7 Apr 2014

Writer's Away.

If you look hard you might see someone writing something.

Mhairi makes the most of our mentor

Not much going on here - but a nice one of our leader with coffee cup.

Glynis, thrice-published Jane with the inevitable cup of something, and Brian.

Tez, debonair as always.

Bagaduish blokes: Andy, Tez, Martin, Brian.


I went away for the weekend. Not a killer first line for a novel but for my nearest, dearest and oldest friends it’s a line that will have some impact. The last time I ‘went away’ (left home with a suitcase and at least one change of underwear) was about two years ago. It takes a lot to prise this oyster from its shell. The occasion was the writers group’s annual jolly - sorry Retreat -  into the countryside. The purpose? I’m not so sure about that. In the pursuit of fresh inspiration perhaps? Possibly the wish to hone our writing techniques. 

To this latter end we had a visit from a professional, a thrice published, often staged, depressingly young, Scottish writer who entertained us for a couple of hours and left us with a couple of useful metaphors to work with. The first was ‘show the fin, not the shark.’ The obvious root of this was ‘Jaws’ which was so very successful as a terrifier. The shark isn’t seen until quite near the end (so I’m told. I’ve never seen the film in its entirety, only extracts.)  What is enough to scare the living bejayzez out of viewers is the sight of the fin (and that music of course.) The principal being that we create far scarier things in our mind than can ever be shown or written about. Keep the reader riveted by their own imaginings with just a tiny taste of what’s to come now and again to heighten the tension.  

So from now on it’s: fin, fin, fin, fin, fin, SHARK!

The second metaphor, in much the same vein, is to liken the process of the generative event of the story to the creation of a tsunami. There has been an earthquake or some catastrophic happening deep under the surface. The shock wave it sends out stays low on the ocean bed, sending out long waves that merely raise shipping a foot or two as it passes underneath them. As it approaches land the combined force of the original disruption causes the wave to erupt to the surface creating appalling devastation.

Both of these metaphors seem to me to serve as well for poetry as for prose.

All in all I do feel more inspired, and the creative Slough of Despond I’ve been in since Christmas has lifted along with the recent virus (which took long enough to submit.)

On an entirely personal level, being with eleven people that I only know through a once-a-week meeting (and what they reveal of themselves in their writing) was much more enjoyable than I had imagined it would be. I should have more faith in my fellow human beings. 

Two evenings passed merrily with not a single sentence being written (so far as I could tell). The vast amount of beer, wines, and spirits, brought along to keep us going, may have had something to do with loosening inhibitions and priming vocal chords so we were treated to songs written by Martin who accompanied himself on his guitar, then Tez and Tom in turn sang various a cappella folk songs with noisy sing-along choruses. Mindful of my Guide Captain, who told me to move because I was putting people off, I stayed largely silent and just enjoyed.

The icing on the cake was the discovery that the area between Aviemore and the Cairngorm Ski Resort has been developed since the long-ago days when I took my children in that direction. It’s a beautiful region with lochs and glens, streams, woods, and wetlands. Now there are cycle paths and footpaths, and centres like the one we stayed in that offer accommodation for large or small family parties and groups. It has given me some happy ideas for Christmases in the future.

No comments: