When the block is bad, I take to writing short pieces of 500 words or so. I did this before and during the writing of the first couple of These Matters books, and I have found it to be a good way to get some ideas out that don't belong in my novels. It's as though these ideas sit at the front of my mind until they get themselves out onto paper (screen?), and they they can just exist. What I find is that I'm useless at writing them as stories in which something happens. What they almost always are is little vignettes, a piece that a character might have written. Often, they contain a riff on an idea that might have arisen as part of the writing of the books, but there's just no way to crowbar them in: they just don't belong in the context of the 'live', scenic way I describe the world of These Matters.
So, as I have mentioned on this very blog, I have found dragging the story out to bring book IV (which I have, I think, settled on calling Truth to Power, but that is still up for grabs) extremely difficult, a labour not so much of love as of labour. And writing is no fun when it feels like work. So I've let the voices inside my head out in these little flash pieces that don't belong anywhere other than perhaps as submissions to flash fiction competitions.
Here are, then, for no other reason than that they exist, a couple of snippets.
And that’s it, isn’t it? By listening to her, by allowing her to think out loud, I might be letting a thing that would just go away all on its own become a thing that will stick and last and reverberate (another word he’d like) forever. These wounds that I see, supposedly what I’m doing is poking and prodding at them, rather than patching them up. Perhaps. It’s hard for me, because I can’t always predict the results of what I say and do, especially how they will make people feel. In some ways, that’s a superpower, because I see things in a different way. In others, it’s a disability, because I don’t see things that might be obvious to someone else.
But I return to that word, ‘ordinary’. It carries with it, perhaps wrongly, the sense of dull or commonplace. And sometimes that is exactly what it serves to pick out. Not here. What I mean is that there is no high adventure, no last-minute rescue from a nearly-lost-you moment. There is none of that stuff - the romantic gestures, the complicated weave of storyline - that writing about love seems to need to be interesting to people. Not in my dreams. There is just the enveloping, protecting, world-defying peace that being with you brought.
What I recognise in writing them is that I still cannot capture the voice of these characters. What they do - always - is speak through me, their ideas using my language to get themselves out. Perhaps I could learn to let them speak unfiltered, but I'm just not good enough as a writer to do that (yet?). That's part of the challenge of writing any character, I suppose: would they say that? Here it's a different question: would they write in the first place? In a lot of those vignettes, the answer is no, so I'm forcing the fiction, channelling an idea but through my expression. Whereas when I'm at my best writing These Matters, there's no question. It's not a question of whether they would say that, because in some sense they already have. My challenge is to get those characters to live and breathe on the page. Sometimes I even think I get close.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought