The inevitable question whenever a writer is asked to discuss his or her writing, is how did you come up with that story? And a good question it is.
At the heart of any good book is the story.
To my mind, all good stories start with a question, which in my case almost always arise out of “What if?” The “What ifs” can come from anywhere. Most writers are voracious readers and observers and the world is full of people, situations, and events that lend themselves to storytelling.
I like to dream up stories based on themes, such as identity, love, death, taxes; that sort of thing. Once I have a theme, then the question becomes who is affected and how? This who is the beginning of the main character and what he or she might be.
The first book I wrote came out of questions surrounding school shootings, which at the time inevitably involved the obvious danger this person, this boy-as it always seems to be-that wasn’t obvious enough that it could be prevented and the rush to judgement about the circumstances and the individual.
But what if none of that was true? What if it was a series of events that led, unknowingly, to this act of murder, by people with their own agendas and secrets? What if the main character is the only one to survive, but doesn’t know or remember what triggered the shooting? The story then becomes explaining the what and the why.
The fun of writing, of storytelling, is the creation and fleshing out of the characters, good and bad, of weaving in the disparate strands of plot, of pulling in the reader, page by page, chapter by chapter.
I like characters that at first glance appear prototypical, archetypal, almost bland and inoffensive, meant to evoke a social stereotypical image, who, whether they know it or not, are part of a construct over which they have little or no control, and whose lives are thrown into chaos.
Stress the structure or the character and the true nature of things is revealed, be it weakness or strength, a clarity of purpose or a questioning of everything that was once real and sure.
In my new book, Where Fools Dare to Tread, the main character, Monk Buttman, has no ambition other than living one day at a time in as uncomplicated way as possible, but actions outside his control overtake him and he is thrust into situations that he may not be able to manage. He is at the mercy of his intellect and guile and the forces he feels but cannot see, yet which he must navigate to survive.
The story came out of a love of noir, of pulp fiction, and of a regular guy stuck in someone else’s trap. I wanted him to have to confront what it was that led him to this simple anonymous life and the false proposition that somehow it would negate the pain and failures of the past, that they would dissolve in the shimmering heat of Los Angeles.
©2019 David William Pearce