Sunday 15th July 2018

Use your imagination

To write a novel you have to use your imagination. At least. That is what I found working on The Streets of London. As the novel has developed it has taken on a life of its own. It began in January and is now over half way to its planned end date.

As I work on the sections, the world of London in the nineteen-sixties emerges, in my imagination. The characters become people that I can relate to. They can go on living their lives even after I have closed the document and walked away from the keyboard.

The scenes flow from my imagination. Like much imaginary life and like many imaginary worlds, the London they inhabit is partly imaginary. And partly real. The novel is sprinkled with real events. The central characters go to see a play. They go to the Royal Court theatre. They see a play by Joe Orton. The date on which they attend the show is a date when Orton’s Ruffian on the stair actually happened. The group of young men, around whom the story revolves, talk about the Grosvenor Square demonstration. They later talk about the assassination of Martin Luther King. Not long after that they discuss another assassination – that of Bobby Kennedy. They share their views on the musical Hair, recently opened at the Shaftesbury Theatre. They gather together to watch the first man landing on the moon.

The story is also sprinkled with real people. Various people make appearances in the book. To mention a few, Steven Sondheim, Leontyne Price, John Braine, David Bowie, Allan Sillitoe… people whose names might be found in any historical account of life and culture of the late sixties and early seventies. Their words were imagined. They were not people I actually met; well not most of them. One or two perhaps. I wrote them into the story because they were relevant to it.

Imagination or reality?

For me writing a novel is not q question of trying to decide between reality or imagination. It is about finding a way of weaving them both into the fabric of a story. My novel is based upon London during a period of five years. London is not a figment of my imagination. It is not a city in Middle Earth. It was a London that actually existed. It is, however, a London that no longer exists. It has passed into the shadows. Like the London of the Elizabethans. Or Victorian London. Many of the real people who appear in the story are no longer alive. They made their mark. They left behind the remains of their existence. Their books. Their recordings. Their lyrics. Their music. Just as Shakespeare did. Just as Karl Marx did. Some writers have created worlds and people who are only imaginary. That trope never appealed to me. My London grew out of my own experiences of living there. From the records I made, some fifty or so years ago, I have a woven a literary fabric which has the warp of reality and the weft of imagination.

Previous posts in my blog

Sunday 8th July 2018 – Ways of writing a novel.

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