Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My ‘Frankenstein’s Monster’

I’m fascinated with how writing works for me; and I’m not saying it has to work this way for anyone else. I’m so fascinated by it, in fact, that it sometimes becomes the theme of my writing itself. And not just in a blog like this. It is one of the main themes in the novel I have just completed, although I have transferred the ideas to painting.

I should say something about the genesis of this novel. Over the last two years or so, I have completed four novels. None of my novels are epics. The first was the longest, coming in at around eighty thousand words. The second and third come in at between fifty and sixty thousand words; the fourth is just about sixty thousand. Size doesn’t bother me. I usually have something to say, and when I’ve said it, that’s it.

These first four novels all seemed to flow fairly easily. Not that there wasn’t struggle and heartache along the way! There always is. But I never became completely stuck. But the fifth… the fifth was a different matter. Before I finished this fifth novel, I started four others. Some of them struggled into the high twenty-thousands before grinding to a painful halt. I was stuck, with nowhere to go. Stuck on all four fronts. I didn’t start all four at once. It was only when I became well and truly mired that I would start the next… and become stuck again.

This went on for months. Weeks would go by when I added nothing to any of them. Then I might add a chapter—or a paragraph—to one of them, and grind to a halt again.

Three of these proto-novels all contained thoughts, plotlines and ideas that I have been playing with for years, even before I completed my first. Some of them were even going to be in the first, until that took on a life of its own and went in a completely different direction. One of these novels began as a fictionalised biography, beginning with my childhood. Some of the chapters reflected real events, others were completely fictitious. I had no idea where this story would go beyond those early childhood years. My own life isn’t really that interesting. I didn’t have a story that would interest anyone else. The second of these proto-novels tried to deal with my years in theological college. As far as I have moved from that scenario, it seemed to me that there were still things that needed to be said. Again, though, I doubted that anyone would be interested in what actually happened. I did not have a story in which anyone else would be interested. The third of these aborted novels tackled the theme I have in mind here, namely, how a novel—or, in fact, a painting—comes into being. In this version, a kind of future, older version of me would be the protagonist.

The fourth of this—quaternity?—won’t get much of a mention here. It is still out there on its own, out on a limb. Maybe one day…

The breakthrough came when I suddenly realised that these three proto-novels were all, in fact, part of the same novel. Neither would tell a complete story on its own, but woven together in just this way, adding that here and leaving this out there, there just might be a novel here. Something that others might actually find interesting. Much to my surprise, there even re-emerged some elements that were going to be in my first novel, but which were abandoned long ago.

So there it is, finished. It is always possible that I may be deluding myself about whether it works. The stitches where I have joined these pieces together may still show. Perhaps what I have created is some kind of Frankenstein’s monster. It will take another, more objective eye to determine this.

I have been putting a few ‘final’ touches to this novel over the last few days, before leaving it to—what do they say about a roast?—relax for a while. And today, I suddenly had an idea for the next novel. And I am even beginning to see how the fourth, abandoned novel might, just possibly, contribute to its development.

What often happens is that I get an idea, nothing more than a germ of an idea. The idea that prompted me to start was this: Let’s suppose for a moment that what some people believe is actually true, and that we each have lived many past lives. Then, what if…? And that’s all you’ll get from me today. I have this idea, but I have no plot, no story, no characters. Nevertheless, I wrote the introductory paragraphs today. I have never planned a novel. I think a mother might emerge as a main character here, and she may take over the development of the story for a while. She may let me in on the secret. I have an image in my mind from an old science fiction novel by Robert Heinlein—Stranger in a Strange Land—which may influence the plot. But that’s about it. I have a rather irrational faith that the elements of this novel will eventually emerge. And if not…well there is still this fourth novel of the quaternity. I also have an idea for…

1 comment:

  1. Hi Philip, it's amazing isn't it, how things suddenly gel! I'm waiting for that to happen with my current WIP. I know I can't handle writing more than one thing at a go though - so well done you!