25th October 2014
When you write a book of fiction, when, like God, you create this world populated by projections of your own psyche, it takes over your life. That seventh day of rest doesn't come for you, though, because you're too absorbed with your fictional world and too disengaged from your real one: the days just keep on passing, from five pages on this day to ten on the next, to a day when you are forced to go out and attend to other aspects of your life but keep chewing over what you have written and what you are going to write next. It's a socially sanctioned obsessive compulsive disorder.
I have to say this is where I am right now, recreating this book that I created once before but so long ago now the initial impulse has become hazy. So I get to be god all over again, and it is a heady business, a piece of psychotherapy, if truth be told. The craft of the writer is to make this journey of self-discovery compelling also to the reader. Funny thing - I thought I knew these characters of old (Lord knows I have been carrying them around for long enough!) but they are surprising me all over again. They are saying different things and are reacting in different ways, and my main character, Hazel, has much more of an internal struggle going on. Sometimes I wonder from where in the dark pool of my own soul I am pulling this stuff. I thought her attraction to the love-interest was obvious, a
fait accompli, but now I don't know if he isn't just too aggravating, that in the end she might not, as she did before, end up with him.
Stephen King says in his fantastic little book "On Writing," that stories consist of 3 things: Narration, Description and Dialogue. Where is plot in this? - nowhere, and that's the way it should be (he says, and I agree!)
So re-writing becomes a new voyage of discovery. You have the same characters, but this time around you're not in the same place you were the last time around. This time the story begins to list in different directions, because the characters have come out of their sleep and are not the same.
If the writer of "The Three Bears," had picked it up a few decades later and messed with it again, it might have come out differently: Goldilocks might look up at the three bears crowding her bed and, instead of fleeing, might begin to explain her predicament. The bears, being reasonable bears, might probe more deeply and find out that this little girl is truly lost, and not just in the forest. In this version, they might adopt her, and then the point of the story would be entirely different.
So don't carve characters out of stone. As you do your own children, let your characters blossom into their own persons. Stephen King says, "I have never demanded of a set of characters that they do things my way. On the contrary, I want them to do things their way. In some instances the outcome is what I visualized. In most, however, it something I never expected."