Fear and Loathing in Milton Keynes

I had to go to Milton Keynes over the weekend with work and since it’s a 6 hour round trip I had plenty of time for thought and contemplation.  Admittedly my main area of thought and contemplation should have been the motorway, but when you’re driving somewhere you’ve been many times it tends not to be an issue – the old autopilot kicks in.

Now I should just add so there’s no confusion, I don’t loathe Milton Keynes.  It’s a weird place because it was a ‘new town’ and as a consequence it was built slightly differently to the rest of the country.  The main streets that go north-south are labelled with an ‘V’ and east-west are labelled with an ‘H’.  So finding your way around can be as simple as V11/H6.  When they designed it they obviously liked roundabouts.  A lot.  An aerial view from Google Maps shows just how many roundabouts there are (it’ll open in a new tab/window).

Anyway, I digress.  For a change.

So, as I was sitting in a traffic jam I started to plan out a story line and in that particular scene it was important that the lead character came across as frightened.  That led me to thinking how I handle different emotions when I write and gear myself up for them.  So I’ve jotted a few of them down – how I get into those emotions and what I think about to evoke those emotions when I’m writing


Now for me I hate moths.  Yeah, I know what you’re thinking – they’re just bland butterflies etc.  But it’s the way their eyes glow in the dark that just gets me.  I’m not such a sissy that I won’t be in the same room as a moth, and I’ll get rid of them but I hate it.  Yes they frighten me, yes it’s irrational.  Still, I’m okay with spiders so I get rid of those and my wife gets rid of the moths.  (Image courtesy of Getty Images)


I hate heights, but only when I don’t feel safe.  I once got stuck on the roof of a bungalow, but I’ve been up the top of the Empire State Building and the World Trade Centre and felt fine.  But what really terrified me the most was on a recent trip to a theme park.  My son is now big enough to do all the rides and he wanted to do the ‘Cliff Hanger’ which is 180 feet vertically.  Nope.  Not gonna happen.  I’ve done one before at the top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, but it’s not an experience I want to repeat – the view was nice but the sensation was awful.

Fortunately his uncle was on hand and took him on but I’ve never as terrified as I was on that day watching him being shot up that high and that quickly and in some ways it was worse than if I’d done it myself – the complete lack of control I felt on that day will likely live with me for a long time.  When I want to write terror I just re-imagine this scene.

While.  Such a simple word.  When used correctly.  I live in Yorkshire, but don’t originate from these parts, and the one thing that really irritates me is the use of the word ‘While’ when indicating time.  Some people will say  ‘9 while 5’ for instance to mean ‘9 until 5’ or ‘9 to 5’.   Or I’ll be here ‘while 5’.  While 5 is doing what exactly?


Multiple choice – my wedding day, the birth of my kids, the day I finished my first book.  I can take my pick from multiple memories that make me smile and make me happy.  While that sounds slushy and will no doubt have some readers reaching for the sick bag it works for me.  And no, I’m not implying I’m not happy before anyone asks.


Thinking about when I realised I had to go back and edit my first book and re-write substantial parts of it.   Or reading back the email from the first agency I submitted the manuscript to.  That works.

There’s so many more but I’m not going to detail them here, but these are the main ones.   Everyone is different when they write, but this works for me.


2 comments on “Fear and Loathing in Milton Keynes

  1. This is a very interesting approach to thinking about emotions. I tend to “feel” every bit of the emotion I’m writing. I literally feel the physical changes that each emotion carries and that seems to translate into words. Sometimes I feel that way naturally and other times I have to create the emotion, like an actor would for a performance. Maybe its my theater background, (from forever ago and rarely mentioned). 🙂

    pssst . . . I don’t like moths either. 🙂

    • Yeah, I don’t know what it is about moths, they just give me the heeby jeebies 🙂

      Once I get into the flow, I can feel how the characters are feeling, I just tend to need a prod to get there sometimes. For some people I guess they can just flow from one emotion to the next, but I find it a bit more difficult than that. The more practice I get it’ll probably get easier, but at the moment works so manic I don’t have too much time for writing unfortunately, it’s weird how you lose the rhythm so quickly!

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