Move Me

Please can someone gently remind me next year it might be better to go for a happily ever after novella for NaNo. Using it as a bootcamp to get 50,000 words of the core emotional scenes down for the next book was not a good idea - but it is too late for me now. What moves you? Are there particular books, films, memories or situations that break you down?

I was thinking today about Sam Taylor Wood's incredible series of photographs of crying men. Those of you who have been kind enough to read regularly know my ideas about 'method' writing - really submerging yourself in character the way actors take on a part. Critics have said 'these guys are actors, they're acting, the tears aren't real'. Taylor Wood has said she felt they did draw on their own emotions and experiences. The tears were 'real' - ie, personal, felt. One of the actors said his emotions run close to the surface so he can generate this intensity when he needs to. Know how he feels. In the last few days 'I' have lost my husband, been betrayed by my best friend, moved country, had a baby, fallen in love, fought in the Spanish Civil War ... it's exhausting.

Men crying is still something of a taboo in western society - there's a sense it has to be really bad to see a man cry. What do you think of this? I've spent the last few nights with tears running down my face - hopefully great for the new book, not so much for me. I feel as battered as my characters, stripped back, nerves raw. Unfortunately unlike some famous writers who take themselves off to tranquil hotels to write, I've also been doing the usual juggling act with the pilot in India. Normally have a strict 'never cry in front of the children' rule but barking hound, screaming kids, exhaustion ... 'emotion running close to the surface' didn't quite do it justice this morning.

Apart from days like today where you would - given half the chance - go and hide in a dark room, there are plus sides to immersing yourself in the creative process. For one glorious day this week I had a few solid daylight hours to write. I sank so deep in the story it was a genuine surprise to find myself in rainy autumnal Hampshire rather than the sundrenched gardens of the Alhambra. The characters go through a tremendous journey - the protagonists are in their 30s, 40s - set in their ways until life blindsides them (as it does). The book is very physical and sensual on one hand, but the theme of flight - flying figures, the transience of life and the eternal is woven in. I don't know what happens when you write - where the words come from is part of the magic. All I know is getting your characters from A to B, to a lightness, and emotional openness where they are capable of change, of falling in love again is one hell of a journey.

TODAY'S PROMPT: Strangely every time we had a car or stereo stolen, a copy of Crowded House was in the machine. Discerning thieves in south London. This is an all time favourite song - there is something incredibly raw and genuine in it's intimacy and surrender. Why not have a think about the kind of music, films or books that move you - jot down in your journal some ideas for scenes that could hook your reader in. Do you think there is a formula to writing emotional work? Or is moving your readers something that can't be faked? Does your own work move you to tears of emotion (sadness, joy, anger, frustration?) If your emotions need a little inspiration, why not take a look at this video clip from 'The Notebook' - it's one of those hugely successful films that seems to press all the right emotional buttons ...