The Book My Subconscious Plotted Behind My Back
Usually, when I start writing a new book, it begins with a little spark of an idea. An opening scene, a what if question, random snatches of dialogue that wander unbidden through my brain. In this regard, The Experiment began as any other novel would. With a spark!
I was hanging out at home one random Saturday afternoon when it happened. The scene flashed so vividly in my mind there was no ignoring it. I could see a straight man trying to psyche himself up to kiss a gay man, even though he really didn’t want to. I knew they were in a bar, and that he was doing it to satisfy a lost bet, but other than that I had no idea what was going on.
Then the man turned to his friend, who was sitting beside him, and said, “You know, mate, this would be a hell of a lot easier if you’d quit laughing.” In that instant, I knew the friend was the man he would end up kissing, and he would be anything but reluctant by the end of it. The whole thing struck me as so quirky and adorable that I grabbed a notebook and pen, and spent the next hour furiously scribbling down every detail I could remember.
I was in the middle of writing Becoming Us at the time, so I wasn’t able to start work on The Experiment straight away. But I did continue playing around with it whenever I had a few minutes spare. Extra scenes started to take shape and I spent time hanging out with the characters. I found out Patrick’s name (when Logan shouted it at him to get his attention). And all the while I was looking forward to the day I could sit down and really start to brainstorm plot points for their story. Little did I know, that day would never quite come.
A few weeks before I was due to start actively working on The Experiment I experienced something that has never happened to me before. I couldn’t call it a spark or a flash this time. It was more like a download. Yep, the basic plot for the book downloaded into my brain all at once. I didn’t actually stand there frozen with my eyelids all aflutter like some sci-fi movie, but you get the idea. Within minutes, Patrick and Logan’s entire story was laid out for me: beginning, middle and end. Sure, there were still details to figure out and a supporting cast to add in—and 85,000 odd words to be written. But the most difficult parts of the plotting work had already been done.
I can only assume that when I forced myself to put the initial idea for the book on hold (so I could finish Becoming Us) my subconscious decided to keep working on it without me. Then, when the time was right, it handed over all it had done with a smug sense of relish. What a rush that was!
I don’t know if I will ever repeat the experience I had with writing The Experiment, but I’d love to think it could happen someday. Knowing the story as well as I did gave me the freedom to really have fun with it. With every book I write, I learn to put more trust in my creative process. To accept what is handed to me, be grateful, and roll with it. Which is why that one line of dialogue that started it all is still there, right up near the beginning of Chapter One—exactly the way Patrick said it the first time.