#WritersResources: Interviewing Bartholomew (Bunty) Hargreaves

This year’s #bloganuary prompts from WordPress included the interviewing of a fictional character, which I thought might fit here rather well. So I decided to interview one of the secondary characters from November Deadline – initially thinking I’d focus on one of those who would have a place in the on-going series, when I remembered the work I’d done on the character of our bad guy Bunty.

In the first draft he was only seen through the eyes of others, without a voice of his own. When we came to expand the work, we decided to include a portion from Bunty’s point-of-view, which was when I really had to get to know Bunty properly. Using K M Weiland’s 100+ Questions to help you interview your Character and the 35 questions attributed to Proust, I came to understand in more depth the man who’d started out as as a shadowy cipher, and so to find his voice.

When I carried out my getting to know “interview”, I spoke of Bunty in the third person, so I decided to re-work it and to select questions which a society journalist may have asked a young man of money and property at the time. I hope these will give you a good idea of the Bunty we came to know – if not love.

J: Today I met Bartholomew Hargreaves. After the tragic death of first his older brother in the final stages of the war and, more recently, his father in a shooting accident, Mr Hargreaves inherited the family estate. He subsequently decided to make London his permanent base and agreed to meet me for tea at the Ritz, just around the corner from his offices in Piccadilly. He arrived, impeccably attired from head to toe in a made-to-measure grey wool Saville Row suit, pristine white shirt, pale blue silk tie with matching silk ‘kerchief, and immaculate black Oxfords. A pale blue woollen scarf and leather gloves were his only concessions to the chilly weather.

J: Mr Hargreaves, thank you for agreeing to meet me.
B: Bunty, please. Bartholomew makes me feel like a small boy in trouble.
J: Bunty it is, thank you.
J: May I ask, were your schooldays not happy then?
B: No, no – nothing like that at all. But even I was summoned once or twice to the headmaster’s office – if only for the most minor of transgressions.
J: Ah, I see.
J: We’ve not had the pleasure of your company much in London up to now. What made you decide to move here after you inherited your family estate?
B: Well, the estate all but runs itself and I have no real interest in countryside affairs. As to why London, I’ve long wanted to be here, especially now I am free to pursue my own interests without family interference.
J: You mentioned your offices are around the corner from here. What business are you engaged in?
B: Property. A significant number of people decided to get out of London after the war, so I’ve been able to pick up a lot of property well below its true value. Even those with bomb damage will get me a good price once things return to normal and people decide they want to return.
J: You’ve been seen about town of late with Lady Michaela. Are your families connected in some way?
B: We have a mutual friend – Robert Cavendish.
J: Ah yes, the Colonel. Many thought there would be wedding bells heard there – with him and her ladyship.
B: Really? I saw no sign of it. Indeed I thought Lady Michaela rather too high-handed with Robert for him to want her for a wife.
J: I see. What about wedding bells for Lady Michaela with you?
B: I think not.
J: How did you come to meet the Colonel?
B: He was assigned to my team in the later stages of the war. I suspect he found the cultural nature of the work not quite his thing. He was apt to seek out my company, what with the other team members being mostly academics, he’d have found them rather a bore. We met up again recently and he suggested Lady Michaela might introduce me to the right sort of people in London. What with attending University in Germany, my service during the war, and then home to support my father, I find I’m rather new to London society.
J: You chose a German University over those in this country – why was that?
B: Why ever not? Heidelberg has an excellent international reputation, and it was an opportunity to improve my German from fluency in conversation to written.
J: You speak German?
B: Fluently.
B: Of course my mother was German. During my childhood we had many wonderful holidays in Germany visiting her family home. It’s where I – where we all – made good friends. Some have suggested a degree of naivety about what was to come, but when you have family…
J: So have you found a use for that fluency?
B: It was certainly an asset during my service. I was working with a team tasked with tracking down missing art works, and most of my fellow team members had no such fluency.
J: Do you do business with Germany?
B: I do business with a number of countries.
J: But having served and seen what happened there, you don’t have any problems in working with Germans?
B: None at all.
B: What I mean to say is I have a different outlook having known Germans all my life. And – of course – the politicians insist we must move forward, and the country be re-assimilated.
J: Of course. May I ask, what are your preferred leisure pursuits?
B: I ski. I’m a decent enough shot, and I ride – of course.
J: Do you hunt?
B: If invited.
J: You mother was a keen rider and huntswoman. Your brother also?
B: Yes, yes. But I am not my brother.
J: What about cultural pursuits – do you have an interest in the arts?
B: I go to the theatre – a comedy, or a musical, not Shakespeare or its ilk.
J: Art galleries or music?
B: No galleries, no. And classical music – only Beethoven.
J: Do you intend to make London your permanent home or return to the country at some point?
B: For now, yes. As to the future, it depends what it brings.
J: Do you aim to marry – are you looking for a wife?
B: It isn’t foremost in my plans, but yes I’ve no doubt that is in my future.
J: If you were a young lady about town then, what qualities would you need to turn the head of Bunty Hargreaves?
B: I enjoy the company of many young ladies.
J: Yes, of course, but we’re talking of marriage now.
B: For marriage, let me think. Blond, pretty, feminine. Softly-spoken, prefers to be in the background, good with managing the household and children.
J: Old fashioned then?
B: A woman who holds traditional values.
J: Thank you Bunty, for a most enlightening afternoon.

With that my host rose, put on his gloves and scarf, and gave me a small bow and, if I’m not mistaken, almost a click of the heels and was gone. After he’d left, the waiter – somewhat embarassed – presented me with the bill.

PostScript: In our current re-drafting, Bunty’s chapters are being re-written with a changed POV, nevertheless I found this a really useful exercise which I’ll use again in the future.

© Debra Carey, 2022


#SecondThoughts: Avoid alliteration. Always.

Alphabetical Africa, by Walter Abish, is the kind of eccentric novel that you have to really work at – but it is incredibly clever. The first chapter is written using only words that begin with ‘a’. With every chapter, the next letter of the alphabet is added until the full alphabet is available; from that point though, letters are dropped until the last chapter returns to the same restriction as the first.

I’m not sure I’d want to have a go at writing something like that, but I think that most writers, at some point or another, enjoy having a go at something experimental. At the very least, there’s always something that is considered to be some kind of rule that you feel that you want to rebel against.

The thing about a lot of writing ‘rules’ is that people tend to focus on the sound bite and fail to look at the more nuanced case behind it. Eliminate adverbs, for example, is supposed to help you produce a cleaner form of writing. Using an adverb means that you should have used a stronger verb, they say. For myself, I think it’s a piece of advice that can help you in the editing phase, but you shouldn’t just take all the adverbs round the back and shoot them. Adverbs, if used sparingly, can be powerful, in a subtle kind of way. For example, ‘run’ is not a stronger verb to replace ‘walk quickly’. If you walk quickly, you’re walking with purpose; if you hurry, there’s possibly a certain nervous urgency to your action.

‘Avoid alliteration, always’ is a piece of advice that I’ve seen floating around for years. If Abish had followed this advice then there would be one less odd book for us to ponder over. Some might say that would be a good thing…

However, is the advice genuine? Or is it a joke? Alliteration is taught in schools, so why should we avoid it?

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to be given a copy of Mark Forsyth’s Etymologicon, which explores the etymology of a range of words, with each explanation following on from the last, and the last entry linking back to the first. For someone interested in words, and how they are related, the book is fascinating. On the basis of my enjoyment of the book, I put in a request for some of Forsyth’s other work, and so have recently been able to make a start on ‘The Elements of Eloquence’. The first chapter, as you might have guessed, is on alliteration.

Alliteration is one of the tools of rhetoric – the black art and subtle science of persuading people to your point of view by talking to them. As with many of the ‘rules’ around writing, the answer is not to avoid it always, but rather to deploy it for effect in the right places. Alliteration is a way of generating a certain rhythm to a piece, to hammer home a point. But. But. And again, but. It is all to easy to over-egg the pudding. It might be thought that Alphabetical Africa is far too much of a good thing, but Abish deliberately goes too far, and in so doing makes a point. If he’d done any less, then it would have reduced the impact of what he was attempting. Instead, by going the whole hog, the alliteration is a statement.

However, alliteration allowed to run amok, an attempt at Art, is usually amazingly atrocious and should not be accepted. What had not occurred to me before though, assuming alliteration must always use the same letter in a given sentence, is that the rhetorical ruse can be used usefully with different letters.

Ahem. The point, as ever, is that you can have too much of a good thing. Don’t avoid alliteration, but do use it sparingly. Save it for special occasions. Like any tool, learn to use it safely, for the right purpose, and it can add sparkle to your scribbles.

© David Jesson, 2022

#FF Prompt: The Story – Kitchen Witchery

Late on parade this month, but here it is….

A Witch’s gotta do what a Witch’s gotta do!

It had been another cold start to the day, her breath forming clouds in the air as soon as she poked her head above the cocoon of blankets under which Esther slept. She’d been tempted to stay there in that comfortable cocoon, but knew things wouldn’t start to improve until she got the range lit.

As always, she’d put out the fixings beside the range, so she simply had to rake it out before re-laying the fire and getting it going. As she’d need to heat some water before she was able to wash, Esther’s regular practice was to put on yesterday’s underthings under her clothes, while she busied herself with the morning’s cleaning – the physical labour would help her get warm before the range started to pump out heat. This morning, the windows needed scraping of ice – a little thicker than it had been so far this year, so Esther was glad she’d not planted out her herbs during that warm spell. She knew others had, but something told her winter wasn’t done with them yet this year. It made the inside of her small home very crowded, but those herbs were critical for her business, so it had to be borne.

The rest of the morning had gone as normal. With the regular cleaning chores finished, Esther had washed and dressed in fresh underthings, putting the previous days into a pot of hot water ready for her to wash, before hanging out to dry as soon as the sun – such as it was – hit her garden.

Earlier than usual, there was a knock at the door. Pushing aside her irritation at having to interrupt her final morning chores, Esther slid aside the small peephole in her door. On the other side stood a young girl she knew by sight, but had never seen at her door. The girl was crying, but – as was her practice – Esther wouldn’t allow her in. The girl spoke, telling her tale between sobs, until Esther confirmed she had what was wanted , and a price was a agreed. But something made Esther send her away, with instructions to meet later in the village marketplace.

Returning to her scrubbing, Esther marvelled at how many local women had been beguiled by the village blacksmith. You’d think the word would get around about his nature – but no. She’d always determined it wasn’t for her to judge, and she was careful to give each a stern warning that the effects would wear off after a period of time. She made sure to supply only enough for one draught, making clear it wasn’t effective after the first time. But each woman had decided to take the risk, convinced they’d be the one to keep him when he awoke from his dream state.

Hanging out her clothes a bit later than she’d liked, Esther was still pondering on that morning’s encounter. If only the local mayor wasn’t such an ass, she’d talk to him. This morning’s visitor was really too young, but Esther could not turn to her mother, for she knew her to be a silly woman, – one who’d previously bought the self-same love potion to use on the blacksmith herself. What other woman of good sense could she turn to?

When no candidate emerged, Esther determined she wouldn’t sell her love potion until the situation with the blacksmith was resolved, but knew she’d have to get rid of her current stock publicly to ensure no-one attempted to break into her home. Love was not only blind, but it could also turn people into crazed creatures – and her home was her sanctuary, she’d not stand for intruders.

Preparing for her trip into town, Esther loaded her cart up with the last of the love potion. It was a shame, but it had to be done – at least until the local menfolk developed a backbone. She had plans for a new tincture to add to the local well which should sort them out. But till then….

© Debra Carey, 2022

#IWSG: The making of an audio book

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. It’s an opportunity to talk about doubts and fears you have conquered. To discuss your struggles and triumphs and to offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

April 6 question – Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

I have nothing published, so I can answer the first part of that question with a simple “no” 🙂

But I’d like to go on and answer the second part of that question by looking at the challenge of producing an audiobook of my co-authored WIP, The November Deadline.

We have four primary characters, with a couple of secondary ones (we’re still deciding how many of them will survive the next round of drafting). There’s a range of accents from upper class English, via cockney English, to west country English, to Welsh, with a mix of male and female characters. Chapters are all in first person point-of-view, with each character featuring, so mastering the accents enough to be authentic, but not so much that it becomes undecipherable, is the primary challenge. Of course, some of that would be down to our dialogue decisions, but an actor/narrator who can manage this tricky task well would certainly be worth every bit of their voice-over fee.

The awesome co-hosts for the April 6 posting of the IWSG are Joylene Nowell Butler, Jemima Pett, Patricia Josephine, Louise – Fundy Blue, and Kim Lajevardi – do take a moment to visit them.

While you’re here, can I tempt you with a #FlashFiction prompt?

Every month, we run a different #FF prompt and this month it’s a PhotoPrompt with a poster entitled Kitchen Witchery.

If you’re inspired to give this a go, you can get full details here.

© Debra Carey, 2022

#FlashFiction Photo Prompt

Gearsly Kitchen Witchery Poster

We haven’t had a photo prompt yet this year, so it seemed like a good time to chuck one in 🙂 I feel this one allows scope for a story to go in any number of directions – so, pick your genre and give it a go.

Word count: anything from a drabble upwards
Deadline: 8am GMT on Sunday 10th April 2022

If you can’t make this deadline, don’t forget you can use our #TortoiseFlashFiction page.

A reminder to new readers/writers, please post on your own site and add a link in the comments section below.  If you don’t have your own blog or similar outlet, do send us your story via the contact form on the About page and we’ll post for you, with an appropriate by-line – you retain the copyright.

One caveat, if you want to go down this route: this is a family show, so we reserve the right not to post anything that strays into NSFW or offends against ‘common decency’.