Friday, June 08, 2007

What's in my head?

Oh gosh, it's Friday again. The day for reporting how much novel I haven't written.

What can I say? That nonetheless, I'm thinking and feeling positively about it: this is great for me. (I am almost too excited about my impending UK trip to write: pathetic but true.)

What else can I say? That I've just read fellow novel racer, Dave Hill's The Adoption and really, really liked it. First of all it has a similar tone to what I'd like to achieve for my novel. I don't want a wild rollercoaster-like plot: I want beautifully drawn, believable characters in real situations. It made me think of my friend, The High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation's recent observation to me about how I like 'proper stories.' I agreed with her and ever since I haven't been able to stop thinking about the comment and what it meant - what it means for the story I'm trying to write.

What is a 'proper story'? Well, it is the kind of thing I like to read. I loathe fantasy (I read and enjoyed all the Harry Potter books because I share a love of reading with my 13 year old son and want to be able to understand what he likes) but generally I don't want to be asked to believe in things I know don't exist: Fantasy, magic, blah.

What I loved about Dave Hill's story was that it was a piece of life, with pain and problems, and flawed individuals. It could've been made over dramatic but it wasn't, it was real. That's what I want for my novel. I don't necessarily want there to be a happy ending because it's not real.

I know how my story goes, but I don't know how it ends and I sometimes wonder if this is a problem. In The Adoption it doesn’t end – well obviously it does end – the book, the story, but the point is that the characters don’t. Really believable characters continue their lives, if only in some place inside each reader. You can’t hope for much more as I writer I think.


ChrisH said...

Know what you mean about reading as research. I think it is and the best bit is that whilst you're researching your own ideas have time to filter through. atb C

liz fenwick said...

Great review :-)

It's funny how book trigger something inside - be it their story or/and how it fits with our idea of what we are trying to write.

Jen said...

This is really interesting - I love reading something that voices my own thoughts so well.

Oddly, the book that has inspired me to get on with my novel recently is Marian Keyes' 'Anybody Out There?'. I wasn't particularly enjoying it until I realised just how easily the words flowed and how flawless the construction was. I guess it's the difference between 'reading' and 'reading as a writer'?

High Priestess of Punk-chew-ation said...

So, so, so true that the best stories never end because the characters are 'alive'. I still, very occasionally I must admit, wonder what became of Vikram Seth's heroine in A Suitable Boy (one of my all time favourite 'proper stories' of all time). When you finish a good book, you should feel you've said farewell to a great friend. Hence our love of sequels ...

JJ said...

Hi Chris - I so agree. I used to have a problem reading at the same time as writing. Writing is hard, reading is easy, so guess which one I chose? But, I think that maybe I was reading the wrong style. I've read some great books recently (and one or two disappointments) that have fired up my writing.

Liz there was one book that I read where I thought 'Oh god, isn't this my story?' and then i thought 'ok, similar themes, but in truth totally different.'

Jen, Marian Keyes really does make it look effortless, doesn't she? I loved 'Rachel's Story.' Funnily enough there are some ... similarities, while being totally different, again, to my story.

HPoP, well you introduced me to 'A Suitable Boy' and I felt gutted when I had to leave them behind. However, it might be time to dig it out again because I can't remember many details, and I'm doing lots of re-reading at the moment, which is enabling me to look at other things at the same time as reading.

Angie said...

I recently read The Namesake and it made me want to sit down and attempt to write like her (and it also made me wonder what happened to Gogol after the book ended!). It took me awhile to figure out how my novel will end because it isn't a story that can be neatly tied up with a happy ending. I hope the ending is satisfying, though. I guess that's what makes a 'proper story' more lifelike.

JJ said...

Hi Angie
Hope you're feeling better now. It is lovely to read something that makes you feel inspired. It wasn't so much that I wanted to write like Dave, it was that I'd identified what is important to me in a book: quite simply, I think it's realism.