k12050275I’m on a deadline, so of course I’m procrastinating. After all, everyone’s more creative the closer to a deadline they get, right? Today’s procrastination – the word ‘deadline’…

The word deadline. What exactly does it mean? Why deadline? Why not timeline (I know that has another meaning now, but you get the point?) Professor Google tells me that ‘deadline’ means a time or date by which something must be done. I know that, of course. It also tells me that deadline is a line drawn around a prison beyond which prisoners are liable to be shot. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/deadline) This second definition I did not know. But it does make sense. It’s also less horrific than some of the other potential definitions I’d dreamed up for myself. (I’ll leave you to imagine those.)

What I’m not so sure about is how the word evolved from the latter (but earlier) meaning to the former. Again, according to Professor Google, the use of the word has ramped up significantly since the 1970s. Why? Are we a more deadline driven culture now? Or is it a word that’s come in to fashion (relatively) recently to replace something else that was in common usage before then? And is any of this of any use whatsoever in getting through my to do list and hitting my deadlines? (Spoiler – no, not in the slightest.)

For my creative writing friends, I think that ‘deadline’ would be an excellent single word writing prompt (take it if you want – I’d love to see what you come up with!) Once I’ve got over my own immediate deadlines (time bound, not prison related) I might have a go myself.

Oh well – back to my to do list. I have deadlines!

(c) Chris Johnson 2016

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She lives in the void,
the gap between awake and asleep.
Don’t disturb the muse
with questions or mundane concerns,
leave her to think,
to dream ,
to inspire.

(C) Chris Johnson 2016

 

Where to set a novel or story is, for me and I suspect lots of other writers, a key decision. You wouldn’t set a western in northern England (unless you called it Jericho… but that’s probably for a different post). Readers want locations appropriate to the action, and internally consistent timelines and locations (no skipping from Edinburgh to London in five minutes unless you have already introduced technology that makes that possible…and you’re writing in a future fiction/sci fi genre).

I am also quite a visual writer. I like to have a mental picture of my characters and the locations where key bits of action take place. Even if these details aren’t shared with my reader. It just helps me to hold these in mind when I write so that I avoid inconsistency.

I am currently editing a novella for summer release. Part of the action requires my heroine to sit in a coffee shop whilst waiting for the villain of the piece to meet a confederate nearby. It is a pivotal moment in the story, as this is when the heroine first identifies the villain for certain from a range of potential characters. All ok so far? Well, yes. It’s a simple set up,  and not particularly location specific. So what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is this. I had a place in mind when I wrote the scene. And last week I happened to be in the area for the first time in a couple of years. I thought I’d take a wander past. And where there was a coffee shop (with my heroine sat just out of eyesight watching the world go by) with eyeline to the building (with my villains engaged in hurried conversation in a door way) there is now…a hole in the ground and a big sign saying ‘Crossrail’!

It probably doesn’t matter. I referred to the location in passing, but not in such specific detail that a reader would necessarily be able to find it, or frankly want to. And the location is not critical to the story so much as it is simply a place for the action to happen. It could be anywhere really. (Let’s face it, there’s a coffee shop on every street corner anyway). So it really should not matter one jot what is or is not there any more. But..I just have this horrible feeling that my inner editor is going to force me to relocate the scene to somewhere that isn’t a hole in the ground!

Does anyone else have a view on this – either as a writer or a reader? Does it matter of the locations in a novel are real, reimagined or entirely fictitious? And if they are ‘real’…does it spoil the work if the location changes and the novel becomes ‘wrong’? Leave me a comment, let me know what you think?

 

(c) Chris Johnson 2016

Rain rattles against dark window panes.

Commuters curse as buses splash legs.

Late workers empty city centre car parks

and complain to themselves that traffic’s still bad.

The city empties for a moment, awaiting the time

when the action starts again,

at night when all is dark…

 

In corners, secret meets and dangerous buys;

drugs, sex, weapons – all available for a price

if you know where to go, if you know who to ask

anything is available in this night time town.

A different economy, a different world,

The nocturnal, the lost, those working by choice

at night, when all is dark…

 

A bell splits the night, synthetic sounds.

Scalding coffee gulped down with under-done toast,

bleary eyed bus passengers on mobile phones

take back control of the city. These streets

fill with the ambitious, the busy, the well dressed and keen.

For the next ten hours or so, the nocturnal sleep

until night, when all is dark…

 

(c) Chris Johnson 2016

 

Thanks so much to Michelle for the prompt and title for this poem.

In a hotel room a man sits alone.

Head in hands, crying quietly to himself.

Kisses blown down the wire to the love of his life,

after bed time stories read over the phone.

 

He thinks about a drink, almost heads to the bar,

instead, takes out his laptop, works in the near dark.

Heading for promotion, career’s upward arc,

and he won’t have to travel so near and far.

 

(c) Chris Johnson 2016

Between here and nowhere
There is a sign
It marks a crossroads
That no-one uses
It says ‘Gallows Seat’
A poetic name
For the place where
So many died.

Forgotten now, overgrown
Graves without stones
No church in sight
For here lie the bones
Of the convicted and poor
Who danced at the end of the rope

And beneath the ground
Beneath the road
Decaying, forgotten there lie
The mortal remains
Of a man, much maligned
With a stake through his heart
And the lemon in his mouth

For between here and nowhere
Is where we put
The people we want to forget
The ones we hide
The ones who scare
Outsiders, criminals, the ill

‘Not in my back yard!’ We shout
About HS2, the Tram, new homes
And it’s nothing new, it’s always been
That where we want these things
Is between here and nowhere
Somewhere we’ve never heard about
Nowhere that we want to be.

 

(c) Chris Johnson 2016

Horses gallop across a field, their riders in red trumpeting and hooting, jumping over aeons old dry-stone walls and churning the ground to mud. Ranks of men, women and children line up against a wall. Sickles, scythes, knives and rusty shovels at the ready. Blood mud and carnage as they meet. Unearthly sounds break the day, screams from horses, men and ravens waiting their meals. Walls destroyed allow cows and sheep to stand sentinel to the madness, witness to the carnage but too afraid to get any closer. Hours later survivors pick over the corpses looking for their loved ones, their sons, husbands, lovers, or filching clothes and valuables from the bodies while Valkyries circle, waiting their moment to swoop.

In London the presses run the headlines. ‘The revolution has begun’

 

(c) Chris Johnson 2016