Patrick G Cox

Keeping up with events

The old Chinese curse "May you live in interesting times" seems to have landed on us all at the moment. Since my last post here in February, the world seems to have done several backflips, a somersault or two, and lord alone knows what its doing in the political sphere at the moment. In all of this I've been busy trying to get a couple of stories written. Now that, you might think, is simple. Produce an outline and synopsis, and then knuckle down and write!

Nope. Just as you think you have it going nicely, you discover a "little" flaw in the plot. And to fix it means rearranging or rewriting a big chunk of it. It gets more complicated when "life" intrudes seriously demanding attention which keeps you away from what you really want to be doing. I could argue that it at least gives you lots of time to work out plot wriggles, character development and so on, but it seldom does. Then, when you do sit down to get things moving again ... Let's just say that it sometimes means that all those brilliant ideas you were going to put in, won't work.

Inspiration comes in funny ways and at odd times. One of my routines for the day is to take my two Shelties for a walk. They insist, in fact I'm convinced the elder of the two, has a watch hidden somewhere in his fur. He knows the schedule, and he makes sure to remind me if I forget. Our walk takes us into farmland and the edges of a forest reserve, and we often encounter deer, squirrels (oh boy!), foxes (who are never sure whether the Shelties are foxes or not ...) and many more small, medium and large critters. Sometimes I'll be wrestling with a plotline or character as I walk, and often I will see something that triggers a new line of thought, and the solution I am looking for.

When I'm not walking, writing or dealing with household matters at the moment I'm researching the historical background to a couple of stories I want to develop. The trouble is that the historical period is a fascinating one (Mid to late Victorian Britain and the Coionisation of Southern Africa ...). I've filled several notebooks so far, and I haven't done more than create a story outline yet. The problem is that if I'm not strict about it, I tend to get sucked into the history, even when it isn't especially relevant to what I'm looking for. History is so much more than "names, dates and places" when you really get into it. As the book, Ecclesiaticus (Sirach) says, "Let us now praise famous men ..." and a little further in it changes and says, "... And some there be that have no memorial ..." continuing to explain that these "little people" are every bit as important in the history of any nation, people or event as those "big names" remembered with statues and memorials, and perhaps more so. Those are the people who interest me.

I fully agree with the late great Sir Terry Pratchett, that writing is the most fun you can have on your own. But perhaps, more important is how much you learn in the process.

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