My own book reviews have been a little infrequent recently, but I wanted to bring you something different. This post is by Claire Duffy author of the popular blog Life is Swede, here she reveals what it was like to write her blog so please enjoy. I strongly urge you to give Life is Swede a try: http://lifeisswedeblog.com/
I imagined it would be less intimidating than writing a novel. I was wrong.
For the past four months, I have been blogging as a fictional character. The idea – inspired by Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds – was to create a fictional world that initially appeared authentic, so that people could step right in, interact with the characters, and almost become part of the story themselves. I’ve always been fascinated with that concept: who wouldn’t want to enter a novel they’re reading, ask questions or give a character a few home truths?
When I moved to Stockholm and the story of a lonely ex pat who gets drawn into a murder mystery began to form in my brain, I knew I’d found my War of the Worlds. It felt organic: of course Regan would blog daily about her impressions and experiences struggling to settle into her new life. Within weeks, she had built a fantastic, loyal following, who advised and supported her through culture clashes and the language barrier, a rough patch with Anders and her struggles dealing with his apparently cold and reserved friends.
Initially, I pictured that it would be as simple as writing a first person narrative, serialized over bite sized daily chapters; but almost immediately, the blog format began to present its unique challenges. For one, I came to appreciate the luxury the fiction writer normally has of time jumps: interesting things don’t tend to happen every day. Also, I wanted the first murder to happen in the hours of darkness, for atmospheric as well as practical reasons… but I started the project in Stockholm in June, which meant I had to wait almost three months for it to get properly dark again. Oops.
Then there was the fact that if you post something on the internet, there is a pretty good chance that at least a handful of people will come across it and start reading. This was something I wanted of course, not least because of knowing that the pressure of even a teensy audience waiting for the next post would keep me going through the inevitable periods of wanting to pack the whole thing in. On the other hand though, it is weird and more than a little terrifying to be dealing with reader feedback as you are writing. Both fretting over their general reaction – argh, they’ve gone quiet in the comments today! Are they bored? Have they all given up on me? Is the story awful? – and dealing with more specific comments. More than once, someone has picked up on or guessed something that I thought would be a shocking reveal, and occasionally speculated a theory that has had me wondering if it isn’t better than mine! I’ve resisted temptation temptation to deviate from my planned story so far, knowing that it would be a one way street to quite literally losing the plot.
The project was revealed as fiction a few weeks ago when the first murder finally happened and no one could find anything about it on Swedish news sites. I was fine with that – the idea was always to engage people in a story rather than simply hoax them into believing it was true – and have to confess I was pleased that what rumbled me was not that the story became unbelievable, but that Swedish news let me down by not reporting a murder I made up.
Some readers had either half suspected for a while or quite happily took it in their stride and began playing Cluedo – one commented she could relax and enjoy the story now that she didn’t have to worry about a real person being dead, and another was happy to now be able to lust openly after Anders safe in the knowledge that he and his girlfriend are fictional! Others though, were disappointedorevenangry to discover that someone whose journey they had been following all summer didn’t exist.
If I’m honest, my reaction to the mixed reaction was… mixed. On one hand, I hated the thought of having upset anyone, it certainly wasn’t what I set out to do, but on the other, I couldn’t help but be a bit thrilled that I had created a character vivid and believable enough for people to care so much about her. A handful of them stopped reading, which was disappointing, but the majority seemed to stick with me, and now mystery and thriller readers have started to trickle in – fingers crossed they continue to do so!
The whole project is a bit of an experiment, to get to tell a story and see what happened. It’s been thrilling, terrifying and fantastic, dealing with the challenges of the blog format and waiting with baited breath after clicking ‘publish’ every morning to hear from my brilliant band of commenters. One of them called it the “BlairWitchofBlogs”, and whatever happens next, I’ll always have that!
Claire is a writer currently living in Sweden for no particular reason. She writes for Your Living City, blogs at The Grass is Dancing, and her first feature film is in development with Formosa Films in London.