I’ve just started reading a collection of short stories by Alice Munro. I’ve been meaning to read her for a while, after so many people told me how brilliant she is, and have finally managed to get round to it. So far I’m impressed. I’ve only read the foreword, but I’m impressed. She talks about how the stories in this book came about in a way that reminds me why I started writing in the first place.

Sometimes it can be hard to reach back and touch that place where wanting to be a writer was such a huge mass of feelings and events and people all tumbling inside me, gaining more feelings and people and events like a snowball on a hill, bigger than me, and yet still inside me. It can be difficult sometimes, when I’m busy trying to make money and write to deadlines, to just relax and remember how I felt before this was a reality and I thought I’d never find a way to bring all the things inside of me to the surface and write them into stories. Alice Munro talks about exploring her own life, putting herself at the centre of a story, putting other people, real people, around herself and then letting these people do things the real people never did, would never do, letting them speak and evolve and change until they are no longer the original people she had in mind, they are characters, and she has a story.

It’s always a massive relief to find out that other writers do it the same way I do. It makes me think I must be doing something right, or at least that I’m not doing it all wrong. It makes me smile and say to myself, yeah, me too! When I wrote my first novel (no, not the one that was rejected everywhere and was utter crap, the other one) I based every character on a real person, sometimes I had more than one person in one character, and had them move with the mannerisms of that person (s) for a while and sometimes say what that person has really said, and maybe even look like that person, but by the time I’d finished writing the book the characters were no longer that ‘real’ person, they were their own person, they’d taken on their own life, they were a character. I put myself in there too, as most of us always do, even if we don’t realise it. I’ve done the same thing with the second and the third book and I know I will carry on doing this. It works. I can visualise these people to begin with and then I let them adapt to the situations I put them in and I watch them change until they are totally fictional. The situations are almost always made up… almost, although of course, there are some real life situations and events in there too.

Alice Munro says of her own writing that some of her characters move so far away from the original person she had in mind, that she can no longer remember who they were to begin with. I had a little think about my first novel and, yes, there are a couple of characters in there that I can say that about. I now have no idea who their original selves were, but I know they would have had at least one.