Monday, 22 February 2010


I have spent the last few days in Leitrim in the West of Ireland where it was very cold indeed but also very beautiful. The house where my parents used to live is up high on a hill and looking out of the window, we watched as an opalescent cloud of freezing fog swallowed up the village at the bottom of the valley and then gradually crept up the hill towards us.

Everything in the path of that cloud emerged coated in a white hoar frost, a landscape magically transformed. Trees suddenly blossomed with ice crystals. Dry stalks of wild Angelica left over from the previous Summer looked like the most beautiful and exotic blooms.

There is no internet connection there and mobile reception is intermittent at best - which can be very helpful when you are trying to think. I spent some of my time there considering what I should write next. For several months now there have been two entirely separate stories clattering around in my head. Suddenly I saw how they might actually be two threads of the same story. Like the landscape over which the mist had moved, the competing narratives in my mind were immediately transformed into something much more powerful, more strange and more compelling for me as an author.

Previously the two separate stories had interested me but not enough for me to engage with them seriously. There was something too familiar about their outcomes: they were encumbered by narratives that I had developed in the past. Now, as they collided so deliciously, redundant chunks of plot broke off and drifted away leaving instead an entirely differently shaped story, one that I could not have predicted and one that I very much wanted to pursue.

It is moments like this, when the narrative creates its own possibilities, that make me love the job of writing fiction


Paul said...

I'm happy for your synthesis. That really does make the difference, doesn't it? Sometimes it seems to me that these stories of ours just exist "out there" somewhere and reveal themselves to us for writing down. They seem so perfect and realized that it's hard to think that they aren't independent of us, which I suppose is where the notion of muses came from. Good words to you, Brian!

Lost Wanderer said...

It's fabulous when that happens. Sometimes I think our brains get sick of being told when they should sort things out. Some ideas just need their own sweet time.

Brian Keaney said...

Thanks Paul and Dolly. I'm inclined to agree that those stories do exist out there in the zeitgeist in some form or other. I think that explains why if you get a really good idea for a story and do nothing about it a book invariably pops up somewhere that is so like your idea that you realise it's now too late. The story emerged from the zeitgeist and when you weren't interested in it, someone else took it up.

Derek said...

Do you think it was the presence of the location that allowed it to happen or was it your state of calm?

Brian Keaney said...

More than one reason I think, Derek. The time was right, I was unable to do anything very much except stand staring out of the window. I had had the opportunity to talk about both stories with my wife who is always a collaborator to some extent in my devising processes. Normally, we would both be preoccupied with the day to day running of our lives but the isolation and the cold weather had shipwrecked us together. All of that and the detaching of myself completely from those thought processes as I gave myself entirely to the mesmeric progress of the mist suddenly gave the space for something to change inside my head.