As the story grows and the characters take form and substance, grow opinions and modes of behaviour, I find myself stepping back a bit. After all, I am not really there in this game, not really walking through the doors into the rooms, not visible to any of them. And yet, if I don’t make them move, they stand still and silent and nothing moves forward.
They are not mere puppets, though, and their world not fashioned by me. I didn’t think them up out of nowhere, paint on their faces, line up their strings. They came to me and said hallo and I turned to take a good look. We decided we like each other, tentatively at first, for there are no end of opportunities for us to fall out. Even when things appear to be swimming along, quite joco, the tables can turn a surprise on us all.
Part of being able to present, if that’s the right word, a believable character, first to the reader, and secondly to the storyline, is through intense observation of all human beings encountered. I watch dynamics between people, study body language, the way a person shrugs when asked a hoary question, for instance. What do her shoulders do as she shrugs, her face, how does it look? Does she turn away in miserable defeat, or do her eyes tell me she is working up a mouthful of bullets to spit right back? Does she have a dog/child/handbag and where is the dog/child/handbag when this dodgy question is asked? Is she in a crowded place or on a mountain top at sunrise? Why sunrise? Why a crowded place? Does she like one over the other and is she in the place that feels most comfortable, or the opposite?
These are but minutes in days of writing practice – practice in my imagination first, then lobbed into my left brain to find the potholes in the path it is choosing to go down. I write down words, ‘how can this happen?’ questions, speak them out into an empty room or toss them into the wind that ever blows around the island shores. I must not meddle with this process, or try to rush it, or that part of the story, perhaps the whole thing, will turn to mud, as my paintings did when I couldn’t put down the brush to wait patiently for an answer.
In life, we often don’t wait for answers, believing that it is down to us, to me, to fix this thing and right now before it irritates any more of the bejabers out of me and, besides, I can’t think straight with it fannying around my head, because I have a to-do list awaiting me……look, there it sits on the desk with hardly a tick beside any of it!
Wrong thinking. The answer, when considering options, texture and colours for an inter-weave of characters inside a story is to stop thinking. Of course, it isn’t possible, well, not for me, to unthink once I am in the deep fabric of a piece of writing because I am already part of the life of it and interested, fascinated, intrigued and excited to know who will do what next, and when. But, I can push it/them/ gently behind the cogs and pistons of my brain allowing forward another thing or two to busy me a bit, and to give the story time to evolve without me.
Without me? you cry. But I must control it all the time.
Now let me ask you this. If it were down to just you, or just me to control everything in our lives, would it be a good thing, do you think?
Just play back on a few bloomers in the past, when control of a thing was down to you.
The most important and critical thing to understand, is this. Gazing wistfully at a published writer, with varying degrees of apparent success will not write your story. Only you, only I, can write our own stories because only we can bring that texture, those colours and that melody into the light, and if you or I never turn to say hallo to an idea, a storyline, a character, it will stay forever in the shadows of regret. We don’t need to know how to do it. I don’t know what I’m doing half the time, but, as I reach out my hand in welcome, I suddenly realise that I am not alone. It is not just me. And so, it begins.