We’ve got family staying this Easter, which means making an effort. Not just blitz the house of muddles and dirt, but find places to visit, things to do and see, locally.
Is it just us who don’t really know what’s on their doorstep? We do have days out, but my attempts to be a good hostess reveal how restricted our household’s range of entertainments are. We tend to chose places that need no more preparation that to change our clothes and set off.
That’s sheer laziness, and after they’ve spent three and a half hours getting here, we want our visitors to get the most from their stay. The most what? Well, fun, of course.
Doesn’t the same thing apply to reading? How often when we’re writing do we just go with the first idea we have? Of course, inspiration is great, and we all hope it continues to happen for us. But I think inspiration is the starting point. It’s a trigger to explore, to push myself to think beyond where I’m comfortable, even if that means spending some time considering alternative scenarios.
Because sometimes research brings unexpected rewards. Some years ago we took our visitors to an adventure playground. Everyone had an amazing time, so we began to plan all visits based on a day out at the giant swings and slides. We came to know the routes and rides so well we didn’t need a map.
For the children, the adventure is all about anticipation. Each ride is a precursor to the next excitement.
This year though, the adults said, ‘We’ve done that, can we do something else, please?’
So after a moment of blankness, when it felt as if we’d been given an impossible task: what could equal those giant activities? I began to see that we weren’t being asked for something along the same lines, this was a chance to think laterally.
Think about your audience then. Put aside your natural modesty and let’s admit that we write not just for ourselves, but for other people too. They probably are just like us, so perhaps it would help if rather than think about what we like to read, we think about what we don’t like in fiction.
For me, a predictable ending (baddy – antagonist – caught by goody – protagonist) is fine so long as the route by which they get there is not obvious. On the other hand, I like to be kept guessing, but I don’t want to feel tricked.
For our visitors, the answer turned out to be the local sculpture trail in the forest. Because even though we were following a map, with numbered artifacts to look out for, each turn of the track brought a new landscape. Space to run, to ramble, amble and think, to look, explore and imagine, and nothing prepared us for our reactions when we entered a designed glade.