Thursday, May 18, 2017

Balance? Moi?

"How do you keep the balance between that little world in your head and the real one?"

by Catriona

At the risk of sounding like Lady Catherine de Bourgh, if there was only one it would be a skoosh. Not that Lady Catherine ever used the word "skoosh" but she said - of piano-playing: "If I had ever learned I would be a great proficient" and she always comes to mind when someone, me included, makes a baseless claim.
Fictional house
The thing that gives me trouble is keeping my little fictional worlds apart. It's easy to remember whether a shop, house, beach, street or town exists in the world of Dandy Gilver or in a standalone. Roughly, if people drive Morris Cowleys and everyone's got a hat on, it's the 1930s. If people walk into lamp-posts while checking Facebook (and failing to get off my lawn) it's the 21st century and a standalone.

actual house where I lived - totally different
But trying to match character names and locations to individual books when all the names are suitable for working-class contemporary Scots and all the locations are in some bit of Galloway . . . that's where things fall apart. Not while I'm writing. While I'm writing, I could tell you where the plug points are in every fictional room and where the nearest postbox is to every fictional street. And as to the characters, every one of them has a face and voice, a wardrobe and a job, a childhood and a retirement plan, and - basically - a 40ft shipping container full of back story that never gets onto the finished page.

It can make for a lot of affronted spluttering when your editor says - as mine just did - that two characters introduced in the first three chapters are merged and need work. "They're nothing like one another!" I want to retort.  And, in my head, that's true. But on the page, two brothers, two years apart, both a bit sweary and sarcastic, are just a big double-headed blob.

Noisy neighbours
As to the real world, it can come as a bit of a surprise to look up - either from the breakfast room of a friend's stately home in the Highlands or from the check-out queue of the Dumfries Tesco - and see blue sky and brown grass, jack rabbits and crested quail, prickly pear cactus and persimmon trees. Oh yeah, I think. Remember that time you moved to California.

Some of California has seeped in deep, mind you. The last few years I've needed to write IT"S RAINING on a post-it note and stick it to my lap-top during first drafts, just to keep the possibility of actual weather alive in my mind.

But between 2010 and now, there's been no real danger of confusing my inner reality with the reality outside my head (see above: persimmon trees). However. I've started writing about California as well now. Specifically about a college town in contemporary northern California. And things are beginning to go a bit strange. When I drive under the railroad bridge at 1st St in Davis, I do kind of expect to see a cop shop, a run-down motel and tomato fields instead of an In-and-Out Burger, a Safeway and a suburb. And I recently mixed up the name of the real newspaper  - The Davis Enterprise - with my paper  - The Cuento Voyager - when I was looking for a real story online.

The town of Davis is rich with weirdness just begging to be dusted with a bit of fiction-glitter and plopped into a mystery plot. Here are just a few high spots for starters:

Not a sign you see every day, right?

The public art is mainly vegetables

And whatever this was all about
I foresee more mingling and less balance in my future.


Paul D. Marks said...

I love the image of the "40ft shipping container full of back story"! And what is with the cat....

Unknown said...

I've never met a bored writer - there's always so much going on in their heads! Lovely post and photos :)

Ann Mason said...

You never fail to entertain!