For as long as I can remember I’ve made up stories. These were little fantasies that stayed in my head. I tried a few times, as a child, to write them down but what I managed to get on paper was never good enough, it didn’t reflect what I saw in my head when I played through the story in my imagination. They were dreadful, so I stopped trying to write them down.
I never stopped making up stories though. Over the years I built up quite a collection of characters and situations. Some of the characters became favourites and I dreamed up new episodes they were involved in, little chapters of ever expanding lives.
It was only when I reached my thirties that I finally decided to try writing one of my stories out again. I had a nifty little laptop and I just started typing one evening. I’m not entirely sure why I did this, maybe it was because I had recently relocated to England where it seemed the maxim ‘everyone has a book in them’ is believed and almost everyone I met was either writing or planning to write a book. I thought if they could do it so could I, after all I had plenty of material locked up in my head.
That’s when I discovered something unexpected – many of my stories had stalled. I could imagine them from a start point, through a number of scenes and then stop, incapable of getting further. When I started writing everything down it was as if it got it out of my head and cleared the space for new instalments. Stories that I had worked through mentally for years, even decades, suddenly took leaps forward. I found my characters growing and developing far beyond what I’d been able to hold solely in my mind. It was exhilarating. I wrote and wrote. Ending up with a novel in excess of 300 000 words before I wrapped it up.
Once the whole thing was written and a conclusion reached that character was gone, removed from my mind and my thoughts. After thirty years of living with and inventing scenarios for him my mind was a blank, he’d reached his happy ending. I couldn’t imagine any more new adventures for him.
This was utterly unexpected and felt a bit weird but it wasn’t the end of the world, I had several more characters that I’d been making up stories for since my childhood so I moved on to them. Till eight years down the line I’d written down all the stories I had ever made up. I had nothing left. Was that it? Had I grown up and left fantasy and stories behind?
Happily not, every so often a new idea pops into my head, a story so compelling I can’t get away from it, it goes round and round in my mind till I finally give in and start typing. It’s the only way to stop thinking about it, and the only way to get it past those first few detailed thoughts and into a proper story.
Is this how it is for everyone, do you need to write things down to get past a fixed point in your story development?