I'm back in training for the Simmer Dim half-marathon. Yes, it's not until the end of June but when you start the year as heavy as I did, training's got to start early. In the first three weeks of the year, thanks to the rowing machine and a crash diet, I've managed to shift enough weight to get back out running and build up my dodgy left knee in the hope that it will last until I've got those 13-odd miles under my belt. However, the actual running is, to me, pushed into second-place by the music I'll be listening to while following that white line up the hill.
Back in Kent, I had an hour's drive to and from work. In this time I could listen to entire albums, huge swathes of audio books and radio comedy. When we moved to Shetland I swapped that commute for a 7 minute jaunt to the other side of the island. Seven minutes. That's hardly long enough to bother loading a CD. This kind of balances out by the drives we make when we go south to visit relatives – six hours in the car needs a lot of music but it has to be stuff we can all agree on listening to. So now the longest time I get to listen to my music is when I'm running and this makes the choice very difficult.
Do I go for something with a repetitive, steady beat that matches my footfalls but wouldn't necessarily be what I'd want to listen to for pleasure? www.audiofuel.co.uk supplies playlists of this very type, complete with coaching voice-over at strategic moments. I was using their 2-hour long-run programme to train last year and it worked very, very well for me. But I wouldn't stick the CD on in the kitchen for pleasure. It's very much music that is designed to do a job.
Do I go for a fantastic album and fit my feet to the beat where possible? This is what I've been doing with Avantasia's "The Metal Opera" and I apologise to residents of Gulberwick who may have heard me singing random lyrics as I jogged past. When you find a section that works, it's fantastic – I found one of those about 8 minutes into "The Seven Angels" (it's a long song and I'll be requesting it on ButeFM's Request Friday until they play at least part of it. Follow them on Twitter – http://twitter.com/requestfriday – and let's make it a mission).
Usually I stick my iPod onto the "Jogging" playlist, which contains a huge amount of very random stuff. Marillion's Incommunicado works well, I can just about make it up the hill to that one, Steve Oumiette's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" from Guitar Hero 3 is a real blast to run to, as is Eddie Murphy singing "I'm a believer" from Shrek. The assorted Doctor Who theme tunes work as well.
All of this is good right up to the batteries fail and you're left with a mile to run with only your thoughts for company as happened today.
Anyway. This got me thinking about the book I'm trying to write, specifically about the main character.
Urban Fantasy. The Dresden Files, Greywalker, werewolves, vampires, ghosts.
Which is easier for people to get behind: A main character with powers – the eponymous Harry Dresden, Lestat (if anyone remembers him these days) taking on the supernatural on a level playing field – or a main character who is, to all intents and purposes, a normal human being – Dean Winchester, for example. Should a normal character develop some powers, reveal some hidden aspect from his or her past, "just know" some vital supernatural stuff? Y'see, I'm coming at this from the normal point of view and I'm having to fight my fingers on the keys to stop him from suddenly turning out to be a 6th level wizard. Obviously not a 20th level wizard, but definitely not a 1st level wizard, they're just cannon fodder. "Oh, let's see. I'll use a magic missile on the orc. That's 1d4 damage." *rolls a 1*. "Bugger. I'll get on with rolling up a new character now, shall I?"
The problem with the powered character is that this immediately ramps up the powers of the antagonists, whilst the problem with the un-powered character is that he's got to have other ways of dealing.
This is the battle I'm facing at the moment. I think I'm winning, time will tell.
I'll leave you with a quote from somewhere in my manuscript:
"If all of this is real, everything you've seen today, then what else is real?"