his duality. His wings have to be clipped - in one myth he was even threatened with having his feet cut off - both of these showing he has to be grounded and his freedom taken away from him so he will work more constructively. It says something about our general state of inattention that it does not appear anywhere in myth that Mercury was ever so grounded!

p.78. You obviously believe in reincarnation. It's the one aspect of the Rosicrucian teaching (or any other) with which I can't concur! And did G ever expound it? As I remember he seems to have said that only fully conscious men can reincarnate and as these would be very few, it seems he meant it was not a general occurrence. I favour Ouspensky's eternal recurrence (and he stated that he got confirmation of this from G, albeit in a roundabout sort of way). I feel it is more orderly, and it makes much more sense to me, and (provided one can understand what it means) I think it gives the possibility to everyone to change if they awaken. (P.O. said no, there are some who have to play the same role over and over.) I feel we are wheels within wheels within wheels, and we can go round and round on the same one for however long eternity may be - as P.O. said himself, there is a real death and an end to it if one never makes the effort to change. The possibilities get less and less each recurrence until they eventually run out, or it may follow the Law of Seven and we only get seven chances, but who knows this for sure?