I has a migraine, so, instead of being all wise, and clever and down to earth about the fact that I’m now at 55k (WOOOOO!), I thought I’d talk about something thats bothering me for about a dozen reasons right now.
I’m writing three books – two are brand spanking new, as in I’ve only been talking about them or thinking about them, or even contemplating them for about two months, and one, Elliot’s, is a recurring rewrite. I might talk about them later too. Anyway, the two that are brand new are…troublesome in ways I never thought I’d get down in words till I thought about it this morning.
They’re bothering me because in some ways they’re very close to the ‘bone’ for me – either because of the mental health aspect in Change, or because of the concept that the story is reflecting what’s going on in my life (Values). While both are true, at the same time, neither are true.
Values specifically is about a young married couple who, for whatever reason, don’t have kids – the ‘she’ in the story is unsettled and vaguely concerned by it, while he’s not bothered at all. And the more she pushes, the more he resists. It’s true, the story *started* out life because of a conversation my fiancee and I had and evolved from there, but it’s not the be all and end all of the story. I’ve started with our situation and played a very skewed ‘what if’ game along the lines of the entire story.
Change is a sci fi time travel story. The lead narrator so far is a schizophrenic, who has a very comfortable and intimate relationship with her ‘other self’ in parts of the novel, and is very distant and aloof in other parts – it’s all told from the perspective specifically of the woman that travelled back in time, so at points there really *are* two of them. It’s boundary challenging and touches on a couple of key stones of mental health that I think tend to be overlooked – that some of us are comfortable in our own skins, even if those skins are bags for something entirely flawed and odd based on conventional norms.
The thing is though, I’m neither schisophrenic or in a relationship as extreme as the one I’m writing about in Values – I’m not a time traveller, and I don’t go around shooting perverts in the unmentionable places that my characters may. I’m not a cop, and I don’t live in a city quite as warped as Darkness. What I am is highly imaginative, and intelligent. I can project the concepts into the ether and build something out of them. I can let my brain run loose and have a look at where that takes me. I know freedom and self interest intimately and can be very different in my expression of either of them.
Some people say that when an actor takes on a certain role, it’s hard for them – that it can pull them down and destroy them. I think sometimes it’s the same for writers – not as often as actors, but sometimes we play a role, we assume a persona, and we write. It pours out of us, flood and trickle, and we bleed it – the persona – dry. And then, if we’re lucky, we can remove most of it – because in writing from another perspective, we may have learned a couple of things, so we may never be entirely free. Other times it might cling for a bit, but we’re always – ALWAYS free to go back to ourselves, and should always be free to do so – and should never be held accountable for the ideology of our characters.
It’s not an argument about free speech though – we aren’t entitled to hurt others deliberately under the guise of ‘character’ and to be honest, if it’s odious enough, warped enough, or revolting enough to make you hesitate (which, I believe sometimes goes beyond ‘transgression’ and on into ‘bad taste’) then you should seriously consider whether you want to share it. In an ideal world there would only be that reason, but unfortunately, this isn’t an ideal world.
I guess what I’m saying is it’s ok to be a writer – it’s ok to take on these guises and explore your character – what’s not, possibly, ok is to believe that you are responsible in the real world for what those characters do, unless you actually do it.
Kai is a writer, author and avid reader. A mental health advocate, Ludosport athlete and coder. She’s the mother of two young adults, owned by two cats, and lives with her beloved in the Cotswolds.