I’ve written before about how taking a leaf out of Arthur’s book really helps me as a writer – seeing things around me through fresh eyes, finding new perspectives and stories in the everyday. This is especially true about the stage I’m at with my third novel at the moment. It’s just beginning, there are ideas and possibilities floating around all over the place, and it’s my job to be open to them, to gather them together so I can begin to weave them into a plot.
A huge swathe of inspiration is already inside my head. My main characters set up camp in there a while ago and, it seems, have been getting to know themselves and each other whilst I’ve been busy doing other things. The girl – I don’t know her name yet – spoke to me the other night. It was about two in the morning, and she said:
I knew it was wrong, even then. Of course when I say ‘wrong’ I mean ‘considered inappropriate’. But it all is when you’re a teenager, isn’t it? Everything you breathe or think or do. So that really didn’t help me calibrate my moral compass.
I’ve finally downloaded Evernote on to my phone so her words are safely stashed away on there. Along with a photo of a bench, and a growing collection of images which capture Brixham forty years ago.
I think this might be a key part of my method this time round: just writing the scenes that come into my head, before I even work the ideas into a coherent plan. These scenes might make it into the finished story, or they might not – but I love the idea of listening a little bit more closely to what my characters have to offer before trying to pigeonhole them.
The other place I’m looking for inspiration is in the past. Much of the story unfolds in the late 1970s/early 1980s. I was born in 1978, but it’s not a period I know an awful lot about and I’m finding it fascinating discovering more. My primary reference point at the moment is Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s by Alwyn W. Turner, and even in the opening chapters I’ve already found some historical gems which sit perfectly alongside the story that’s beginning to emerge.
And then there’s my town. It’s actually really lovely to be mulling over a tale which belongs here after the first two novels which are very firmly rooted in London. It means that every stroll or errand or minute spent gazing out of the window becomes an integral part of my research. I’m planning to formalise that soon, reaching out to local people who might be able to add to what I know of Brixham – particularly its past.
But for now I’m very happy listening to the world, both inside and outside my head, and I can’t wait to see where else it takes me.