So far, here on Caper and Plot, the Blog section has been filled with the latest chapter in Paternoster Tales. That ended with Chapter 37. With Agatha’s story finished and Book 2 still inside my head, I can play with a more conventional, chatty blog-style.
So, here goes – hello and good morning; if, indeed, it is morning where you are. If it isn’t, then good afternoon. Or good evening. If it’s good night, you should probably be asleep – I hope your dreams are good ones.
Here, today, it’s bright and sunny. And early – this pair woke me at 5.30am as their tummies had decided it was a good time to get up. You can imagine what I thought!
5.30am is not a good time to wake – too early to start thinking coherently; too late to go back to sleep. It’s a curl-up-on-the-sofa-with-a-cup-of-tea-time, trying to ignore the wet nose nudging your foot saying it’s time-to-play. Which is harder when the wet nose gives up nudging and the dog attached to the nose starts to lick the tickly bits between your toes.
5.30am is, perhaps, a time to dream … to shuffle through the characters and places and adventures jostling inside my head – sorting them, putting some back in my ideas notebook on a page marked Probably Not, and looking for the best thread to stitch into the next story.
You may have noticed that Paternoster Tales is set in a real part of London. That is, generally, how I like to place my stories. I start with somewhere reassuringly normal and then put a twist on it: adding, in Paternoster Tales, characters who claim to be stars and waifs who claim to be dead children and hate being called ghosts. I sometimes invent other times or other worlds. Mostly though I am inspired by something I see – so far I have not travelled through time or woken to find myself in a different universe. At least I don’t think I have. How would I know if I was changing universe every day? Is there a story in that idea …?
Most of my ideas leap from the images I see. Most never get written down. They escape. Writing becomes a game of catch – invent the story then catch it before it sinks into a sea of words and indifference.
I’ll show you what I mean.
Look at the picture. Ask yourself what you see? What might happen here? Who will it happen to? What then?
What do I see? … ‘New worlds beneath the water lie. New people and another sky.’ (Thos Traherne 1772) – step into the pool and sink into another universe. Or … tiny ships sailing on a glassy sea. Or … boys daring each other to swim before it rains, but rain brings a torrent of water, washing them downstream and into an ancient settlement where no-one has heard of a mobile phone and the printing press has only recently been invented and the Black Death has just reached the nearest town …
See? A real scene with a twist. Where the twist is a story.
Am I a little strange? To see stories everywhere.
How about here? A spiral staircase … narrow, claustrophobic, cold and very steep …
What stories do I see? … A sick master and his viper-like son. And a servant boy with a sword and an apothecary’s garden and a promise. Or … an American girl who twists her ankle on the steps and picks the pocket of the old, kilted gentleman who helps her.
A visit somewhere, anywhere, inspires, if you let it. There wasn’t a sick master and no American girl. But there was an old, kilted gentleman who looked kind. He was the seed that sowed his story.
I take lots of photographs, wherever I go. Some are just memories. Some are for future stories.
This next picture is pure magic and speaks to me of unicorns and faerie folk. Or … of a girl who runs barefoot through the trees and sleeps amid the roots and earth and eats the flesh of rabbits. Which is getting a bit dark and witchy … hmmm …
I’ll stop soon, but how about this one? The story I see is a bet between siblings – to build a tower of stones, then take it in turn to throw more stones at it. There’s a forfeit for every thrown stone that misses. Stir in a picnic, and chocolate and a grief than can only be lessened by laughter and I nearly have the recipe for another story.
Shall I stop … or go on?
This is a lamb. Just a lamb.
Why do some stories get written and others don’t? Why, out of all the potential stories above, do I like the barefoot girl best? But even she may not get written?
I think there are lots of ways I could answer, but most can be summarised with ‘it depends.’ It depends on having the time, on having an audience, on believing that I can find a good ending for the idea of the story’s beginning, and on the story fighting its way to the front of the crowd of stories inside my head, all of which are clamouring to be written. If I didn’t want them there, they’d probably give me a headache!
I have to be excited by the characters and the place and believe that I can do something with them. Sometimes, I write because I feel I have to – those words tend not to be very good; sometimes I write because I need to, when the what-happened-next can’t get out of my head fast enough – those words give the story pace and they are the most enjoyable to write.
I would like more people to eat what I write … oops! Spot the mistake. Actually though, if eating is for nourishment, then, perhaps, it isn’t too great a stretch to hope that if children read my words, they will find ideas to think about, to dream and to feed their imaginations. So, perhaps, I’ll let eat stay. I can always edit it away later.
Finally, here are three more pictures that certainly make me dream – the third inspired a whole book (unpublished) –
I will be very surprised – and chuffed – if anyone tells me accurately where they, and the beach scene at the title of this, are.
‘Till the next chatty, early morning blog.
So what next for Caper and Plot? More Paternoster Tales – why is Antares coming and who is Theo? More poems. And a story about a Felonious Kleptosquater … a what? You’ll have to come back and look for it to find out.
Bye for now. And enjoy dreaming up your own stories.