So this is my fourth attempt at writing this blog, which makes me wonder if I should put it in the writer’s block section. I’m struggling with the reasoning behind why I chose to tell the story of Control.
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have any issues myself, but I want to clarify why I’m telling an action story rather than the usual space opera that would set me apart from other writers in the field and tell a challenging story about the human condition.
That kind of story – the lofty one – is the one I’ve wanted to tell, or at least I thought I wanted to tell, for the last twenty years. Giving that ideal up was one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done and it’s only now, when I’m nearly at the end of book, one that I realise how much insight into the human condition I have actually achieved simply by not trying to write about it.
Letting go of one’s aspirations, it seems, is possibly the best way to achieve them.
Control is a gritty, dirty action story and that is all I ever intended it to be, but once you start the ball rolling you are never entirely in control of where it is headed or indeed what it will crush on its way down. Once the story was under way I found that the characters really came to life. They started to make decisions of their own, the dialogue would become spontaneous and would flow faster than my hands could type and events would present themselves almost as if they were always going to happen, like fate perhaps, but without me knowing anything about it until it was too late.
The result was an emotional journey for me, maybe even an existential one, as characters grew and changed and made profound observations and morally difficult decisions. And people died, too.
As the whole story is set in a war I am sure you can appreciate how much violence there is, but I have to admit that some of the inevitable deaths came as a surprise to me. A situation would play out, a scenario I had created as part of the story, which had been carefully planned from the beginning, and suddenly something would change – I would reach a point in the telling and realise that a certain character had to die, that there was no way out. That, I will be honest, was very hard for me to accept.
You get attached to characters, especially once they come to life, and killing them feels like the wrong thing to do. When you had originally planned to keep one alive it comes as something of a shock when you realise that they actually are supposed to die.
That, for me at least, was a profound realisation and I can only hope it imbued the narrative with some of the gravity that comes with losing a life. There is of course, the writer’s personal experience to take into account, but as I’ve never been on the front line and never faced such impossible odds I am using my imagination to a greater degree, but loss is a universal experience and more than anything I hoped that feeling something for the characters in my book, combined with my own experiences of death would be enough to make their passing tangible.
So, I’m writing an action story with fighting and guns and explosions and space battles, but the story is telling me about all the people involved, what happens to them when they get caught up in it all, the terrible and wonderful things that they do.
All in all, it’s proved to be far more entertaining than the simple story I envisioned and people still get to bust a whole load of shit up. Sounds like a win-win to me. 🙂