I’ve never really written a blog post about my writing process. I guess it was because a) I didn’t think anyone would be interested b) everyone had a better way of doing it, and c) I’m self-taught.
Granny Wenlock is such an important character to me, and of course, to Dave Cavendish, too. In The Funeral Birds, Martha Wenlock is an omniscient character who is the voice that speaks to Dave and not the reader. In my new novel, Martha will take centre stage to begin with. My reason for doing this is because I want the reader to get to know on a personal level. Martha will, in a way, be a time-traveller from the past.
Creating Martha’s backstory will be a journey of discovery not just for the readers of The Funeral Birds, but for myself, too. The novella, The Funeral Birds was born out of a short story I wrote for a BBC short story competition quite awhile ago. I felt because the winning story would be read on the radio it was important that the tale was character led. The opening scene came to me fully-formed. Dave tells the readers that he knows when things are about to go wrong when he gets a feeling in the pit of his stomach. His mother always claimed he had inherited some psychic powers from a witch in their family, but his wife Joan puts it all down to him doing his job for too long.
At this point in the story, only Dave knows that Martha Wenlock speaks to him at his moments of stress. By the end of the novella, we find out when Martha died as Joan and Dave uncover her grave in the abandon churchyard. There’s a lot more to the Funeral Birds tale than just the story of Martha, so if you do want to read it for yourself I haven’t revealed anything here in this posting. We do find out one more fact about Martha from the novella which is linked to the graveyard where she’s buried.
This small gem of information about Martha’s burial is what I want to investigate more in the novel. Having a larger word count gives me the scope to fill in the background stories of my main characters, especially Martha’s. Of course, it is important not to just dump large amounts of information at one go, but to feed it to the readers throughout the book as and when it is needed to be told.
I ask myself a question while writing: Does the reader need to know this?
Of course, during the writing of the first draft, it’s important just to write down everything that comes to mind, but be prepare to cut, cut, cut during the next set of edits. It is important to keep your reader immersed in the main storyline as much as possible. Yes, have several threads running alongside the main plot to keep the tension building, while holding the reader’s attention, but it is such a fine balancing act. Too much information one way or the other and you’ll break the tension, or lose the reader’s interest causing them to begin to skip pages to get back to the main plot.
At the moment, while building Martha’s past, I’m reading up on Renaissance England through to the Elizabethan age. I’m not writing a historical novel, nor do I want to get bogged down in facts and dates, but I do want to get a feel for the time and place in which Martha is living. I want to know what rights a single woman had at a time which religion played a big part in people’s lives. Science was becoming a threat to the old world order, and the church. At the age of 51 Martha was considered to be old woman in her world, but in today’s world Martha would be in the prime of her life.
I want to investigate whether Martha’s wisdom and understanding of her world will stand up in our modern world.