I’ve been interested in telling stories for as long as I can remember. Somewhere I have a story written in crayon from when I was five. I believe I’ve wanted to write, or just tell stories, for as long as I’ve been aware of language.
I remember telling, possibly annoying, dad a story while climbing Cadair Idris. I would’ve been quite young. It was a story about the founder of an alien religion. Her name was Qwan and she spent a retreat in a cave on a mountain. Dad said afterwards that he let me continue as it meant I didn’t notice the progress I was making.
Writing is a compulsion. If it was cocaine or alcohol I might have a problem. Many of the actual minutes of writing can be quite a struggle. The translation of a beautiful scene in my head to the page is not always an easy one. As evidenced by the amount of times I’ve restarted my novel.
I have an MA in Scriptwriting and this has made me rather critical. When watching a TV show, film, or reading a book. I start to think of how I might have approached a story differently. The advantage of first person over third person, whether a chronological structure is best or if a non linear approach would give more possibilities. The films of the Hunger Games are interesting on this point. The books are first person but the films, deciding not to have a narrator, are able to show the story from more perspectives.
I fear that writing has made me somewhat arrogant. I sometimes look at what has been done and feel I could have done that better. This perhaps is perfectly normal. They say that art is never finished only abandoned and perhaps every piece of film and TV has that one scene, or line, which the author wishes they could rewrite.
The foundations laid by works like: Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and any other can be taken in knew and exciting directions. I’m not talking about fan fiction or writing stories in those universes but about the sparks that they can engender. Star Trek or Star Wars cannot take ownership of space for a story telling frontier but they can inspire new stories.
Sometimes I’ll watch a film and think I know where the story is going. When it veers off in another direction and that is wonderful as I can write the story that that film sparked. In this way I write because ideas arise in my mind from everything I see. Ideas for silly stories, ideas for serious stories, ideas that would take a lot or work, and ideas that might never work.
I said in a previous post that making the ideas stop is the problem not coming up with them. I write because I have to write. My mind gets over loaded with ideas. I have characters in my head and I want to tell their story: Michael Wisdom, Stephanie McKnight, Virgil Noxon, Stacy Tanner, Tina Hilton – those are some of my characters that I hope will be know to the world one day.
Writing is always there in the back of my mind. Sometimes I’ll spend hours staring at a computer and get no where. Then a walk to the shops, a trip to the gym, or just doing the washing up and the problem unclogs itself and I can finally figure out the problem.
I’ve yet to experience that wonderful moment of my characters speaking to me. It sounds so magical that, when the foundations are laid, the story practically writes itself. I have had the wired magic of a character telling me about themselves.
Sometimes a character’s full background is irrelevant. You can tell the story of the brilliant Doctor/Detective/Wizard or whatever it might be without delving into his or her background. It’s nice to know these things though. Once you start thinking about these things the ideas flow to you.
You see your character as a child and you imagine what their life was like. Then, out of the emptiness, ideas pop into your mind like a firework. I had this experience with my character Virgil Noxon. I knew he was black and the first officer of the Sovereignty, the starship in my story, but that was about it. I needed to know more.
So I started to write a scene of him visiting his father. The idea came to mind that they had a very formal relationship. They had a good relationship but I could more easily imagine them shaking hands rather than hugging.
And the strange thing? His farther was white. So this gave a new direction for the character. He was adopted and had two younger siblings: Morgana and Wyatt. Incidentally he was named Virgil after Virgil Earp. Wyatt was a natural choice for his brother and Morgana came from Morgan Earp – his father just wanted to change it a little as he’d had a daughter instead of a son. The names just seemed to fit.
With Stacy Tanner, one of my novel’s central characters, I knew she was an only child from the get-go and I can’t say why. Michael Wisdom is a middle child, Stephanie McKnight, has one older brother, Tina Hilton has a younger sister and her mother was a teenager when Tina was born.
I don’t know where some of these ideas came from. The random nature of ideas arising in the mind is probably the primary reason I write. Whether my stories are any good is another question entirely but I know I can’t stop myself. Writing is a compulsion you become like a God to your characters and get into the wired situation of thinking about who you have to kill to get to the next plot point. Writing is my addiction there’s nothing else to say.
This post was written in response to a prompt from Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com