Why I Write

I write to reveal myself to myself.

I also meditate.

Both writing and meditation follow the flow of the currents underpinning my sense of self. One tries to build dams, the other attempts, at first, to re-channel and then to drain until dry. The spaces that remain are rendered luminous by the shoeless one entering the temple.

But I digress; back to the dams.

Dams serve different purposes. The collected water consists of thoughts and feelings. To swim within these depths is to be coloured by their presence. To follow a thought is to learn of its beauties and horrors. To get within and to let within these entities is to simultaneously find and create oneself.

I can write. I can navigate the pools and the channels that convey words back and forth inside my mind. Each moment at the keys means choice. If this then that. If that then the other. Some words come alone and some in groups. There are short trains. There are concatenated carriages making up locomotives that ride on rails straight or sinuous. And then there are orphan thoughts that should succumb to the shears; but who could cut the blossom? So they stay. Inappropriate and lost.

<adrift>
And others promote, provoke, invoke followers that gather round like shiny-eyed cult members.
</adrift>

I organise my words. I corral and caress them. I let them whisper their meanings to me.

Then, when they’ve (they’re?) done with me I feel a release. A felled forest. Levelled land. Easier navigation from there to me. Will they spot the rhyme with a to b?‘ whispers a voice, and I wonder at that sound. Who speaks to me so? And another part of me realises that when I begin to joke, my point has been made and it’s time to stop.

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Dawn Meeting

Dawn’s fingers were rosy and plump. They stretched from the horizon clear into the sky to caress the clouds. Seemed to tickle the early morning birds swirling and whirling across the blue. The sun said ‘I’m a gonna give you hell today.’ Sun’s are like that in Alabama; in the middle months – trust me, I know.

All the screaming that Dawn had was done when I fetched up beside her. She’d been calling to the fading stars as she ran. Calling for help-me, help-me, help-me and I figure that by now the raw in her throat had caught whatever was left of her breath and killed it flat.

I imagine she had a mind to have a drink. That’s if she had a mind left. She didn’t. I could see from the lost way her eyes didn’t hardly see me. Saw that her sanity’d got itself scattered across the fields and fallen on dust. Fallow to come. Baked. Stubble wheat ain’t got no mind to tell about no blood spill.

The cut took her by surprise. Top of the thigh – right below the swell of the buttock. The way she span around; trying for a stride; not getting it. Wide eyes widened more. Pride flared in her eyes. Indignant like white folk always is when they get touched by a nigger. And a nigger’s things. Frotteur.

Thought she’d fall. Didn’t. Something there – some kind of stubborn kept her up. Knew she’d run out of running but still, her body did what it could and turned away. Toward the sun.

That was fine. I wanted to watch the blood shining bright through the slit in her dress. Sharp knife. Swelling. Blood. Pump.

I knew I was right when the wind came up and plastered that thin cotton against her leg. Soaking through. Spreading red.

Thought about spreading.

Warm against ..

“Pa.”

Warm …

“Pa.”

Mumbled through dry. “Yeah, son?”

Clear like new water. “Get up, Pa – you got to get me to school.”

Developing Your Characters

(The following is from page 73 of Writing Fiction by Linda Anderson)


Be specific and particular when imagining your characters. New writers sometimes reach for abstractions and generalities, thinking that this is the way to indicate the wider or universal significance of a particular plight. But the more specific and grounded your stories are, the more they will illuminate the human condition.

To see the difference between the two approaches, let’s say that we want to write a story about intergenerational conflict. We’ll have a rich, possessive father who has indulged his only daughter. But she starts to forge a different set of values.

Example 1
He was a 38-year-old, public-school educated man of considerable wealth, who got very upset when his only daughter decided to do voluntary work overseas.
Packed with concise information but who cares? We can’t see or feel anything. The characters are mere types. Everything is ‘under wraps’.

Example 2
Nigel downed a tumbler of claret very fast. Emily was going to live in some dump of a country full of typhoons and terrorists for two whole years. He marched upstairs and yanked her designer clothes out of the wardrobe, making a mound on the floor. ‘Won’t need these, then, will you, Princess?’ he thought.

Now we have subjectivity, action, and setting. Everything is personal and particular. But this version is more likely to make us feel and think about the implications of parent–child conflict and the impact of wealth than the generalised first example.


(Spent an hour looking for the preceding: an exemplar of how character should be written)

A Likely Story!

Imagine this: a handsome, blind athletically built man pushing his quadriplegic companion along in a wheelchair.

The chair-bound man directs the blind man, describes the scenery as they go and, in return, gets to go places he wouldn’t have been able to reach by himself.

A match made in heaven?

No. They hate each other.

The blind man is called Pete. He was driving. He was drunk. There was a crash. A spine was damaged.

The quadriplegic is called Christopher. He paid someone to remove Pete’s eyeballs. Then he told Pete what he’d done.

So why so they together today?

Sexual chemistry.

But I’ll tell you more about that later.

Rebekah – Hook, Line & Sinker

The big idea (the hook) behind Rebekah is that the apparently normal person you’re living with and about marry could be a murderer, and you might be his next victim.

The copy (the line) for Rebekah could be: “What started out as a dream became a nightmare. Then the nightmare became real.”

The potential negative angles (the sinkers) are:

  • Murder has already been done to death
  • Suburban nightmares are hardly the stuff of dreams
  • Previous girlfriends turning up and spoiling a new relationship are old hat.

Still, I have a creative mind on my side so I’m sure I can fix these failings.

Rebekah – Points of No Return

There are, in the three-act structure, two ‘doors’ through which the plot and lead character must pass.

The first takes the lead character from his normal, everyday state in act 1 to a state in act 2 that puts him in a state of conflict. He cannot return to his normal state of act 1. Act 2 is full of alternating conflict and rest – like a rollercoaster.

Then, at the end of act 2, there is another door through which the character must pass to reach act 3 – a place in which the final conflict happens. The second door is another point-of-no-return event, one that makes the final conflict inevitable.

So, in Rebekah (title of novel), the normal state in act 1 is that Dave (lead character) is engaged to be wed to his fiance. Something about the situation starts to give him flashbacks/dreams about a previous girlfriend, Rebekah, who he hasn’t seen or thought about for years. The dreams are about her being murdered. As far as he’s aware, they broke up and she’s getting on with her life elsewhere.

The dreams start to get more detailed and graphic and so, prompted by a desire to make sure that she is well, he searches for her on the internet. He finds two contradictory pieces of information:

  1. Her website, that he remembers from just after they ‘broke up’, with details of her career – updated very recently by the inclusion of a radio play (she is a writer) she just published.
  2. A news report that says that Rebekah accidentally died (fell down stairs or drowned or had a freak accident with a knife or something ambiguous like that) five years before – the date that he and Rebekah broke up.

Suddenly, his dreams make sense to him – Dave realises that he killed Rebekah and that the psychotic break he had, and recovered from, just after he and Rebekah broke up five years ago was, in fact, triggered by him murdering her.

But who’s updating her website?

The lead character, Dave has walked through the first doorway and cannot now go back to his normal life.

The rest of act 2 details his rollercoaster ride through his desperate quest to find out what happened back then, that he has to undertak without revealing to his fiance what he did.

He looks though the letters they sent to each other, recalls the tempestuous relationship, fights with his fiance (who thinks that he is having an affair, that he is trying to keep secret, with someone) and various other other up and down things. There is even a sub-plot about a dog.

Then Dave makes the mistake of sending an email to the address on the website. By doing this, he enter the second doorway because the site has actually been set up by someone close to Rebekah (fiance, brother, sister or someone else close to her) as a Honeypot (trap designed to catch people) because that person suspects what Dave now knows – that Rebekah was murdered!

Act 3 is in progress. Through his tech skills, this other person tracks Dave down and confronts him. This is the climactic scene in which Dave either gets what’s coming to him, or he gets away. Or he realises, via another psychotic break, that he actually untended to kill Rebekah, he enjoyed it, and he wants also to kill this person who has tracked him down.

Is this the end of the story? Or is it the start of Dave’s new life as a self-realised serial-killer?

All of the above is subject to change.

Rebekah – The Plot

My lead character is a guy who seems really nice, has a great girl who he is engaged to be married to.

His objective is to have a happy life with the usual trimmings – house, career, kids etc. etc.

He has recently been confronted by a recurring dreams of a previous girlfriend: Rebekah, which troubles him because the dreams are of her being murdered violently.

The ending will be a knockout because he will put an end to his murderous dreams by realising, through a series of events, that Rebekah died at his hands, and so will his fiance.

(outline of a plot using the LOCK (Lead, Objective, Confront, Knockout) structure as taught by James Scott Bell in Plot & Structure)