What I really want is for them (the audience) to lean in into the crib and coo enthusiastically; to see features that are possibly, recognisably, mine as a source of delight: ah! she has my eyes — by implication my own eyes are a source of wondering exclamation.
The metaphor breaks down here — or takes a violent turn off. This work is not a fully formed Mini-me. It is more of an experiment in a jar — the story is narrated by twin embryos in the womb. Their perspective is necessarily limited to other people’s stories. They have no real substance yet to constitute their own story.
We do not see Frankenstein’s diary. In the weeks before his successful experiment in re-animating a whole, sewn together from salvaged body parts, we do not see his anxiety; the tentativeness of his steps; his false progress and back-tracking.
This is precisely what I will be documenting What is the genesis of fiction? Where do narrative ideas come from? These are questions that are always asked, after the event, yet remain mysterious.
We can answer the specific: That character was based on my aunt Irma; I read about that event in a newspaper and wondered what if…?; I noticed my reaction to such-and-such and thought to exaggerate it madly. But that’s not really it.
Fiction, like Frankenstein’s creation, is a compound process: this added to that creates a reaction that produces something different from the component parts. this new substance is introduced to another, and so on. This, presumably, is what happened at the beginning of all life…
Let me give an example: the girl in the purple fishnets.
the story is narrated by the embryos. This is the basic conceit established in the first post — which seems to be a kind of ‘first cause’.
One of the post is titled ‘The odd circumstances of their meeting’, following on from the first post which mentions Jacob musing on the rather surprising events that led to me being here on this plane of souls.
When I wrote it I had no idea what the circumstances were. I mention ‘the rather surprising events’, so now I have to justify the phrase. This move is known in Improv as ‘jump and justify’. Essentially, you make a bold statement: “I can’t look: it’s too horrible!” or “So you have found out my secret!” and after justify it.
It is only at this moment of writing that I realise what this project is — a kind of improv fiction. The medium, the technology, is almost beside the point. What is special is the rawness.
With www.chez-swann.com (the previous web novel), I had a sense of the overarching narrative. I knew where it was going. I was in control: the freedom of the form was only apparent.
This time I want to extend, to push the openness, the unpredictability.
So the ‘odd circumstances of their meeting’ prompts the question: in what way odd? We learn (and I am learning just before you, the reader. It is an experiment and I am revealing the contents of the jar only moments after I have seen them myself) that they have met online. But that’s not really odd.
So I add mistaken identity. (A friend of mine described how his most successful chatr-up line was based on a similar mistake: he thought the woman he was talking to was part of the same MENSA event he attended.)
The fat girl in the purple fishnets was simply a punchline. The detail of the purple fishnets was salvaged from my own life: I had recently bought a pair for £1 on whim. The detail was added purely in the interest of a balanced sentence. Compare:

the girl in the corner with red hair and a geometric pattern dress

That’s a bit flat. It too obviously underscores the mistake.
But something has happened with:

Oblivious to the fat girl in the corner with the frizzy red curls, purple fishnets and a black-and-purple geometric print dress.

It’s something akin to Runtgen’s photographic plates or Fleming’s penicillium mould. The accidental has become the story. This, in improv, is known as a ‘turn’.
My immediate reaction:
I am very concerned about the fat girl in the purple fishnets.
This may prove a decisive turn, so why? What motivated it?
I think there are both formal and idiosyncratic reasons. There is a loose family resemblance to ‘Tristram Shandy’. So digressions will be in order. There is her narrative plight, which is more affecting than the happy accidental couple going off to the restaurant together. And there is the purely personal: she’s wearing my tights, dammit, I want to see where she goes with them.

purple fishnets

Posted: January 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

Jacob and the redhead have left the bar, but what of the fat girl in the purple fishnets?
I put her in for a bit of an ironic chuckle, but Christ, doesn’t she deserve better?
It’s her ad that’s set this whole thing in motion. Our embryos wouldn’t have been conceived without her. Oh yes, I haven’t told you they’re twins. You won’t find out for ages.
Anyway, I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of purple fishnets.

What have we here?

Posted: January 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

I literally had no idea before I started writing what I was going to write. The voice surprised me. It was rather opinionated – and they weren’t my opinions. Odd. The picture of the mother that emerges from the embryo-narrator, well, it resembles a rather jaded view of me.
But the father, where does he come from? Literally, from the other side of the Atlantic. I chose Washington, I suppose, because I have been there and it’s in the news, what with Obama.
I think as well that I’ve been subconsciously influenced by reading The Time Traveller the autobiography of black physicist Ron Mallet. I don’t mean that Jacob W is Ron, just that reading that book opened up imaginative pathways to the experience of a black American scientist. Jacon W is part-Jewish and I think that’s probably influenced by Obama’s mixed heritage.
On a more philosophical note, I am studying, as part of my PhD, different epistemologies and I have been struck by the limiting subjectivism of, for example, certain sorts of feminism. What I mean is those claims that you can know what you haven’t experienced. I reject this idea. I think it’s antithetical to all the good things we can achieve through creative imagination. So I think perhaps Jacob W is a challenge I have thrown out to myself. Can I create a convincing character who is all the things I am not? Black, American, male, Jewish, religious, scientist – oh, and married. You haven’t learnt that yet, but you will when he touches down.

I suddenly thought: Chinese New Year – year of the Ox, symbolising persistence, obduracy, endurance – why not beging a new novel-in-a-year from Conception to Delivery.
I turned the page and began writing:

Perspective 2

Posted: January 23, 2009 in Nanowrimo

As a result of the last post, I decided to go back through my notebooks and back-fill my blog. What an education! I see entry after entry for October: I’m so tired; I’ve lost my pens/ diary/ phone; I’m feeling irritable… What is obvious from even a couple of months’ distance is that it’s the beginning of the SAD season. I always feel like this in October. I feel like creating a Page: This is what you feel like in October – it will pass.

The other thing I noticed was this on 31/10/08:

No.1 Absolute Priority is to stick to writing one thing for 30 days, averaging 2k per day, that’s 60k in a month. This is absolutely 100% possible. And it will give me such a boost. What I will do is I will create a fantastic reward.

Choose from the following:

  • A digital camcorder
  • A long-haul holiday
  • £500 to spend on homewares, appliances, etc
  • A pair of cashmere lounging trousers and jumper

And did I do it? I completed the task but did I get the reward? The nearest I came was buying a reduced cashmere jumper from TK Maxx clearance sale.

Now there are arguments about whether rewards are counterproductive, replacing intrinsic motivation with extrinsic, but it’s indubitable that promising a reward and then withholding it is demoralising. Why should I ever believe anything I say?

Blogging as perspective

Posted: January 23, 2009 in Nanowrimo

One thing restarting the blog has done – unexpectedly – it has given me a sense of perspective. Depression/ SAD/ mood disorders are like having your own personal gang of Red Guards to bully you into self-denunciation. They’re fanatical, unhinged – they make you write in mile-high letters with an eyeliner brush: I’m useless, I’m a waste of space, I’ve never achieved anything. It’s nonsense – poisonous, demoralising nonsense – but the Guards are blocking your view, so you can’t see your achievements.

It was a shock when I opened this blog and viewed the last entries. I was about to embark on NaNoWriMo – write a 50k-word novel in a month. I was doubting my ability then too.

Well, just so as you – and more importantly I – know, I did it. I wrote 50k words. I finished Montjoyesse (working title), the sequel to Mayhem and Magique, something I’d had on the go for years unfinished. I also decided to make a proper effort with M&M getting it out to readers for crit.

Yesterday I handed in my essays within an hour of the deadline. I’d had two months to complete the assignment. After the last one went right up to the wire, I swore that I would manage my time better. I’d spread the work out over the allotted time, tackle a bit a day. Yeah, yeah, how likely was that?
This is a genuine puzzle to me. Unlike the stroppy schoolkid whose behaviour this resembles, no one is making me do this. I chose to do it. I’m paying to do it. I’m really into the subject. It’s not like the business module on my MA course, a necessary dry adjunct to what I really wanted to do. I have a rational understanding about the best way to proceed. I have a genuine desire to do it. And yet I behave as if I can only be motivated with a gun to my head.
The wizard says: it’s because your life is run by a 5-year old. Your rational self is dictated to by a child-like emotional self that will scream and scream and scream till she’s sick.
Not a pretty picture, but I suspect accurate.
I was reminded, reading the Time Traveller of the film, Forbidden Planet. It’s a 50s sci-fi version of The Tempest, where Caliban becomes the Monster from the Id. The Id, the Freudian unconscious, is here represented as a huge rampaging lustful murderous dino-gorilla. In my experience the Id is charming lotus-eater and prankster, by turns lazy and frenetically excited. More like Emily Dickinson’s:

The manner of the Children —
Who weary of the Day —
Themself — the noisy Plaything
They cannot put away —

The thing about the 5-year old is she’s not ill-intentioned. she doesn’t mean to sabotage my plans. In fact intwention is probably the wrong word. She’s a creature of the moment, easily distractible but also distracting.
M says I know how to deal with a 5-year old – which is true but rather begs the question: who is in the driving seat, who is ‘I’?

November 1st NaNoWriMo

Posted: November 1, 2008 in Uncategorized

Well, I did my first day: 2283 words of Montjoyesse. I have almost done nothing else today except write and type it up, and buy a newspaper. is this how the month will go on? will it be so bad if I achievce nothing else but a 60-word novel for young adults?

November is Nanowrimo (notional novel writing month) where thousands of people commit to writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. Since one of my problems is actually finishing something before I wander off onto something else, I thought: I must be able to stick at it for a month, surely.

So here I am about to embark on the 30-day novel-writing binge, and here on this blog I’ll log my progress. It should also serve as a real-time experiment in how-to write a crime novel. So you should encounter such gems as: how to start; what to do when you can’t think of anything; plotting problems; boredom; events, dear boy, events; research and what to do when you haven’t done it.

watch this space


Posted: September 9, 2008 in Uncategorized

My friend is about to embark on online dating, and it sets me thinking.
I read a lovely book A Round-heeled Woman – how I admired her for going after what she wanted.
And yesterday in the library I read about a female tv presenter who ended her 7-year ‘drought’.
Which gave me an idea for the Ideas Book: crone-lit. It’s like chicklit for the over-50’s. I thought about a kind of Mallory Towers 40 years on.
4 Marys (or whatever I choose to call them) meet up at a Friends Reunited reunion and discover they are all suddenly single and resolve to Make a Plan like they used to back in the day.
4 Gs and a Dog (like the Famous Five): Gerry George Goldie and Gabby.
there can be flashbacks to them at school.
I haven’t really got a plot but “When shall we four meet again?” …
maybe there’s one who is very innocent and virginal and needs to be educated in the ways of sex.
And one who’s been-there-done-that-got-the-piercing, but is nursing a secret hurt.