ONE THIRD THROUGH in the process of writing this novel, I thought I’d share something of the process.
There seem to be two approaches to writing a novel: the planned and the unfolding. I so admire, no, emulate, the well-organised planned way, but I’ve consistently failed in my attempts. You can’t write against your nature. I’m disorganised, I don’t often make notes in my specially bought Moleskin, I’ve never kept a diary. The calendar is not up to date – if indeed I have one this year. It isn’t something I’d buy. If I get given one, even if it’s covered with garage repair adverts and no pictures, I’ll use it. A bit.
Therefore, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m an unfolder. I start, and the plot unfolds gradually according to the characters’ nature. I comfort myself that this messy method is in tune with character-led writing. Since my characters have dominated me from an early stage in my Me-Time blog (http://fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com) I do trust on or other of any newly created ones to direct the turn of events in my novels.
I’ll discuss the novel I’m writing now – ‘Speechless’. Notes about this cover in another post.
I call it a psychological drama rather than thriller because no-one is murdered. There is some mystery over whether there is in fact a baddie lurking beneath one of the well-behaved personas inhabiting the drama.
My beginning was the idea of an unexpected behaviour in a normal child. The environment is that of a comfortable, stable, supportive family. The child’s behaviour causes concern, then confusion, then external investigation, and lastly, internal investigation. I don’t enjoy fantasy – I have to believe. Therefore, the aim of my novels is always for the reader to feel it could happen to anyone.
The next step was to start and develop each of the characters. There is a father, mother, older brother, grandparents. The way each of these decided to unfold in relation to the shadowy main character determined the first few chapters.
The central problem has to cause a series of new events. These involve secondary characters. I’m not sure how far I will let these intrude, or whether they will allow me much of a say in this.
Planning ahead? I always know what the next chapter will be when I finish one. I do know the ending. It mustn’t be predictable, but it must be believable, so I have thought this out. I probably did this by the end of Chapter Three.
Now I’ve reached the point of writing in tertiary characters. The parents need to discuss their problem with friends. They are going to do this at a dinner. It’s a tradition that this group meet up monthly. I know that the help is not going to be helpful. Other than that I don’t know yet how the conversation will go. I do enjoy writing dialogue (perhaps that’s why I like the retort style of Twitter rather than report style of LinkedIn). The dialogue will happen (unfold) of its own accord because of the nature of each friend.
For that reason, I have written a brief biography for these people. I need to know how and when they met the parents, what their work is and sufficient about their individual experience to colour their reaction, comment and advice to the troubled parents.
Perhaps I will write an update to the process of writing this novel at a later stage. For now, I must off and prepare the dinner the eleven characters are about to sit down to. Their reserved table at the Soft Swan is already laid.