Thank You, Captain Insomnia

Philip HarrisChatter, Writing0 Comments

I have a nasty tendency to wake up early in the morning. It seems to coincide with our evening training runs. Whether it’s the late night endorphin rush or the increased fluid intake, three or four times a week I wake up somewhere close to 3am; a slow drift into consciousness immediately followed by the sickening realisation that I’m not supposed to be awake for at least another three hours. It’s at that point that Captain Insomnia kicks in and I start thinking about work or stories or the keynote speech I have to give next month. Sometimes I manage to get back to sleep, usually about twenty minutes before I’m supposed to get up. Sometimes, like today, I just stay awake until I give in and get up

This morning, Captain Insomnia had clearly teamed up with Ethel the Muse because my mind was flicking rapidly between:

  • The game concept I’m putting together at work.
  • The story for the above concept.
  • new game concept that fits nicely with the first.
  • The story for the above concept.
  • The science fiction story I’m hoping to start this weekend.
  • The closing scenes of The Bone Boy.
  • The monster story I outlined yesterday but wasn’t happy with.
  • Random crap.

After a while I managed to quell my excitement over the potential for the game concepts (there’s legal questions that need to get answered before I go too much further) and focus on the most pressing problem – The Bone Boy.

I’d been trying to work out a setting for the critical closing scene of the story. I had a couple of ideas (a random field, a playground) but neither really felt right. Within a couple of minutes, Ethel the Muse came up trumps and I had an ideal location for the final showdown. It fit perfectly with the story so far and I’d even inadvertently foreshadowed it early in the story.

Buoyed by my success I turned to the ideas for the monster and science fiction stories.

I couldn’t make any real traction with the monster story – I have an idea, I’m just not happy with it – but something clicked and I came up with a what I think is a nice name for the science fiction story which then spawned more idea rabbits and I ended up with a concept that I think is really strong and that I’m really excited about writing. I have one critical stylistic decision to make – whether to mix tense depending on the part of the story I’m telling – and then I’ll be set.

That done, it was time for our Saturday run – a very pleasant 13km route through Stanley Park. I’m experimenting with audiobooks at the moment (I know, such a hedonist). My wife has been running with audiobooks for quite a while and since I’ve almost run out of episodes of Writing Excuses to listen to I decided to give one a try.

Yesterday, I listened to Neil Gaiman reading Cold Colors, just to see if listening to a story while running worked for me – which it did. Today, the plan was to listen to Arthur C. Clarke’s disaster novel, A Fall of Moondust but due to some technical issues it didn’t end up on my iPod. Luckily, I had managed to sync Rendezvous with Rama (also by Arthur C. Clarke) so I started listening to that instead.

Rendezvous with Rama

It’s probably a good book to start with as it’s one of my favourite science fiction novels. I read it when I was about 15, on holiday in Tunisia, and thought it was amazing. The book fell apart, the binding melted by the Tunisian sun, so I’m pretty sure I don’t have it anymore. I think I read the first sequel but I preferred the first book. I was also irked by the fact that there’s four Rama books when clearly there should only be three (the number three being a recurring theme in the book).

I think it was Neil Gaiman who said that he likes audio books because it forces you to listen to the words, you can’t skip forward over “the boring bits”. I’m a chronic paragraph skipper and he’s right. Listening to the narrator (Peter Ganim, who sounds a bit like Tuvok but isn’t) forces me to focus on the story and the words. Definitely a different experience. I was a bit unsure about reading two novels at the same time (I’m reading Hugh Howey’s Shift at the moment) but I think I’ll get used to it.

Today, I want to finish off  The Bone Boy. It’s currently sitting at roughly 3,800 words and there’s probably 500-750 words to go. Should be doable today as long as it doesn’t get too much warmer in my office.

[Thank You, Captain Insomnia by Philip Harris was first published on Solitary Mindset on 24 August 2013]

Leave a Reply