I tried to demand “alone-time” this weekend, but realised life and fiction doesn’t work like that…
If I manage to write at the weekend, I am lucky. Sometimes I barricade
myself in the bedroom to get in maybe thirty minutes to myself. My computer is
a constant temptation to my son, he also is rarely satisfied to ask his Daddy
for something. So, I get left alone for very little time. Sometimes it’s
because the noises from downstairs are too distracting, sometimes it’s because he barges in to ask me for a drink or a snack because obviously he thinks I will say yes. This is my reality right now.
I think there are many benefits of being alone with my work, apart from the
practical specifics of liking to work in the quiet. Although a deadline and a spurt of inspiration can be very productive, I find clear space, and quiet is a great combination for creativity.
Even as I write this blog post, a shout comes for me to help my little one. I feel very needed. I also feel frustration at times. Look, we all get sent those poems by kind folks who remind us that this phase will soon be over. But what if I needed to be absorbed in the life of my main character? Will anyone leave me alone with her long enough to get to know what drives her?
When my writing stalls because I have been distracted, I start to think:
Why does she want to be left alone? Who won’t leave her
alone and why?
I find that by prompting myself to think about these questions, I am
building both the character and the world around her. Because central to her
motivation may be to escape but, you know what, if my life doesn’t happen like that so she can’t have that luxury in fiction!
Plotting has been hard at times because I have played around the chronology of
this story. What has become apparent though is that it is the people who insist
on interrupting her life are drawing me in more and more. It seems so clear now
she has been forced to change her ideas from the start to the beginning of the
novel by the reality she faces and the people she meets. So, the central
question becomes, can you ever really escape?
As I write this, I am amused because I am not sure this is where the story started. The impetus of the story, which was a dream I had as a child as I have shared before, speaks to me more now. As I mature, I find I am inundated with
responsibilities. “You’ve got to serve somebody”, Bob Dylan said. Well that is true
for me and for my poor main character too.
In using the prompt to make notes, I notice things that have developed in my
tediously long drafting process. It is more than a quirk of her character that
has made her want to be alone, and it is more than a plotting device that her
neighbours interfere and adopt her into their fold. Although I didn’t write a
scene this weekend, the time I spent pondering these questions over the was
productive. And it only came with a few interruptions about buses (a current
interest of my son.)
If you are stuck with your writing, you might try and think about what you
crave most and ask why your character craves the same. I found the question
about alone time but maybe yours might be around success, attention, love, sex…and well all the things we need in our life. Our characters probably need them even more.
How was your writing weekend?