Author Robert Rees asks the question; where do writing ideas come from?
Much of my university life was spent realising that as a scientist I was unlikely to reach the heights of my childhood heroes – Newton, Maxwell, Feynman and many others. Not only was I in the company of some truly exceptional scientists who far outshone my talents, but I was also getting singularly fed up with having to go to chemistry practicals in the afternoon, thereby missing sport and many other enjoyable activities. Luckily, for those to whom science had become a chore, there was a small yet perfectly formed alternative course dealing in the History and Philosophy of Science. And although an element of attendance laziness remained (I was known as the ‘enigmatic Mr Rees’ in the faculty). I found the subject compelling, so much so that I continue to follow it to this day.
One of the areas which intrigued me about science was discovery – that moment of intuition when a scientist suddenly finds he can understand with clarity something that no one else has ever realised. The philosophy of science had plenty about how things are explained, but could never really cope with the moment of discovery. Indeed – not many scientists could either – they attributed the intuition to dreams, accidents, in fact to anything that bore no explanation. The hard work came later, in testing the idea, and reconstructing the logic behind that initial flash of brilliance.
I feel that writing starts with a similar notion. Some trigger in the mind sets off a chain reaction that arrives as an idea for a plot, in a fashion that is explicable only after the event. So in my case, I can track the genesis of my plot ideas back to a few sources, but I could not for the life of me explain how they came together. I was driving around the Seychelles, and noticed a game of cricket being played on a little square of grass hewn from the jungle surrounding it. This was unusual, as cricket in the Seychelles was practically unknown at the time. The date was around the mid -2000’s, and after twenty-five years in the City, I was ready to move on to something else. But I had not considered anything in particular. These two thoughts dove deep into my unconscious and stayed there for some time.
It was after seeing the film ‘Cool Running’ some four years back, about a team of Jamaican bobsleigh riders, that the idea suddenly re-emerged. An ex city gent, finding himself in the new cricket league in the Seychelles, seemed to me like a situation that could produce a funny story. And I have always liked Dad’s Army. So now, I thought, if I were to add some lunatic characters, in a good situation, with a plot, I would have something to work with. And even better, this took place at about the same time as the match fixing scandals besetting cricket, which gave me my crime story.
When laid out like this, it almost sounds like the tale was waiting to be created. Just like a scientific theory, the events in the best books make sense, feel like they have to occur, and characters react as they must. But of course, it is nothing like that in the beginning. Just a few ideas jousting with each other in the dark recesses of our minds. Maybe we are just the lucky interpreters of our unconscious.
Check out Robert’s book A Season in the Sun A perfect summer read.