Foster's fiction: Week 3 of National Novel Writing Month

Pile of books Ann-Marie has just four weeks to complete her literary masterpiece

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It's half way through Novel Writing month and I've ditched the tea-bags in favour of wine.

Why?

Well, to put it delicately, the atmosphere isn't good.

The word count is fine - slightly ahead, if anything - but I'm simmering with resentment.

After the first flush of love, I've seen the nastier side of my characters and their friend, the plot. Having given me so much in the first two weeks, they're now playing hard to get.

Hence the wine.

The thing is, I know they're enjoying it - the snappy sections of dialogue that end in a restraining order; the teasing sub-plots that fizzle into frustration; the main characters that flirt with each other while I'm settling the bill and then clam up when I return with the mints.

I know I should finish it, but like any forbidden fruit, the temptation to try just once more is too great.

Not only that, but real life is continuing to interfere. No, not that real life.

Social services have been kept at bay by bribing the teenagers with a full fridge and supermarket offers on American ice-creams.

Fermanagh lakelands

I'm talking about real, real life. The news.

A part of my loosely-planned plot surfaced last week in the bulletins from Belfast.

I was flummoxed.

Now this is a fairly common phenomenon for authors, I believe, although they're usually writing before the fact, if you know what I mean.

It's an obstacle I've consciously set before myself, as many writers do, by basing their story on the (almost) here and now.

And at this moment, I'm envying those who have chosen the route of that fantasy set in the Fermanagh lakelands.

Consider my dilemma with this recent example: would fiction readers have believed that a double murder by carbon monoxide poisoning could have been accepted as a suicide pact by a whole community?

We know they would now.

But the crossover from the BBC Radio Ulster bulletins has put additional pressure on me and my plot.

Now, I'm wondering if any words can do justice to my story - even though it's set many years ago, and my plot line is based on ancient whispers.

I should have realised that truth is always stranger than fiction.

Perhaps that's the clue my characters are dangling provocatively in front of my laptop.

No matter how weird it might seem, no matter how implausible and far-fetched, it could happen.

The mantra remains the same.

Don't think. Just write.

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