Wednesday, 14 August 2013
An Actual 100% Accurate Metaphor (Involving Soft Furnishings) For What it is Like to Write a Novel.
I'm two thirds through a rewrite now so I thought I would take a moment to explain what it's like to write a novel and use an example that we are all familiar with, and indeed one our lives would be smaller and somehow less civilised without: soft furnishings.
A novel is a lot like making a cushion. Your plot and characters are the cover, they give the novel its shape and then your theme is the decoration you use on the outside of the cushion, it needs to tie in with the cover you have made. Once you've completed the cover you go back and “stuff” the cover with dialogue, sub plots and description. Once that is done you spend some time beating the cushion in to shape, trying to get out the lumps and make sure your cushion fits in with all the other soft furnishings in your house. Or as I like to call it, “your vision”.
Then your friend who has heard you like soft furnishings so much you are making some of your own calls on you and they bring a cushion they bought at Habitat in Homebase. You look at this cushion and realise, although it was made by someone called Julie with eyes dead through boredom and whose only thought is for Gary who looks really cool when he smokes Regal Kingsize, it is still better made than yours. In fact, you can't see how you can ever make a cushion that can compare with the one your friend brought you.
In tears, you throw your friend out of the house and refuse to ever speak to them again. Then you spend a few weeks staring at the new cushion and your pathetic, shameful attempt at a cushion that you can't believe you ever considered for one moment any sensible human may ever, ever want to sit on. Then you burn the habitat cushion on the electric fire which shorts out everything in the house and your wife tells you that you are an idiot and you are over-reacting and actually your cushion is perfectly good. WHAT DOES SHE KNOW? IS SHE A CUSHIONOLOGIST???? NO.
You realise she will never understand you or your art and you only option is to leave home. You relocate to a stone bothy on the Isle of Mull with only as much Morrison's own brand whisky as you can get in the car and a photograph of your children. The only soft furnishings in the bothy are an upright chair that is thick with the smell of the previous occupier's incontinence and is also worryingly damp, you feel sure it also has bedbugs. Worst of all, despite its decrepit state you cannot help but notice that the cushion on it is very well made.
The whisky takes the edge off the pain.
Years pass and eventually you run out of whisky and decide, maybe, it is time to return home. When you do you find your wife is living with a man called Roger who does, 'something to do with accounts but it's not really that interesting what I really enjoy is paragliding.' Your children now call Roger 'Daddy' and look at you like you are a tramp who has come in off the street, mostly because you look like a tramp who has come in off the street. In the front room you find your cushion and, shockingly, you realise it is not nearly as bad as you remember. In fact, if you find better material, use a completely different design and change the stuffing it could actually work.
Frantically, you set to work, week after week you stay up late into the night, ignoring Roger and his pathetic attempts to 'sort this out like grown ups'. When you are finished you hold up your cushion to God and he sends a single, beautiful ray of sunlight which illuminates your cushion and you know. You. Know. This one is far, far better than the last.
But on the other couch, unnoticed until now, there are two cushions, one showing an amusing picture of a cat with a cigar and the other with a Union Jack in blue and green that is shaped like a teapot. They are well made, too well made. A TEAPOT? WHY DIDN'T YOU THINK OF THAT? This is more than you can bear and you throw your pathetic cushion out of the window. You hear the siren call of Morrison's own brand whisky and the bothy on the Isle of Mull and the whole process starts again except this time you have scorpions in your hair