Dialogue is one of the most difficult aspects of writing. At least it is for me. First of all, there’s the punctuation. Then there’s the way a character speaks and with it, all the related mannerisms – these have to be consistent throughout. Then, is the character actually speaking at all or am I relating thoughts, not words, passing through his/her head? Then there’s the nature of the character. Good or bad? Yes. Really. It’s important to me. Is it just me?
Good characters are usually doing good things, and, quite honestly, good things can be boring. Sometimes the things that they are doing are so good, it’s cringeworthy and it’s difficult not to make them sound overbearing, pompous even. Let’s be honest – it’s difficult at that point not to edit them out altogether. Writing is a solitary profession at the best of times and that’s only accentuated when you’re sitting there for endless periods of time trying to breathe life into these self-obsessed bloated do-gooders. As you’ve probably guessed, in DELYRIUM you won’t find too many of them. In fact, you might have to search fairly assiduously to find even one. Everyone, even the best of us, has a few flaws, and it’s much more interesting to accentuate those flaws.
Which brings us to the flip side of the coin. The ne’er do wells, the villains, those who ooze evil from every pore. This is where I begin to worry. Is it just me?
Imagine, if you would, that I’m sat not at a laptop, but at an old-fashioned typewriter. Pluck any of the dubious characters at will from the pages of DELYRIUM and further imagine that I’m about to start writing about them. It could be Emperor Muramotek or any one of his brood; it could be the arch-demon Azrahôtep; it could even be the utterly despicable Kastorcellex; joy of joys, it could be all of them together! Watch in dismay as my fingers dance across the keys, their movement almost too quick to follow, as the carriage slams from one side to the other without pause, as reams of completed pages flutter down over my shoulder. Of course, even I can’t envisage this – would that I could ever type so fast – but you get the picture. I seem to be allied to the dark side. I always preferred the Klingons to the Federation. Why did those damn Hobbits have to interfere and stop the ring getting back to Sauron? Why couldn’t Steerpike rule over Gormenghast? Wasn’t there a potion strong enough to get rid of Dr. Jekyll altogether?
Is it just me or are there more of you out there? A soothing thought … that’s it! This worrying alliance is a mere figment of my imagination. You think so? Well consider this little anecdote and think again.
Canmore is an idyllic mountain town to the west of Calgary, in Alberta. It is where most of this book was written. Only one thing occasionally shatters that idyll. It is the shadow of a raven floating across the trees, the rooftops, the river, causing small furry animals to scurry for cover, mothers to snatch up their new-born infants and take them indoors. These birds soar imperiously over the town like feathered pterodactyls, seeking out their prey. Their guttural calls echo up and down the valley. Very annoying if you’re trying to write a book, which on this particular day, is exactly what I was doing.
I was in the middle of Chapter 13 (it would have to be, wouldn’t it): The Summoning. Vile Azrahôtep, sorcerer of Mor, was once again going about his nefarious profession, and, I quote: “Evil clung to this monument. It was etched into every one of its four slender faces.” I looked up at that point. The door was open onto the upper deck of the house, and staring through it, directly at me, was a raven. It was perched on the roof opposite.
“Nausea gripped him whilst Azrahôtep continued his rant.” I looked up again. Two ravens.
“A sickening light had developed at the base of the monolith, within its core. If ever a light could have been deemed unholy, this was it.” Three ravens.
“Agitated shrieks from the peak of the monolith, intermingled with keening howls of anticipation.” Four ravens.
“… Azrahôtep stepped forward again to scandalize all that was pure and good in that remote valley by reciting the text chiseled into the next layer of panels.” Five ravens.
And there they sat. For a very long time. Just staring at me. If they’d even flapped their wings. Or started shrieking at me. But no. They just sat and stared.
You’ll find, if you care to read up to Chapter 13 and beyond, that a certain monolith now has five slender sides.