A quick blog sparked by two things. First (and I hesitate to write this because putting it on paper commits me to follow through on it), I decided at last to start on a sequel to The Figurehead. That doesn’t appear until May, so that gives me time to get ahead of the game. I also thought it might help me to keep track of exactly how I go about writing a novel and how long the various phases take. So today I went to the library and got out three books on the history of Aberdeen in the 19th century to refresh my memory about it all and maybe give me a few clues as to where the novel will take me. I already have the main characters. This is the start of the search for what they get up to, who gets killed, whether anyone falls in love with anyone else (and admits it), and so on. So I guess this is the beginning of the research phase. (The books are on the desk unopened. Tonight there’s a football match on TV, so today doesn’t count.)
The second spark came as I was about to leave for the library. A company for which I write commercial stuff phoned then sent me a document asking for ideas on a specific training programme. I won’t name the creators of the document but it was written in the type of English that has become prevalent under New Labour in the UK. It’s language designed not to say something but to hide it in order that they can duck responsibility for any information that might accidentally be conveyed. Here’s a taster:
“The materials for each module will directly relate to and be interspersed with web-based exercises or reflective interaction. Therefore, it is envisaged that a mini-series of visual materials will be used to enhance each module. The voiceovers or visual materials with each visual subsection will prompt the viewer to undertake the web-based components and acknowledge their return to the next instalment of the visual material. Reference to the correct web-based section will be used to create an overall impression of a journey through the module.”
There were three pages of this (although the full document apparently ran to thirty-two pages). I’ve collected many such examples of confused and confusing emptiness from commercial (and, tragically, academic) sources over the years and I’ll put some of them in a blog soon. I’m sharing this with you so that you’ll understand why I sometimes question the whole process of evolution. This was written by someone in charge of supplying training services, in other words an educator and communicator. He (I bet it’s a he) should be strapped to a chair and have these words soaked in vinegar (or worse) and fed to him as a sort of verbal porridge – preferably up his nostrils (decorum prevents me from articulating alternative routes to his digestive system).