On writing ‘Windfall’

Matthew David Scott

I don’t really write about writing. But ‘Windfall’ is me writing against some of my own instincts so perhaps it’s fitting that I am.

For a start I don’t really write many short stories. I’ve always been afraid of them. I see short story writers as having a certain expertise that I don’t necessarily have.

Further unfamiliarity was to call upon Newport. Not that I ever try to write fiction ‘set’ anywhere; any real geographical features are usually used as detail rather than to authentically recreate a particular place. Of course if you are from where I grew up you’d know exactly where my first novel, Playing Mercy seems to happen; if you’ve lived in certain parts of Cardiff or Edinburgh, locations in, The Ground Remembers would feel familiar. I’ve just never used Newport like that before.

[A quick digression: I lived in the USA for almost four years. While I was away I looked at my house in Newport on Google Street View. Somebody else was standing in the doorway. I moved back into that house eighteen months ago].

‘Windfall’ is set on a real day after a real storm. They named the real storm but I’m bad at remembering names. I’d collected various bits of what became the story over weeks, and Martyn’s walk through the park was jotted down into my phone during my own walk in the park the day after that storm whose name escapes me. The story sort of coalesced into an idea at that point, so I started to write it. But not before I set myself some rules: another thing I don’t usually do.

I made myself write slowly (the actual writing part rather than just taking ages to finish it). I normally chuck a load of words at something I’m writing and then peel them away but for this story I made myself stop writing after almost every paragraph, refused to let myself get anything going. If I felt myself hitting any rhythm I’d walk away and have a cup of tea or listen to a record; if there was the danger of slipping into some kind of actual momentum, I’d leave it and come back in a day or so.

I also wanted at least 95% of events to happen in the story’s present action. I wanted any forward motion to come from that rule rather than be dictated by the movement of plot. Any plot would have to fall into this incidental motion and back story could only be glimpsed through brief digressions.

I probably cheated a bit.

There were other rules that I’d like to keep secret.

I hope you like it.

You can read ‘Windfall’ in the new issue of The Lonely Crowd, which may be purchased here.

10413337_10155119234100621_9167841062113801220_nMatthew David Scott is a novelist, playwright and founder member of the award-winning theatre company, Slung Low. His work has been performed at The Barbican, The Almeida, Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, and in warehouses, car parks and the middle of fields both nationally and internationally. He is a recipient of the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust Award and his first novel, Playing Mercy was long-listed for the Dylan Thomas Prize. He Tweets at @ScottySlungLow.

© Matthew David Scott, 2016. Image © John Elcock, 2016 (taken from Issue Five). Author image © othercrowd.com