Category Archives: Books

Writing the character first

I spent the weekend brainstorming ideas for new books. Each one became more outrageous than the last, but I won’t say no to any of them because I don’t know when the writing muse will grace me with her presence again, and who am I to say what is too fantastic to write about.

When I was small, my favourite book was about a chair that sprouted wings on its legs, which always made me feel slightly queasy when I thought about the birth of said wings, but I liked the adventures the chair took the seated upon. I also liked a book about a girl ran away and lived in a small cottage decorated with sea shells and once about a teenage detective who seems to find mysteries to solve but only during summer.

Deciding what to write about is tough because every idea has merit. There are no truly terrible ideas. I keep all of my ideas filed neatly. Below is a screen shot of my computer. I have a folder of every story idea and they go into the well, to be divided into mode later. Within them are more ideas, broken down into more folders. The well needs to be first filled, then divided into book, film or TV folder.

The secret to keeping the well filled is to not listen to the voice that says, that this story has been told before. Of course, it has been told before, but it hasn’t been told by you.

It is claimed by many writers that there are only seven stories in the world, and each one is a variation on the theme. They are:

  • Overcoming the Monster.
  • Rags to Riches.
  • The Quest.
  • Voyage and Return.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.

Perhaps this is true, many also argue otherwise but what makes the story unique and readable is the character. This is why the character is so important in a story. The character informs the way the story unfolds and in what order.

I have a notebook of characters and sentences I had said or heard or imagined. Little snippets of life that when infused with a character, becomes an individual ready to tell me their story. Sure, that story isn’t new but is any story new? We all fall in love, but your meeting your beloved isn’t like mine or the lady next door or the man on the bus. The story is falling in love, the uniqueness comes from the people who fell.

No characters are the same in fiction or life. We are all shaped and formed by our experiences, geography, and choices, thus no one shares a parallel life with another. While the theme of the story might be the same, the characters are not.

The characters are everything, so when I decide what I will write next, I will choose the character that needs me to speak for them. The character who has something to say and who wants something more than the others that float in my crown chakra.

And if a writer can create a personality for a chair with wings, then anything is possible.

Keep writing.

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Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice*

God, hasn’t it been a while? I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without posting. I started several posts over the past months but all of them were bullshit.

I was thinking about blogging yesterday, and why we read blogs and why we write them.

For me, there are two types of blogger. The one who shows you the sweetened condensed version of life, the one who skates over the nasty sinkholes in life, and reading their blog is like dipping your hot feet into a cool stream. You want their peaches and cream life, and the simple perfection of their Instagram-worthy moments.

Then there are the bloggers who are brutally honest about those potholes. They tell you about the nasty shadows that live down there and warn you about what will happen if fall in. They are in and out of those potholes, and reading their posts is painful and addictive. You want to help them, you worry for them, but you can’t read them often because their lives are just so deeply difficult.

I don’t know where my blog fits into that. I don’t have a brand. I should have one, according to publishers and so on, but I don’t because my life is a shift between refreshing cool streams and dark sinkholes.

I could tell you about the past few months of moving house, and not really liking it here because it’s not for very long, and the neighbors are fuckwits, one of whom quoted local council by-laws at me the day we moved in, or the one across the road who drove into a friends car and then took off without a note or word.

And I could tell you about writing four scripts for TV shows and loving every single minute of it, and being able to work with my dear friend Edwina Exton, which is us just drinking cup of tea and laughing at each other and then writing down the jokes. And how I wonder if I will ever be asked to write more.

I could tell you about deeply personal struggles that I’m still wrestling with, but I don’t want to give them any airtime.

I could tell you about my sweetpeas which have finally blossomed and the baby raven we have been feeding who now plays with Bert the dog in the back yard.

I could tell you about the three ideas I have for screen and book form, but then in the next sentence tell you I doubt that I will ever have any good ideas again.

I could tell you about my new job and how much I love the work, and in the next breath tell you I think everyone hates me and that I will be fired at any minute.

I could tell you about my perfect Saturday, pottering, resting, reading, cooking, but you won’t know that upstairs a loved one was sicker than I’ve seen in a long time, and my day was spent with one ear open for their calls from above.

I could tell you about how proud I am about my new book, and I know it’s the best one I’ve written, while knowing it’s not selling as it deserves due to decisions out of my hands.

I could tell you about the Saturday night I spent in a hospital, worrying for a friend of my kid, and the gratefulness I felt for my daughter coming to the hospital at 3am to wait with me. The juxtaposition of her winged eyeliner and her diamonte choker and hooped earring, against the stark walls, made the nurses smile as they passed her in the hallway.

I could tell you about the TV series I sold, and how I worry what they will do with it and if my ideas will be pushed aside.

And finally, I could tell you about the excitement of my girl heading overseas and applying for university interstate, and the overwhelming sense of loss that looms when I think of her not being in my house anymore.  That even writing that sentence caused my eyes to burn with hot tears.

This is life. Peaches and cream, and sinkholes galore.  I have come to learn about darkness and light in every moment.  Standing by my father’s body was the most painful yet beautiful moment. The deep love I got to share with my family over the eleven weeks of his illness was incredible. Seeing the astonishing love, support, and friendship that have surrounded friends who have had awful and invasive cancer in their lives making them feel so alone,  illustrates the dichotomy of life.

While I don’t know if anyone even reads this blog anymore, and I don’t say that so people tell me otherwise, there is so much on the web, why check in on a dormant blog, I do know it’s good for to read about other people’s lives for reference, especially when they’re honest about the sludgy moments and those confetti filled days.

So here I am again. One blog post at a time. One sinkhole and peach pie at a time.

It’s good to be back.

Happy Monday.

 

  • Title by E.M. Forster from A Room With A View.