I have been thinking lately about whether an author can shock themselves with their own words and works. I have been writing all my life but only published The Ramblings of a Twenty Five Inch Man which is the memoir of an Ordnance Surveyor last year. The stories are extraordinary considering our hapless hero was simply trying to make maps, but they are not shocking in the sense I mean here. I am talking about the strange journey a writer takes putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. In my own case I always start off thinking I have a pretty good idea of what the storyline is.
I published Seymour Stephens Glasses and Other Stories a couple of weeks ago. The stories are in the Ghost/Horror genre and had been in my head for many years in some cases, just waiting for the right moment to unleash themselves on paper. Talking for myself, when I write, it sometimes seems that the words take on a life of their own Even though I think I know where the storyline and characters are leading me I quite often end up on a journey that is quite unexpected. It seems sometimes as my fingers fly across the keys (well almost!) that the words are being transcribed to me and not my imaginings at all. But of course they are and that is where the 'shock' comes. I surprise myself constantly at the thoughts that end up on the ends of my fingertips. It is almost 'Ah so that's how it ends!' when I come to finish a story. And of course some of the ends (and middles) of the stories DID shock me even though I wrote them! I even had to face up to a personal fear writing one of the stories in the collection.
I think if you have a good imagination (and most writers do) you are so wrapped up in getting the story down, being 'in there' with your characters and plot that it is only later that a sense of surprise can creep in at what you have actually created.
The story of Seymour Stephens Glasses came from a very old pair of glasses I inherited (they are the ones on the front of the book actually). I started to wonder what my ancestor had seen through them maybe a hundred years ago and as my imagination proceeded to carry on a route of its own the story of Seymour just came to me! Well part of it that is, because that is where the surprise comes in writing. It seemed I had only part of the story in my head - the rest appeared as I wrote it, the ideas coming quite easily as if they were just there - waiting in the wings! And these bits as it happened were the most shocking!
But talking of glasses it was just two days ago that I held Mahatma Gandhis glasses in my hands! Yes really! They were at an auction in Ludlow, so very close to my home, and I went along out of curiosity. They went for £34,000 of course but I did get the opportunity of holding them. They were the round metal framed glasses that he was so often seen wearing and placed in a rather rusty metal case. The merest of connections to me is that my grandfather was a stretcher bearer in the Boer war - as was Ghandi and that made the whole experience just that bit more interesting. It was amazing to think of the history connected to them as I held the tiny gold frames in my hands. I hope they have gone to a good home!
If you are a writer does your own writing surprise or shock you?
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And if you are brave enough to read Seymour Stephens Glasses and Other Stories I hope you are not too shocked!
My next blog will be on illustrating childrens books. I hope you'll be back!