Updated: Aug 18
Writers often work when the world is at rest and I have to admit during a previous couple of hours on the sofa while mulling over my writing, an idea occurred to me regarding central themes within my tales.
Most of my storytelling uses the Indiana Jones methodology, I make it up as I go along, and quite early on during the days when Song of the Robin was in its infancy I began to introduce ‘family’ as a focal point.
The main plot for Song of the Robin is all about the deep rooted love a man has for his wife and his desperation when faced with impending tragedy. However, as with all good tales, the backstory required as much detail as current events to give life and depth. This is where my focus became more intense, where I could introduce the emotions of grief and joy, loss and belonging… those emotions that make our own lives real. What I don’t recall is planning to introduce this particular theme, proof that much of my writing is in fact unplanned and only drifts along these tributaries once a few sentences appear on paper.
Thinking about the theme of family, it only hit me recently where this came from. They do say you should write from personal experience so your words are more believable. (Worrying with so many serial killer thrillers in print!) For me, this theory is clearly the case. My main protagonist is lacking in a broad spectrum of family members, most importantly having no grandparents during her childhood. This reflects my own childhood. Only now as the years have advanced have I developed more of an interest in my parents and grandparents lives, but they are long since gone. I have no recollection of my paternal grandparents, and though I was around ten when my maternal grandparents left, I have little memory of any relationship with them… I never felt close… was never left with them… never played. To be honest, they were old people, and I was a little scared of them. But in those days there was still an element of ‘children were seen and not heard’. So different from my wife’s experience, where a huge expanse of her childhood is filled with memories of all her grandparents – as with our own children. I feel no regrets but as with all fiction, the notion has filtered through to be expanded and dramatised to fulfil a purpose.
Unwittingly and unplanned, this emptiness of mine has manifested itself in the backstory of my central characters in order to create a hole in their lives that can be filled with plots and side plots, poignancy and joy. Indeed the same theme extends to other characters which of course led to the extended tag line for Song of the Robin.
A TALE OF DESTINY, OF FAMILY, AND THE STRONG BONDS THAT LINK US… EVEN TO THOSE WE HAVE LOST.
And also to a moment’s clarity with the heart of my heroin.
“Sarah’s need for the sanctuary of family was her greatest strength and her greatest weakness. What was family, she thought, if not a place to belong? Family was everything. It was a warm blanket… an embrace… a safe place to hide when the world threatened. A refuge where the door was always open, and a friendly face welcomed.”
Ever since I began to write, I’ve been enthralled at how a story develops with little forethought. How a basic idea can change course, follow a different path and still arrive via a circuitous route at the conclusion - and hopefully intact as a coherent tale.