Monday, January 7, 2008

Unrealistic expectations




Okay, so I haven't written a thousand words a day for the past couple of days. I haven't even written a hundred. Mainly because we delivered my mum back home to Scarborough (town of my childhood) on Saturday, and decided to stay over, but mostly because I decided, on the long journey back, that I must have had my New Year goggles on when I made that resolution (like beer goggles but more brutal, because you haven't even got the excuse that you were drunk at the time), so it's now been discarded as being utterly unreasonable and I've made a new one - one that I think I can stick to. It came about after discussing writerly things with Lovely Husband on the way back, and realising that one of the things I struggle with the most when I'm writing is my inner cynic. I call her Auntie Barbara, because she's like one of those sensible women who wear sturdy shoes and have a hanky up their sleeve and a sewing kit in their handbag for emergencies, and says things like "they need their heads banging together" and "just tell him you don't like him, then you'll both know where you stand." She's very hard to switch off sometimes. One of the criticisms levelled at my very first manuscript when I sent it out, was that my main characters were too reasonable - too nice. As a result, there just wasn't enough conflict. I think I've got better since then, but still sometimes, I'll be tapping away, and suddenly think - come on. Would this ever, ever happen in real life? If she/he just did this or that, it would all be sorted out. Ridiculous, I know. If all writers worked on that premise, there would be no fiction. We'd all be writing terribly informative books instead, like the one above. Or these beauties...








I read Louise Doughty's "A Novel In A Year" just before Christmas (highly recommended) and she says you should never be afraid to throw a hand grenade (metaphorically speaking) into your story to see how your characters react, because you need action to move the story along and I can't argue with that.

So...my New, New Year's Resolution is to throw caution to the wind, let the muse take over and allow the ideas (however far-fetched) to simply flow. In other words, I'm going to kill Aunty Barbara. Well, ignore her at least. For a bit.

(See? Even here, I can't quite make myself do something so...well, unbelievable.)

10 comments:

A. Writer said...

Thank you so much for your lovely comment on 'Wave Lengths'. It means a lot and it made me smile after a horrible day at work. :)

HelenMH said...

I used to write short stories where everyone was really, really nice and reasonable. Until I discovered that writing about people who are totally unreasonable is soooo much more fun!

Anna said...

stray shopping carts...

and how they KILL PEOPLE!

(even Auntie Barbara....)

Sarah Dunnakey said...

I know exactly what you mean. I worry so much about being over the top and find myself holding back from having anyone die or doing anything nasty in anything write. (I once had an on-the-verge-of-adultery woman who changed her mind at the crucial moment and went home to hubby. I've just read Case Histories by Kate Atkinson in which several people die quite horribly and it was neither melodramatic or silly, just damn fine writing. So I too have bitten the bullet (excuse the pun) and accepted that as in life someone in my book must die or be unreasonable or do something that makes me feel uncomfortable.

FPDuck said...

It could be worse. I've got a lawyer as my inner cynic. He keeps asking-

"Are you sure that's original?"

And-

"Shall I post you my bill, or would you like it now?"

I'm going to have to search for that stray shopping cart book. Sounds useful.

Cheers,
Mike

Lane said...

Maybe give Auntie Barbara a couple of gins to send her merrily on her way:-) Then you can slouch, throw in that grenade and 'kill a few of your darlings':-)

Tom Foolery (TF) said...

"Stray Shopping Carts"....my kind of book :-)TFX

Annieye said...

Hi Karen

Thanks for visiting my blog.

It's much more fun writing about nasty people with warped minds than nice kind ladies in twinsets!

fpduck - I know just what you mean! My alter ego is my childhood imaginary friend called Ima. She makes unhelpful comments in my ear when I'm writing and casts doubt in my mind that the words that are flowing from my fingertips are really big chunks of stuff I have read in a long-forgotten Enid Blyton or a Flicka novel from my childhood.

Maddie Moon said...

Karen, that's such a great resolution, I think I may just borrow it too. And you've given me plenty to think about because your first novel sounds a bit like the one I'm writing now. Everyone's just too nice! Anyway, I shall add some conflict. I've a feeling it will be Aunty Barbara in the conservatory with the shopping trolley!

Btw, I have to get that book. I have a bit of a thing about s.trolleys and supermarket car parks.

KAREN CLARKE said...

I'm thinking of working stray shopping trolleys into my novel now...