Tuesday November 24th – Day 20


Woke up at four-fifteen: far too early. However, I woke to bright lights and a meeting room in which the three central characters were putting their individual cases for… being alive at the end of the novel. I know it sounds a little like I’m playing God and yet in a way I suppose I am. By the last day or so, the characters have grown very real and I take no pleasure in waving them goodbye. In this pre-breakfast meeting, each character justified his or her existence beyond the last page, so I lay patiently and listened to them. The episode took me back to school, where once a year we held what was known as a balloon debate. The balloon in question accommodated a number of people, usually half-a-dozen or so, and was being blown over the Alps, or perhaps it was the Andes or Himalayas; anyway, it was a forbidding landscape in which no man could survive. The problem facing the passengers was that the balloon was beginning to lose height and every piece of unwanted baggage had to be jettisoned to reduce weight. This, of course, included the passengers. One by one, those brave enough to sign up rose and put their case; at the end of each round a vote was cast by the audience as to who would suffer the fate of being cast out. On the first occasion I took part, I decided I would convince the crowd of my intellectual value; after all, the balloon would surely only clear the mountains if a true thinker and problem solver was retained. It was a very sudden and early departure and a long way down to ignominy. In the second, I threw caution to the wind and told jokes, not many of them funny, yet apparently sufficiently amusing for me to avoid the attention of the voracious raptors hoping to see school colleagues they despised suffer at their hands. Guess what? I was the last man left in the basket and thus I survived the slings and arrows of my contemporaries’ designs.

Resisting the temptation to kill off characters you have invented is similar to voting for them in a balloon debate. Each one has to justify his or her inclusion, particularly if you want to preserve the option of using them in future novels. This is a far from facile process and requires time and concentration. You can, if you’re not careful, end up engaging in a talking heads confusion which takes place only in your mind, a variation on schizophrenia.

I had hoped to complete the first draft today, but… tomorrow should see it done. Finishing is as important as beginning and deserves as much, if not more, attention.

Ciao. Until tomorrow.


  • Diary Day

Further Reading

What You Don't Know About Me

Constant Tides

The Wind between Two Worlds

The Truth in Fiction

Ontreto: A Novel of Lipari

Boarding House Reach

Mazzeri: Love and Death in Light and Shadow