Keep old diaries

Having got my plot lines more or less in order, I turn my attention to the vexed question of times of year.

Inescapably, whenever I am writing, I gaze out of the window next to my desk for inspiration, and my stories take on the timbre and feel of that season. If I see daffodils, I think of spring, if the room is baking hot and I can hear children playing tennis outside, it’s got to be summer, when the leaves are everywhere, my thoughts drift to autumn, and if there is snow on the ground, my plot will invariably feature a cave bear coming out of hibernation.


But that won’t do, for writing longer narratives. I first met my latest MC, Lisa, when she was reading a magazine (which featured a holly and berry motif on the cover) in March. So, planted in March, there Lisa has to stay, even though my year moves on – and they do move forward with startling rapidity, these days. A host of details depends on staying faithful to the original intention. So, if when I next visit Lisa, I am thinking of the long vacation, I have to remember to go back to where I planted her in early Spring and she is faithfully waiting for me.

Windswept - by John William Waterhouse

I could of course, move the original planting forward, to Summer, where Lisa will doubtless be warmer and recovering from her SAD. But that is cheating, and raises the spectre that I would continue to move her as the novel progresses, a wobbly notion that lacks conviction. I have decided that however inconvenient to me, I mean to go on as I start, and leave the beginning alone. Of course Lisa can move forward, and often does, thankfully. I don’t expect the entire narrative to be concluded in a single season….

My solution? I found an old diary which I have been filling with Lisa’s dates and appointments. It works well, both to anchor the time of year, and to make Lisa and all the other characters more real to me. So now, as well as having my own life and running the diaries of our family, I run the diaries of my fictional characters.

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