I’ve been studying properly again for about a month, give or take the odd jaunt to the outside world. Looking back through my ‘reflective diary’ (this isn’t as grand as it sounds, it’s basically collection of scraps and scribbles of random thoughts), the word that jumps out is “enjoy”. I am enjoying this. I am enjoying learning about all the what if’s of creating a story. What if I start it earlier? What if I start with introspection? What if I start in the middle of the action. I enjoy how these things change the whole tone of a story. In the same way as altering the point of view, altering the initial point of contact has a significant impact for the reader.
I’ve also enjoyed a new way of looking at the phrase “write what you know”. This phrase has always troubled me, I don’t have a particularly exciting, or meaningful life. The conflicts and traumas of my past seem to have levelled out, and mostly I’m quite cheery. Add to this the restrictions of M.E. (one exciting thing a week, or face certain gloom), and my day to day life feels quite small. I can’t work outside the home, I don’t often leave the house to pop to the shop,nip out for coffee or go for a little amble. Add to this the fact that I live on a street where someone walking past is a notable thing, you can see why “what I know” feels like it’s mostly my garden and my cat. When I do leave the house, I am delighted , and a little overwhelmed. It’s all I can do to stop staring at the wonder that is “other people” . “What I know”, feels as though it is becoming confined to memory, with the odd event popping up now and then. Then I came across this.
‘Writing what you know means drawing on your experience, memories, knowledge and passions, and using this to develop your fictional characters. You can use what you understand about yourself, and what you remember from your own past, as well as what life has taught you about other people, to enable you to empathise with them’
This extract from Nathan Englander’s podcast is incredibly helpful to me. It ties in with the idea that we are more than what we do, what have, what we display to the outside world. My inner life is what will illuminate my writing, and help me create believable, beguiling characters. So, whilst my life is smaller than it used to be, and points of excitement are fewer, the combination of memories, and my response to those memories gives enough material for many, many pieces of work.
I’m working on a new story for my next assignment. I’m enjoying letting it ‘brew’, as directed by my course material. I’ve said before that character is king, and this only becomes more relevant as my work progresses. I’m trying a new technique, and applying the exercises to the character I am using in my story. This may work against me, in it does narrow the breadth of work I step in to, but I’m hoping doing this will help me really get to know her. The final product will show me whether it’s been the right choice.
You can listen to the whole podcast here