Today is my stop on the #UKYAExtravangaza blog tour and I’m here to introduce you to Alexander Gordon Smith, who has written a very interesting and riveting guest post on writing.
Even as I type this guest blog for the awesome A Daydreamer’s Thoughts – as part of the truly fantastic UKYA Extravaganza blog tour – a murderer is stalking me. I can hear his whispers outside the door, taunting me. Was that his shadow, flitting past the curtains? The glint of a blade?
His is here.
I’m not sure if I’ll finish writing this post before he finds me…
Wait, hang on… There is no killer! (Cue a genuine sigh of relief.) Or at least there is, but he only exists inside the story I’m writing. Yet something strange happens to you when you’re writing a book: the real world and the world of the story begin to merge. I’m currently hurtling towards the end of a thriller for adults, tentatively titled Six Days, Six Hours, Six Minutes. It’s an idea I have been playing with for a while, but I only started seriously writing at the end of last year. It’s an intense, fast-paced, hopefully pretty scary story – and that’s how I’m writing it, as fast as possible, to keep up that killer pace. In the last two days alone I carved over 20,000 words from my beleaguered brain.
I’ve always written like this. I never plot – I always find that if I know what’s going to happen in a story then the characters know, and if they know then they behave differently. Characters who are told they are going to die become despondent and don’t really try. Those who know they’ll make it out alive can’t really be bothered either, because they don’t have any incentive to do anything. The only planning I really do is getting inside the heads of my
characters. I spend days, weeks, months sometimes trying to understand who they are. Their world becomes my world, their hopes and loves and fears become my own.
I was really happy to find myself on this particular blog, because so much of writing is daydreaming. Daydreaming is one of our most important tools. When writers daydream they are time travelling, head hopping, astral projecting. They are pulling themselves out of their reality and porting Quantum Leap-style into somebody else’s. It’s why we are often accused of not listening, not paying attention, of wandering into the path of oncoming traffic – we’re not actually there. We should be made to wear a little sticker – Daydreaming Author, Please
Escort to a Safe Place – so that people know we’re actually working and not being rude. We’re like sleepwalkers: wrenching us from one world to another too quickly can be problematic, maybe dangerous.
But the rewards of daydreaming are immeasurable (and I don’t just mean for writers, daydreaming is an essential quality in all walks of life). By immersing ourselves utterly in the time and place of the novel, inside the heads of the people we are writing about, we become part of that world. Everything feels real to us because we have explored and catalogued this world the way we explore and catalogue the real world. The characters’ decisions feel genuine because part of our mind has split off to accommodate these new people, they exist inside us. Daydreaming is how we bring a story to life, because the world we dream is every bit as real as the one we leave behind. It’s the true meaning, I think, of that old adage ‘write what you know’.
It sounds a little frightening, and in some ways it is. I think it’s possible to lose yourself to a world. I nearly did when I was writing my YA series, Escape From Furnace – the story of a boy who is sent to a prison full of monsters. I spent so long getting inside that story, getting inside the head of Alex, the main character, that his world became my world. I was the ghost in his cell, I lived every second of his nightmare, I fought by his side. And it’s strange, because I don’t remember a single thing that happened in my life when I was writing those books – it’s just a blur. But I remember every sound inside that prison, every echoing shout and cry, I remember the feel of the cold stone beneath my feet, the smooth metal of the cell doors, the taste of the prison slop. Those are my memories, they are more real than anything else, more real than anything real.
We do pay a price for it, though. It’s exhausting, for one! I feel as if I have actually been living a double life this year – half my time with my family, in my house, living a normal life; half watching out for a killer, waiting for him to appear. I have been possessed with the fear of what might happen, and my brain is constantly working on a way to escape him, to get out of this horrific situation. It has made me anxious, made me stressed, made me snappy and jumpy and scatter-brained. Anyone who has tried to have a conversation with me since December will know how much this book has consumed me. I don’t mind, though. I know it will make it a more believable, more realistic, more gripping story – because I was actually there.
I’m aiming to finish it this coming week. Then, once it’s done, I can pull myself out of that world and settle back into reality with a nice cup of tea. It’s why the timing of the amazing UKYA Extravaganza is so perfect. Hopefully by the 28th February, when we meet up for one of the most awesome YA events in the country, I will be myself again. The killer will be gone, I can relax. And I’m really looking forward to it, because hanging out with writers and bloggers and readers is one of the very best ways to spend a weekend!
But if you see me watching the windows like a hunted man…
Or squinting nervously at a stranger…
Or screaming at the top of my voice and diving beneath the snack table…
Or even just standing aimlessly in the corner staring into space…
Then you’ll know why.
Keep daydreaming, everyone!
Thanks so much, Faye, for letting me write a guest post for your wonderful blog! And a huge thanks too to Emma Pass and Kerry Drewery for organising such an amazing event! See you all soon! :-)
See, what a great post!
Will you be going the UKYA Extravaganza?