A Light in Dark Places

Today, during my lunchtime Netflix viewing, I watched a Hugh Laurie film called Mr. Pip.

It was a good film. I know this because it made me cry repeatedly, and as we all know this is the most accurate measure of a film’s quality.

Anyway, among being about a war, it was basically a story of a young girl, and how her introduction to a Dickens novel (Great Expectations) not only changed her life, but may have even saved her and given her a fuller, more nuanced lens to consider and examine the world. It helped her go from being a girl to being a woman.

Those of us who love literature have a book we can point at, not necessarily as our favorite, but as a book that changed our life, the way we look at it, the way we live it. For me, I’ve made no secret of this being Anna Karenina, but this film got me thinking.

There’s a mixed view in the community of writers on how much to consider the reader when writing. Obviously, when creating art, you have to just be a vessel for what is inside of you to be shared. On the other hand, if you’re trying to create work that will be published, you have to consider your audience and ask questions about theme and maturity level of the reader.

But what about creating life-changing work? Do we ask ourselves those kinds of questions, or is that something that happens through our art if we do our best and have a spark of luck?

Obviously, I don’t have answers for these questions, but they’re floating around my head nonetheless.




Into my Bookshelf: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Perhaps the thing authors thrive on most is possibilities. As much as I hate unfinished work, I’ve been reading a book alight with possibilities, that has captured so many imaginations, and certainly captured mine.

As a lifelong Dickens fan, it was only a matter of time before I got around to reading The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It’s his unfinished novel, about half done, that isn’t his best and isn’t his worst, but in so many ways has gone right up to the top three on my list of best things he’s written.

The story begins in an opium den, which really, is the recipe for an awesome story right there. There’s not a lot of mystery as to who actually commits the murder (which takes FOREVER to materialize), as Dickens has never been prided in his subtlety at ALL. On top of that, several people who knew where the story was going and had been given various amounts of privileged information all agree that the title character was murdered by his uncle.

That’s so not even a spoiler. If you couldn’t figure that out within the first couple installments (ten chapters or so), I don’t even know what to make of you.

The village of Cloisterham is a very closed community, with people with their very particular behaviors and habits. Quite naturally, the suspect is suspected easily because he’s got a checkered past and he apparently appears “un-English”. Mr. Sapsea, the person who coins that term in this work, reminds me of one of my favorite characters in all of Dickens – Mr. Podsnap from Our Mutual Friend, my favorite Dickens novel.

Based on clues in the novel, and based on conversations had with people like the illustrator and relatives, we know a bit more than just who the killer is (which is totally not even a secret to the reader by the end of the novel). We have a good inkling where the body is (again, once you know who the killer is, not even a surprise), who’s going to end up with the dear Miss Rosa Bud (slightly less obvious), and there are very few mysteries remaining. Although, may I say, some really fabulous characters are fleshed out or introduced toward the middle of the book – that is to say, the end of the book as we have it.

The one mystery – around which many adaptations can focus in trying to finish the story – that remains is whom Mr. Datchery is, a gentleman who shows up in Cloisterham toward the end of the story with the intention of moving there, possibly to investigated the as-yet unsolved year-old murder/disappearance of Edwin Drood. I mean, there are all kinds of possibilities, like a police officer or actor who has taken interest in the tale. We’ve gotten such suggestions as these. It even popped into my head while reading that it might be Drood himself in disguise – not killed, but somehow altered from the ordeal as to be unrecognizable.

That was a silly idea, naturally, but it occurred nonetheless.

SPOILER ALERT (kind of?)

I mean, since it’s unfinished, I use the term spoiler loosely. HOWEVER, I think that to me the most reasonable explanation for whom Mr. Datchery is (since we have a list of people whom he cannot be), given Drood’s actual death (which is pretty certain), and ruling out the impossible, is that Mr. Datchery is actually one Mr. Bazzard. He works for Mr. Grewgious, the guardian of Rosa, and writes plays. Or rather, has written a play that still hasn’t been picked up. We haven’t actually seen him yet, so we don’t know what he looks like. Many theatre writers have some acting experience, and as he wrote a tragedy, the tale would interest him. He would know it from the papers, and he certainly would have heard something about the death of Rosa’s once-fiance from his employer.

Of course, the biggest problem with this is the idea that he would be able to “live” in Cloisterham for the rest of his life and yet still work and live in London, spending time at work and with his writer set.  That’s a puzzle, to be sure.

Still, the beauty of this being an unfinished story is that we can imagine it to work out however we want. From my teacher/writer eye, I see possibilities not only for writing an ending myself, but for assigning this as a shorter Dickens novel, challenging students to write an ending in the style of Dickens, making it all work out sensibly. Could be fun, and useful.



Project: Hold Me Now

So, what have I been up to?

Well, among other things, I’ve been writing a novel that isn’t really a romance story. I don’t do romance stories. I vastly prefer emotionally wrecking my readers.

I suppose you could say it’s a love story, although that’s a bit simplistic. As I said, I like to emotionally wreck my readers. This is less emotionally wrecking than other things, though.

It’s come out of my work that’s a kind of a study on the psychological impact of various aspects of fame. Specifically, the idea of how the stresses of constant press attention can disrupt and even destroy the lives of those under the microscope. I’m finding it fun, and a wonderful mental exercise.

At present, I can’t say when it will be finished, but that’s my primary project of focus for the moment. It’s coming along well, over half done, and then it’ll be off to Natalie for editing. I’ll let you know when that comes.



I’ve Got a Patreon!

Want to support my writing? There’s two ways you can!

First of all, I’ve published a novel on Inkitt! Want to read it? Go ahead and check it out! The more buzz it generates, the more likely I’ll be to get a book deal in the near-ish future, so if you like murder mysteries, it’s here.

Also, if you want to support me monetarily (which would be fabulous, even if it’s a small amount), I’ve started a Patreon! Every little bit you put toward me goes to helping me move a little bit closer to becoming an independent artist, without the need of a day job. Which is, of course, the end goal.

If you’re not familiar with how Patreon works, you become a Patron, pledge a certain amount, and pay that amount regularly. I’ve set it to per work instead of monthly, so every publication, I’d get paid. I might go to an incremental thing, like monthly or annually or something. I don’t know. For the moment, this is how I’ve set it up. Because I’m not producing super regularly, it seems fair.

By committing at certain levels, you’ll earn prizes and special perks. I’ve not set up much yet (I’m totally open to suggestions, which you can give me in comments), but rest assured that these will grow with time. I’m always open to your suggestions on how to improve my Patreon to serve the needs of my readers.

So, that’s what I’ve been up to lately, apart from writing and editing fiction and finishing my student teaching.

OH, and I’ve started a blog about football (soccer for many of you) and my constant musings on it. Check out charlottewritesfootball.wordpress.com, which will have a premium URL as it gains readers (probably as soon as I sign a contract for a job, honestly). I hope to start publishing information both here and on that blog about once a week.

Wish me luck.