Friday, 22 November 2013

When the story just takes over - by Nicola Morgan

Have you ever had the experience of something "just happening" in the book you're writing, something that you just have to find a way to deal with? This used to happen a lot to me and it felt rather wonderful, as though something was there, helping me write the story, something that was going to guide or drag me, something I needed to handle with a long rein. Sadly, this doesn't happen so much nowadays, as I think I've busified myself too much. But one day I'll get it back.

The most memorable time when it happened was when I was writing The Passionflower Massacre, which I confess remains my favourite of my books. There's a big chunk of me in that book. It's from the heart.

ANYway, quite early in the book, I found myself writing these sentences:
Before lunch, a message came for Matt to go back to the hostel. He didn’t come back to the raspberry fields. 
Matilda never saw Matt alive again.
What?? The gorgeous guy just vanishes? The one who was going to save Matilda? Just like that? What, as in dead?????? Nooooo! But he was gorgeous! Where's he gone? Why? Who did it? Is he dead? But I knew he was. But how and why and who and what would be the results? I had no idea.

Of course, I could have deleted it. But I didn't want to. It had been given to me. It sounded exciting. Twisty. Dark. Right.

So I went with it and followed the story and discovered what happened to gorgeous, doomed Matt. And why. And what it did to Matilda. I discovered that it had a part to play in the bursting, roasting strawberries and the ripening tomatoes and the deadly, rare, gorgeous passionflowers. He had to die.

Has this abolition of control happened to you? And isn't it a scary wonderful feeling when it does? I'll get that back, I hope.
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The Passionflower Massacre and Sleepwalking are to be republished in one pretty ebook on December 2nd! If you liked Wasted, I think you'll like these. Please give them a shot! Super-cheap as an intro offer. Free extracts of the PFM on my blog now. 

11 comments:

Joan Lennon said...

Yes! Though for me the chronology tends to be write, write, write, fuss, fuss, despair, fuss, write, write, OH!

Nicola Morgan said...

Yes, I forgot to mention those bits...

Penny Dolan said...

"busified myself too much." Hmmm. There's a lesson for a lot of creative people there. Nice post, Nicola. Will be watching out for the book.

Savita Kalhan said...

The task of unbusying oneself is not easy, but it's definitely necessary. So thank you for that reminder! I'm going to 'unbusy' myself for the next few months, with time off for good behaviour at xmas, and see if I can find that place where the story just takes over...

Nicola Morgan said...

I am utterly useless at unbusifying myself. I keep saying I will, and I mean to, and then it doesn't happen :(

Pippa Goodhart said...

I wrote a series of stories about two girls, and one lived just with her mum. I knew her parents hadn't divorced, but didn't know what had happened to her dad, and the stories were about quite other things ... until we got to the twelfth story, and the previous ones had been working up to the moment when she is walking along a beach with her Mum, and her Mum says that she'll tell Minnie about her Dad. At that point I had no idea what Mum was going to say. But she just said it, and I sat there with tears running down my face as I wrote what she said. Strange, but wonderfully exciting to be taken-over by a story in that sort of way.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I think it happens to all of us. In my current manuscript, I suddenly realised that the villain wasn't evil after all and had to replace her. You can't have a YA fantasy without a villain! ;-) Sometimes you just have to go along with it - it's something deep in your mind which is telling you that the way you're writing doesn't make sense and needs fixing.

Kate said...

And the really fun bit is when you re-read and realise you already laid the seed for what has happened some time before ...

It first happened to me when I was about 16 and writing a historical romance. (Sad but true, that's how I spent my spare time.) One of my favourite characters died of plague when I had no idea she was going to.
I sat and stared at what I'd written (handwriting on lined paper) and realised I could not change it. Darn! She was the heroine's best friend and the heroine's brother was all set to marry her and there she was, dead.

That strange and wonderful moment has stayed with me ever since. Keeps me writing when writer's block overwhelms and the world gets in the way.

Thanks for the post, Nicola.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lovely examples!

Carole Anne Carr said...

Lucky you, it really is a gift, happens to me rarely.

John Dougherty said...

It's happened a few times - for instance, in Bansi O'Hara & the Bloodline Prophecy I needed a way of ending an argument between 2 major characters without resolving it, so invented someone to interrupt it. He turned out to be a drunken cluricaun called Flooter. And then he popped up again. And again. And turned out to be essential to the resolution of the story, which I hadn't expected at all until it happened.

But with the new books - the Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face books, I'm actively using 'write whatever pops into your head' as a writing strategy, and - fingers crossed - it appears to be working in a quite ridiculous way.