My guest writer today is Lynn Smith. As always it is fascinating to learn how other people work.
I’ve done my usual five-minute browse of the world beyond the window. Nothing exciting to report. Dull sky, noisy crow on next-door’s roof, but no real diversions. A promising day. I’m in my writing space, small, but big enough. It has all I need, laptop, notebooks, pens and an array of non-essentials. It’s here, among the clutter, that I try to bring life to an imaginary world.
Creativity involves thinking before doing. My characters are often born in those mundane moments of domestic boredom, when it’s possible to allow the creative part of the mind to wander and let the practical one get on with chores. Mine wandered so much one Christmas that the preparation of dinner produced a thousand-word story which featured my grandchildren and a sprout called Cyril. Can it ever be a waste to wander?
But at times there are static pauses devoid of any kind of creativity. That has been my problem recently. Like neglected puppets thrown to the back of an under-stairs cupboard, two of my favourite characters are now still and silent. The truth is that I have become so detached from them that I’ve been tempted to just leave them in that cupboard.
I want to get back to serious writing. Enough of diversions and distractions, I need motivation and inspiration. I find these in music and poetry and in quotes where someone else’s experience and wisdom can clear the fog. So, ignoring my usual weaknesses, Twitter, Facebook and emails, I opt for Brainy Quotes. Coffee and croissants at hand and feeling optimistic, I am, hopefully, absorbing the insight of the gifted.
Ernest Hemmingway said that, “When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.”
Sounds like my problem. I’ve forgotten who and what my characters are. They are certainly not living right now. It’s depressing to recognise that I’ve failed them, but it happens. I’m annoyed and frustrated. Too eager to get to the last full stop, I cut corners. That doesn’t ever work. I know that and yet, for a while, I indulged in idle writing, assuming that it would turn out ok. It didn’t. I have no excuses. So, life got busy, disorganised. Happens to everyone.
I need to revive my characters. I need them to be Evie and Harry again.
Time to go back, to read about them, not as a writer looking for errors or faults, but as a reader looking for a connection.
More coffee, a comfortable chair and a browse through the draft. There are chapters that catch the essence of both the story and the characters. The Talk in the Park is one of them. I’ll start with that.
They are sitting on cold metal chairs outside a small café overlooking the lake. It’s a chilly autumn morning. Evie is cold. Harry is ordering hot chocolate. It’s a simple, but vivid scene and within the first few words, I am part of it. At the point where Harry notices Evie’s tears fall into her hot chocolate, I am feeling.
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader….” Robert Frost.
I’m making shambolic notes now. Thoughts and ideas coming fast and it’s exciting to feel this enthusiastic again.
Notes: little things make the biggest impact. Need to be in the room, not looking through the window. Harry needs a scarf – don’t know why yet, just know he needs a scarf.
Another two chapters and I’m feeling more optimistic. I do know these two.
I know that Harry makes Evie happy, but I don’t know what makes her dance around the kitchen when no-one is there. He is her rock and even rocks must crumble at times but I don’t feel it, so he doesn’t show it.
Notes: characters hesitant and fragile. No confidence in the writing – no pleasure in the reading. Too black and white, no shades. Too many spaces, too little emotion. No fun. But I can fix this. We need a party.
Hans Christian Anderson: “Where words fail, music speaks.”
So, lunch, a thirty-minute break with iTunes and playlist one, then time to let Evie and Harry out of the cupboard.
The best thing about imagination is that anything can happen when your eyes are closed.
Evie would have been a wild child, given half a chance. Harry is Harry and always has been. Solid, dependable, a perfect foil for Evie. She’s dressed, sixties style and Shakin’ all Over with Johny Kid and the Pirates. He’s still in 2017 and he’s donned jeans and trainers to fit in, although, given half a chance, he’d be Leaving on a Jet Plane with John Denver. Evie’s having a ball and he’s watching, tapping his feet and despite feeling out of place, enjoying her enjoyment.
These people…people now…not characters, are living in the moment. Me too. I can’t keep up with them, my pen is on fire and so am I.
Note: Why the scarf? A whole chapter taking shape.
When the dance hall in my brain closes, I’ll head for the keyboard and hit it – hard! I think I may be back on track. Perfect day.