One of my favourite approaches to writing a novel — the one I return to again and again — is to allow myself to become the central character, to tell the story as if I were the I-guy, as if I’ve lived the story and am now recounting it, for the benefit of myself as well as my audience.
For me, it always lends a degree of authenticity. I find it much easier to tell the story, acting it out in my head, assessing my reactions and using them to give form to the fiction. Because of this, I suppose, my narrators have a lot of “me” in them — however reshaped and disguised! Their thoughts and reactions to given circumstances may be radically different to my own, but they come from a place that I have, at least temporarily, visited. I draw on what I know, on what I am, but that’s only the beginning.
And my other characters? The ones that move around my narrator, touch him, love him, hate and hurt him? What of them?
When it comes to them the process is far more difficult to pinpoint. They are written by the observations of my narrator — by what he sees and how he interprets that. His bias possibly conceals the truth of their reality, even from me…
… and maybe that’s where the real story is. In the things that we — as readers and writers — can only guess at.
© 2009 Gary William Murning
This morning we woke to snow — not exactly crisp and even (more slushy and patchy), but snow nonetheless. I looked at it from my window, contemplated the hills and the admittedly vague possibility of careening down them with nothing separating my bottom from that chilly substance other than a Marks & Spencer carrier bag, had a mug of tea and, as my still being fit and well and all in one piece attests, decided that I would leave such foolishness to those better equipped (i.e. children who haven’t yet acquired enough bumps and bruises to understand the dangers and eager-to-impress grandfathers who should know better, but never do.)
Instead, I started work on chapter two of Tomorrow Will Come and It Will Be Just Like Today. The second chapter can often be a little difficult, I find. After the initial buzz of starting the novel it can feel as if it has the potential to stall — it’s almost as if it tries to rein me in, settle me down for the long haul ahead. Something I don’t appreciate, and something that just hasn’t happened in this particular case.
I think the complexity of character and relationship within the novel is the key to ensuring that I remain as intrigued and committed to it as I want the reader to be. As I’ve already mentioned, the larger framework of the novel came to me pretty much fully formed. I know the beginning, the middle and the end. Nevertheless, there is still enough to hold my interest, to keep me on my toes. And there’s still room for me to improvise subplots etc if appropriate ones spring to mind as I write it.
I’m really glad I didn’t outline this in detail beforehand.
© 2008 Gary William Murning