Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Chapter five and a complete review of the character and the book

Chapter five has thrown up the basic problem with my writing. I wanted this book to be a literary work, with an intense, interesting character at the heart. That has somehow transmuted into a book about relationships and romance even. It's become all story and the characters have drifted into stereotypes. My main character was supposed to be so different, so damaged by the death of her identical twin, that she somehow functions as both twins. Always wounded by the loss of half of her compound self, she's supposed to start to allow other people to fill a small part of that empty space, while allowing herself to fill in the gaps. Somehow it's become a story where the character has down shifted to a lonely spinster looking for love. This is not me. I seem to have accidentally channeled someone else. Possibly Barbara Cartland.

I realise that each of my three main characters - all women, all drawn to this place for one reason or another - are aspects of me. I suppose all fictional characters are, or internalised versions of our loved ones. There's a big part of me that never feels like it's fitting in, knows what to do, and that part is Emma. There's another part of me that is generous, gives, loving, funny etc. (all that stuff) and that is Lily. Olivia is my other alter ego, maternal, looking back with an older perspective, moving past motherhood, a crone. I realise as I plough through the editing process, how much of myself is revealed through all my writing. Not a comfortable place to be.

I've also been playing with a short story about an old person wrestling with forgetfulness and infirmity but trying not to let on how bad things are. My mother-in-law is 81 and in this position, and everything she does to pretend she can cope is backfiring on her. In fact, she can't cope and needs help. If she had more help, she could stay in her own home. Problem is, she thinks if she says she needs help, they will scoop her up and put her in a residential prison. It may come to that, but I'd like to squeak a bit longer for her autonomy. I don't really get on with her, but I recognise a certain bloody minded independent gene that I have myself. I'm going to be just as awkward, I suspect. Hopefully, I will have lots more support.   

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