A few weeks ago I set out to complete a series of short stories, little self contained pieces of narrative that had been turning over in my head for a while. Some of them were waking fantasies and other were remembered dreams. I thought getting about seven of them down on paper would be a couple of weeks work and might make a nice little book, perhaps with a few more collections to follow. I had no idea what a monster this would become.
I had no idea that as the stories began to be written that there would be more detail than I had first imagined yet only discovered along the way. I couldn’t have predicted that there would be intrusions from characters I had never met, who may have been introduced as essential aids to the plot but who then seemed to have more flesh and blood about them than the original hero.
I had no idea that I would discover that some of the narratives had a coherent geographical location and that some of them happened in the same place but maybe hundreds of years apart. I had no idea that there was a land here with a long history here and it was all inside me and I had only just begun to scratch the surface.
Suddenly my neat little collection of self contained “fairy tales” needed maps covering huge areas and timescales and geography that spanned both waking and sleeping worlds. I had no anticipation that it would be so very hard to enter the stories and do the writing, not least because of the length and complexity of the paths between the real world and them. I didn’t want to go there for fear of not getting back. I didn’t know that places where I walk my dog and trees I pass under frequently would also suddenly appear in stories or that their real-world counterparts would begin to brood with meaning that came from another place in my imagination.
I thought I was opening a door to go into a room and found myself looking out onto a vast landscape from halfway up a high tower.
A storyteller’s imagination draws down the silk of another world and nails it to certain real places and objects such that every experience, awake or asleep, real or imagined begins to resonate with the echo of one another and boil with significance.
This is what the hinterland of imaginative writing looks like and it scares me so silly I have hardly been able to write anything this week.