Friday, 27 November 2009
The Mullage Machine
You know when you have a formless blob of an idea floating around in your head? It could end up nowhere, but equally, it could end up being a half decent story. It’s a bit like having a lump of dough that needs to prove and bake into something with a purpose. And I don’t compare food and stories lightly, but I still compare them.
Sometimes you need to allow an idea, or a scene, to lurk inside your brain for a while until it takes shape. My friend Alexandra talks about putting it in The Mullage Machine.
I have a very half-baked idea for a new children’s book right now and as always with me at this stage, it’s more about feeling a certain atmosphere than a tangible idea in which A, B and C happen. It’s so half-baked in fact, that I’m worried I have incurred the wrath of the Muse’s bouncers by even mentioning it. [If you’ve never come across the Muse’s bouncers before, believe me, they’re not to be messed with. The Muse wafts about in a diaphanous dress with flowers in her hair but her bouncers have tattoos on their knuckles and steel toecaps in their boots. They’ll escort you off the premises with a few broken limbs and a black eye as soon as look at you. I’ve posted before about how I managed to kill a book by blabbing all over the place about it instead of writing it. I won’t make that mistake again, beyond asking my nearest and dearest questions like, ‘So what would happen if…?’ and ‘Have you ever heard of this…?’
But as long as you keep schtum and don’t leave the idea in the mullage machine for too long, this can be one of the most delicious stages of writing something new. At this point, the book is perfect. Anything could happen and the story could go anywhere. The prose is brilliantly polished and yet natural, the plot will do all the things a plot should do. [Note that I haven’t listed them. That’s because I don’t really know. Answers on a postcard please to the usual address]. The characters will make sparkling dialogue and behave just like living breathing people. Except they’ll be much more interesting than real people.
So if you haven’t touched a keyboard or pen in relation to your current story but have been cranking up the mullage machine instead, don’t worry.
Thinking can sometimes be writing too.