Monday, 14 July 2008

Unblockery - Charlie Butler

Does this sound at all familiar?
The two boys looked at each, their faces flushed with excitement.
“I feel we may be teetering on the very edge of a mystery,” said Jack.
“Me too,” agreed Jimmy.
“About to fall in, given the merest breath of wind.”
"Exactly. That’s just how I feel about it.”
“The locked cupboard, the one-eyed Frenchman, that passage from the violin concerto, the glow-in-the-dark yo-yo – they point to only one thing."
Jimmy studied a piece of chewing gum on the ground by his foot. It was the same colour as his laces.
“What’s that, then?”

It's a common predicament. Your characters are in a difficult spot, waiting for you to help them along. You’ve already come quite a distance, and so far you’ve ushered them on their journey happily enough; but suddenly the road ahead is littered with fallen trees. You get out the heavy lifting gear to clear the path, but the engine stutters, then fails. The cursor winks insolently. All is still.
Oh dear – just when you were within sight of journey’s end, too! What’s to be done about it?
My own approach is to pretend that I’m not making the story up at all, but remembering a story that’s already been told to me. If I can trick my brain into thinking the book already exists, even as a memory, it’s often prepared to put some effort into excavating it.
If that fails, more drastic measures may be required. For example, you might take your manuscript out into the long grass of your unmown lawn. (If you have no lawn, a wayside verge will do nicely.) Leave it flapping in the breeze like a wounded impala, and stalk it, sloooowly. When you get within a metre of it – pounce! It will be so frightened that it will beg to tell you its secrets. At the very least you’ll have got some much-needed fresh air.
Alternatively, take a tip from Super Nanny, and put your manuscript in the Naughty Drawer. Let it know you’ve got a life beyond attending to its every whim. Be careful to have glittering, laughter-filled telephone conversations in its hearing, and mention how your “other projects” are just bounding along. Then, after two weeks, take your tearful and shame-faced manuscript from its drawer of disgrace. Don’t scold – it’s been through enough already. Just say matter-of-factly: “Perhaps you’d like to do some work with me today?”
Its gratitude will be unspoken, but just watch the words fly onto the page...

1 comment:

John Dougherty said...

"My own approach is to pretend that I’m not making the story up at all, but remembering a story that’s already been told to me."

I sometimes do something similar; I behave as if it's a true story - it's already happened, and my imagination is someone who was there, or at least who knows more than I do about what actually happened. Then I ask it questions I need answers to.

Hmmm... written down like that, it makes me sound eccentric at best...