There are as many ways to start a new story as there are writers. In fact more – because perhaps each story they write springs from a different beginning.
Having finished editing another draft of a novel, and facing into a new edit on the follow on to Butterfly Heart, I thought it might be a relief to start writing something entirely new.
My first thought was not ‘what will it be about?’ it was ‘where will it be?’ and my second thought was ‘I wonder who will make an appearance.’
Even though I have now lived in Ireland for eight years, it is not the first setting that springs to mind. I feel I do not know it well enough, I do not know the cadence of the place or the detail of the land. I hope I will one day as this is where I have made my home. But right now, when I think ‘where will it be?’ I head towards those countries in Africa where I spent most of my life – Zambia, Kenya and South Africa.
In each of the places the sounds, the smells, the voices, the trees, the earth and the sky come into my mind more easily. The feel of the ground beneath my feet, the heat of the sun, the music of a conversation, the way people move – all of these things are in my head.
Then it is the who?
When I last tried to start a new story I had the line in my head ‘Frank Waters was not a talkative man. I posted about that – but Frank Waters has still not made an appearance. Perhaps next time. After that false beginning I started writing a love story set it in Wales – I have three chapters written but it is not going where I want it to. So that story is taking a rest. I think I will come back to it though as I like the characters.
Miss Bwalya, who writes a blog called Seize the Moment recently posted a video of a Zambian singer called Mutinta – the song is called Chungwa. It is worth a listen. Why I raise it now is because Mutinta struck me so strongly – she has a very strong presence and there is something so joyful and free about both her movement and voice that it brings a smile to your face. I am looking for a character with that kind of presence, in a book I as yet know nothing about which may or may not be set in Zambia, or Kenya or South Africa!
Watch the video and you’ll see.