Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Grabbed by the Balls

Okay, so, the title got your attention right? I haven’t literally been grabbed by the balls since… well, for a very long time. Thankfully, I haven’t pissed any woman off enough for them to want to do that to me (and ladies, there’s not much worse you can do to a man to punish him than abuse his balls – ain’t that the truth). But what I’m talking about here is a story idea. A new story idea has grabbed me by the balls and I doubt it will let go now until the story is finished.

It’s great when that happens, isn’t it?

Let me elaborate.

In recent weeks I’ve been working on rewriting an older story, College by the Sea, which you can read the ‘original’ of on StoriesOnline. This is because of the success that I believe I’ve had rewriting another older story, Reunion. Reunion is about five years old and you can read it on StoriesOnline or download a .pdf here.

Now, Eternally & Evermore, started out as a simple rewrite of Reunion. I wanted to make it longer, add subplots and take time to explore Matt and Kelly’s relationship more. What actually happened was that Matt morphed in Will, Kelly became Amy and the whole story got turned on its head and is now so far removed from Reunion that it’s a stretch to believe that it ever started out as a rewrite of such.

And it’s not just the plot is so much different, it’s that the characters are totally different too. It wasn’t just a case of changing the names. I also changed their personal circumstances. I don’t want to give away too many of E&E’s secrets (and their are a whole host of surprises in store, believe me), but Will and Amy are older, wiser, and have been through more in their lives than either Matt or Kelly. And that has made them very different people from Matt and Kelly.

I tend to think of it like this… Will and Amy are the people that Matt and Kelly would have been had their lives taken a different path. Consequently, they have a very different story to tell.

And, honestly, I’m so pleased with the job I did turning Reunion into E&E that I figured I could at least as good a job by starting with College by the Sea.

The problem though is two fold. First, College isn’t that good. I started writing it over ten years ago and have never finished. I’ve actually written more of the story than appears on StoriesOnline, but I got so disillusioned with it that I found a sort of convenient place to stop and did just that. It’s too long winded. It lacks focus and the story really doesn’t go anywhere.

So while I knew where I was taking the story with Eternally & Evermore, I didn’t have that same single-mindedness with the rewrite of College. Hell,  I didn’t even have a clue what the title was. Not the first idea.

Second problem was that I have been working on this story in some shape or form for over ten years. It was the first story I ever started writing, and it’s based very much on some of my experiences from my time at University. College is set in Aberystwyth, in the same hall of residence that I stayed in and features many of the places I used to go. I mean, the lead character, is a physics undergraduate – like I was, and while he isn’t me, part of him is. But then, there’s a part of me in all my heroes. And some of the characters in the book are very much based on people I lived with.

For the rewrite I moved the action to Westmouth – the town that is rapidly becoming the centre of my ‘universe’ (can we call it the ‘Nobbiverse’, yet?). I kept some of the characters names the same, changed others, and cut the cast list by either simply dropping some of the extras or merging some of the more prominent ones.

But I couldn’t bring myself to change the two central characters – Dylan and Joanne. I was too close to them. And so the story suffered from my lack ability to let go. My friend and editor said I was doing an okay job, but the story didn’t grab me. It didn’t feel right.

Then, earlier this week, something happened. An idea struck me. Utterly different from Dylan’s story, this idea is fresh, and exciting and I damned if I’m not looking forward to writing it. It’s got me by the balls.

As the delightful Mrs Cole says on that god awful L'Oreal advert – I’ve got my mojo back.

So, here’s hoping I can keep up this enthusiasm for the story. It’s got a lot of development to go – I need to map out the story and work out the ending – but I know who the main characters are and what the conflict is and that, for me, is the main thing. With great characters and a compelling conflict, I can nail this thing.

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