Filling The Gap: The Question of Ideas by Dave Rudden

Writing.ie | Magazine | Children & Young Adult
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By Dave Rudden

I talk about writing a lot, in schools and at festivals, and the ever-present question is – where do you get your ideas? It’s a good question, and every writer answers it differently. Terry Pratchett imagined ideas streaking through the void – atom-small, electron-quick – and if you were in the right place, at the right angle, one might just stop and stay. I love that idea, but what’s really interesting is the phrasing.

Where do you get your ideas?

Where do your ideas come from?

I’m fascinated by that – how ideas can be attributed to something external, as if there was some distant, arcane seam of invention. It’s a cool idea, kind of magical, in itself. And for some people it might be true – the great and terrifying thing about writing, after all, is that there are as many paths towards it as there are people looking for paths.

For me ideas are questions. Like grit or bruises, they embed themselves in my heel or make themselves known every time I move a limb and eventually they become all I can think about, turning themselves over and over in my head.

I was a quiet kid, and a lot of my childhood was spent walking, populating deserted country roads with stories. A line would become stuck in my head, or I’d imagine a character standing in a certain angle on a certain street, and the image would be so strong that I’d start asking myself why. Why was this line important? Why did this person on this street mean something?

More importantly, I began asking myself what do I have to add to make this image make sense?

Dave-Rudden-199x300I like sharing things. I get so excited about stories that I can’t wait for other people to experience them too. I am unfortunately that person who shows you a film scene divorced from all context and then looks at you like an excited puppy to see whether you thought it was cool too. (It’s a problem. I’m working on it) And as soon as a stray word or an old building snags my attention, I ask myself how I can make other people care about it as much as I do.

The little scrap of story I have becomes an image, then a scene, and as it does, other scenes assemble. If it’s a character, I start imagining them in different situations, or working my way back along their path to figure out where they picked up that suit or that scar. I try and find an introduction – the best possible point to walk into this world. I used to teach, and I used to act, and you can live or die in your first sentence to a room. My agent receives 150 submissions a week. Your first line is crucial. I try and make people take notice with mine, and from that first line I begin to write.

Question after question present themselves, and I find a novel in the answers. With KNIGHTS OF THE BORROWED DARK, the question was are you brave? Denizen Hardwick is thirteen years old. He’s grown up in an orphanage where absence is just another lesson a child has to learn, and though he’s read the books where children save the world, the sceptic in him says that the world is too big for saving, and that children are very, very small. If a genie were to pop from a lamp and offer Denizen magical powers, he’d ask for the magical power of not asking for magical powers. Children with magic soon end up in situations where they have to use it.

He numbers his frowns. He’s extremely stressed.

I don’t know if I’m brave. I’d like to think I’d stand up and do the right thing when it was needed, but I don’t think you can know until the time comes. I wanted to write Denizen moving to Dublin, because that was a life-changing part of my own past, and so the question arrived – how does he get there – and from that I got a character, and a monster, and the destruction of the Port Tunnel. I wrote KOTBD at a time when cinematic villains were debonair and tortured, and so I wrote petty, vicious little bullies that no-one could love. I asked myself how would it feel to fight these monsters, knowing that there were no prophecies and no easy answers, and the assembled answers became a book.

I think there’s a tendency to mythologise ideas. We read works of staggering beauty and want to imagine something of the celestial, the unknowable, in their making, but in reality it was a person putting, as Neil Gaiman puts it, ‘one word in front of the other.’ I don’t know where ideas come from, but for me they come from the space I imagine an idea should be, and what I find to fill that gap.

(c) Dave Rudden

About Knights of the Borrowed Dark

The first book in a new series about an orphan boy who discovers he is part of a secret army that protects the world from a race of shadowy monsters.

Grey placed his finger in the middle of the shadow.
‘What’s this?’ he asked.
Denizen frowned. ‘It’s a shadow.’
‘No, it isn’t,’ Grey said. ‘It’s a door.’

Denizen Hardwick doesn’t believe in magic – until he’s ambushed by a monster created from shadows and sees it destroyed by a word made of sunlight.

That kind of thing can really change your perspective.

Now Denizen is about to discover that there’s a world beyond the one he knows. A world of living darkness where an unseen enemy awaits.

Fortunately for humanity, between us and the shadows stand the Knights of the Borrowed Dark.

Unfortunately for Denizen, he’s one of them . . .

Knights of the Borrowed Dark is in shops now or pick up your copy online here!

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