It’s not about you

I’m reading a Scriptwriting book which I suspect is aimed at people who have randomly thought ‘I might write a script’ because it is going into the most basic of premises, such as; you must know what your story is about. I must be naive, because I thought that would be the minimum trigger for making you want to pick up the book in the first place.

But the thing that is popping up a lot is reminders that the lead character in your movie is not you. This makes me laugh as it seems to be a universal problem with writing; nearly ever writer writes their first major story with themselves in the lead. It is almost like a rite of passage and one of the many reasons why most of us write our first novel and end up putting it in a drawer so we can get started on our first publishable novel.

My first novel starred not only me as the lead character, but all my flatmates (and I had five) as main characters, as well as a few celebrities for love interests. I would stick up the new pages of the story in the bathroom so everyone could read the next instalment (I got the bathroom because two of my other flatmates had already claimed the kitchen door and the living room wall for their stories –I was very lucky to live with very creative people).

That story was a lot of fun, and reading it now I love all the references to things that were happening at the time. I actually pushed on and finished it, convinced that others would love it as much as I did. And finally, once I had 60,000 words judiciously typed out (on a typewriter no less, computers were not as available back then and printers were dot-matrix format – gosh that makes me sound old. TVs were in colour if that helps) I realised that I had that novel that I kept reading about in all the writing books; the unpublishable first novel.

We tend to start writing what we are most familiar with, us of course being head of that list. But the truth is, unless you have lived an extraordinary or tragic life other people generally don’t want to read about you. People want to read about amazing people, or they want to read about someone like themselves; the every-man character, who is not you.

So write that book or story with you in the lead. Learn how to put the sentences together so they flow, breathe life into your story arc, press on past the doubt and hurdles and get to that magical ‘The End’ – but make sure to get straight back to the keyboard and get started on the book you were practicing to write, the one for the rest of the world.

You can always start a blog if you want to write about yourself  😉

The voice inside your head

The last two books I read were Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Kathryn Stockett’s The Help. Both these books have very distinct voices, reflected in the style of writing; one using beautiful old English which has long since dropped out of the common lexicon, the other capturing the sound of the southern black woman in the 60’s with amazing depth.

Reading these two wildly different sounding books in quick succession made me realise something peculiar about myself; I think in the style of the book I am reading. I don’t know that I have ever said the word hitherto out loud, yet I found myself thinking it. Later, when I was walking up a rather steep footpath, I thought to myself ‘law, this sho a big hill…’ I stopped dead. Who was that in my head?!?

Has this been happening all my life and I’ve just never realised? Did I think Hunger Games style, only to be replaced by Bill Bryson and then a bit of Lemony Snicket? I can take comfort in idea that the subject of my thoughts does not seem to be influenced, just the delivery.  

Naturally my first fear was how much of an impact has this been having on my writing? Fortunately I have been writing (just) enough to be able to say with confidence, none at all. I’ve been writing the same story across at least four books read and there is no change in my writing voice.

So what is happening to that voice inside my head? Is the voice that reads the story that your eyes are seeing the same voice that puts your thoughts into words?

You may not realise, but it is possible to think without words, not easy, but possible. Next time you are thinking something just stop your thought mid-sentence and you’ll see that you actually know how the sentence is going to end, you don’t need the words. So why do we need that voice?

This realisation opens a whole world of questions about what other impacts the books I’m reading might have on me? What is the purpose of my personal changing voice? It would be interesting to track my moods against the books I’m reading and see if maybe there could be something deeper to all this.

Finally there is also the question of how can I best employ my voice in the heads of my readers to better serve my stories? Got you thinking –but in whose voice?

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mums are such amazing people. I know mine helps me out whenever she can, even when I don’t ask her, even when I don’t want her to help 🙂

It is great that we have a day dedicated to Mum’s across the world. A day when they get to feast on rubbery eggs and burnt toast, delicious because they have been made with love, if not skill. Millions of school-made gifts will be given; the soft drink-bottle terrariums and all manner of hand stitched, knitted or crochet useless things. The thought of it tempted me to turn my hand to such crafty tasks just for old time’s sake, but I thought it might make Mum cry with the nostalgia.

It is also important to spare a thought for those mothers who don’t have anyone to shower them with love today, or those whose mothers are no longer around to be appreciated. My heart goes out to you.

So thank you Mum for picking me up after the parties, for being there when the postie is delivering my online purchase, for feeding me my favourite dinner every time I come over… Oh, and for all that birthing and raising me stuff too.

To all the Mums out there; Happy Mother’s Day!

Seeing with your passion

I have been lamenting for some time about my lack of writing, it’s not that I’m not writing, I’m just not writing as much as I would like to be. Yes, I know, no-one’s fault but my own. But today while working in the garden I noticed something strange…

I was observing things; like the way my gumboots left chevrons of drying mud on the footpath: the way the leaves sounded like waves on the beach when raked into a pile: the way the golden elm held tightly onto her yellowing leaves, trying desperately not to mix them with the spent foliage of the liquid amber.

In short I was writing these observations into my memory.

It got me thinking about how we look at the world. Maybe an accountant would rake that lawn thinking about how much money they were saving by doing the job themselves? A statistician might stand there calculating how many times he had to draw the rake across a square metre to catch all the leaves, while a painter would see the base colour of each leaf, and the thirty other colours that came together to make the autumnal hue that I just called yellow.

We see everything with our passion, even if it is not in its truest form (for me, putting the words to paper/screen) but the words are always forming in my head. I guess that is how we know what it is we love to do, because in some ways we are always doing it.