Sunday, 24 November 2013

Drama in an Engineering Firm

With The Reckless Engineer I wanted to create an engineering hero and a series about an engineering firm. The only hero in fiction I can think of who is an engineer is Barney from the Mission Impossible TV series. There is Q from the Bond series, but he is an old and geeky supporting character working from a bunker. There are so many legal and medical dramas, but where are the dramas centred on engineering firms?  I wanted to bring an engineering drama to life, treated for an audience not familiar with the profession the same way that legal and medical dramas are.

Jac Wright, Author, British, Mystery, Legal, Thriller, Suspense, The Reckless Engineer

The environment of an engineering firm in reality is just like in the book, so much so that this could be non-fiction but for the murder set in the middle of it.  The characters are very realistic. Jack Connor, for instance, is of a somewhat smaller physique and tries to over-compensate for it by going after glamorous women. Women are somehow attracted to his brilliance and confidence at his work and well as the security and the respectability society assigns him because of his profession. Then there are people like Alan, Jack and Jeremy's boss at Marine Electronics, who make it to management positions because they have more people skills, are extrovert, and are better looking. Jeremy's character is still coming into its own and is in transition through the book and the series. He is emerging as a manager and a leader from the subordinate position he has been in so far. And then you have the super rich owners of these engineering businesses like the McAllens. There is also the occasional female engineer like Sally who is very introverted, outmanoeuvred at every opportunity by the much more glamorous and outgoing Michelle. These characters are a cross section of people you would get in an engineering firm in reality.

One important reason I wanted to create a hero like Jeremy was to attract youngsters to the field.  I have deemed this particular story to be for an 18+ audience because it deals with infidelity in the plot. The future books in the series, however, will be very YA friendly. I want young adults to know how entertaining, satisfying, powerful, and glamorous the engineering field is so that they will be attracted to the profession.

An engineer would make a very strong amateur detective. They have brilliant, sharp, and analytical minds that are trained to absorb minute details in the environment. They are strong problem solvers and solution creators; solution creation to difficult problems is what engineers do in their day to day work. If you put a problem or a question before an engineer his mind will switch into solution seeking gear and the question will bug him until he can find an answer, until he comes up with a solution that will surprise those around him. An electronics engineer also has the means and the skills to build gadgets like hidden miniature cameras, miniature microphones, and other electronics surveillance equipment. They are mechanically good with their hands and can, for example, work mechanical locks as well as electronic ones. They have the capacity to hack into anything via software. This is why Jeremy is going to be a super amateur sleuth.

Friday, 22 November 2013

My Winter & Travel Buddy in Bed

As an an electronics engineer and a published author I travel quite a bit on book tours and for work. I also like to go on holiday to exotic locations––to small island destinations and on rough safari adventures.

Away from the comfort of my own bed and with my body clock confused by daylight and time differences, sleep was getting to be a real problem. I used to turn up for book signings and meetings late or sleep deprived and feeling like a zombie; and I have wasted parts of my holidays too tired for the activities.

Jac Wright, Author, The Reckless EngineerThat was before I discovered my old trusty hot water bottle with its fluffy brown cover. I get a sturdy one ever since and like to fill it up fully with boiling water. I like to get a cover made of fleece or brushed cotton that is soft on my feet.

You do not have to wear tight uncomfortable socks in cold weather or with the inadequate covering you get in some hotels. It warms your feet while allowing the rest of your body to stay cooler and puts you into a very deep sleep very fast. It stays warm for over 8 hours and you wake up from a deep sleep feeling fresh and ready to take on the world wherever you are.

People who have been long-suffering insomniacs have told me that it is the cheapest and most effective sleep aid they have had. They love it because it does not have the nasty side effects of sleeping pills that damage your health and at times leave you feeling like a zombie. It is easy to carry; you empty it and pack it flat between your clothes. There is always a source of hot water wherever you travel and it takes just minutes to fill it up and slip it under the covers.

Jac Wright, Author, The Reckless Engineer
It has had the same effect on my family and friends I have shared this tip with, so much so that as winter approaches it has become a great holiday gift idea for the cold months.  I present people who don't already have one with a hot water bottle and fluffy covers of various patterns and colours appealing to the person's age and sex. Often I fill the cover up with surprise gifts, like one would do with a holiday sock.

It is a great travel companion and a holiday gift idea everybody will love.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

My Four Cornerstones of Fiction Writing

Jac Wright, Author, The Reckless Engineer
The deck outside The Mermaid on a misty day.

For me there are four cornerstones that hold up good fiction.
  • The Characters
  • The Plot
  • The World Building
  • Literary Prose & Narrative

I take great care with each of the four aspects in the stories I write, which comes to me naturally, for sacrificing even one aspect makes the story weak and diminishes its value––it makes the story stumble. 

The core of the plot and the main characters usually come to me inextricably interwoven together in a moment of inspiration like a segment of a film or a disjointed dream. For example, I woke up late on a warm summer day this June with an image of a fugitive escaping and running away from an overturned van transporting him to court from prison that had met with an accident. Prisoners wear normal clothing in England, not orange jumpsuits, and they are not in chains.  He runs into the crowds and a bus parked behind a mall to hide among the people only to find that it is a film set.  The actor playing a main character of the movie and the director are having a fight. The actor suddenly punches the director in the face who falls backward. My protagonist fugitive hiding among the supporting film crew catches him and breaks the fall.  The director gets up, wipes the blood off his nose, fires the main actor loudly, and asks him to get out of his movie set.  He turns to my protagonist and asks: ‘You there, what’s your name?’  ‘Art Miller,’ he gives a fake name.  ‘Art, you are playing Michael Fallon. His trailer is yours now. Go with my crew and get dressed.’  And there I have the plot, the main characters, and the first chapter of my standalone book, In Plain Sight.

At this point, the most important aspect is the characters. I am a firm believer if Virgnia Woolf's Bloomsbury school of writing. I give each one of my characters a particular psychology and then keep them true to this psychology through the story. I got interested in Freudian and Jungian schools of psychology during Stanford's Liberal Arts education program and have kept up the study of it over the years. Sometimes my writing is almost a close psychoanalysis of a character or two. I keep my characters true to their particular psychology through the story, and hence they may do a mix of things that are good or bad. However, they always remain true to their particular psychology though they sometimes struggle against it due to the demands from those around them or from their own conscience.

After I have the main plot idea and my main characters I build a world for them, although the world that I build is a little corner of contemporary Britain that we live in.  For me it is very important to do justice to the place that I set the story in (in The Reckless Engineer, that is Portsmouth, London, and Aberdeen, Scotland). My writing will always evoke a strong sense of the towns–
–its sceneries, industries, architecture, and the general atmosphere––painting these for the reader like with a brushstroke. Character and world building go hand in hand for characters cannot exist in a vacuum and must have a world they inhabit and the writer must paint the full picture of the characters in their little corner of the world, bringing the whole scene to life, in the mind of the reader.

One author who excels at world building in very poetic language in his crime fiction is Benjamin Black.  Ian Rankin is also known to favour such literary writing where no aspect is ignored or sacrificed.

I then put my characters with their individual psychologies in the world I build for them and let them drive the story forward. The plot progresses and emerges naturally from the actions of the characters who remain true to their psychology throughout.

For the writing I draw a lot from my training in classic poetry and drama. I tend to use a good amount of imagery and phonetically appealing phrasing to enhance the ambience.  I set most of the scenes as if I were writing a stage drama or a film setting. In fact each novel is a series of 50 or more dramatic scenes.

There are aspects or techniques in addition to the Four Cornerstones above that I engage in my writing. There may be socio-political, ethical, and philosophical commentary interspersed in the narrative. They enhance the structure of the story as well as character building. For example, economic stressrors in the years the story is set in will impact on how the characters act.  

Sacrificing even one of the Four Cornerstones is something I do not do. One must treat all four aspects with respect. It is silly to sacrifice one or the other because the story topples and leans in the direction of the weak cornerstone. I therefore build my stories on my Four Cornerstones of fiction writingCharacters, Plot, World Building, and Literary Prose & Narrative.

Jac Wright, Author, The Reckless Engineer
The Mermaid in Port Solent, Portsmouth