The past year has seen a lot of upheaval. Not so much for me, personally. As a remote worker and dedicated hermit, the disruption to my lifestyle caused by the pandemic has been minimal.
But I have been undergoing significant changes as a writer.
If I had to choose three things that defined my writing before this year, I would say:
- De-emphasis on romance
- Absolutely no supernatural elements
But for whatever reason, those defining characteristics have been shifting.
My upcoming novel, The Fiend in the Fog is, indeed, historical. But there are significant elements of, well, not romance, specifically, but the examination of different types of relationships.
This has been a strange and difficult book to write.
Usually, I’m an outliner. But this story has resisted outlining. Like my second book, The Left Hand of Justice, it’s straight from the id, with rather fewer filters than I’d planned or desired.
The monsters revealed themselves to me gradually. One only showed itself after my entire writing group assumed that one of the main characters was a werewolf. It wasn’t something that I had written deliberately, or planned, or even seen myself. And yet it turned out to be one of the keys to the story.
But this isn’t a werewolf story.
When I was studying for my teaching degree, I worked at a nursery school. Pretty much everything that I ever needed to know about people, I learned from teaching two-year-olds.
One of those things was that a lot of behaviors that people consider annoying, distressing, or abnormal, have a purpose and a context where they’re exactly the right thing. It makes sense, really. Most behaviors are a response to some or other stimulus.
Instead of simply punishing two-year-olds for behaving (reacting) in certain ways, it was often more productive to find a positive place to redirect that behavior, and then to have a chat about it later after everyone had cooled down.
And so with monsters.
Monsters can be frightening, and it’s natural to want to fight them. But sometimes what’s best for everyone is to listen to what they have to say, and to find them a job.
It’s definitely a change from my usual writing, both in process and in product.
But if 2020 has had a theme, it’s that nothing stays the same for long.
And perhaps that’s for the best.