I am so pleased to have a wonderful guest post from John Dickinson here on Fiction Fascination today. I simply loved Muddle and Win, which I reviewed last week here on the blog. I hope you enjoy John’s guest post as much as I did! – Carly 🙂
1. I was lucky enough to get the chance.
2. My Dad is a writer, so why not?
3. I was getting tired of waiting for my talents to be recognised. (Hold on! How does that work?)
I write for older teenagers and adults. I like all kinds of settings – fantasy and historical, and I’ve a science fiction novel coming out in January. But the same spiritual and moral themes underly all my books. In some ways I’m quite traditional, I suppose.
I am happy to talk to schools, writers’ circles, reading groups and so on. In fact I’m happy to talk to anybody about any aspect of writing. The problem is getting me to shut up.
Everyone has a Lifetime Deed Counter (LDC). It works like this:
You offer to help with the housework: Lifetime Good Deeds +1
You steal your little brother’s sweets: Lifetime Bad Deeds +1
Looks straightforward, huh? But what if your every thought was disputed by opposing forces of good and evil – by an angel wearing ray bans (called Windleberry) and a demon in the form of a wart (called Muddlespot)? And within your mind they were fighting a fierce battle over your actions, a battle dictated by a game of poker?
When Muddlespot is promoted from a devil’s janitor to special agent, the pressure is on for him to infiltrate Sally Jones and make her Bad. If he doesn’t, it will be Very Bad for him. But as his mission leads him down Sally’s ear and into the deepest recesses of her mind, all becomes unclear. Just what does it mean to be good? And can it be good to be bad?
To see my review of the fantastic Muddle and Win click here
CONCEPT FOR MUDDLE AND WIN
Nothing comes of nothing. Stories don’t get told without recycling stuff you’ve collected from other places. A storyteller starts a bit like a beachcomber, idly wandering around, picking up plot twists or situations or images either from other stories or from the real world, and looking them over, wondering whether they could be useful. Slowly you gather a store of things that you want to use.
A lot of stories are about heroes who come into power and battle some form of bad guy. A lot more are about falling in love. I have written both of those, and maybe I’ll do so again. But what I really like is a story where someone grows to see things in a different way. Through the eyes of our hero we confront our own weakness. We hear the whisper of temptation. We fall, or choose not to fall. That’s why the devil is a potent character for me. If you look hard enough, you’ll find he’s metaphorically or symbolically present in most of my books. He’s one of things I’ve found on my beach.
The idea that we go around with a little angel on one shoulder and a little devil on the other is old and well used (as most good ideas tend to be). We’re also familiar with comic strips and cartoons that show us in cutaway, with lots of little people inside us pulling levers to move our arms and legs and arguing with each other abut what we’re going to do. In Muddle and Win I simply combined these two ideas by putting my angel, my devil and my heroine together inside my heroine’s mind, where they could fight their respective corners and find out which if any of them was going to come out on top.
This immediately raised the question of what the inside of someone’s mind is like. And of course, that’s going to depend quite a lot on exactly whose mind you’re inside. In the case of my heroine, it came out like a cross between a palace and a labyrinth, with lots of high, crystal archways and some very interesting geometry. But her sister’s mind (which we visit briefly) is quite different.
I stole a leaf out of C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters and made my devil the hero. In fact I made all three of my lead characters heroes, but the story begins with my devil and most of the action is seen through his eyes. He is the one who makes the classic uncertain beginning and gradually rises into power. Insofar as power can be achieved by selling one’s soul to the household cat.
Muddle and Win was always going to be a comedy. If you’re inviting the devil to supper you’d better be ready to laugh about it. Originally the story was meant to be a cartoon strip for a weekly comic. But when I showed it to the editors, they frowned and muttered a bit and to be honest they didn’t quite get it. They asked me to try my hand at drawing some of it, so that they could see what kind of artistic style I was thinking of. I did my best. They looked at my best and frowned a bit more, and after that nothing went anywhere for a while. So in the end I turned my pictures back into words and wrote the whole thing out as a novel. And everybody got it. (Which just goes to show that the old saying about pictures being worth a thousand words does rather depend on who is drawing the pictures.)
Nothing comes of nothing. Something comes of something, and once you’ve got one something it will may well lead you to another. So in this story one chance remark about the past of my angel character started a new train of thought. I had written, while first introducing him, that he had once served as a cupid. I had gone on to say why life as a cupid was really pretty tough. Having written this, and thought about it a little, it did seem that there was more that could be done with the idea.
Which is why there will be a sequel to Muddle and Win. It will be called ATTACK OF THE CUPIDS. And may all the powers preserve us.