An Unexpected Outcome

What happens when you start to write things down

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. They formed 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 moved to England where it seemed the maxim ‘everyone has a book in them’ is believed. 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. He was 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. It wasn’t the end of the world though. 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?