The envelope landed heavily into Hannah’s life like a choice already made. His face was branded into its white perfection, the nameless man who had likely stolen her fate. She picked it off the matt and held it ceremoniously in front of her as she took it to the kitchen, its weight a burden she struggled to carry. She flopped it onto the kitchen surface and turned her back, hoping to forget its unwelcome presence but it wasn’t long until she had no choice but to face it once more.
‘It’ll be fine.’ Her mother had assured her every day for the last three months.
‘What if it’s not?’
To this her mother had little to say because in truth, neither of them could be sure. The envelope could contain everything and nothing. It could free her or lock her in chains. This day had been so long awaited that its arrival should have heralded celebration but instead, she wished she could go back to waiting. When she was waiting, she was working towards a goal without having to face its reality.
She picked up the envelope and twisted it in her fingers, wondering how it could look so innocent when it was anything but. She couldn’t shift the blame for this. She couldn’t even blame the nameless man with the enchanting smile, although she had tried many times. She was God of her own mistakes. She had thought little about the event itself, so wrapped up was she in its consequences. She had thought little of the joyous laughter and rolling pleasure. Instead she focused on the bitter taste it had left on her skin and the way she may never be able to wash it off. She studied the envelope hard and held it to the light to try and gage its contents. She saw nothing but a blank space and chose to take this as a bad omen.
She hovered the letter over the bin, wondering how it would feel to never know. Innocence would be bliss but she already knew so much, how could she forget either way? How could she continue naively, doing to others what he had done to her? She couldn’t inflict that kind of horror. She needed to know, and then she would be able to move forward, to cleanse herself. The corner of the envelope had come unstuck and she pulled at it hesitantly, fear convulsing through her body. The contents were revealed bit by bit, the white paper looking as innocent as the envelope had before them. She unfolded the letter slowly, knowing it could all change in just a few simple moments. The health centre logo glared at her as she began unravelling the letter’s secrets and she took a deep breath. The letter was brief and of this she was glad. She skipped through the small paragraph to the bottom of the page, where the important information lay in wait. ‘HIV-Negative’ it stated, plain as day.
Recently, it has come to my attention that plot twists are not my strong point. This got me thinking about whether a twist is absolutely necessary for a good story. Don’t get me wrong, a twist in the plot can make a good story better but I don’t think it’s strictly necessary. The thriller genre is an exception to this rule, a thriller with no twists would be quite dull, but I am no thriller writer! I almost feel that short stories are too short for a substantial twist as there is not a big enough word count to build up to them. There is of course the surprise ending but that’s a whole different story! Maybe, as I work on my novel I will find that twists naturally emerge when I have more words to play with. Talking of which, I feel as though it’s about time to make a start on my novel. I could always do more planning but planning is a dangerous thing, it would be easy to plan for a year and get no writing at all done. I’ve never been a fan of the plan and have been relieved to read recently that many writers like to start writing with barely any plan at all. I feel that the best plan is one that comes from the writing itself. The characters tend to tell the story themselves if you let them. It is for this reason that I am going to do brief character sketches and then make a start! Very excited about that journey!
I am having difficulty with making situations seem realistic. To a certain extent, artistic licence is to be considered, but it gets to a point where things can be a little too contrived. This is leaving me at a dead end because good ideas are being put by the wayside for being too unrealistic. Things have to match up and I’m not understanding how to achieve that. Take the piece I’m writing now for example. The idea is that it’s a short story on the subject of heart transplant. My original plan was to write from the perspective of the mother of the deceased (a twenty-four year old male) and the perspective of the transplant recipient (a woman, also in her twenties, who feels indebted to live her life to the full from then on). My first issue arose when I did a brief research period on the subject of heart transplant which proved pretty fruitless. It seemed to me, despite what television programs would have us believe, that the majority of transplants are performed on people who are either extremely young or extremely old. Typical, I thought. I also preferably wanted the heart disease to somehow be self-inflicted so I could incorporate a feeling of guilt into the scenario. I wanted to explore that she felt unworthy of the heart. Other than genetic factors however, I could find no realistic cases of self inflicted heart disease in a twenty- something year old. I decided, after much frustration, that I would leave this section of the story to artistic licence and made a short and undecided reference to the woman smoking cigarettes in her teen years.
The second issue arose with the mother. This was a different issue altogether and one I couldn’t find such an easy answer to. My hope was that the mother, outraged at having lost her son so young, would track down the recipient of his heart and vent her anger. This was to tie in with the previous idea of self-inflicted heart disease that had gone so pear shaped. When the time came however, I could not think of a believable reason for the mother gaining access to the recipient. Realistically, the mother of a donor would never be given the name of the recipient for privacy reasons of both parties. The only way I could find around this issue was for the mother to be conveniently left alone in the corridor after the doctor had gone home and left his office door unlocked. He had also conveniently left his filing cabinets unlocked. To top off all of that, the recipient of the heart happened to be in a hospital just down the road. I feel that all these things together are just far too contrived. It saddens me, because I love the idea of the story, it’s just so difficult to find a realistic way to convey events. I would love to hear how other people cope with this problem? Until then however, I may just carry on writing and hope that artistic licence can get me to the end of the story.
I sat down to write today and just knew my concentration wasn’t in the right place. Having decided that anything I write will be deleted tomorrow, I have settled for a blog post! This week, the three books that came with my subscription to Writer’s Magazine arrived. Such a relief, I thought they were never going to come, impatient creature that I am! Amazing books though I must say. The one I have started with is the creative writing one which has some absoloutly amazing activites in it! Already it has given me great inspiration. One thing that has riled me however is that it has mentioned at least once in every chapter that if you intend to make money from writing, you may as well give up now. In one example, the author went as far as saying, ‘There is no money in writing.’ Now, I understand the concept of writing for love not money but writers need an income. I think it is quite harsh to say there is no money at all to be made, after all, the person writing the book is making money from writing are they not? The fact that this statement is repeated consistantly leaves me feeling quite disheartened. I am not saying I write for the money, in fact I don’t even consider the prize money from any competitions, thinking that publication would be prize enough. I do however believe that once the goal of publication has been achieved, a writer needs to make money from their writing. Of course it’s unrealistic to dream of millions such as the likes of JK Rowling, but enough money to live off of is all I would ask!I think the reason this point scares me is that I’m worried it’s true. After all, I’ve already been told three times since I started reading that I will never make any money! The idea that my dream is unattainable apart from in hobby form is absoloutly devestating. I think this point very much coincides with the idea that writers are often assumed unworthy of the payment other people would receive. Take for example the recent uproar when Woman’s Own launched a short story competition with no payment prize. As many writers who complained about this stated, ‘You wouldn’t expect your columnists to write for free, so why should we?’
All of the above however is not to discredit the book because apart from this small niggle I am thoroughly enjoying it. The tasks are excellent and really help the creative juices flowing! I look most forward to reading the next two.
I came to a stand still with my post natal piece and have therefore given it a rest. I know it’ll come to me eventually! I have however begun another piece about a heart transplant, written from the points of view of the mother of the deceased and the transplant patient. I had a few difficulties with the technicalities on this one, knowing nothing about heart transplant personally! It’s a work in progress but here’s the first paragraph. Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
Fran looked down at her sons face. Even among the stark white surroundings, he looked painfully pale. She studied his closed eyelids for any signs of a flicker but they remained lifeless, just like the rest of him. The aching pain inside her chest was fighting to surface. She hadn’t shed a tear as she had sped to the hospital and had remained calm as the doctors had explained what had happened. A car crash had killed her son and she now had to allow his organs to be sent for donation as he had wished. Now, in the early hours of the morning, they had let her view the body. The sight of him had hit her like a train. He lay motionless, attached to tubes that were keeping his organs functioning when the rest of him was gone. She was weighed down by a grief so strong she could barely stand. Her legs gave way underneath her and she found herself gripping the side of the bed for strength. She began to wail, silently at first, then her grief escaped her in loud, racking sobs that ached throughout her body. Nurses offered their words of comfort but she was beyond hearing them. Michael had been her foundation and she could feel herself crumbling to pieces without him. Anger began flashing into her grief the longer she looked at his face. She had warned him countlessly about the dangers of fast driving, why did he have to be so ignorant! Look where it had gotten him, twenty-four and dead. Stone, cold dead. She reeled at how selfish he had been, probably barely giving her a second thought as he had driven carelessly down dark, winding roads. Anger stretched itself across her face as she began pounding the bed that had supported her only moments before. The nurses gently ushered her out of the room in attempts to calm her down. They hushed her and explained that what she was feeling was normal. Normal? There was nothing normal about any of this. There was nothing normal about the death of a twenty-four year old man.
I don’t know if anyone else has the same problem, but tense and me just do NOT get on. It seems like such a simple concept, past, present, future. What can go wrong? But there are so many things that do go wrong. I find that present tense writing generally sounds quite forced, unless being used for a particular purpose. I therefore tend towards past tense but find that present always tries to get a look in! Take this example, pointed out to me at my writing class:
‘If he couldn’t even remember, it surely can’t have mattered.’
Wrong, wrong, wrong!!! Or:
‘He can’t help wonder if he would still have accepted the offer if he had known how much it would cost him.’
Again, wrong! This is an ongoing problem that keeps biting me in the backside and leaving me desparing. I hope I’m not alone in this problem, although I fear I may be. When I attempted, long ago and in a land far away, to begin my ever elusive novel I had great difficulty with tense. I began a chapter in one tense and ended it on a completly different one. What a nightmare. I can only hope that I will grow into this tense issue with time! On the plus side, it’s generally just a case of the wrong word popping up every now and again. At least now I know what I’m looking for I can correct myself as I go! That’ll be all for today folks, someone please tell me they’ve had issues with this as well!
As I mentioned yesterday, I am fearful of blog entires overtaking my usual writing sessions. It is for this reason that I have chosen to post a piece I’m working on. This is just the introduction of a story about a mother living with post natal depression. This is just a rough so I would be grateful for any comments anyone has or any extra information on post natal depression itself:
The baby wouldn’t stop crying. Mary didn’t care. She had led it in the cot, shut the door and turned off the monitor. Even so, the walls were thin and the crying was still audible. It sliced through her like knives. She led back against the wall and shut her eyes, trying to stop the anger that bubbled in her stomach. The baby was a month old. An alien invasion on Mary’s otherwise beautiful life. During her pregnancy, she had been as excited as any other mother would be, preparing the home and stocking up on the miniature clothes. This was her first child, so of course she had been nervous but no doubts had plagued her mind. That was before. Labour had been a gruelling race to an elusive finish. After hours of strain, the midwives introduced her to her daughter. She looked at the red faced, angry beast and felt nothing but repulsion. There had been no motherly gush. There had been no instinctive warmth. There had only been repulsion. Something wasn’t right. Her partner, Chris, had gushed hopelessly when he first held the little snuffling bundle. His eyes had welled with joy from looking into the small face and Mary had been greatly confused. She was sure there had been some mistake. Satan had fiddled about with her child to make it a demon in the womb. Yet her partner was saying that their daughter was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. She took the child in her own arms to ensure that they were looking at the same thing, that nothing had changed. She studied the small face as hard as she could but still saw the same ugliness as before. The red skin of the baby was scrunched, as if it was angry at Mary. What right did this unknown invader have to look at her in such a way? Mary tried her best to play caring mother when others were around. Even if she had given birth to Satan incarnate, she would be judged if she didn’t display the correct amounts of love. As soon as her hospital room was deserted, she would put the baby in it’s crib and turn her back. They had agreed to call the girl Abbi but, in private, she refused to call her anything at all. An inhuman being did not deserve a human name.
Things had gotten worse once Mary and Abbi had returned home. In the hospital, the midwives had been bustling about and doing the things that Mary didn’t want to do. At home however, with Chris at work, Mary and Abbi were left alone.
Every writer talks about their ‘voice’ coming through in their writing. It has been fascinating to me, since developing my love for short story writing, that my voice is very unexpected. I have always seen myself as the dark and broody type, a view which has been reinforced thus far with my poetry. This year however, as my collection of short stories grows, I have realised that my voice is much more light hearted. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to get stuck into the gritty subjects that have always interested me. And yet, I have developed a new love for writing say, a comedy, and hearing titters from my audience. It strikes me as odd that years of writing poetry about my experiences taught me less than the characters of my imagination. The people I have created and the way I have created them has taught me things about myself that I have never known. Established writers may well be reading this and thinking that it seems incredibly obvious and for that I apologize. But for somebody who is new to the art of creating worlds of my imagination, this has fascinated me no end. It has also enriched my life and made the days seem so much fresher. All I can say to other newcomers is to enjoy your voice in whichever form it presents itself. This is surely where the fun begins!