I’ve been trying something different recently.
No, it’s nothing like that so stop sniggering at the back!
Chance would be a fine thing, right enough.
No, this was something different in writing styles.
I needed to challenge myself, to stretch myself, to step outside my comfort zone.
But here’s the thing – I was struggling. I wasn’t being drawn back to it. It wasn’t lighting my fire. And if it wasn’t lighting my fire, how could I expect to light someone else’s? Yes, I’m still talking about writing – please wipe that smirk off your face.
Finally, today, I had an epiphany. They’re very nice with some jam and a cup of coffee.
After that I had a breakthrough and I realised my problem. I was straying so far from my comfort zone that I was no longer being me.
You see, I was trying to avoid any humour. I mean, none at all. Not a quip, wisecrack, one–liner, witticism, joke, jibe or witticism. Not even a bon mot.
And that, dear reader, just ain’t my thing.
There’s a scene in the book and film MAGIC, a great scene from writer William Goldman and superbly played in the film by Anthony Hopkins and Burgess Meredith with ace direction from the late, much lamented Richard Attenborough. It’s when Corky’s agent, The Postman (because he always delivers, God, do I need someone like that!) challenges him to not speak for five minutes without resorting to his dummy, Fats.
Corky says no bother, big man, (not those exact words but something along those lines) and puts Fats to the side. The Postman lights up one of his big cigar and waits.
Corky keeps talking. This is easy. This is sooo easy.
The seconds drag by.
Corky begins to grow flustered. This is cruel, he says.
The Postman knows.
It goes on a little longer, Corky becoming more and more anguished until, finally, he snaps and grabs Fats and launches into a virtuoso tirade.
He lasted two and a half minutes.
Well, that was me, although I lasted for a few weeks with nary a smart line. Until this morning when I returned to the text, dragging my feet, and suddenly realised why.
You see, it’s a very dark story but it still needs light. I’ve written dark stories before – hell, the Davie McCall books are fairly bleak – but there was always humour.
Within two hours I’d done 1500 words. I’m not saying they’ll make the final cut but it’s a first draft and they’re all about getting the words down. My protagonist – for the first time a female – is now sparkier. Believe me, she’s going to need that sense of humour for what I’ve got planned ahead of her.
I’m not going full Dominic Queste but I think she’s all the better for it.
The moral of this story is, a writer has to be what he/she is. We cannot be the square pegs being forced into someone else’s idea of a round hole. I was trying to do something that I hate – write a book with no humour. And I was suffering for it. Other writers could pull it off and produce a great book. Not me. I need to know there’s someone around with a ready quip or an off–kilter view of the world.
As I say, maybe this book will never see the light of day. It’s happened before.
But I now have a better chance of actually finishing it.