Hmmm … even though I’ve written that my relationship with my writing has changed, see here, I haven’t actually done any writing since then to test it.
So how do I know it’s changed, I hear you asking?
Because, just now, I returned from my writers’ group (we meet monthly but we haven’t met all summer for summer reasons) where they gave me feedback on the first third of the short story that was a novel. And, no, they didn’t say it was the best first third of a short story that they’d ever read, they said things that were much more useful than that but, just now, as I was waiting for the kettle to boil, the usual feeling of dread, of oh no, now I’ve got to tackle it again, I’ve got to begin again and I don’t know if I can washed over me, but it was, instantly and amazingly, replaced by but it’s a puzzle, dream on it, write down the key things and mull them over, you don’t have to find instant solutions. Heavens, can attitudes really change that quickly?
Apparently, they can. (Apparently the colours of this blog text can too … mysteriously.)
So here are the key things they suggested and we discussed:
*Begin when Sasha is old, when she has accepted that she will die soon. When she wants to die.
*Tell it from her point of view, not Gregory’s. If he tells any part of the story at all, let him tell in short bursts between her narration. Let his telling be mysterious.
*Work out whether Sasha has decided that she wants to die, or whether Gregory is coming to claim her. It can only be one or the other. Not both.
*Gregory is not death, because death can be so cruel, so unexpected, so devastating, and he is none of those things. He is an angel, a messenger, of death – someone who can intercede on her behalf, someone who can ask for a reprieve for her because he loves her. Someone who has known her all her life – as I originally had it, but not as death himself – and so someone sympathetic with whom she can reminisce and prepare to die. (Sorry, if you were planning to read the story I have probably spoiled the mystery for you now. But this is my new relationship-with-my-writing blog, not my MATing-avoiding-writing-blog.)
So, some possible opening sentences occur to me:
I drift from place to place and from year to year with such ease, now. But, despite what they think, I know that I am drifting. It’s just that I can’t come back quickly, so when they put me on the commode or help me drink my tea, or get me ready for bed, I don’t always make sense, at least not to their way of thinking.
Just now I said to the thin-lipped one, ‘Isn’t the cherry blossom beautiful?’ Of course I meant the spindle whose leaves are heartbreakingly scarlet today, but I was still in the middle of a bright spring day; I was still sitting under my favourite cherry blossom, and so, when she asked me what I was looking at, I told her what was in my mind and not what was actually out there, what she could see, by the river.
But I know I heard someone playing the piano in the studio last night. I know that was real. But I shan’t tell the thin-lipped one because she’ll just say, ‘Of course you did, dear.’ I shall wait until Bridget gets here tonight. She listens. She understands. I think she knows what’s happening to me.
So … I shall continue tomorrow.