A literary photo

Stared with a look of distant horror,
A pale and broken, upright queen.

Framed by neat-bound, white-straw hair,
A young and absent, line-scratched face.

Haunted and watery jewel-bright eyes;
A blank and naked, all-seeing stare.

Looked at my face without a form;
A lost reflection.


A novel without a main character is…just…not. I’ve been struggling with this one for a year. I have a fantastic setting based on storm chasing but the pitiful main character I had was in danger of turning the whole thing into a B-movie disaster and that’s already been done.

Then, coming home on the train tonight, I realised I’d been staring my main character in the face for ten minutes without even seeing her. She had this amazing, haunted, beautiful expression. All I could see of her in the crowd was her reflection, and the scratched and clouded window probably went a long way to enhancing her appearance of ethereal grief. For all I know, she could have just been thinking about a broken photocopier or wondering what she had in the fridge for dinner. For me, though, her face and expression triggered the creation of a complex and fascinating character (I hope), strong enough to carry a novel and withstand a tornado.

This is a literary photo – an instant or image or feeling that connects with something inside, lights up like a supernova and blasts stories out into the galaxy.

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