Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Writing like mad

Despite all the reading (which I do with a highlighter to slow me down) I am writing and writing. I suppose this was what I moved all the way here to do, which makes tearing my family down the middle seem more bearable. But I am so homesick I'm starting to write bits that reflect that.

Yesterday we discussed three short stories by Chekhov (OK, not the bedside reading you would expect of me, I admit) and fell in love with one of the stories, The Lady With The Pet Dog. There were various debates in the room about his motives blah blah I identified with the main character, Gurov. He embarks on an affair to brighten up his holiday in Yalta, because he's bored and he's regularly unfaithful to his wife. Then, when the affair ends, he realises he is in love with her, even though she's many years younger and also married. He has to see her again and they end knowing that they have to find a way to be together, although it will be personally costly and difficult. He ends reflecting: 'And only now when his head was grey the had fallen in love, really, truly--for the first time in his life.' Then: 'And it seemed as though in a little while the solution might be found, and then a new and glorious life would begin; and it was clear to both of them that the end was still far off, and that what was to be the most complicated and difficult for them was only just beginning.'

It rang personally true for me, as I had got into my forties before I fell in love for the first time. Listening to some of the people talking, I wondered if they, like me up until I met my partner, thought they knew all about love and had yet to actually get hit by the real deal. People were debating whether they would be together, given the obstacles of two spouses, children, and the era and culture. But I 'knew' they would, because love like that, you will spend the rest of your life making it work, even if you can't live together now. Doesn't that make me sound like a know all? Worse, a mushy know all. The writing was that real, a man who died in 1904 describing how I feel, what happened to me, as if he knew me. That's got to be good writing. (At least neither of us were actually married at the time I fell in love - just about.) 

I've been inspired by Aristotle to write a short story about a man who claims he is Aristotle (reincarnated). I'm having fun with it, he's got a great sense of humour and it's nice having a character you like and see so clearly. I've also finished a short story about a child painting a shed she's been given as a Wendy house, while adult dramas rage on outside. Our eleven year old was playing with Lego while two of our sons enacted some teenage drama over a girl. She did take a bit of an interest but the Lego model she was making was so interesting it was more important. I'm taking it to fiction next week for workshopping. Having discussed character, I'm also looking back at my novel's characters, getting to know them better. One of the main character in the novel is less visible to me, I think I'm giving her a wide berth because she's 14! Having brought up five teenagers and one still to go...


  1. Did you hear the author of 'The Poisonwood Bible' on BBC World Service these past few days - not my style (and nor is yours) but we can share fascinating approach. Planned, very professional, emotionally involved at times, prolific with a vengeance, researched in tremendous depth... she's translated in 15 languages and sold 4 million of that book...happy writing!

  2. Thanks Tony, I haven't heard her but I might be able to catch it on the BBC. I'm reading a lot of interviews with authors at the moment, lots of different approaches. It seems there are lessons we can learn from the people who write like us and even more from the people who don't!

  3. Oh how interesting. I actually haven't read anything of Chekhov - I think I thought it would be far too high-brow for me, but now I am intrigued - thank you. And I love the sound of the stories you are writing. It is fun when the characters are so clear, isn't it? I have a great character in my book that was so fully formed he was an absolute dream to write. Not sure where he sprang from - thanks imagination!

  4. Hi Jayne, I enjoyed the intellectual challenge of the Chekhov, but I did think they would be too heavy going for me! I love his descriptions of places, and of the little characters, just pithy one or two liners.
    Character wise, isn't it great when a charcter coems to life like that. The only problem for me, is once a character like that has shown himself, the others look less convincing, and anyway, he just takes over.


    That's the interview I recommended on BBC World Service.