As my previous posts have mentioned, I was trying to play around with my writing and had used commas, alliteration and hyphens to make my writing more poetical and flowing in its style. In the lead up to Christmas 2015 I had a few days spare and with no writers group meetings scheduled until January I decided to use a few black and white photos from Google as stimuli for short pieces of writing. With these I continued to experiment with the writing style. One piece was based on a photo of a man, dressed in a 1950s suit, walking away from the camera down an American street with snow flakes fluttering down. I wrote about the man going into a bar, described the atmosphere and setting and then threw in the idea that the man was having an affair with one of the waitresses and ended with him leaving the bar having made up his mind about something and fumbling with his gun in his pocket.
A couple of months later I decided to read this out at a meeting. As it was only about 500 words long I wrote another 500 words describing the man going home, arguing with his girlfriend and then shooting her. When I read this complete piece out it garnered quite a reaction, some people liking the use of language, others not so sure. The fact that the writing had caused such a lively discussion rather than the usual platitudes, no one liking to be too critical of others’ writing, I was encouraged to continue both with the style and the story. In fact I continued the story for about another 40,000 words spread over the rest of the year. It turned out the story was begun about a third of the way through so I didn’t go back and fill in the first third until around December 2016 when I was nearing the end of reading out the rest of the story at the writers group meetings.
One aspect that changed over time was the importance of making the plot more evident and driving that plot forward. The early pieces were quite dense in description and with the hyphens etc could become heavy going. Gradually I brought the plot, hastily put together, to the fore and filtered out the unnecessary elaboration. The main character, who was narrating the story, spoke in the hyphenated style and narrated in it too. He also began to adopt particular characteristics, such as making references to Greek mythology and issuing laconic asides. These began to replace the edited out words.
The importance of getting feedback from people was very evident in the story’s development. If I had been writing this all by myself at home I think it would have ended up a very dense, unreadable text. I cannot speak too highly of the input from the group members who kept my attention on the plot when it was so tempting for me to see how many clever hyphenated words I could create and insert in a sentence. Some people wanted me to remove more such words and phrases but I was concerned the writing would end up like my uninspired previous style and the story just another tale about a PI in America in the 1950s. On average I reckon I use hyphens in every four out of five sentences. Sometimes there are two such words in a sentence which I think I can get away with most times. As I have begun editing the story I have removed some of the phrases, especially if the meaning is obscure or not helpful.
Around Christmas 2016 I started on a sequel, in the same style. In fact I now find it very hard to write in any other style.