15th September 2003: Writing is weird

There’s something very weird about the act of actually telling a story. This is a lot more noticeable when you’re telling a story you know already, as opposed to making up a story.

I’m stuck and conflicted on my Lifelode story, so I thought I’d try starting the Mansfield Park space opera, to see if that would go, because writing anything is better than writing nothing and being grumpy about it. It’s going — a thousand words plus in the last hour. So, Mansfield Park, OK, I start telling it, got to start a bit before, well, be more specific with backstory because that is where it starts — how the heck did Mrs Norris get to become a sympathetic character?

If you’d asked me one hour ago whether I had any sympathy for Mrs Norris, if I had one jot of sympathy for her, I’d have said no.

The reason people talk about inspiration as something external, the Awen, whatever, is that it isn’t really a definable thing, it isn’t logical, it can twist what you think you know.

I thought I knew Mrs Norris and couldn’t stand her.

But telling the story in a different setting in a different way, even though I’m writing about an earlier stage of someone who’s going to have the plot role and the characterisation of Mrs Norris, suddenly I know how she got like that, I am sympathetic. I didn’t design this world to make Mrs Norris more sympathetic!

I knew the story would come out different, because I know what happened when I put Framley Parsonage in at one end and got Tooth and Claw out at the other. But I didn’t expect, within a thousand words of starting, to feel things turn that upside-down.

As I said, weird.

Posted in Books, Poor Relations