ESSAY Eluned Gramich

NWR Issue 113

The Accidental Thread

In writing, as with any creative activity, there will always be a gap between what you intended to produce and the final result. The finished piece is not necessarily any worse or better than what was originally planned, just different.Often this difference adds something new, an element of the unexpected. Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections was originally the story of Andy Aberant: a character who ‘twice failed to make the cut’. Hundreds of pages about Andy were put to one side in favour of his family, the Lamberts, who ‘kept getting larger and larger’. Was it Franzen’s intention to write about the Lamberts? No. In some ways, The Corrections was not what he intended at all; and yet by writing about Andy, Franzen found his subject, following the narrative like Theseus follows the thread out of the labyrinth.

For me, the most pleasurable stage of writing is the ‘thinking time’. This is the best part, because in my mind the novel is, needless to say, brilliant. When I start writing, I quickly realise that thoughts are not the same as words; dreams are not chapters, and sentences are never as obedient as I would have liked. Most unruly and finicky of all are the characters. Like Franzen’s Andy, the characters do what they want.

I’ve noticed that one of the common tics writers have is to talk about their characters as if they are real people. You might hear them say, ‘She just popped into my head and started talking to me!’ for instance. Before Notes from the Other Room, the only novel I’ve ever finished, I’d always regarded this spiel as a little fake, a bit of put-on eccentricity. Characters don’t speak, they’re not real, I thought. In any case, I never believed in this mystical side of writing. Writing is hard work.

Want to read the full article? Go to our online shop where you can buy an individual issue or take out a subscription to NWR, saving £3.98 on the cover price. Prices start at £16.99 for three issues via Direct Debit, including p+p (UK only).




       


previous essay: Power in the Land?
next essay: Looking for Dorothy Edwards



KEEP IN TOUCH















A brief note on copyright:all authors have given permission for their work to appear online on New Welsh Review's website. Copyright remains with the author. If you wish to reproduce part or all of any article then the permission of the author must be sought, and the author and New Welsh Review credited accordingly.

Contact us:Registered Office PO Box 170, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 1WZ - Telephone 00 (44) 1970 628410 admin@newwelshreview.com
© New Welsh Review Ltd, all rights reserved - Registered in England and Wales - Registered number: 02493828
Website design: mach2media and mopublications      Website development: Technoleg Taliesin Cyf.

Administration