|A long walk concentrates the mind wonderfully...|
That said, when it’s cold and wet and miserable (this being Scotland in May we have a word for it — dreich) the challenge isn’t that pleasant. On mornings when I can combine it with a trip into town (walk there, bus back) or something else which needs to be done and can be done the long way round it’s a positive pleasure to stroll along the cycle paths communing with nature. But when it’s wet and the water is dripping down the back of my neck or running into my shoes, I do wonder why I bother.
Never mind. I do it. It’s coming along nicely, too — and I’ve discovered a real benefit from, of all things, a writing point of view. Two benefits, in fact.
The first is that it’s a rich source of ideas. The things you see. The people you see. The dog walkers, the mothers struggling with small children or, in one case, wandering along in a cloud of serenity with a toddler screaming and stamping alongside. The strangers who smile and the ones who don't. The dogs that dart off into the bushes after rabbits. The man in a business suit, running. They all have stories and I don’t know what they are. So I make them up.
The second is probably far more useful (because really, right at the moment I don’t need any more ideas). When I have a plot problem, which is most of the time and almost always related to how to make the expected happy ending sound like a surprise, or at the very least not the happy ending the reader thinks I’m leading up to, I find a good walk helps.
If I can take my mind off the joggers and the sparrows and the rabbits then as I pound the streets I often find that my characters (don’t laugh) begin talking to me. More realistically, they talk to each other, in my head. They explain their motives. As I’m pounding the streets of Edinburgh or wherever else I might happen to find myself, they argue. They moan. They explain their motives to one another. This morning, rather astonishingly, my villain revealed his sensitive side and, by so doing, exposed his motivations and made it quite clear that the ending I have planned for him just won’t do. He wouldn’t behave like that and now I know why.
I still don’t know how I’ll resolve his dilemmas -- and, indeed, those of my hero and heroine. I’ll need a few more walks before i can do that. But I do know that I have to treat him more sensitively that I had thought.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep walking.