Huge thanks to Virginia KingAuthor of the Selkie Moon Mysteries for publishing this as a guest post on her blog
Have you noticed?
In true life, things happen. And then life goes on as if they hadn’t happened at all.
I once took a creative writing course and was asked to write a piece that comprised mostly conversation. I racked my brains for a while and then remembered something that I thought would serve for this purpose.
Alone in a cold cottage
When an old friend of mine, whom I shall call Mick, and I attended a dowsing course in Norfolk we had a strange and memorable experience. The rest of the class had dispersed because the weather was closing in. Mick and I were left alone in a cold holiday cottage that felt unlived in and unloved. I knew that Mick was psychic, but he usually hid this fact from everyone, including his family, mostly because they derided his ability. On the other hand, I was fascinated, never having had this particular gift myself, although I was good at sensing atmosphere and energy.
Anyway, we were left alone, as I was saying. After some desultory conversation, we settled down each to our own devices, he reading, me writing, comfortable to be quiet together.
The clock began to tick
Suddenly, a strange thing happened. The clock on the wall began to tick loudly, so loudly that it impinged on the consciousness of each of us at the same time. We looked at the clock and then at each other. There was no clock on the wall. And yet we could each describe to the other exactly where it hung and what sort of clock it was. It ticked on, inexorably.
Spooky. But fascinating.
A man in a rocking chair winked at me
Soon, we were aware of numerous other objects and people in the room. They came crowding in, apparently oblivious of us, apart from an ancient man who sat in a rocking chair in the inglenook and winked at me. I actually saw none of this. It was simply a ‘knowing’.
And yet, both Mick and I, taken by surprise, were able to describe to each other exactly what each of the people in the room looked like, as well as what they were doing and thinking. Eventually, the ‘vision’ – if such it was – faded. We smiled at each other sadly, feeling oddly bereft. Then I made a cup of tea and we each went back to our previous occupations.
A portentous event had imprinted itself
We reasoned, later, that a portentous event had imprinted itself on the room. Yet, on that cold wet afternoon, the room remained empty and cold with a feeling of neglect. We decided to repair to the local pub and find something warm to eat and when we returned we said goodnight and parted. After the course ended the following day, we went back to our respective lives and never referred to the incident again.
Real life is boring
So when asked for this piece of creative writing, I dished up a rehash of our conversation. (You might have guessed that that was what I had been busily writing!) But of course, it was boring. Real life is, generally. Inexplicable things and happenings remain inexplicable. So my creative writing tutor explained. When you write, he said, you write for your reader and the reader wants more. A reader wants a story and a story needs excitement. Nothing should be left unexplained. A story also needs a beginning, a middle and an ending. Start with real life, he suggested, and use your imagination to turn it into a memorable tale, with real warm characters, a back story perhaps, and a proper ending.
Okay, I thought, this is not going to beat me. No way. I started amending the piece. But it was no good. Back to the metaphorical drawing board, I went instead.
A kernel of truth …
Taking the bones of the experience, I filled in all the gaps with my imagination and a fair amount of research and almost before I knew it, I had real, believable people and a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end.
This has become the way I write. I take a kernel of truth, mix it with all the ingredients of my imagination, spice it with research and serve it up with a flourish. Then I cross my fingers and hope my readers find my offering delectable.
A Free Story
The story I’ve referred to above is entitled ‘Norfolk Twilight’ and, if you would like to partake of it, you can obtain it free from Smashwords. If you do decide to try it, thank you. I hope you find it both delicious and more-ish!