It's often the case that a plot for one of my books comes when a couple of ideas that seem unconnected and might have been stewing for ages eventually meet. For example, Mirror of The Nameless came from wanting to write something slightly Lovecraftian as well as wanting to write a pure page-turner - something that was all story. Similarly, this blog post is two issues connecting.
A friend of mine has recently a book rejected because the agent thought it too bleak and said fiction needs to be better than real life. I couldn't disagree more. Fiction doesn't need to be better than real life just as it doesn't need to be happier or sadder, uglier, prettier, funnier, stupider or anything other than one little thing.
That's all there is to it. Fiction, while obviously made up, needs to be honest. The writer needs to tell the truth with what they're saying. Insisting on a happy end if that might not be the right one is a cheat just as shoving in a downer purely because you can is a cheat. The right end is the best end and whether or not a story is bleaker than reality is not important. Being honest is.
Which leads me to the second issue I didn't realise at first was connected to this whole honesty malarkey. I'm nearing the end of the outline for the third draft of May Day. Possibly because this book has been such a pain in the arse - going from a messy novella to a messier novel to stubbornly refusing to admit defeat - I've gone through roughly a billion ideas on how to supposedly improve it. Without giving away too much, the supernatural angle involves ghosts while the human angle are my olds favs: grief and regret. An idea the other day - keep the ghosts as a threat but the reveal is they're all in the head of a particular character. They're not actually real.
Problem is that wouldn't be honest. It'd be a cheat, a way of being a smug bastard who wants readers to think I'm oh so clever. The only thing I want is to keep the reader turning the page (and have them enjoy the book, of course). So I'll be honest. I'll keep my ghosts. I'll keep my grief and regret and I'll put it all together in the third and final draft. And I'll remember to tell my story honestly.