Yesterday, I delved a little into the process by which new ideas arrive. I described my latest idea as WATERSHIP DOWN meets POST OFFICE meets…something else. Well, after waking up with toothache (not for the first time) this morning at 5am, I lay in bed and watched the story slowly unfold in my mind. It wasn’t quite like a movie as you see it in the theatre, more like the disjointed footage seen only by a film’s editor, but I began to form an impression of where the story wanted to go. The “something else” or missing ingredient, I discovered, was “post apocalyptic story.” In high concept terms, that’s THE STAND or such like. Once I had this aspect of the tale, the plot began to spool through my mind until I had no chance of ever getting back to sleep. So, I staggered downstairs and fired up the laptop. Fifteen hundred words later, I have the blueprint for my next story, THE SOUND OF CONSTANT THUNDER.
It is the kind of story idea that excites me, the kind that arrives as a gift. It is almost as if it wants to be written. It’s preternatural, but at the same time completely natural. It’s a beautiful thing.
All there is for me to do now is write the words, put them in the correct order, and pray I don’t f#ck it up.
Since my return to writing short fiction last year (following a three year hiatus in which I finished my novel), I have found the process of getting new ideas spookily consistent. An idea invariably comes to me either while I am writing the current story or right after its completion. I’m not one of these writers who walks around with a thousand of them jostling for attention inside my head. Yes, I have other ideas, usually in note form and stockpiled in a box somewhere, but recently they’ve all arrived at precisely the right time. Which is: Just When I Need Them.
Take the new one, for example.
At the time of writing this blog post, it is shaping up as WATERSHIP DOWN meets POST OFFICE meets…something else. The inspiration struck on Saturday, while my wife and I were out walking in Salisbury. When we crossed a bridge over the river Avon, I saw below us, on the river bank, a number of (what I assumed were) rabbit holes. I stopped. I took it in. I walked on. During the next few hours, I thought about the road traffic noise and what it must be like for those rabbits in their holes, how it must drive them insane sometimes. Right there. The spark. And all going well, THE SOUND OF CONSTANT THUNDER should end up being my next project. The bones need a little meat still, but that should come, if the pattern continues, while I am putting the finishing touches to my current project, a love story with a dark, supernatural twist called MEN PLAYING GHOSTS, PLAYING GODS.
I know. I probably shouldn’t question or analyse inspiration and the origin of ideas, but after many years of writing, the process – if it can be called that and not simply good fortune – still amazes me.