Friday, 2 September 2016

Narratives and Magnetic Ideas.

My new novel The Bad Child is  at last out there now strutting her stuff  (I hope you're taking a look at her...) And I've just about completed my creative contribution to the fascinating Damselfly Books Website.  

And now, like other professional writers I find there's this nagging question in my ear. So what next, Wendy. What next? The usually cluttered storytelling attic that is my head is disturbingly empty. But the truth is that the creative nature abhors a vacuum and ideas are beginning to settle in up there, coming into a new life. There they are, swirling about, making patterns in the air.

It seems to me that once an idea has settled there firmly in  my attic  head, it begins to attract fragments of memory and the urge to make notes, read books and absorb further inspiration. These things are like iron filings dancing around in the dusty air, making shapes around the intensely powerful magnet that is the new story idea. The shapes are not fixed. They can change with every movement of the magnet. The iron filings may consist of historical sources, images, artefacts, songs, stories, maps, photographs  and actual landscapes.

This was very much the case  with my Celtic/Roman novel The Pathfinder. The first
The Book
The Kindle
fragment settling clinging to a wall in the attic was an article I read about what are called  Lines of Desire.  Then, somehow, I kept bumping into elements of  this idea in different books, articles in the press and on the Internet.

The term Lines of Desire refers to the facts that, for several thousands of years, straight  roads and pathways were naturally formed by the foot-tread and the wheel marks of generations of men, women and children making their way - not just through Britain -  but throughout Europe and even further afield. These pathways were established as travellers and traders, families and individuals, made their way through the landscape, going about their business of their daily life.

Lines of Desire is still referred to today in urban planning to describe the roads that are made on new ground as people find their own straight way usually the shortest distance between two points in a landscape.

Of course, this ie very efficient,  as the Romans demonstrated this merely two thousand years ago, when they used many of the old straight British paths as the basis for  their straight roads throughout Britain. Of course the business the Romans were going about was the conquest of the then known world. Their roads were certainly their own lines of desire.

In the beginning my novel The Pathfinder was actually entitled Lines of Desire. But as I moved the magnet again around my attic as the story grew, I began to think that title ambiguous, too off-piste

I was becoming fascinated by the complex and interesting lives of the original Pathfinders, often left in the shadow of the powerful Roman definitions of early British history. One more shake of the magnet and out stepped my heroine   Elen,  a great Pathfinder, daughter of another Pathfinder, a powerful British tribal trading king, in in the land we now call Wales.   

At last I could see that my job as a writer was to use my imagination to bring to life this landscape, these people those times, these forefathers of my readers, these unique people. My prose has to allow my readers to experience the reality of Elen’s world, her powerful father, her artistic mother, he warrior brothers; the brother who was a poet and a song-maker. I had  to breathe life into her the man who became her husband, husband a Roman general, and trace their joint pathway through the history of their times. to trace their impact on history,

And now at last I have come to the end of another two years and finished the next
Book and Kindle
 entirely different story The Bad Child. I have spent a year or so in the modern world alongside the rebellious Dee Belasis who has decided not to speak. But she can draw. Boy can she draw!  

But the magnet does its magic again. I was halfway through the novel - still inside  Dee’s un-speaking head - when by accident I heard a Radio 4 programme about drawing and the making of meaning and idea which fitted my story like a glove. It gave another player to the whole narrative.

It’s a funny way to make a living isn’t it?  Playing iron filings and magnets to make my stories swing into real life,.  

And what, you may say, is the next Magnetic Idea ?
I was just asking that myself.

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