A confession: about eight Wednesdays out of ten, I sit at the computer to compose my Dead Guy post without the smallest idea what I’m going to post about. Occasionally, though less so recently, something has happened during the week which puts me in rant mode. Sometimes the main focus of everyday life yields up something which may be of interest. But mostly I sit and stare at the screen until a random thought coalesces into a few hundred words.
If the result is a lot of posts which you prefer to gloss over en route for Jeff’s wit or Erin’s good advice, or the far-more-gripping-than-mine thoughts of Marilyn, Jessy, Josh or Ben, I apologize. Do feel free to chat among yourselves till Thursday.
In fact it’s a constant surprise to me where those random thoughts come from. One moment there’s a blank screen; the next, my fingers are on the keys and something is appearing in front of me.
I have a feeling that this means I may still be a writer at heart, regardless of things I’ve said in the recent past about leaving all that behind. The most common question writers are asked by non-writers is that old chestnut where do you get your ideas from? And the only answer that ever made sense to me was they’re just kind of... there; if I didn’t get the ideas, I wouldn’t be a writer.
Somehow, when a writer sits at the keyboard or picks up a pen, words happen. Not always the best possible words. Far too often not even words they/you/we want to keep; when writing, rather than editing or publishing, was my main focus, the majority of the words I produced finished up in the waste paper bin or that place out in the ether where stuff goes when someone presses the delete key. But words, words, words, lots of them, a small proportion of which survived to be honed and polished into a shape I wasn’t too embarrassed to send out to seek my fortune.
And sometimes they’re not even the words I set out to write. (There, see, I’m using the present tense. That writer gene must still be active.) Today, for instance, I was going to post about the role played by chance and coincidence in crime and mystery fiction. The seed of that idea lay in oddest place you could imagine, and somehow the post began to morph into ideas in general, and what triggers them. And that morphed into... well, you can see where it went.
Which possibly serves as an illustration of the notion that writers don’t necessarily have total control over what they write. Sometimes it just runs away and does as it likes.
Some famous author or other, I think it may be Fay Weldon, is known to deny hotly that this happens. More specifically, she refuses to acknowledge that characters in fiction sometimes behave according to their own rules and don’t do what the writer wants them to. She creates the characters and the plot, she claims, so her characters do exactly what her plot requires of them. It clearly works for her; she’s a lot richer and more famous than I’ll ever be. But I still think the other way works too. And that element of never being quite sure what’s going to happen certainly adds an edge of excitement to a writer’s life.
If this is one of those posts that makes you chat among yourself till Thursday, I apologize again. But not knowing what was going to happen next has made my morning a little more interesting.
Does that sound like a handy hint for crime writing, or am I kidding myself?