Patrick Cunningham

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'The Three Weddings of Benjamin Howes' is set in 1820s Britain, mainly London. A well-educated, well…
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  •  · Spot on; so obvious.Back to the keyboard then.Thank you!

As a 6' 2" black man, I can relate to how both parties would feel in this situation. I keep distance and sometimes even cross roads when passing women at night. I notice discomfort in body language

I've done that a few times - and I'm white, but 6' 3".

in the past it used to be taken for granted that people were described by their skin colour or sexuality 

Ah yes, but only of they weren't white and heterosexual!

But that's flippant. The casual use of 'gay', or 'black' as a first point of call to identify who someone is can betray latent racism, but too many people (mostly white) are so terrified of being perceived as racist that they can't bring themselves to use skin colour as one of a variety of defining features to identify someone; 'that guy over there, the one in the corner' 'what, the guy with the long hair?' 'no, the other one, the one with his side to us, the one who's a bit taller' when 'no, the asian guy standing next to the black guy' is more appropriate, obvious and straightforward, and could just as easily have been 'no, the white guy next to the group of black guys'. All a bit clumsy, but you get what I mean?

I love to know about people, about their backgrounds. My family are pretty mixed, though European (Irish, English, German, Hungarian Jewish, a bit of Huguenot) so when I come across someone casually who looks or sounds like they are from interesting origins I'm quite happy to open up a conversation about that. But my son once called me out on it as being unacceptably intrusive. Maybe he's right, but after sometimes a bit of initial reticence - understandable if they've previously had that 'where are you from?' 'Bulgaria' 'why don't you go home' conversation, pretty much everyone is happy that you are interested in them.

What I want to say is that if what is perceived as 'acceptable' gets in the way of straightforward human communication, then in my book it is unacceptable.

Given the insight and incisiveness of your comments on these forums I would have been very surprised if that was your taste Alison! Enjoy 'The Kitchen God's Wife' - it sounds like my kind of book - and let me know when you've finished if you fancy giving mine a look. I won't send it now, it will give me a bit of time to do that edit. Actually I do love it as it is, but with what I've learned hereabouts I accept that I can improve my chances of getting it published by pushing it a bit closer to those rules - and I accept that it might make it a bit more compelling in our short attention-span era.

And thanks for the encouragement; we all need that!

Mary Ann is definitely feisty, and she does become a feminist, though of course she didn't know what that was. But she was also the victim of violent abuse at the hands of her father and suffered from victim guilt and PTSD. She wasn't scheming in the way you imply, and resisted when Benjamin proposed under very difficult circumstances. The story is much more complex than your description; if you're looking for a bodice ripper this ain't it. You probably will think it's over thought; it has it's share of descriptive, but I don't think it's overdone - but you might; I have no idea what you read for pleasure.

I didn't plan to include these aspects, but they came into the story anyway. It was the story that drove the writing, not me seeking a vehicle to talk about specific issues.

If you want to read more I'm happy to send you the whole thing as it is, but after discussions here I'm aware that it will benefit from a further edit.

In the meantime, thank you again, for getting right to the heart of the problem I knew I had but couldn't identify.

Spot on; so obvious.

Back to the keyboard then.

Thank you!


You can judge for yourself if you're interested!

The book is finished and edited. But after joining this place I have also leaned a lot; so now I need to do yet another edit!

I like your 'here's a thought'; it pretty much matches my own conclusions. I'm confident that it will be published, and I don't want to self-publish. But that might change. I have reached the conclusion that the slush pile is too cold a place for me - I love the heat! Actually, this process here on Jericho is part of the destiny you talked about, to add more polish before - yes, before that person who the other person knows will suggest it to their friend. Which is why I'm sending it out to as many beta-readers as I can!

And ... I do like my book! It has taken ten years.

Hi Georgina. I'm white but I work with indigenous people from the Amazon and I have friends of all nationalities and races. I'm not going to comment on the writing because others have done that very adequately, but I would totally encourage you to use your writing to explore racism, both overt and subconscious. Replacing your social worker of colour with a white person would be completely wrong. I think your exposure of the subconscious racism which was almost universal in rural England at that time, even amongst liberal-minded and consciously anti-racist people, just because of the environment they grew up in, is very accurate. Certainly you could do it with a little more finesse in the writing, having read the comments of others here. The more you can do it in a way which is just part of the story rather than sounding like an 'issue' that you want to include for ideological reasons the better.

Non-white friends criticise writers for adopting a colour-blind approach; they want racism to be discussed, to be exposed, because that is the way it will eventually be consigned to history.

Do find some people of colour to beta read for you, and listen carefully to them.

Including racist characters in your writing is not racist. It is what you do with them that matters.

I have immense sympathy for your feelings Alison! I've been trying to reconcile my own feelings about how to 'sell' my work based on - essentially - the first paragraph or two, or at best the first page or two, with what, if I were more pretentious, I might call my integrity.

Some stories lend themselves to a crash-bang beginning, others (especially in history fiction) start more gently. I get that it's more the writing style that slush-pile readers are looking for rather than the story itself (at least in theory), but limiting their attention to such a tiny bit of text will subconsciously lead them to prefer stories which start with drama, regardless of the quality of the writing.

In addition, those slush-pile readers are rarely the agents themselves, they are interns or assistants - or occasionally someone subcontracted to sift through the dross, leaving the agent to read through maybe ten percent. Yes, they get a huge amount of mediocre stuff, and busy agents don't have time to look at every submission, but still a lot of really good stuff is without doubt falling through the cracks, because its subtlety fails immediately to excite readers who haven't developed an appreciation of such things.

I often wonder how few of what we now consider to be classics of English literature would have made it through in the modern day. I also wonder how much the strictures of style and structure taught on creative writing courses are resulting in only much blander books making it through. Do we have to do a boilerplate first book to snare an agent/publisher so that we will be permitted to write how we want to on the second?

I've taken on board many of the criticisms and suggestions. It is now 200 words shorter, and I've done away with the flashback. I am grateful for your previous comments, and I would really appreciate any comments you might have about this new version. Many thanks!

Charles Dickens was the master of this. His books started life as series, one chapter per issue in a magazine, so it was important for him that he got his readers hooked, and that they had some 'expectations' :-) for the next chapter. Sometimes it was a question embedded in the main storyline, but often it was something quite inconsequential to the story, but which nonetheless piqued the reader's 'curiosity'. It might remain unanswered by the end of the next chapter; or it might be answered in the first few words. But there was always something left hanging. Learn from the master!

It's very difficult to advise on this without reading the text, but I just wonder if you do really need to reveal his true name at this point? What do you achieve by doing so? Is there a danger that you will detract from the impact of the 'final' reveal? Perhaps it would be better to thow in a hint that there may be a question over his identity without being specific, to build the mystery, explain whatever character traits you might be using this fact to illustrate, without the specific reveal. You can still get him to kill off the other guy; hint at some deeply personal reason without the detail. Allow your reader to build their own reasons in their imagination rather than feed them with 'facts'. Of course I may be well off the mark here; it's just a thought.

My issue on names was much simpler; when to use the full name and when to use the abbreviation/nickname - Benjamin/Ben, Henry/Harry. I laboured over this for a while until I decided on a set of rules, which fed into the next edit. Then I proceeded to break them, just because it made more sense in specific cases!

If you are sticking with the reveal, you need to decide on your own rule on whose voice uses which name and stick with it. It depends on so many things. If you want that point of view to switch back to using the assumed name, you can; you just need to flag it up - 'Jim resented having to go back to using the name he hated' or something not too direct but marking the change.

Also, take care on how cavalier you are with switching point of view; too many switches are confusing and can disturb the flow of the narrative.

... but it does work in Libreoffice. As does changing three dots/stops into an ellipsis - same rules:

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