Even in the quietest moments


Trying to move on with projects when your workplace is subject to unpredictable interruptions is difficult. So it has been for the past few months. Angie’s been panicking a bit over her Teaching History course exam, and I’ve found myself roped in to help with revision. All in all, what with new shifts, cuts in hours, hunting for a new day job, planning to move house, and a heap of other incidentals, finding the time to concentrate and write consistently has been at a premium. Even in the quietest moments there have been things clamouring for my attention, distracting from the job in hand. Next doors anti-social birds and my dogs habit of random fits of barking when there’s no-one there don’t exactly help. I don’t mind him calling me when there’s an issue, but barking at things which aren’t there, or a quarter mile away are not conducive to serious endeavour. So working on ‘A falling of Angels’ and ‘Darkness’ has proven quite an effort of late. Any sudden interruption sends my birds of thought fluttering off to the far reaches, and they’re a bugger to coax down from the rafters afterwards.


Normally speaking, when in a noisy environment, the human mind is rather good at filtering out the constant rivers of aural trash. When you’re in the ‘zone’ it’s like having headphones on, and the nervous hindbrain is lulled to a lower stress level, leaving the frontal lobes free to do the fine carpentry of narrative construction. Low flying aircraft noise, tugs in the narrows pulling log booms, gardening machinery, all these can fade into the background. Background music or documentaries help. But when the interruptions are random and unpredictable, the filters can’t work, and writing suffers.

It’s easy to write, any damn fool can string a sentence together and use a spell checker, but as good old Sam Clemens once noted, fiction has to make sense, real life doesn’t. You can’t just fling any old nonsense down on the page and hope it works. Within the framework of the narrative, premises must lead to conclusions, causality must be rigorously observed. Threads tied off. All that shizzle.

I do keep plot notes, I do try to write character traits down, but, and this is the big but; characters have to develop. They have to change with each major event or they simply become cardboard cutouts of stereotypes. Their humanity has to alter with each new challenge, just like with real people. Fixing them to a page can sometimes be akin to nailing jelly to the wall. Especially when inspiration keeps striking like random meteors. Those “Hey, what if?” thoughts constantly intrude. And if the story is changed, well nothing happens in isolation, everything has to be accounted for.

What is often not appreciated is how hard this is to do. At least for those of us who have real lives. Dogs to walk, day job to do, meals to cook, chores etc. Finding quiet time to let the consciousness roam without distraction and find answers to the many questions. Since Angie took her exam two days ago, the distractions are fewer, and I’m beginning to pick up the threads again. Yet again. Today I’ve sorted out a few gaping holes in the plot of ‘a falling of angels’, or at least nailed narrative planks over the worst of them, and I’m starting to write properly again.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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