- Richard Haywood
What It’s Like When A New Story Grips A Writer…
It’s an amazing feeling being a writer. It’s like we have portals in our head that give access to incredible places.
The other day, Wednesday I think it was, I’d been kicked out of my office because Alex the plasterer needed to block the stairs and landings off with towers to reach the absurdly high ceilings.
I was pottering about and wondering what to do and figured I’d have an apple, so I went to the apple bowl, which is a plain bowl full of apples.
And then I was thinking what if a person was like a bowl of apples. You know. Boring, and bland, and dull.
I’ve met tons of people like that, but then I made the mistake of likening the bowl of apples to energy vampires. The people that drain you with their stupidity or constant emotional neediness. But they’re not bowls of apples. If a bowl of apples was a person, then they’d be so average that you’d never really see them at all. Which then got me thinking what that must be like to be a human bowl of apples that nobody ever really notices.
I thought that would be really sad and lonely. But then what if the person was doing it on purpose? But why would they be doing that on purpose? What for? Well. Maybe they need to be in places where nobody sees them, but if they were sneaking around being furtive, they’d stand out, whereas by being a human bowl of apples they can go anywhere and remain unseen. Never remembered. Never noticed.
I started running upstairs then cursed at realising I’d need to be a twenty year old parkour free-running mofo to get through the towers of truth and justice that Alex was currently swinging around on.
So I ran back downstairs and booted up my laptop. I don’t like proper writing-writing on a laptop as it f*cks my wrists and hands up. And the screen is lower and smaller.
But the urge was there. The story was cooking, and my head was filled with images and notions and feelings, and my human bowl of apples was in a queue in a coffee shop BUT WHY WAS HE THERE? AARRRGGHHH!
I got the laptop open in the garden and sat down with a brew and it started pouring out, and with each paragraph so this wonderful new world opened up inside my head. I called him Malcolm. He was Malcolm. There was no question about that. And he was in a coffee shop, and he’d lived his whole life being unnoticed.
BUT WHY? COS OF THIS REASON IN MY HEAD! Argghhh. Write it down quickly.
Dude. Seriously. It’s glorious when that happens. I cease to exist in this world and slide over into the new place. And that new place becomes more real to me than this place. I can see it and hear it and smell it and I’m riding all the nuances and contextualised looks and comments and turns and feelings. Then Malcolm is up and moving and I’m seeing why he’s been so invisible his whole life. Because he trained to be that way since a child. Oh my god. Because he had to do this thing. With the person. In the place. And the backstory is flowing, and the forward story is forming, and the mid-now-present-whatever-it’s-called story is sizzling.
That’s what it does. It sizzles and every word pops off the page and this wave of images forms in my head and flows down into my fingers and this story grows and shapes and comes alive. Then it’s five hours later and the day has gone and I’m back in this world, but now this world feels like a bowl of apples and the other world is the real one.
I read it back and loved it. Which is quite rare. I thought it would make a lovely short story to pop out on my blog. I showed it to Hannah. She fell in love. Instantly. She said don’t put it out as a short. This is a novel.
Hannah adores The Undead. She reeaaalllly wants 26. But she said write this. It needs to be written. I was like, I dunno. Is it a novel? I slept on it and the images stayed in my head and the wider story grew and the next day, while still banned from my office, I figured I’d do chapter 2 and just see. And if it doesn’t flow then I’ll pop it out as a short.
Aaaaaand eight hours later I’m sliding from that world back to this world, but now this world feels like a bowl of apples and the other world is the real one – and chapter two is done, and I’m hooked and I can’t not write this story now. I did chapter 3 yesterday and introduced more characters. Today I’ll start on chapter 4 and use some flashback sequences, I think. That’s what it’s in my head.
So there you go. That’s what it feels like. That’s how The Undead came to be, and Extracted, and ATCD, and The Worldship Humility, and The Hive: Delio, and Fiction Land. It’s just there and there’s no way you cannot ride that wave. I couldn’t write anything else right now if I tried. It would feel flat and empty. It wouldn’t sizzle. And if it’s not sizzling – then for me it’s not worth writing.
It doesn’t sizzle all the time. There are times, many times, mid-story, that you have to actually work as a writer and plot and plan and scrape the bastard words together, but that’s part of what it is.
Blimey. Right. I’m back at it. I’ve got places to go and people to see – while not moving from this chair (but at least I’m back in my office). Have a groovy long weekend. The Isle of Wight is full of angry hairdryer two-stroke / three-stroke, I don’t bloody know what stroke engines the mopeds weaving around flowing traffic while literally every islander I know spends the whole weekend hoping to hell we don’t knock into one.
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