It’s too hot to post anything too serious today, but here’s an idea worth considering….try writing a few chapters of childhood events in dramatic narrative, avoiding too much of “we used to do..” and showing the scenes instead. The reasoning behind my suggesting this form of creative writing boils down to clarity. Often, when a person starts to write down a life story, themes can shift several times in one chapter, causing the overall effect to become muddled. For me, the answer lies in writing a sizable chunk (say 3,000 words), then deciding which sections to cut and which bits to develop.
I’m doing lots of creative writing again and polishing the rewrite of my second novel, a psychological thriller dealing with memory flashbacks.
The story so far: Alan is a web designer, living in London and married to Lana. But when Lana disappears, abandoning their eight-year-old son, Alan’s nightmare is just beginning. Forced to move to his sister’s country cottage, he struggles to rebuild his life. But on the eve of the move, he receives an email from someone in his past. The events that follow trigger a series of flashbacks, dragging Alan deeper into the past and danger.
Alan, now aged thirty-five, witnessed a murder and escaped with unexplained injuries when he was ten, but he has no recollection of the events.
This section is told from the viewpoint of Alan’s childhood friend:
The pigeons circled the top of the bird shed, a swarm of birds flustered and uncertain as to where they should fly, sensing possibly what was happening in the woods. Vince ran towards him at the bottom of the hill, charging forwards by the narrow side exit leading to the sweet shop, face contorted with fury, one hand lifted to strike.
‘No,’ he cried, putting his own hands in front of his face. ‘Someone’s hurt Wayne.’
‘You little liar,’ Vince shouted, grabbing him by the hair. ‘I’m going to kill you for letting the pigeons out. And when I’ve finished with you, I’ll get Alan.’
The piano recital went well. I played Grieg’s piano sonata in E minor, four of the preludes from the op 28 set by Chopin, Hungarian Rhapsodies no 5 and 12 by Franz Liszt, Chopin’s “military” polonaise, Debussy’s Clair de Lune and the arpeggio study in C minor from the final set of Chopin studies. And I wasn’t even that nervous.
Sometimes, I get problems with RSI. Physiotherapy exercises help, as long as I do them gently. The other day, I read something fascinating in the health section of the Daily Mail. Heat rubs and cold treatments containing menthol as the active ingredient don’t actually do anything to solve the problem, other than temporarily remove the discomfort by warming or freezing the skin. For some reason, I always assumed the treatments were delving deep into the muscles.
So it’s back to the exercises for me. Playing the piano helps a lot, but other activities, like talking on a mobile phone, aggravate the problem.
Tomorrow is the day of the concert. I think the programme is at a reasonable standard, although I feel I haven’t fully mastered the first item of the recital, the Grieg Piano Sonata in E minor. I’m particularly looking forward to the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies at the end (nos 5 and 12).
I’m at the 50,000 word stage of my second novel again, a psychological thriller set in the English countryside. This time, I’m focusing on clarity rather than a restructuring of the narrative events, a sort of trimming away at the plot. A bit like a brief haircut to keep things neat. As I stated in another post, when you start cutting material, you risk losing something of the true nature of the story. Too much cutting might – to use a cliché – “kill the spirit.”
When deciding whether to remove sections or characters, ask yourself a few questions first….”do I really need the section?”…”could the story survive without it?”….”does the idea or character add intrigue to the plot or does it complicate matters?” I once read that a character must have a clear function in a story.
Still, I think writers shouldn’t be too hasty in deleting material. At the very least, they should place all the cut sections in a separate file and keep backups.
The piano recital is now less than a week away. Everything seems to be going to plan, although I keep getting slight memory lapses in the final movement of the Grieg piano sonata op 7. I’m also working on encore items and have started polishing up one of the Chopin studies – the arpeggio study in C minor.
I have some fuzzy memories of Spike Milligan’s cafe scenes about not liking spam (a form of processed ham), but now I seem to be getting loads of Spam messages on my blog. How annoying. My site is about music and the creative arts, like novel writing and story telling.
I’m revising my second novel again, a psychological thriller set in the English countryside. The same issue keeps coming up – trying to decide what to keep and what to delete. Removing a superfluous section or a character that has no real function in a story can greatly benefit a piece of writing, but sometimes cutting a section has the opposite effect and robs a story of its true nature.
Back story is a particular problem in this novel. A friend, who went through the entire manuscript and made notes, told me early on that there’s too much recollection of past events from the start. The answer seems to lie in a compromise. Clearly, some sections of a story are critical. The question to ask is: ‘can the story survive without the particular scene?’ Or to rephrase: “if I took it out, would it make any difference to the story?’ Interestingly, later on in the novel, the main character has a number of flashbacks of a childhood event he blocked out. My critic friend thought that these worked. This could be because the flashbacks have triggers, whereas a lot of the earlier back story recollections are introduced without a real purpose in mind.
It’s creeping up on me…on Friday 26th June, I’m giving a piano recital at St James’ Church in Muswell Hill, North London, at 8pm. Fortunately, I managed to memorise the programme several months back, but I’m still hoping to perfect it and work on my general piano technique. See earlier articles on Czerny, octave practice and the composer Liszt.
- Grieg – Piano Sonata in E minor
- Chopin – Four Preludes
- Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no 5, Hungarian Rhapsody no 12