I always had a sneaking suspicion that when writers were developing characters, they based them on people they know. I’m sure more than one friend or relative of a writer has scanned the pages of their latest work hoping or perhaps dreading to find themselves characterised in text.
It was something of surprise to me therefore that when I started writing The Key of Ornoss that wasn’t the way it happened. Then again I’ve never been taught to write, I didn’t start by sketching out plots and developing story arcs. Maybe others write that way but for me it was a very right-brain process. I’d be minding my own business when all of a sudden the characters would start talking. Having learned to keep a notebook handy I’d begin scribbling it all down, desperate to keep up and only when they’d finished would I get a chance to look at what had emerged and asked questions about who this new person was, where the conversation was taking place and how they got there etc. Filling in those few missing pieces was an exciting process, it wasn’t so much like writing a story as finding a story.
In a less conscious part of my mind the story had grown, developed and written itself. When it came out it was a bit like opening the box and pouring out the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, almost everything I wrote was out of chronological sequence. My job was going back through three and a half notebooks of scribbles and typing it up in order. The only left-brain writing that took place was adding in a few stitching pieces to make sure everything connected up as well as it could.
Somewhere in there, along with a convoluted plot set in an amazing new world these characters were born, like fully formed real people I was meeting for the first time. They weren’t in any way constructed consciously by me and as far as I can tell they don’t resemble anyone I’ve ever met. It’s like they’re their own people, some good, some bad but all extraordinary in their own way.
As mysterious a process as writing was and continues to be for me, part two of this story, The Rod of Xerus, which is already complete as a first draft, was even more of a challenge. The story and the worlds expanded hugely as this part of the tale emerged and at times I wasn’t sure my brain could hold all of it. It was a very large baby to give birth to but so thrilling to see where Cal went next and how her adventures unravelled.
I know somewhere inside, in the hidden bookstore in my mind, part three is in the process of germinating and growing. Hints of it have already begun to show themselves: an image here, a snatch of conversation there. I honestly can’t wait until it’s ready to come out into the world and show itself. Is that weird? I can’t wait to read the book I’m about to write. My only commitment and requirement for this whole process is to enjoy it and have fun along the way. I don’t care if I don’t make a penny from it, which is good because I probably won’t!