When looking back, I think I’ve been a writer almost as long as I’ve been a coder. I’m fairly sure “programming on the ZX81” came before writing stories. My first story was as a very young teen writing a “sequel” to H.G.Wells’ War of the Worlds in English class at school. I think I was more interested in having Michael Knight and KITT (from the TV series Knight Rider) face off against the giant tripods than writing the story.
As a young writer, my imagination was fired up by TV science fiction but my interest was in the ‘what if’ scenario – as in, what if there was more to the world we know than, well, than the world we know. I found the concept of time travel, particularly that of ‘meeting yourself’, intriguing.
Most of this inspiration came from TV shows such as Doctor Who, but I think it was the P.J.Hammond series Sapphire & Steel TV series that inspired my ‘what if?’ thoughts.
For a time, like any youth I guess, I wrote “fan” stories based around those TV shows, but I quickly found the environment and characters restricting. I needed to break away and create my own characters and their own rules.
And so I ended up with two main characters – the regular ‘time traveller’ guy, and a character that tapped into that mysterious ‘what if?’ world that intrigued me.
Initially, I was so wrapped up in what I thought readers might want to read that I didn’t really enjoy my writing as much as I thought I would. All of the powerful, independent-thinking, feisty characters were written as female characters, but there wasn’t a lot to distinguish them from each other.
Looking back at the stories, it was more like the main male character was a man alone surrounded by a harem of identikit female characters. No wonder it wasn’t working. I needed to focus on key characters, not box-ticking exercises to please an audience that would probably never read the stories anyway.
I also ended up writing a plethora of stories without endings. I just couldn’t figure out how to bring the stories to a close. The solution to that came when I just “blew everything up” and realised the value of action sequences.
I thought that the above would inevitably end up with a bunch of action/adventure stories which, whilst of merit in themselves, wasn’t how I’d envisaged my stories would develop. I came up with a compromise. I focused in on the two main characters to reduce the former issue, and allowed action to make its way into the stories to satisfy the latter.
The combination proved to work, and it worked in ways I hadn’t expected. I thought I wanted to write stories about weird happenings from an ‘what if?’ perspective, and incorporate action/adventure.
But, it turned out, by focussing on the two primary characters, that they ended up dictating the nature of the stories. And they wanted a romance. What do I know about romance? The only thoughts I’d ever had on that subject was a kind of X-Files style ‘will they / won’t they’, but my characters weren’t having any of that and who was I to argue?
Anyway, by letting my characters explore their own stories, I ended up enjoying the writing so much more than I had in the past.
So far I’ve written a half-dozen stories with a number of others in part form as I explore other story ideas for the characters to get involved in.
More about my story-writing can be found on my personal blog over at KeeperOfTime.com.