Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

According to American humourist Gene Fowler, writing is easy: you just have to stare at a blank page until drops of blood form on your forehead.

[Note to the long-dead Mr Fowler: my forehead has been geysering in a Monty Pythonesque fashion onto my computer screen for days now, but it isn’t getting any easier.]

I tried to blame my two-day-old headache on the decaffeinated beans that I found in my grinder. But then the discovery of Il Perfetto Espresso in a dusty recess of the larder put paid to that theory. After two cups, the head still hurt. And I think I know why.

The word count on the work-in-progress ground to a halt just shy of the 44,000 word count, while I prowled, growled and pawed at my keyboard. Not writing, but paying bills, finishing quarterly accounts and filling in the BAS that’s due Monday. When I flicked back to the WIP, nothing happened. My brain bled like stink, but the words, they just wouldn’t come.

Then Kim Wilkins popped up on facebook – Kim is writing crap, but at least she’s writing – and jealousy spiked through my veins. Wot a skite.

I’d kill to write crap. But I’m literarily constipated – blogstipated, as Belinda Jeffrey would say – and my dear departed dad’s words keep buzzing round inside my skull like blowflies: “Shit, or get off the pot.”

I know, I know. Straining doesn’t help and busting my foofer valve will just add to my woes. But I can’t walk away and do something else. Not with the WIP in crisis.

So I’ve been tinkering with the problem, hunched over my writer’s toolbox, showing my crack.  I think I’ve located the blockage. A couple of main characters that need the screws tightened, that need to be pushed harder and further, to force them to drop the mask and reveal their true natures.

Writers know that true character only comes out under pressure; the greater the pressure, the greater the revelation. If you want to find out if a character has iron in her filings, hit her hard as you can, right in the heart. Force her to act because it is her choices under pressure that will define her.

I’ve been going too easy on her, I can see that now.  I’ve let my sympathy for what’s she’s been through cloud my judgement. It’s time to hitch up the duds and wipe the blood from my brow.

It’ll take a big wrench to fix it, but that’s OK. I’ve got one in my writer’s toolbox.

People will always look for a reason. Antecedents, the courts call it. Probative and prejudicial. For mitigation or explanation. It doesn’t matter to me.  I am what I am. A self-confessed cereal killer.

I make no excuses, so don’t try to blame it on a deprived childhood. Other people had what I had. A choice between Weet Bix and Vita Brits.

But they didn’t grow up to suffocate Rice Bubbles. Crush them into dust. Drown them to make mud. Then dispose of the evidence.

The early signs were all there. Like cruelty to dumb animals. Feeding my six brothers Froot Loops until they ricocheted off the fibro walls of our shack in the sticks.  It was a long way to town; a girl had to make her own fun.

The fire-starting, I date back to clearing brigalow in the seventies. We’d celebrate by throwing potatoes into the base of burning stumps. It trained me to rake through coals to retrieve food.  I do the same with my own kids. Tell ’em it’s toasted meusli.

My mum would take out her angst on the porridge bowl. Gave it a damn good beating most mornings. Do the same thing myself. Intergenerational transmission of behaviour, the shrinks call it.

I call it the one clear warning you will get. Don’t mess with a perimenopausal writer before coffee. Ever.

Am I escalating? The evidence is mounting. Blackened saucepans litter the pots cupboard; unresponsive now to the once reviving power of boiling vinegar and baking powder.

The eleven-year-old has started cooking for herself and for her younger brother too. Each night, she sees the glaze film my eyes as I head on autopilot towards the kitchen. She intercepts me, steers me gently but firmly back to the keyboard.

She pats my hand. Her voice is soft in my ear. “It’s OK, Mum. It’s OK.”

[Editor’s note: Christine Bongers needs to get back into writing her crime novel. It has been languishing at 43,000 words for too long.]

It is said that the jaws of writers run red from cannibalising the lives around them. Having supped, long and deep, on a vein of my own experience, I hunger for the smorgasbord offered by the lives of others.

Don’t worry, if you see me staring at you strangely, in a queue at the deli, or listening in on your chatter, from an adjoining table in the mall. I promise not to devour your life, not all of it anyway. I’ll just chew on tender morsels, savouring the tastes and textures of a life that is not my own.

You are safe out there in the messy space of reality. But don’t ever try to follow me home, into the realm of fiction, where story is king.

In my lair I suck secrets from marrow, pluck out hearts’ desires, stoke the blackest of fears. I will take that tender morsel that was once some part of you and make it forever mine. I might serve it up fresh and raw, or marinate it in creative juices, turning it constantly and slow-cooking it until so tender you won’t even notice the meat fall away from your bones…

So beware when you see me and others of my kind. When our eye falls on you, it will sear the flesh, sealing in juices and creating tender morsels on which others may feast.  Killer stories that make the juices flow.

[Editor’s note: Christine Bongers is now officially back into writing her crime novel The Lonely Dead. If the school holidays had gone one day longer, her children may not have survived.]