T. D. Edge won a Cadbury’s fiction competition at age 10 but only did it for the chocolate. He has published several children’s/YA books (writing as Terry Edge) with Random House, Scholastic, Corgi and others. Terry was the first UK writer to attend the 6-week Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop in New Hampshire. Since then, his short fiction has appeared in various anthologies and magazines, including Aeon, Realms of Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies and Flash Fiction Online. In May 2012, he won the New Scientist/Arc Magazine Science Fiction short story competition, and his story, ‘Big Dave’s in Love’ appears in Arc 1.2. Terry has been a street theatre performer, props maker for the Welsh National Opera, sign writer, school caretaker, soft toys salesman and professional palm-reader. He is also proud of being the youngest-ever England Subbuteo Champion, and one of his current writing projects is ‘Subbuteo in My Soul’.
Terry has also been a professional freelance fiction editor for over twenty years. He has tutored creative writing with the Open College of the Arts and various local authorities. He has edited for publishers but nowadays prefers to work with his own clients, both published and unpublished authors. More details at the ‘Editorial Services’ page.
How I Feel About Story-Telling:
Growing up, there weren’t many books in my house. No internet either, of course, and no way of finding out about books other than by discovering them yourself. So I spent a lot of time in the local library. I’d pick up a book, look at the cover, read the first page or so; then, if I was excited, I’d take it home.
If I was excited . . . This I believe is the first necessary quality of good story-telling. To excite the reader. That doesn’t have to mean a murder on the first page. But it’s the story-teller’s job to make the reader take notice, to win his time by making every word count. You can do it with a massive explosion, a sly joke, a witty observation; but whatever you do, it has to be a spectacle.
I once worked with a street theatre company called Welfare State International. The first show I helped on was called ‘Parliament in Flames’. We spent weeks building the set on a piece of wasteland near the football stadium in Burnley, Lancashire. On the night, 10,000 people turned up. What they saw was a flood-lit replica of the Houses of Parliament, over 60 feet high. While they watched, from behind the Houses, a 30 feet high Guy was raised into the night, skulled head under one arm, bomb under the other. I was on the roof of the Houses, ready to secure the Guy’s feet in place. Once he was fixed, I clambered down the building and joined the crowd, just in time to see the bomb explode and the Houses catch fire. Every upturned face, child and adult, glowed with wonder and awe.
At the other end of the scale, here is the opening of a novel by E. L. Konigsburg called (George), published in 1970:
Only two people knew that George was probably the funniest little man in the whole world and that he used foul language. Howard Carr knew, and so did Howard’s older brother, Benjamin Dickinson Carr. Benjamin knew because the funniest little man in the whole world lived inside of him, and Howard knew because, except for Ben, he was the only other person that George had ever spoken out loud to. For a long time. For all the years until the year of Benjamin’s sixth grade when the events to be written here happened. Until then, even their mother had not known that when she gave birth to Benjamin, she had given birth to concentric twins.
For me, while one of these events is big, bold and utterly public, the other private and to do with the inner life, the sense of spectacle is the same. Like Welfare State International, Konigsburg sets up a fascinating show, promising a journey into the unknown after which we’ll be changed in some way. With both events, we feel the thrill of dangerous empathy: that with only a twist or two of fate, we could have been that anti-establishment figure about to set light to barrels of gunpowder under the Houses of Parliament. Or the shy teenager who carries around inside him another kind of anti-establishment figure. In both stories, you know that not everyone is going to make it to the finish.
So, I grew up loving both ends of the spectacle scale. I devoured Marvel and DC comics, while at the same time was entranced by the quiet magic of Young Adult novelists like E. L. Konigsburg, M. E. Kerr, Barbara Wersba, Jan Mark and Katherine Paterson. On the one hand, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were masters of getting more into less; on the other, the new wave of YA novelists were writing short novels that very much got more out of less.
Wherever a story-teller aims on the vast range of the spectacle scale, I believe the issue of quality is the same. What ultimately draws readers in and keeps them there are, for example, great characters they care about, dialogue that’s unexpected, sharp, funny and wise, and, perhaps above all, emotions that the story-teller gets his audience to feel, without realising they’ve even been led there.
So, I always write about what excites me, whether it’s an action romp with Cockney superheroes fighting vampires (and hopefully ridding the world of them for good!) or a character study of a woman with a deep insight into others she chooses to hide and who feels quietly superior; who is ‘seen’ at last by a man with the same gift; who then has to choose whether or not to finally come out and risk her different kind of super-power in the world at large.
Excitement for an author, I believe, comes from challenging himself, and not just settling into a product niche. Can I, for example, make those Cockney superheroes attractive characters with realistic faults, based on the East Enders I grew up with and not the chirpy but rather stupid stereotypes often portrayed in a lot of fiction? Can I make that rather strange, insightful woman not perhaps lovable but at least funny, intelligent and ultimately understandable?
Above all, can I give my readers a fun journey with something to think about as an (optional) bonus?