Writing without an idea for content or intention is fraught with dangers familiar to anyone who has written for fun. What unfolds, however briefly satisfying, invariably reaches a disappointing end that stinks of overlooked hindsight. Here are several such walls I have tumbled into face first:
1. Total Abstraction
e.g. Writing from the perspective of a shoe, garbling language, describing a dream.
2. Brain Diary
e.g. Collating unedited thoughts, biased preaching, or uneducated philosophising.
3. Predetermined Twist
e.g. Writing with an end in mind and quickly reaching it; often telegraphed. Often starts with the title.
4. Desperate Twist
e.g. ‘It was all a dream’, ‘I was the real monster’; often involves a blatant shift where the writer figures out how to end it. Title is often written as a disguise.
On my 9th birthday I was given a small navy leather-bound book. My heart sank at the thought of being given a bible as a gift. Dread and guilt boiled up at the thought of parents so poor and boring. My mum soon parted the red sea by fluttering through the gilted blank pages, breezing my face with an incredible smell and an imposing adventure, as yet unwritten.
My dad handed me another gift with a wink. The wrapping paper was joyously colourful and littered with cartoon dinosaurs; I was so relieved. I tore apart the paper to reveal a long similarly navy, similarly leather-bound box. It initially snapped back shut so my dad quickly prized it in half to reveal a beautiful chrome pen, like nothing I had seen before; it was like if bullets were designed to be ridden into space.
I sat with my book in one hand and my pen in the other, feeling giddy; I owned these two incredible items! My mum took the pen, popped of the lid to reveal a shiny gold fountain nib and slid it onto the end. She handed it back and I noticed I was at the centre of 10 gazes.
“What are you going to write?” Aunty Rita smiled, staring at the first fresh page of my book.
I was scared but buoyed by adrenaline so I wrote.
‘Daniel held the bullet like a knife and drew black blood from the bible. Everybody was staring at him and wondering what he would do next. In his head he saw that he would finish his last sentence at the very end of the page and stand up. Everybody would be scared. But not as scared as Daniel. He would show them a trick. The knife would disappear.’
I looked up to see everybody still staring. Uncle Geoffrey’s expression was completely blank. Aunty Rita looked angry. Gran seemed was still reading with a wide eyes. Pa’s head was tilting as he squinted and read back and forth.
I looked at my mum and dad who looked at everyone else. They turned to each other and smiled, my dad shared his smile again with me, my mum gave me a wink.
I originally wrote this on Prose. Visit https://theprose.com/danielpratt to see my other writings. I also edit and spellcheck things there more regularly 🙂