A Hard Knock Writer’s Life

I imagine that I’m similar to most writers in that I don’t make things easy for myself. Or maybe it is just me, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a product of the type of books that I write, but recently whilst working on my latest project (perhaps I’ll spill the beans in a few weeks, I’ll see how I feel) I have found myself putting my main characters into some tricky situations, with no idea how I’m going to get them out of it.

I did this a bit with the Cornelius Quaint series, but with him being a conjurer I always had an ‘out’ in that he could always use a bit of magic or something to get out of a sticky situation. With my new project (for want of a better title we shall call it ‘SS’) my main character’s aren’t conjurers, or gifted with special powers in some way, or super-heroic, they’re just normal, everyday teenagers, and although I flout the boundaries of disbelief sometimes, I do like to retain a little physical logic now and then – or at least enough logic that a resolution isn’t simply plucked out of thin air to help grease the plot along.

So this one time a few weeks back, I had my MC’s embroiled in a situation of my own making purely because I decided to kink what I had plotted out. I won’t go into details, but the issue was being able to cross a wide expanse of water to get to an island. Now, when I was plotting it (loosely, as I do) I had all the steps in my head what was going to happen, but I was kind of focusing on what happened once they’d got to the island, as opposed to how they got there in the first place, and the dead end sort of sneaked up on me, just as it did to my two main characters.

So, there we were. The 3 of us, both myself and my MC’s, stood at the edge of this great body of water, with no way of getting across. Or at least, no easy way across. It was actually quite a liberating experience, and I found the characters adopting my silent monologue. My questions became theirs, my thoughts became theirs, and my harebrained schemes became theirs too. I was asking the questions and they, as my internal logic monitors, were answering me.

ME: Fly across – THEM: “Technically impossible.”
Sail across – “We don’t have a boat.”
Swim across – “We’re carrying a dead body.”
Freeze sea and walk across – “We don’t have that ability.”
Build a raft and sail across – “We don’t have a saw to cut down any trees.”
Part the waves Moses style – “We’re on a world with no bible to reference. (Plus, also impossible).”

So how the hell do we get across? And it was very much a ‘we’ scenario, which was totally odd from my perspective. These ciphers do not have life without me. My words breathe for them. Unless I speak for them, they are mute. Unless I guide them, they are directionless. Unless I challenge them, they are dull. So how can we come together to share this conundrum and brainstorm an answer?

(It was the sort of thing that would keep a psychiatrist busy for weeks)

The answer took me a long time to work out. I hit the net and referenced all types of water. Fresh water, Seawater, streams, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. I looked at the chemical composition of water, its various states and what conditions cause them to exist. In short, I immersed myself in water. And then I was struck by a moment of fortuitous synchronicity. Wayyyyyyy back in Chapter 2, I had made a reference to something in passing conversation. Something so casual and throwaway that I didn’t even know why I had written it in the first place. But there it was – my way out. And so, with a little bit of tinkering of the script here and there, I had my way to transport C and F over the sea to the island.

It’s not the first time that I’ve given the story too much of a say in things and written myself into a tight corner, and it won’t be the last (as I write this I’ve gone and done it again!) but that’s all part of the creative experience for me and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

And that’s why I love doing what I do!


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