Monday, 8 October 2012


Today, I am going to talk to you about passion. The passion that dare not speak its name. Hot, steamy—

No, wait, wrong blog entry. This one's much more wholesome.

Last night, Steph and I watched the J.K Rowling - A Year in the Life documentary that aired a few years ago. (You can see the whole thing on YouTube.)

Now, watching this kind of thing with me is not — how shall we put it — the easiest experience in the world, but luckily my wife is tolerant and also used to it. Every couple of minutes, I had to pause the show and start ranting. This is the kind of thing I do.

Don't get me wrong. Rowling is articulate, intelligent and inspiring. Which could not be said of the narrator / interviewer in the documentary, who kept making the most trite observations in a tone that implied he thought he was saying something profound.

To the point!

The thing that most leapt out to me in the documentary was just how much Rowling cared about the characters in Harry Potter. Not just the heroes or the major characters, but all of them. She knew them. She knew about their lives and their passions and their fears and she cared. She felt with them.

Not only that, the story meant something to her. It was important and she cared about it. It was imbued and brought to life by things she really believed in. She wrote it with the passion flowing through her. You don't have to like Harry Potter or Rowling's writing to appreciate how important that is in writing.

Okay, this isn't an original observation. I expect some of you, if you got this far, are rolling your eyes at virtual me and going, yeah, whatever, I knew that when I was, like, 12. (In my head, you always say 'like' when you're rolling your eyes.)

Well, the truth is, so did I. Well, maybe not when I was 12. When I was 12, I was more interested in explosions and dinosaurs and lots and lots of blood. (Coming to think of it, not much has changed there…)

But it's easy to forget these things. For the last week or two, I've been feeling that my WIP has been going a bit flat. It had become very mechanistic. 

I've got an outline for this story, for the first time ever in something I've written, and for the most part, this has been fantastic for the story and my ability to write it when I'm tired and busy, but the last couple of weeks, I've fallen into just thinking, This has to happen next, and then this, and I have to get characters X, Y, and Z to A, B, and C by this scene. I'd forgotten that the story is about the characters. It's about what matters to them, and their emotions and reactions and actions, and the outline is there to help that only.

So, today, I went back and started to try to put myself in that mode that Rowling was so obviously in with her characters, making myself think about what matters to them and feeling what they think.

And I think it worked. The mechanistic turning of the wheel has gone, and the life is coming back.

Obviously, I'll forgotten this again in a couple of months, and you can roll your eyes at me again when I remember. Just try not to say 'like' when you do. It makes you sound like a teenager.


Emily Mah Tippetts said...

So, like (sorry, couldn't help it), I've thought for quite some time you're one personal renaissance away from a bestseller. Which isn't to say it's la-ti-da easy to just lock yourself in a room with your muse and get carried away in greatness. But I do mean to say that I strongly suspect you're on your way, even if it doesn't always feel like it. And okay, even if this WIP doesn't become a bestseller, the market's weird. Bad stuff happens (to everyone else, at least. When it happens to me it is FATE giving me a message, but I'm special like that). I'm glad to hear you're WIP is coming to life, though. I know it's a rough, looong road, but I'm excited to see where you end up.

Patrick Samphire said...

Thanks, Emily. You have way more confidence in my stuff than I do right now. Talk about heads and brick walls and stuff. :)

Emily Mah Tippetts said...

Heh, I know that feeling! Sometimes it feels like success is just on the other side of said wall, but you'll give yourself a concussion long before you ever break through. I think I've already knocked myself out many, many times.