And now a link to some late 1970’s music, still sounding good!
“♪♯You didn’t know what you were looking for, ’till you heard the voices in your ear♯♫.”
“Voices,” by Cheap Trick (Dream Police, 1979)
Ok, so I admit it, I hear voices in my head. In fact not only do I hear voices they tell me their life stories and I write them down.
But whereas in the past, I might have expected a visit from some white-coated gentlemen and one of those nice jackets that do all the way up the back, I can get away with it by saying “I’m a writer.”
It’s a strange sensation when the voices first appear, I never expected to be a writer.
To give you a bit of background, I couldn’t be bothered at school, failed English and went to sea. There I struggled with writing letters home, even after all that I saw on my travels. I found it hard to put more than a few lines on paper, talking about the weather, or where we had been in and effort to say something; anything.
Later, it all changed, I think the catalyst was moving back to Devon; some sort of creative dam was broken and I started to write.
I’d had ideas before then, once I decided that I would write a book of short stories and I even made a few notes. They were based mainly on dreams that I could remember so vividly that it was almost as if I had lived them. They were all futuristic and I thought that one day, I might actually turn them into something more. But it never happened, until I came home to Devon.
I started putting the thoughts down, and I found that the more I wrote, the more the thoughts came into my head. I realised that the short stories I had planned and saved could be joined together. They made one longer tale and Freefall was born. Looking back at it now, I can see all of its flaws but I’m still proud of it as it is.
And the strange thing was, as I wrote it, I saw places where I could write other things, stories based on it that expanded the characters and situations.
A hotel I stayed in gave me the idea from which Ribbonworld was born, that gave me an idea for a sequel and so on.
I had a dream with a factory, and pipes snaking across a yard, there was steam in the air and water dripping. From that my Steampunk world of Norlandia grew into being.
Someone challenged me to write a “café on the beach” style sci-fi story, Andorra Pett was the response and has now grown into two finished books and two more ideas.
Once the voices get into your head and realise that they are being heard, they seem to invite their mates around. I can imagine them nudging each other, wherever it is that they are, “Hey lads, let’s get into Richards’ head, he’s listening.”
And now, when people ask me what happens when I write, I tell them that I see a video in my head, like watching a DVD of a film that you’ve never seen before and know nothing about. That’s my novel playing out for me in real-time; all I do is write down what I see happen, as it happens. But unlike watching a DVD, there are a few subtle differences.
When you press play, you see the film and don’t really know what will happen; it’s all a surprise to you. If you miss a bit, you can go back and have another look, you can slow the speed down to make sure that you don’t miss anything. Or if you really want you can skip on, even get a look at the ending.
Well, I can do all that with my novel, but there’s one crucial difference. I can’t fast forward. If I wanted to know how it all works out, well that’s tough! I have to wait and see.
So my endings are as much of a surprise to me as they are (I hope) to you.
That’s the way the story progresses, I can’t touch type so I watch the keys and not the screen. It comes as a surprise to me sometimes to find that my characters have said and done things that I never realised while I was typing. Sometimes I’ll read it back and find that the plot has moved off in another direction from where I thought it was heading.
I found it quite scary to begin with but once I got used to the idea that my mind worked in this way, I began to look forward to being able to shut myself away. Now I observe other worlds and write it all down. I could get as excited as any reader because it was as new to me as it would be to them.
The really deep question must be; where do these stories and characters come from? Part of me wonders if they aren’t just figments of my imagination; if somehow they’re some sort of future echoes that have slipped through the cracks from another place and time. Now there’s an idea for another novel!
So what do you think? Why not share your thoughts below.