Monday, 1 June 2009


Here's how a story got imagined, written and pubbed, from start to finish.

I was listening to early German synthesizer music on my iPod, weeks ago. Really listening. Paying attention to the sounds. They went 'Zzzing. Plish. Squalk. Plash. Smeeaow.' It was raining too. I was outside. I thought 'This music sounds like rain. It's the kind of thing I would have noticed when I was a kid. That's interesting.'

'That's interesting' is like a bell to me. It means a story is at the door.

So suddenly there's this story about this kid in the rain, telling his mother that it sounds like
'Zzzing. Plish. Squalk. Plash. Smeeaow.' How does the mother react? Kid's a bit weird - make her weird too. Family trait: overactive imagination. So now the kid's a synesthesiac and the mother's kind of worried about him but she's too wrapped up in her own world to really notice. Oh the ironies of fate and miscommunication. But most of all, I liked the idea of getting into the head of a weird kid. Because I was a weird kid and I want the world to know about it.

Maybe that's why, when I sat and wrote, the kid just came alive. He was bouncing around and being very kid-like. That saved a lot of time. He didn't turn into a cliche. That was good. The mother was more writerly - a kind of left-field quirk thing, but she fitted in nicely.

For some reason, every time I wrote the word 'synesthesia' this big gong went off in my mind, warning me that the word was crashing in like an elephant. So I chucked it in favor of others more oblique - 'that Nabokovian thing' - stuff like that. Result - hardly anyone who commented on the story got the synesthesia part. But that's good, too.

I put it up on a writers group at Lots of comments telling me the POV was shot to hell. I had to choose - mother or child. I went with mother. Polished for a few weeks. Sent it out. Got it pubbed (under the real 'fiction' name of 'O'Connor').

And, naturally, now I don't like it at all. All I see is faults. I see a rock to leap from onto the next rock. But that's how it goes. Writing buries its pallbearers.


  1. Frank - I really liked that story, and am tickled to read about its conception. I suspected the kid had synesthesia, but admit to googling nabokov and synesthesia to be sure.

  2. Thanks Jeanne. It feels weird writing about my own work. I'll stick to other people's from now on. Have you got a blog too? Let me know if you do.