Monthly Archives: January 2012

Film Review – Margin Call

I saw Margin Call the other night – I thought it was very good. It’s the story of 24 hours in an investment bank during the 2008 banking crisis. Despite almost the entire film taking place in an office,  the result is a tense, gripping production.  I particular liked the opening scene of risk manager Stanley Tucci  being fired.

I found the younger characters convincing but I thought the older characters lacked the nastiness one expects from senior banking executives.  The character played by Kevin Spacey was far too cuddly.  Spacey is a fine actor so this is not his fault rather the script’s. 

Jeremy Irons, one of my favourite actors, played the vulpine CEO well, but I didn’t feel the character was menacing enough.  The CEO was in awe of the junior former rocket scientist (Zachary Quinto)  and showed it; in reality a CEO would never openly display awe or admit ignorance.  

An exception was the character played by Simon Baker.  This was a 43 year old senior executive, who despite his boyish looks did show considerable menace and was really quite scary.

Book Signing Saturday 28 January 2012

I’ll be signing copies of The Banker on Saturday at Waterstones Richmond  from 12 to 3 pm. The address is

2-6 Hill Street, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6UA

The bookshop is quite close to the Odeon Cinema.

By sheer coincidence the signing coincides with this year’s WEF at Davos. Chapter One of The Banker opens at the 2009 Davos WEF.

I got my Goodreads glitch sorted out and I now have an Author page up.

Writing – POV

This week’s session with Anne Aylor covered Point Of View (POV).   The three POV categories are First Person  (In general draws the reader closer to the character), Second Person (rarely used in novels) and Third Person (creates a little distance between reader and character).  However there is more to POV. The first and third persons have further subcategories, namely:

First Person Protagonist

First Person Witness

First Person Re-Teller

Third Person Omniscient (or God)

Third Person Objective

Third Person Limited

 As an exercise we wrote a story for 10 minutes in one POV, then rewrote the same story in another POV, and compared both. I wrote about a police detective arriving at a crime scene, first in Third Person POV (3POV) then in First Person POV (1POV).  Both I and a fellow student thought the 1POV version was better.  The 3POV was more like a report, whereas the 1POV contained all the 3POV information plus how the detective felt on seeing the uniformed police had already arrived and how he felt on being asked to produce his ID.

On reflection I think that if I had written the 1POV first, I then would have had to find a way of adding the detective’s feelings in the 3POV (for example through dialogue).   The 3POV version might have been better (for example dialogue may make it easier to show rather than tell).

An experienced author, writing in 3POV, would be able to incorporate such 1POV aspects into his or her first draft.  But I wonder if it might be good idea for a novice writing in 3POV to produce a first draft in 1POV.

Iron Lady Movie

I saw the Iron Lady the other night and although Meryl Streep is outstanding I would give the film only seven out of ten. A number of people have found the depiction of Margaret Thatcher old and suffering from dementia disturbing, I thought this was the better part of the film. The way she believes her husband Denis is  still alive and has imagined conversations with him was depicted well. Meryl Streep gave a very convincing performance here. The Iron Lady rummages through Denis’ possesions and these are used to link to a series of flashbacks to her earlier life and career as politician and Prime Minister.
Its the flashbacks that I had a problem with. There were far too many and meant that only a few minutes could be spent on each scene. This lessened their dramatic impact, although these all demonstrated Meryl Streep’s superb acting. She had Mrs T down to a T.

Writing – Characterization

Anne Aylor’s second session was on characterization. Some bullet points:

Give your characters free reign.

You need to show people with their flaws.

Notebook your characters: what do they like to eat, their key experiences, moments of epiphany.

Write short stories about your characters.

Show don’t tell.

The main cast of characters shouldn’t be too big (3 or 4 max).

 We also talked about the importance of naming your characters well. I’m still in the early stages of planning my second novel, but one character in it will be a thirty something male police detective. Off the top of my head I came up with Jack Deegan, but after discussing it with the group I changed it to Andy Deegan. You heard it here first.

Book Signing at Waterstones

I’ve arranged my very first book signing. Its with Waterstones at their Richmond upon Thames branch on Saturday 28th January from 12 to 3. I’ve had some posters printed for the event.

I’ve also joined the Goodreads community, although I had a problem trying to join their Author Program. The Banker wasn’t on their database so I tried to import it from Amazon but the import program didn’t seem to work.

Writing – Getting Started

I’ve started going again to creative writing classes with Anne Aylor.  A couple of years ago I went to a few of her classes while writing The Banker. What I liked about her classes that as well as tutorials there are plenty of writing practice sessions on a given theme. Usually 3 or 4 students would read their work and the rest of us would comment.  So in a couple of hours you get to listen to several different writing styles.

The first topic was getting started writing your novel.  I won’t attempt to summarize all we covered, just some of the points made.

Write little but often. Just 250 words a day will result in 81,000 at the end of a year (70,000 words is regarded as the minimum for a full-length novel).

Immerse yourself in your characters and their worlds. Think about what clothes they own , what shoes they might wear for a night on the town.

You don’t have to start at the beginning; the writing need not be linear. Start where your ideas are flowing.

Always have a writer’s notebook, preferably bound, to hand.

A few quotes from the class:

A good writer finds it difficult to write.  – Thomas Mann

Stop when you get to an interesting place. – Ernest Hemingway

Write first, think later. – Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway’s a good source for quotes, he not only wrote prolifically but he had a lot to say about the writing process.  I’ve come across another version of that last quote:

Write drunk, edit sober.