The voice


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Paula’s Post #71 – This past ten days, we 5writers have been focusing a lot on the ‘it’ factor. First Silk posted about ‘That can’t look away ingredient’ , then Joe followed up with his own examination of what makes a storyline ‘addictive’ in ‘The it factor’, now in yesterday’s post I see we have Silk back for another kick at the cat with ‘Where does ‘it’ come from’.

I’d like to say I know where ‘it’ comes from, but I’m afraid that like my 5writer colleagues, I have more questions than answers in the search for the elusive ‘it’ factor.

Yet in researching today’s blog post, I did discover that best-selling author Stephen King found the word ‘IT’ sufficiently powerful to title and anchor an entire novel.

For Mr. King, the ‘it’ factor appeared in the disguise of an ‘evil murderous clown’ preying on a town’s children. Deeply rooted in the commonality of childhood fears, he later wrote that the book was inspired by his recollections of an oft-recounted childrens’ fairy-tale: The Three Billy Goats Gruff:

I thought of the fairy tale called “The Three Billy-Goats Gruff” and wondered what I would do if a troll called out from beneath me, “Who is trip-trapping upon my bridge?” All of a sudden I wanted to write a novel about a real troll under a real bridge. I stopped, thinking of a line by Marianne Moore, something about “real toads in imaginary gardens,” only it came out “real trolls in imaginary gardens.” A good idea is like a yo-yo–it may go to the end of its string, but it doesn’t die there; it only sleeps. Eventually it rolls back up into your palm. I forgot about the bridge and the troll in the business of picking up my car and signing the papers, but it came back to me off and on over the next two years. I decided that the bridge could be some sort of symbol–a point of passing. I started thinking of Bangor, where I had lived, with its strange canal bisecting the city, and decided that the bridge could be the city, if there was something under it. What’s under a city? Tunnels. Sewers. Ah! What a good place for a troll! Trolls should live in sewers! A year passed. The yo-yo stayed down at the end of its string, sleeping, and then it came back up. I started to remember Stratford, Connecticut, where I had lived for a time as a kid. In Stratford there was a library where the adult section and the children’s section was connected by a short corridor. I decided that the corridor was also a bridge, one across which every goat of a child must risk trip-trapping to become an adult. About six months later I thought of how such a story might be cast; how it might be possible to create a ricochet effect, interweaving the stories of children and the adults they become. Sometime in the summer of 1981 I realized that I had to write about the troll under the bridge or leave him–IT–forever.

Now, I must confess I do not have an obsession with either billy goats or bridges. Nor do I have an irrational fear of clowns (at least I do not think I do). But I can say that the books I am most passionate about writing have a similar gestational history to Mr. King’s novel, ‘IT’. A nagging voice that echoes through my subconscious, a dropped thread that reappears when I least expect it.

In the past, this nagging voice has led to one completed novel that I can say that I am proud of, (the one I co-authored with my fellow 5writer Helga) and one still incomplete but promising novel, (set in pre-war Honolulu) that I can say I’m also quite proud of and which has been the object of much encouraging feedback from my fellow 5writers.

But now, that nagging voice is back, apparently coaxing me to write a historical novel set in Scotland, loosely inspired by my own family history.  For me, that ‘nagging voice’ will not be silenced, though right now, I can’t help think I should be writing something else.

Something a little less demanding. Something requiring a little less research. Something a tad less complex.

So to listen to ‘this nagging voice’ or not? Like Shakespeare put it all so aptly, ‘that is the question.

Do you have your own little nagging voice, coaxing you to write a particular story? If so, are you listening to ‘the voice’ or ignoring ‘it’.

I’d like to know.

Paula’s Update:

Kilometres driven this week – 2551

Bed’s slept in – 6 (believe me, that sounds racier than it actually is)

Dog’s transported across international borders – 2

Pages written on new novel – 0

Nagging voice intrusions – 17 (but who’s counting).

2 thoughts on “The voice

  1. “A good idea is like a yo-yo–it may go to the end of its string, but it doesn’t die there; it only sleeps. Eventually it rolls back up into your palm.”

    ” …the books I am most passionate about writing have a similar gestational history to Mr. King’s novel, ‘IT … ”

    Whatever IT is, it may need a long “gestational history” (great term, Paula) to ripen, (or, perhaps, fester), before complementing the flavor of, (or, perhaps, infecting) the story. I was encouraged to hear that Stephen King’s yo-yo slept for years, because my mind works (or dysfunctions) in the same way. One idea has already rolled back to my hand, and another is waiting for me to finish with the first. Both have had (perhaps entirely too) long of a gestational history. I think they have minds of their own when they emerge from their parentheses.

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