I’ve learned a lot about the way people respond to new writing since September. Online reviewing is horribly revealing about the human condition but perfect for an author who likes a bit of humanity. My latest novel Tiger Hugs has had a lot of exposure to humanity on authonomy, the Harper Collins website. It hasn’t been propelled through the ranks by trickery. I haven’t enlisted hundreds of “sock puppets” to back it, so it’s lingered, head above the parapet like a turkey opening Christmas cards and eyeing-up the sprouts. Boy, do people dish it out.
That’s fine. I’ve responded to every criticism with revision. The latest, recurring criticism is, “it’s like a film script”. One reviewer did admit to making that comment in absence of any other comment. But Tiger Hugs definitely cannot be compared to a film script because there is actually quite a lot of narrative.
My aim was to write something completely different in the belief that publishers want new and original. So you laugh! Cynic! But it’s true. Tiger Hugs kicks ass. I don’t trust narrative, and narrative is fashionable and boring. Everyone’s doing it. So I did something different.
The result is a lot less narrative than people are used to. Were people ‘used to’ the stream of consciousness in Ulysses, or the blast of humanity in On the Road, or the slice of life in Great Expectations?
I guess the proportion of narrative to dialogue is 50:50. No matter. People will still say, “It’s all dialogue” because that’s the effect of slimming down the kind of encircling narrative that inspires a sense of, “where the f— are we?” in most novels.
I find most novels are really dodgy. We’re all supposed to be wooed by the suave narrator to believe in his, “safe hands”. The narrator asserts that he’s qualified for the job in terms of status, location and voice, a quiet, reassuring, patriarchal drone. I never get the sense I’m “in safe hands” when a patriarchal writer starts up. I just get a sense of utter desperation.
So let’s make the dialogue stand out because the things people say generally stand out. When you travel on trains, go to football matches, pubs or theatre, voices stand out. And let’s make something happen. What happens in most novels? Nothing!
At least, “it’s all dialogue” is better than being lost in the narrative. I couldn’t do that to my readers. I coudn’t start in the middle and then say, “never mind, dear, you’re in safe hands, I’ll guide you out”. I do bombard them with sequential events and dialogue because that’s what makes life interesting. Readers always fail to say exactly where they get a sense that it’s all dialogue. My guess is it they can’t say where because they don’t know. They’re really suffering a sense of loss for the patriarchal narrator. The shock of the new.
So generally I’m pleased. There was a time when I couldn’t write dialogue for toffee. There was no sense of drama, and I had no ideas. Now people say my novel is as crazy as a runaway horse. It’s still the same novel it was in September when it was called The Marquis of Queensbury Rules Okay, but it’s grown up a lot and that’s carrying it forwards. Even though it’s wrapped in an attractive cover with a USP, a blurb and a smooth synopsis, it’s still actually about something. There is still a moral purpose.
Above all, it’s the antithesis of the same old same old. It’s the work of a writer with an MA in Creative Writing, Goldsmith’s, University of London, who has 30 plus short stories published and who’s decided to do something different. And that isn’t an apology.
Read Tiger Hugs on authonomy. It’s a comedy, but it’s also a bit different.