Archive for June, 2010
Day 3 onwards and I start to completely tune out from the real world.
I’m in the car, Ruth is sitting next to me, and she knows by the gommo face I’m wearing, that I’m somewhere distant. I’m pretty sure I forewarned her this was going to happen – as soon as there’s a story taking root, I’m off to planet Zog – and from that moment she knew she’d have to repeat herself at least three times before getting a halfÂ intelligent response out of me. And she’d probably have to tell me which turning I should be taking too.
I’m no better in the office either. That meeting where I’m thoughtfully tapping my pen against my lips as my team leader is asking for suggestion to make sure that we can still manage our work if that volcano gets angry again? I’m actually in the attic of a creepy old mansion. In the corner, where the shadows are darkest, two cold eyes are watching me and a restless shape gathers itself as if ready to pounce. Yes. I have that glazed expression.
And I’ll be like that all day, probably. Excited about it. Dreaming up little scenes in my mind – small at first, but expanding into plot as I start asking questions. What’s that thing doing in there? I’ve already made my mind up it’s a ghost, but who’s the poor victim I’ve just identified with? Is he scared? Did he expect to find a ghost? Whose house is it?
My best daydreams happen when I’ve found an excuse to buy a pack of miniature cigars to puff at in the garden. I’ll be out there thinking all sorts of weird things up, linking ideas together, talking to myself and forging a backbone for the novel. And by the end of one day there’s a whole bunch of stuff doing somersaults in my head. If I don’t organise it somehow, it’ll just turn into white noise (or give me nightmares).
All that slack-jawed daydreaming will go on for days and days (poor Ruth!), so the next important step for me is to get it down as writing before I forget it all. I’m not talking about writing the novel (that’s a while off), I’m talking about organising my notes. I rarely write things by hand these days (though sometimes, if I’ve had a great idea I really don’t want to forget, I’ll scrawl it on a post-it note), instead I’ll create a few word documents:
General Notes, Research, Characters, Chapter by Chapter (which will probably end up as the synopsis).
Anything and everything that pops into my head, or any pictures or quotes that inspire me, I’ll throw into these documents. Since the early part of June these files have gradually been building and there’s quite a bit going on in there by now. Obviously I won’t be giving away spoilers, but I’ll probably share a few of these things as the days pass, most likely the research, and perhaps hints about characters.
I may as well show a snippet of that today.
You might have seen some of the discussions starting up about orbs on the facebook page. Here’s a little something I found – I had a dig around on the net after hearing at a Derek Akora session that different coloured orbs mean different things. I’ll be using that idea in the novel but with a massive difference (which I’m not telling here). Here’s one take on what the colours mean…
Next time…Â I’ll be telling you a bit about Write Club.
Now you’ve seen what the novel’s about, and the pictures in my previous post, you might want to know what moved me in that direction.
I had some vague ideas about this being a science-fiction horror novel sprinkled with the supernatural, but to really get a handle on the direction this book will take, before I really start thinking about ghosts, orbs and haunted houses, I had to ask myself some fundamental questions. I’ve decided on the genre, but what else? How am I going to make this novel stand out? Is there a theme? A moral lesson? Do I want to write it in first person present tense, third person, or maybe even both? How many characters am I going to have? And what else do I need to consider before getting down to business?
Lots to think about isn’t there? I’m not the type that can just start writing and let the keyboard lead me. I have to plan it all. Meticulously.
First things first then, I want to write something different to my debut novel. The Soul Consortium was a story about the clash of eternal things and final things; essentiallyÂ a story about the last human looking for the courage to die. I want to swing the pendulum the other way in Gaiaâ€™s Engine and bring things closer to home. I also want to deal with a community rather than a single survivor. That led me to explore two things:
Firstly, I want to look at the whole issue of religious faith and what itâ€™s like to lose it. Although it wasn’t technically perfect, some of my best writing was done when I dealt with this very issue in my own life, so I can broach the topic with a fair amount of authority. We all know the dangers of cults, but how do rational people get taken in by them? And more specifically, what are we to think about the leaders of these cults? We rarely paint these people in a good light, because usually, we only hear about the negative effects in society, but from personal experience as someone who had a certain amount of influence in peoplesâ€™ spiritual lives, I know that the story is far from simple.
So, this storyâ€™s protagonist will be a man leading a cult who is having serious difficulty with his faith; heâ€™s a man who considers himself to be honest and responsible, yet faces the dangerous potential of his religious beliefs on others. I want the reader to face the same fundamental questions heâ€™s facing – similar to my own experiences, but somewhat exaggerated.
The secondly thing I want to explore is the power of influence. The link to the protagonistâ€™s faith is obvious â€“ heâ€™s a charismatic leader whose influence over his flock is substantial (no, that’s not me – that’s the fantasy exaggeration). But I want to widen the scope and bring in several other characters who influence people in different ways. Influence can range from simple and humble suggestions to out-and-out possession of a personâ€™s mind. Thereâ€™s also blackmail, deception, seduction, hypnotic suggestion – a whole range of different modes of influence. Pursuing these should lead the characters into some interesting conflicts.
So, for starters, these are the main themes of the book and I pretty much spent a few days mulling over those. Next time (hopefully tomorrow) I’ll be blogging about getting myself organised.
So this is it – the glint in the proverbial milkman’s eye. The bit I have to think about before I crack my knuckles and start bashing the novel’s first words on the keyboard. Now, I have to be honest with you, I’ve already churned through a lot of ideas in my head and discussed a lot of them with my wife (Ruth) before even starting this blog. I have a title “Gaia’s Engine”, and the leading characters are already shoving their way to the front of the queue to make sure their voices are heard. And I’ve already got other writers ready to begin the critique process over at Write Club (more on that in a later post).
I didn’t want that to happen, at least, not straight away. What I really wanted was to document the whole process, from start to finish, as it happens. But see, here’s the first revelation about being a novelist – once the first spark of an idea ignites in the old thought-box, you just can’t control it. It wants to grow! The ideas have taken on a life of their own, so for a week or two, this blog will be playing catch up.
Anyway, where to begin?
You’ll notice from the bit right at the bottom of the page that I’ve already got my ‘abstract’ – the wordage you might expect to see tempting you on the back cover. Think it looks interesting? I like it, but sometimes the finished novel ends up quite different, so I might have to change that. So where did all that come from? Come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you.
Until then, here are some images I found on google. A lot of my story ideas spawn from scenes or images that get dreamed up in my mind’s eye. These are the closest pictures I could find to show what’s shifting around in my head so far…
A ghost in the attic…
And check out a guy called Charles Wade. This is a house I visited recently that gave me some inspiration. More on him later.