Did I ever tell you about the time I woke up naked between to blonde Danish girls in a tent on Phillip Island Australia? It’s a good story really. I had no idea where I was and the only thing in the tent apart from the two ladies in question and little old me, was the sleeping bag that we shared and a pair of sandals. The last thing I remembered was drinking with two Irish lads from Cavan and a couple of Russian guys nearly 300 miles away, in a small town called Bright. I found my clothes in an adjoining tent, in a field that showed signs of some kind of music festival or event that was clearly long since over. Neither girl wanted to make a move and seemed not to have a word of English between them. I eventually got dressed and managed to hitch a ride back to Melbourne, with a small gang of bikers called the Z-Lords. Nice guys as it turned out, despite their appearance.
Now of course not a word of this is true. Don’t be disappointed, but the origin of the tale is the thing I want to discuss. You see, I was having drinks with colleagues from work and there was the usual tall tale stuff doing the rounds, getting taller by the drink so I decided to put a stop to it.
“What’s the drunkest you’ve ever been?” I enquired. I watched their faces as they all began to come up with their best story and then I simply said the opening line of this blog. They all fell silent, eager to hear a tale of drinking, that ended up with me naked between to lovely ladies in a tent in the middle of nowhere. It was a master stroke. I told the story in great detail, from the moment I took a trip up to the mountains with a couple of guys from Ireland, right through meeting a pair of Russian lads, who I explained where great Craic (fun) and how after one of them disappeared for two hours, he returned with a mini bus and told us we were going to a party.
I have never held an audience like it and the best part was what I left out. I told them I had no recollection of any shenanigans that may or may not have occurred between the two by now models from Copenhagen, due to what was clearly a vast amount of alcohol consumed. Even more mysterious was the fact that we started drinking on a Friday and when I woke up in the tent, it was Sunday afternoon. A whole day was missing.
Now you may just surmise from this that I’m a terrible liar, not so. I do like to make up a story however so that explains why I write. Tall tales are a tradition in Ireland of course and I remember a local folk singer explaining that when on tour, the lads would engage in tall tale competitions. They were in Germany with some guys from England, Belgium and Germany and the German guy had just told a most magnificent tall tale to beat the other two, leaving just the Irish guy to beat him.
“Beat that Paddy!” he proudly finished, knowing that his story had been so elaborate, involving his heroic efforts to climb a waterfall to save a damsel in distress, that it was virtually unbeatable. The Irish bard rubbed his chin and then won the competition with five simple words.
“I know,” he said, “I saw you.”
Writing is very much like telling tales for me. It is as such about what you leave out as what you put in. From my perspective, I credit my readers with intelligence and allow them time and space to read between the lines. It is an important bonding process I feel and it gives us both, reader and writer, a connection that is created in the space that needs to be filled.
There is no better example perhaps than in Little Big Boy, where my lead character is telling the story from his childish perspective. What he doesn’t understand he doesn’t explain, simply because he is incapable of doing so. Where he to explain everything, his character would not be authentic, so I had to create certain voids for readers to complete with how they would interpret what he was witness to, or what he felt and experienced.
At one point, he is present when someone dies in circumstances that the reader should be able to easily understand, but it makes little sense to him or indeed to the other boys present. They speculate and come up with their own version of events and my Little Big Boy is so concerned with a more pressing personal worry, that it barely registers. Throughout, he never explains what has actually happened and he can only tell of that which he directly sees. There are missing pieces that as adults were we to be present, we would immediately make sense of and that is where the reader is allowed to witness events not just through the boy’s eyes,but through their own deductive reasoning as they would in real life.
In moments like this, I tell the tale and leave the gaps, much like my story with the Danish girls. The bond between writer and reader is formed I hope, as they join me on the page with their own voice as it rumbles through their minds to fill the gaps. It is always there for me as I write. I am constantly aware of a need to create a dramatic tension, to draw the reader in, to encourage them to not just be a witness to my tale but to feel that they are in there, between the pages with my characters.
I never told my friends that my story was made up on the spot, how could I? Once they had invested their faith in the legend I had created, I knew they would be crushed where I to ruin it for them. Besides I was so convincing the story now does the rounds and I’ve been asked many times to tell it again. Do I tell it? What do you think?
For Darkly Wood fans perhaps you can see my predicament and maybe even a clue to the story begind Ignatius Pipe – The man who never smoked.
So when you write or tell a story, leave out sometimes as much as you put in, but be careful what you sow!
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Larry Flynn Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
You can find more details about Max Power’s books here : – http://www.amazon.com/author/maxpower