Dancers – my new short story - has had a long 12 month journey from initial idea to shareable first draft. It all started back in 2013 when a scene kept on popping into my head. The scene was a couple dancing through the streets of Paris. That’s generally how my stories start with an image or a scene. I start by writing that scene. Sometimes all I’m doing is writing notes as opposed to prose. That’s how I started with Dancers by scribbling down notes.
So at this stage I had some rough notes and the inkling of an ending, but little else. Next I had to think about characters. I don’t define my characters before I drop them into a story. I literally drop ‘shadows’ into stories and then the characters start to define themselves. The conversations that occur are those of the characters not mine. I have no idea what they’re going to say. In respect of Dancers I knew where the characters and the story had to go, but I had no idea how my characters were going to get to the end point.
A strange thing happened with Dancers. The characters that started to appear on the page were completely wrong for the story I was trying to write. That’s never happened to me before. Initially, I thought that maybe the scenes were wrong so I kept dropping the characters in different locations, a hotel room, a restaurant, and numerous other locales and venues to see what difference it made. Changing the setting / situation didn’t work, but the characters that were evolving on the page were real living breathing people.
The solution was to break one of the cardinal rules of writing (if such a thing exists): Finish what you start.
I left Dancers well alone and dropped the two characters into a London mews house and just started writing. By removing them completely and giving them their own world to inhabit a second story Acid House sprang into life which will be published late 2014 / early 2015. I can’t be specific because I’m waiting on an update from the publishing editors.
Once Acid House was wrapped I went back to Dancers . The first time that story went wrong I had two characters coming out of a Paris restaurant. I went back to the original scene and this time the story wrote itself. The new characters inhabiting Dancers are fitting for the story at hand, and are complete opposites of the Acid House characters.
The point of this blog? Listen to your muse. Had I ‘forced’ these particular characters into Dancers then the story would have been a mess. More importantly the original two characters were obviously desperate to get out into the big literary world. They wanted to tell their own story, and not the story I had planned for them. In those circumstances my advice would be to always follow your characters. Characters will quite often define stories. Trust them. They’re the lifeblood of any story.
I’ve added Dancers to the ‘My Stories’ section of the site. I’ve broken that page down into published works and works looking for a home. Dancers at the moment will go into a drawer. In a couple of months I’ll dust it off and do a final re-write before sending it out to publishers. Feedback from my inner circle is very promising.
M J Wolfson - That's me.