I was sitting on the loo when I thought what she would do. I'd been sitting at my desk for a few hours, and, though happy with my writing so far, I was worried that my main character was based too much on my rather flat experience (they were unusual, yes, but nothing really came of it, and I sailed into university and out, and into a job – hardly a narrative arc).
I once read that Martin Amis, when asked what one piece of advice he would give new writers, said tactfully that would-be memoirists should have a little think about whether their lives were really interesting to other people before they start. It's not enough to mirror my experience; there has to be enough fiction to create drama, or "conflict" as screenwriters call it. But because my story is based on real events, I was finding it hard to add fictional elements to it, or add fictional attributes to real people. I was finding it hard to make stuff up.
But there on the loo it was suddenly absolutely clear what should happen, what she should do: a proper thunderbolt moment. It wasn't something I ever did or would do, or indeed what most people would do. It turned my story on its head. It's changed everything, from the plot to the interaction of every minor character. My question now is, would she do that? Maybe if she wouldn't, a more minor character would? That way here character could develop by witnessing and learning, not actually doing something, but that’s just part of her frustration: that life is always elsewhere, always happening to someone else. Could something prompt her to finally do something extreme and sudden?
More to the point, could I write such a dramatic turn of events? Is that the kind of book I want to write? Would it have to be written seriously, or could I still approach subject matter like that with a light touch without losing sympathy? Does it risk severing the end of my story, adding melodrama and a moral, a great sudden weightiness that the reader neither expected nor wanted?
There's only one way to find out: give it a go. Write.
Word count this week: 1,952 Running total: 7,066