A good week, all things considered.
I haven’t had any good news, don’t get too excited – no more acceptances or commissions. No, this week has been about finding the rhythm again. I had some time on trains because of work commitments, so I had some uninterrupted writing time, and I put it to very good use. After the last few weeks’ downtime, I’m happy to report that the mojo is definitely back, and working hard. I’ve made good inroads into the current story, and I’m happy with what I’m writing.
Well, sort of happy. The mojo might be back, but the story’s still emerging wonky! It’s not a problem, though, because I’m in another one of those situations where I don’t mind having to constantly rewrite and delete and add. I’m trying a new type of story (for me), so it’s all a learning curve, and dealing with the problems inherent in writing new stories is how I learn, I think. This is a Sherlock Holmes story, so it needs to work more like a thriller than my normal flat-out horror stories, and the rythyms and tones of the plot, in particular, are different. I realised that every one of the things I’d written weren’t, in fact, subtle elements of foreshadowing adding to a sense of foreboding, but in fact deeply unsubtle signs saying THIS IS A DAMN BIG INDICATOR OF WHAT THE MYSTERY TWIST WILL BE! ARE YOU WATCHING? ARE YOU? Consequently, I’ve had to delete a lot of what I’ve written and rework what’s left (and also adjust the plot that remains as yet unwritten) to make the story work. It’s fun doing it though, which is the benchmark for me of something that remains a worthwhile endevour. It’s not finished yet (I’m probably halfway through), but I’m hopeful it’ll be good when it’s done. Watch this space.
The other thing I did this week was revisit an ‘inspiration space’. Background: about three years ago, I took a risk and became self-employed (it’s not been a great success, but that’s another story…), one of the benefits of which was being able to spend time with my wife and child. One day, we decided to go out to lunch and we ended up in a local park’s cafe/play area. Now, this place had a pirate theme (‘Pirates in the Park’!), and we were the only ones in there. Although we had a good time, there was something creepy about the place, about how quiet it was, and by the time we left I had a story in my head that I hoped might tap into that sense of creepiness and desolation. I wrote An Afternoon with Danny in about a week (fast, for me), and it remains a story I’m immensely proud of – it’s the story I use when I do readings, and it always seems to go down well, and it’ll be in the Ash Tree collection (due in March, folks!). Well, this week, I went back to the park for the first time since writing the story. I’ve not been avoiding it (“That place has a bad atmosphere, Wendy….I just can’t go back there and I don’t think you or Ben should either. Something bad will happen, I can just feel it…!”), it’s just that the opportunity hasn’t presented itself. Saturday, however, my son was invited to a party being held there, back I went, and it was really interesting to see the place again.
It’s much smaller than I remember (although that may be do with the fact that this time, there were about 20 screaming kids charging about the place), but I still think there’s something sinister about the place. It’s basically a Victorian park, and the building that houses the cafe/play area is a big brick shell, so it’s freezing. Everything about it looks just slightly careworn – not dirty or dangerous but a bit rundown. The bouncy castle is decorated like a pirate ship, but is really dark inside because it has a roof and the large snakes and ladders game painted on the floor in one corner only has 25 spaces, and about 2 snakes and one ladder. There’s a smell, not unpleasant exactly, but of food and sweat and rubber and coffee, and the kids scream and shout and make it a place where there seems little room for thought. The climbing frame, ball pool and slide (a particular favourite of Ben’s) are in good condition but look a little frayed at the edges, so why did the place inspire me to write what I consider to be one of my bleaker stories?
Well, it might have something to do with this guy:
This is a plastic/resin statue that stands inside the door, contributing to the whole pirate ambience. He has an eyepatch made from an old black plaster and a cork on his hook (seriously – I assume to stop the kids scratching themselves and then suing Lancaster District Council!) He’s about 6 feet tall, and quite honestly, he gives me the creeps. I mean, this is a kids’ play area, and he looks like he eats children! This gentlemen was the inspiration for a character in the story called Captain Crossbones Grim, and seeing children playing at his feet on Saturday was a little odd. I do know that my version of the place and the real place aren’t the same, but I still had an urge to call to the children, Don’t mess about with him kids, he’s trouble! Dumb, really… Still, it was fun to visit the place again and to see if it still had the same effect on me. And on the way in, I passed a very old and waterlooged crazy golf course, which started me thinking…