Is anger a good reason for writing? Word Count 17,871 (wp) 22,000 (pr)

Thursday, March 22, 2007, 11:03 PM

So, my new novel is gathering steam. I have made the decision (wisely, I think) to let my last novel sit until this one is finished. This is for two reasons:

1) To maintain, and build on, the current momentum I have with the new novel. I know from past experience if I leave something withough finishing it, there's a good chance it'll never see completion.

2) To make sure I come back to Conduit with an objective eye, or as far as that's possible, and don't make any rash decisions just because I'm frustrated with it right now. I'm still pretty sure I need to reappraise the opening, most likely moving it into a flashback sequence later in the novel (I have a perfect place for it). But I don't want to manufacture a new opening as a knee-jerk action just to fill the gap.

Anyway, on to the title of this post. My new novel is based on a rather dark short story I wrote a few weeks back. The story itself was very hard-hitting because of the violence involved, though it's mostly hinted at, rather than shoved in your face. To be concise, it was a fairly brutal tale. Once I was finished the story, I found it wouldn't leave me alone. It kept nagging me, saying there was more to explore. So, I started writing, changing the climax of the short story and allowing it to be the trigger for the rest of the events that unfold.

Like many people in my part of the world, I find my country a frustrating place. This place is a dichotomy, a place of contradictions. We are renowned as a friendly, welcoming people, yet racism and animosity to outsiders is rife throughout our society. We mostly live our lives in relative peace with our neighbours, yet we are defined by division and hatred. I feel safer here than I did when I spent a few years living in Manchester, yet I have been twice directly threatened by paramilitaries (once by republicans when I was a child, once by loyalists when I was in my early twenties). I love the place where I grew up and I never want to live anywhere else, yet this is the country where as a five-year-old I had to shelter under a table because a bomb blitz was in full swing, where my school friend's father was shot dead in front of him, where I can't get a taxi to go to my house because the cab firms in my town are run by one paramilitary group who won't allow their cars into certain 'enemy' areas ... and I could go on, but you get the picture.

So, basically, this novel is allowing me to vent a lot of the frustration that I, and many like me, feel too impotent to work out in normal, everyday life. And all sides are in the firing line. My (very nasty, really) protagonist is a one-man wrecking ball who's going to see that everyone gets theirs, from the paramilitaries, to the politicians, to the corrupt security force personnel, to the complacent bystanders who let it happen - everyone. Like Dirty Harry, my guy has it in for everybody. But, the question I ask myself is this: should that kind of venting, that working out of frustration, be the fuel for a novel? Sure, a little grist will give anyone's writing flavour, but at what point does it become self indulgent? Should I try to moderate my writing, restricting how much my feelings of anger at my country's injustices influence it, or allow that passion to charge it?

Answers on a postcard, please. :)

PS - Bizarrely, I'm also finding a strange kind of black humour creeping into this novel. What should be a grim, bleak tale actually has some funny moments. Weird.



Blogger sex scenes at starbucks said...

It sounds like a worthwhile story to write. Who the hell cares where it comes from? (I mean, besides you.) Thing is, you have to write what you have to write. You can't do much different. People have asked me why I write about violence and darkness and ironic, twisted characters, and the short answer is "I don't know." The long answer is "I really actually don't know."

Write what you write. Impressive word count btw.

4:34 AM  

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