Saturday, 13 March 2010

Real But Not Real

I have a story in this week’s Take a Break about a pushy granny. Regular readers of this blog may recall that I encountered such a woman last year. My beloved read it and said “I know what inspired that, but the real woman was much worse than the granny in your story.”

Yes, I think she was and I toned her down. But fiction isn’t real life. It has to sound real, but it doesn’t have to BE real. Sometimes real just doesn’t cut it – real is too unbelievable.

Fate gave me my character; all I had to do was provide her comeuppance.

Sometimes I am asked what inspired a particular story and it is unusual for me to be able to say precisely what it was, but Granny did – thank you Granny!

More about writing - my lovely daughter got me and my beloved tickets to see Julian Clary doing his Lord of the Mince tour again (she took me last May when he was doing a pre-tour show). My other half wore his best shoes in case he got called up on stage – he didn’t, bless him, but I think that even he, shy retiring soul that he is, would have enjoyed the experience. I know I would.

In the souvenir brochure – which has some pictures of gorgeous Julian that I could look at all day - Julian talks a bit about writing. He doesn’t plot his novels. He doesn’t know how they are going to end until he gets to the end.

When I read that I could have jumped for joy. I’ve tried plotting things in many different ways. Notebooks, large sheets of paper covered in lines and circles, index cards, folders stuffed with photos and profiles, folders containing folders on my desktop, even people cut out of catalogues!

All too often I find that if I know how a story is going to end, I lose interest. I work better without a plot. Yes and there are those who know me who would say I’d lost the plot years ago. It took me ages to find the ending for my granny and it wasn’t easy, but once it fell into place it was as if it had always been meant to be that way.

Anyway, something rather horrible happened this week. Not horrible in an earth shattering people died kind of way, but horrible in a gut wrenching it made me cry and I can’t stop thinking about it because it’s haunting me kind of way.

I was going to blog about it, but I’m working it into a story instead. In that sense I find writing can be very therapeutic. Sometimes it takes me years to write about something bad that happened. I still haven’t been able to write about my dog Sweep dying eight years ago. But something happened after he died and it is something I must write about one day.

Sorry if this all sounds a bit mysterious, but I find the minute I open my big mouth and start talking about a story, I might just as well dig a hole, bury it and forget about it.

And for no other reason than I’ve been thinking about him recently and I still miss him and he was one of my best friends ever this is Sweep.



  1. I was reading your story 'Here Comes Trouble' in Fiction Feast yesterday. Loved that one.

  2. What a lovely dog Sweep was. I'm sure you must still miss him dreadfully. I hope that horrible granny reads your story and at some level it resonates with her and makes her at least a little uncomfortable!

    Julie xx

  3. I read your story too, it was great!

    I've tried plotting but find I always veer off in a different direction anyway, so apart from having a 'rough idea' of where things are going I don't bother now!

    Gorgeous photo :o)

  4. So glad to hear you don't plot either, Teresa! I would lose interest too, or never actually start writing. Great story in Fiction Feast.

  5. What a lovely dog Sweep looks - we always love them, don't we? Sometimes I can still cry when I think about my best canine friends that are no longer here.Sorry to hear something bad happened this week - I agree writing can be very theraputic that way.
    Re: plotting, I am most comfortable when I know how a story will end, but I'm often not sure how I will get there. There's always this lovely satisfying moment when the last sentence comes to me even though I might be only half way through the story. Look forward to reading your TAB story. Wish I knew the secret to cracking that market! x

  6. Thank you, Helen :-)

    He was, Julie.
    I doubt that Granny would recognise herself - people like that never do!

    Thank you, Karen - I have got very hung up on plotting at times, but I can never stick to a plot either.

    Thanks, Rosemary. Glad you're another non-plotter!

    We don't have them long enough do we, Lydia. THey are such a huge part of our lives and then gone so quickly.
    I find writing for Tab very difficult these days, but just occasionally someone like Granny comes along and gives me a helping hand :-)

  7. I too love weaving stories around things that have actually happened. It doesn't matter if they are well known historical events, obscure stories from the past or things that have happened to me. The more mundane the original sory then the bigger the challenge is to get a good tale.

  8. A fellow blogger, Vicki Lane, likened writers to vacuum cleaners. Not a bad description really, when you think of the way we sweep up incidents, snippets of conversation etc, each and every day. Of course, then we recycle them again.

    I'm a big Julian Clary fan too.

  9. I always find it reassuring to hear about writers who don't plot before writing. I tend to be like that too, and know what you mean about losing interest if you already know what's going to happen. The writing process is my way of finding out what will happen so I guess if I knew the end there would be no incentive to write that story! Probably that won't make a whole lot of sense to others, but we all have to work in the way that suits us best.

    I still miss my 3 old dogs, by the way. Though we have a fourth now, every one of them has been different. All very special in their own way.

  10. Loved your story in TAB (but I always love your stories, so nothing new there).


  11. I usually plot in my head before writing, but I don't like to know exactly what's going to happen every step of the way.

  12. It's good to now not everyone has a perfectly thought out plot and ending when they begin to write!
    That's a lovely photo of Sweep. It always brings a tear to my eye when I think of my dog, Smudge, he died 16 years ago, he was lovely.

  13. I am the same with plotting. I have a thread of an outline - all quite vague but I let the story tell me what is going to happen. A nice organic process. I know what you mean about your wee pal Sweep. My heart still breaks when I think of the pets that I had.

    Lovely that we never forget our wee pals that fill our lives with love.

    Look forward to reading more stories.

  14. Funny you should say that, Keith - I'm being tickled at the moment by events of hundreds of years ago and they may yet lead somewhere, who knows?

    Very true, Martin. And we don't always realise just how much we've sucked up do we?

    It's good to hear of others who don't plot, Joanne. I've always had a guilty feeling that I'm doing it all wrong, but not any more!
    Dogs are so different aren't they - even the same breed with the same (supposed) traits. Just proves that they are people too!

    Thank you, Suzanne - what a lovely thing to say, bless you x

    It's a good way to work, Patsy.

    What a lovely name, Penandpaints - Smudge. They leave such a mark on us don't they.

    MOB, yes, I think that's it, you let the story carry you along and the characters develop and behave as they will. It's almost a supernatural experience sometimes.
    I can't imagine ever being without a four legged friend.

  15. This post rang so many bells with me Teresa! I know exactly what you mean about Real Life sometimes being too real. I can think of two stories of mine that were rejected (years ago, before I understood what I was doing wrong there!) because they were based too literally on real life incidents that just sounded incredible to the editors! Of course, I should have just used the incidents as 'fodder' for the stories and written something different around them.

    And as for plotting! Ha! Recent discussion on the RNA forum has shown that far more of us write our novels without any idea of how they're going to end, than those who plot out the whole story in advance. I'm the same, and I think it's much more exciting to plunge in with only a vague idea of the story - although it can also be scary! But it's 'horses for courses' and plotting out the whole story works best for lots of others.

    It's so hard recovering from the loss of a furry friend, isn't it. I still feel real pain in my heart whenever I'm out walking and pass someone with a laughing, tail-wagging Springer Spaniel like my lovely Sophie. But she gave us such pleasure, I always remember her with a smile. I'm sorry to hear you had something bad happen at the weekend and hope everything is all right now. xx

  16. Same thing has happened to me, Olivia. Stories have been rejected for being too incredible or unreal when actually they were true!

    It seems that most of us just prefer the plunge in and see where it takes us method of writing. It's more fun that way.

    How I know what you mean about laughing, tail-wagging springers. THey never stop wagging those tails do they. Such happy dogs.