Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Expect nothing. Live on surprise.

She lives where no one can see her. But I can. I know her face, the shade of hair, the shine of eyes. I hear the tone of her voice and how it breaks when she's angry with me. A lips quiver with a fleeting memory. The violent twist of her hands when she's uncomfortable. To my surprise, she constantly changes her mind. I build expectations and she knocks them down before I'm finished. Lego beliefs strewn across the floor.

My novel's protagonist. Antagonist, more like. Sure, she was never set in stone. I never knew what she looked like, what she believed in. What she ate for breakfast. That is not how I work. I am not a planner. I don't do spider-diagrams or character maps. I write.

But now my protagonist has leaped from the realms of character and is flesh, blood. She is a person with skin, veins, feelings and secrets untold. She has evolved beneath my fingertips. With every heavy score on the keyboard, she breathes life. I feel like Victor Frankenstein - without all the stealing of dead body parts.

Of course, I have not created a monster. Nor do I feel disgust when we are together - there in on the blank page, cursor blinking. But I am afraid of her. Of what she can do. I lead her along one route and she resists, wishing to go another direction. I want her to say one thing and yet she says something else, unexpected. I feel like she is writing this book and I'm just the body to use.

Is it normal - to be overwhelmed and lead by your character? Reader, what do you think?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Rant of the Day

I have an issue with injustice. A fundamental part of me - a gene - roused with anger at the very thought of people doing wrong and getting away with it. So intense, so intrinsic is this, I often adopt the behaviour of spoilt child: feet stamped and shoulders slumped.

For the past month I have followed the story of Constance McMillen. Aged 18, she was banned from taking her girlfriend to Prom in Mississippi. When fuss was kicked, the event was cancelled by the school - exposing McMillen to a flurry of abuse from peers. A Prom was later staged by parents but McMillen was sent to a fake venue with only 7 others in attendance. The rest of the school bigots had their heterosexual dance elsewhere.

When I read this, my heart was a caged bird. I felt its fluttering in my ears and, soon, my gene was roused. Anger lurked like an insidious lump in my throat. As evident from previous posts, I have no place for prejudice. Particularly this behavioural form. It is fine to have a difference of opinion but to enforce this difference on others and its resulting behaviour is both offensive and unjust.

McMillen already lives with one difficulty- that her sexuality does not fit the 'accepted norms' of society. Of course, this is arguable. I live in a place fully accepting of the LGBT community. Clearly, McMillen does not. Furthermore, to be faced with an array of prejudicial abuse from her school, her peers and their parents is one difficult step too far. Where is the justice in this?

Discrimination of this kind is an insult to human nature and its malleability. We have such great potential to learn from past mistakes and grow in acceptance of all things, of all people. And yet we continue to exist in a fixed sphere of intolerance and the more we do so, the more injustice occurs. I'd like things to change.

What say you, reader?

Friday, 2 April 2010

Into the looking glass, and what we find there...

I was five when we moved to a new house. My first memory of it was the three things left behind by the previous owners: an oxygen cylinder and mask, a green velvet chair with no cushions, and a mirror. Victorian tall- its solid mahogany feet pinched the carpet and its silvered glass only shined for one minute after a polish before the dust motes settled.

It looked like an ordinary mirror. Only it wasn't. It was my secret door to another world. I would step through to play inside this mirrored place where I talked and walked backwards- where everything and everyone was forgotten and my only worry was if someone else discovered my secret. And as I grew older I would sit at length, cross-legged, staring at my reflection until I slowly dissolved into nonsense.

Have you ever done this, reader? Looked into a mirror long enough that you disappear? Not for reasons of vanity- often there are no reasons. The need to do so is just because. But sometimes you stare so long that simply looking becomes a search for something far deeper than pleasing appearance: meaning.

I did this yesterday. I was tidying the box room, shifting books and junk to make room for more, when the sun pierced everything. A single golden beam filtered through the curtain, striking my old playground, and light danced about the walls in jolly abandon. My gaze caught on the shiny pane, past smudged prints, dust and greasy streaks, and into eyes. And what started as a general derision directed at those eyes- What are you doing with your life? Where are you going? - soon became a detached wonderment.

Recognition vanished and the face before me morphed into shapes- circles, ovals- randomness. Who was this before me? For that matter, who was I- did I even exist? Question after question dropped seemingly from nowhere into my grey matter- matter that existed somewhere beyond the wall of somewhere else.

It was the strangest of sensations. A tingle, a chill so unsettling that time ceased and everything but this stranger faded to nothing. But as quickly as I dissolved I came back, pulled by the light that danced across the silvered glass and drew my gaze- and myself- up and out of nonsense.

I went back to tidying books and boxes of junk. But golden light flickered, my spine tingled and the unsettled followed me like a grey cloud - a burst of iced air. My mind drifted to the looking glass and I couldn't help but wish I was five years old again...