Writing is a cool thing to do. You have an idea, you write a story, poem or essay about it and you publish it (whichever way you want to, doesn’t matter). People then read it. However, many people can read something without ever letting you know that they actually liked it. Which is the uncool thing about being an author. Without reviews you can never tell if people are actually enjoying the story, nor whether they like your characters, like your actual writing style.
That makes unsolicited feedback so special. I was just tagged in a post on Facebook which led me to a blog post titled Worms vs Potatoes, a comparison of two anthologies published by Knights Watch Press. My story, Well and truly sporked, is in the Potatoes anthology and I was very touched to see the following statement.
“Well and Truly Sporked by Matthew Sylvester is a spud dug up served unwashed with gritty soil rumbling onto the plate. A hard-knock tale set in the land of loan sharks and violence. A competent story that uses the potato theme well and leaves a nice little after taste with a neat reveal at the end.”
This was a very hard story for me to write for a couple of reasons. The first was that I had never written a crime story before. It’s a genre I enjoy reading (more at the light end of the scale however), but not something I ever thought that I would do myself.
The second reason it was so hard was because I did it from the mindset of a criminal. I don’t, can’t, and never will empathise with hardened criminals. I can’t even play computer games such as Grand Theft Auto because I don’t enjoy getting into the mindset of such people. I’d rather be the cop beating them up in a back room with a phone book.
The final reason was because this bloke is absolutely abhorrent. He’s not just a criminal, he’s a complete and utter piece of scum. His reasonings, moral code, and outlook on life are completely at odds with mine. It made me feel dirty writing about him. Which is why, as an author, it was a good exercise to write this character.
I actually tried to do a follow-up story for the Cadavers anthology but I misread the guidelines and so didn’t submit it. The chap in that story was also a completely and utterly fucked-up human being. So much so that some people who read the story on this blog thought that the narrative reflected my own views. Which I think is ridiculous, rather like equating actors with the scummy characters that they play, but that’s another post.