Thursday, 20 August 2009

Little Demons, Little Gods: Gillian Philip

I’m writing this post on a night when I’m lost for words. (Don’t say it. OK, enough already, I’ll pay you not to say it.)

So there are many times when despite the unsociable hours, the lousy pay, yada yada, it’s good to be a writer. Actually there are many times like that: that’s why we do it. What’s more fun than larking with your imaginary friends? I get to do exactly what I used to do when I was eight, except I get paid for it: adventures on a blank sheet of A4. Any adventures you like. Any adventures I like.

And of course there are times when it isn’t a lark. There are times when you look at the world and wish you wrote the script. We’re gods of our own little worlds, we are. We can make it all right. If we can’t make it all right, we can at least show up where it’s all wrong. It’s not happy-times, but it feels good, doesn’t it?

Then, like Fenoglio in Inkspell, we realise the whole thing’s careering out of our control and there’s nothing we can do about it. Minds of their own, these characters have. Motives of their own, too. In special little dark moments of the night, one of them might come and sit down, and pour a couple of whiskies, and explain himself. Those moments are treasure. That’s when you might finally understand why the person you made has thrust a knife into live flesh, or severed a head; why he has lied to a people and betrayed a nation; why she has pulled the legs from a fly or mugged an old lady; why he has sent hundreds of people falling through black night to their deaths.

And sometimes it helps to talk to them, in more ways than making a story. Sometimes you look at someone you didn’t make, someone on this side of the paper, and you think: ah, if only I’d written them, how different it might all have been. Or you think: well, it might have been just the same, but a story at least has an ending. A writer can play at being a little god; a writer can make redemption for everyone.

But there are times when there isn’t any explanation, there isn’t any excuse. He shrugs his shoulders and gives you a small, apologetic, slightly embarrassed smile, and he lights another cigarette.

When that’s how it is, all that can happen is the start of another story. That, at least, is what you can take with you when you’re a writer.

So I found a few words, even if they don’t make much sense.

And now please do excuse me. You know how it is. Worlds to create, people to kill.


Yunaleska said...

Heehee - got to love that closing phrase!

Michael Malone said...

much sense you make, Gillian regardless of the hour.

Stroppy Author said...

And with or without the explanation, we get to define justice. Lovely piece, Gillian.

Bill Kirton said...

Perfectly articulated Gillian. That cosy omniscience we have is both comforting and a curse in just the way you say it - the beauty of making things 'right' (or at least understanding the 'wrong') and the frustration of seeing characters 'on this side of the paper' (great phrase) doing the unforgivable things they do.

Let's not forget, though, that there are plenty of writers who'd actually write the 'this side' characters in more or less the same way. So the status quo's maybe not so bad.

Nicola Morgan said...

Lovely post. Deep! Have you read Atonement?

Bill Kirton said...

Not specifically relevant to this posting but somewhere I need to say that I've nominated this blog for a Kreativ Blogger award. Sorry about the Kreativ spelling - not my idea. Details are in my own latest blog at