The universe conspires

Whenever I start a new book I find the universe starts throwing all sorts of useful things my way. Sceptics would suggest that it’s just that I’m more receptive to noticing related things when my mind is working on a subject, but I prefer to believe in the beauty of serendipity.

For instance: remember there was a lighthouse in my story? Guess what we visited on our holiday. There’s nothing like a location visit to get you in the mood. Then last Saturday there was a feature article about a very similar lighthouse with a gorgeous photo, so that got torn out and pasted into my novel notebook.

In my story the characters travel to other worlds on the sea of stars through a magical gate. I knew it was all dependent on tides and moon phases, so I had a great time researching those. I discovered tide clocks – too cool! Who knew such things existed? I know, probably everyone else but me.

Then I found a photo of a really beautiful tide clock and a few more pieces of story clicked into place.

I decided to use Fingal Bay, which I know well, as a basis for my imaginary setting. In looking up information about the lighthouse there I discovered that the present day sandspit used to be a permanent part of the headland till a big storm destroyed it.

Click click click. More ideas.

A photo of an actor in the paper – perfect for my villain.

In the travel section, a photo of a Japanese torii gate standing alone in the middle of the sea – wow. Gates, sea, lighthouses everywhere I turn.

On Tuesday I attended an author visit at the local children’s bookshop. The author was Martin Chatterton, who was very entertaining. No gates or lighthouses, but a very useful piece of advice – when he’s thinking about what he will write he likes to imagine scenes he’d like to see in a movie.

I don’t know why that struck me so much; it’s not a new thought. Lots of authors, including me, say that writing is like watching their characters act out a movie in their heads. I think it was more the “imagining what he’d like” angle, as if he were encouraging me to dream up the most colourful fantastical thing I could – and then stick it in my novel.

Which is what fantasy authors are supposed to do, I suppose, but I’d never thought of it quite like that. Maybe I get too bogged down in plot and motivation and mechanical-type things, and forget the whole “sense of wonder” part.

Whatever. My mind is open to all and any delights the universe wishes to throw my way. Bring it on, universe. I’ve written 10,000 words and I’m ready. At this stage of the game anything can happen.

And probably will.

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