‘Are you working on anything at the moment?’
It’s one of those questions writers get asked all the time.
And my truthful answer is, always. Because my way of working involves a lot of thinking and yet more thinking before I ever commit a word to the page.
It’s the thinking that irons out the creases but also digs up the deeper stuff. The things that keep you awake at night and do the same to your reader.
There’s another truism that goes you should scare yourself a little when you write. I think you should scare yourself a lot with how far you dare to take it so that your reader can thrill with that same excitement…
What better way to do that than with two ancient, primal taboos. The drivers of every great story since time began and camp fires flickered on the faces of those weaving tales of the gods wreaking havoc with both.
You can polish your plot and create extraordinary characters but, to my mind, that mythic undertow is what makes a narrative truly great.
Those vital primal taboos?
Sex and death.
What else drives us to keep living when all seems lost and to take risks no-one in their right mind should ever take?
As for that right mind – a little madness only adds spice to the mix. Because it’s in the moments we lose ourselves that we inevitably find ourselves too.
We writers like to talk of redemption as something our audience craves but really it’s that sense of coming home we’re talking about. Returning to what is right, to what should happen in an orderly world.
Never mind that the real world is chaotic and cruel. In the safety of a story, we all want to feel that good can triumph over evil and that love always wins.
Yes, even in those bleak tales where threads are left hanging. Then we simply fill in the blanks to make it all come right somehow.
So…sex and death. You can call it love, if you want to. I am writing about those right now. I write about them because I know both intimately. I know how they drive someone over the edge and impel them to great heights.
In my research for this new fiction series, I have uncovered the stories of the real people on whom I am basing my characters and, in every case, they knew how to die as well as how to live. Their passion infused their actions as I want it to infuse my pages.
Sex and death demand courage, at least if you do them properly.
So does good writing.
For great writing, you need to add a dash of your soul.