Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why Writers are Magpies - Tamsyn Murray

It struck me recently that writers are a bit like magpies. We look out for snippets of pretty shiny things to appropriate for our stories - a line of dialogue here, a character description there - and secrete them away until we need them. Then, when we're ready, we gather all our scraps up and weave them together to make something out of them. And I decided that this process reminded me a little of nest building.

Think about it: we build the structure first - these are the hard twigs, the acts and the scenes. Sometimes the twigs need to be broken a bit to make them fit but that's OK. Once our twigs are all knitted together, we add feathers and bits of moss - the characters, settings, description and dialogue. We make the story a good place to be. It can take several attempts to get the feathers in exactly the right place so that we achieve the effect of making the nest user so comfortable that they forget they are in a nest at all. And lastly, we add our shiny borrowed snippets - the decoration that sparkles and twists in the wind and makes our nest stand out from all the other nests.

I freely admit to being a magpie. In fact, I have a whole notebook of stolen snippets. Last night, on the train, I borrowed an old soldier who was on his way home. I stole sneaky little glances and captured every detail about him, from his spit and polish shiny boots to the brass buttons on his cuffs and the regiment badge on his jacket.

So come on, writers, admit your true nature and tell me what you've taken recently for your nests. Magpies love company.


Nick Green said...

One for sorrow
Two for more
Three having Chardonnay
Four are too poor
Five frustrated
Six duvet days
Seven for not getting
A word in edgeways.

Penny Dolan said...

Nice verse, Nick, nice thought, Tamsyn - and happy collecting, all you writers.

Tamsyn Murray said...

Love it, Nick!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Thanks, Penny!

Becca McCallum said...

I stayed with a friend in Islington recently and on the way back home one night, we came across two flower stalls that were still open. All their buckets and basket were spread out on the pavement, and they had lights strung across the stall. I jotted down about the colours and the lights, and the scents in the warm, slightly damp, summer air.

Becca McCallum said...

Also, Pinterest feeds my magpie-like cravings. I have boards for different projects, or for different periods of history - helps collect all those links together, in a nice, visually appealing format too!