Transmigration

 

Image: Aim4Beauty

James extended the wooden ladder against the side of their house, its gutter bursting with leaves being washed away from their summer resting place. He was racing against time, the elements and his wife’s contractions. Alice was at the Royal, 14 hours into labour. The sudden wild, torrential rain had given James reprieve from his helpless, emasculated presence at her hospital bedside. Continue reading

The Magpie

Photograph by Richard Baxter
Photograph by Richard Baxter

Extract: Turning Point 2, Step 1, Sequence 3, Scene 3

The magpie had been teasing till now, flying at handle bar height and swooping back and forth in front of her. As they got to the busier part of the park, complete with a kid’s jungle gym, a barbeque and dogs catching frisbees and each other’s tails, the noise and commotion set the magpie to resume its normal tendency and fly high, away from the human and canine disturbances. Mildred kept her eyes glued to it as she peddled faster, putting her bike into gear on autopilot, knowing that there was a hill coming up, the path was that familiar to her, from the days of her pink tricycle with its flying ribbons on her handlebar. The magpie was only distinguishable now because of the red speck that was the little bag it held clasped in its beak. Its warble was no longer discernable from that of its black and white brethren and the general sound of people enjoying the sunshine in the park. With her eyes averted from the path and forgetting the elementary rule that what goes up must come down, the downhill of the path caught her by surprise, her feet madly peddling against no resistance, as her bike freewheeled, crashing into a folding card table on the edge of the path, positioned in the unfortunate spot of the first bit of flat after the descent. The table collapsed and toppled onto her, sandwiching Mildred between it and her bike which lay on it’s side, front wheel still spinning.

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Art Imitating Life

Writing the synopsis for my novel, I have been following the guidelines on structuring and planning a story as set out by my writing course. For a long time (over a year), I was frustrated by the repeat of questions about my main character’s desire, the challenges she faces, the stakes etc, not to mention the tediousness of breaking each component of my story into setup, complication and payoff . I was sure I was sapping my story of any originality and killing any joy in the creative process, but I trudged along hoping it would all get better and easier. Well, it did. At least it got better – easy hasn’t happened yet.

I had a breakthrough some months back, finally understanding the purpose to all the planning. Now I can see that breaking up my story into discrete story units each with a set up, complication and payoff, and a central dramatic question raised and usually answered,  makes for a multi-layered, complex and engaging story. The hard work in all this planning will ensure there is purpose to my prose, and down the track, when I spend more time on the narrative, my character (to borrow loosely from a Kurt Vonnegut quote) will have a purpose even while drinking a glass of water- perhaps with a central dramatic  question of whether she sees it as half empty or half full. Okay, I butchered that. The actual quote is “Make your characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time”.

I know not everyone follows such a format when they write a novel, but this is the only way I know how, it being my first attempt, and I am glad to be learning so much. Surrendering to the process which once felt stifling, I appreciate that setting boundaries for the creative process by defining character arcs, central dramatic questions and a theme to name just a few elements, I can create an intricate world to explore through my character’s particular circumstances and life view- a richer, more authentic human story than I would tell if my character’s inner and outer world lacked the connection that comes with consideration and planning.

My revelation also extends to a belief I now hold, that even if my story is never published nor read by anyone other than my tutor, It is worthwhile simply because it is a life teacher, a sentiment captured beautifully in an M.C.Richards quote I came across in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life. Another brilliant quote, also found quoted in The Artists Way, and attributed to Alain Arias-Mission is The purpose of art is not a rarefied, intellectual distillate- it is life, intensified, brilliant life.

These are some of the lessons that have been revealed to me on my parallel writing and life journey: Continue reading

Planting the Seed of a Novel

At the end of 2010 and beginning of 2011, I had a lovely period of about 3 months in between jobs, having been made redundant from one, and not feeling urgency to start looking for the next. In that time, I enrolled in an online writing course “Unlocking Creativity” with The Writers’ Studio and immersed myself into the life of a writer, a full time writer.

Three interconnected pieces I wrote as part of that course have stuck with me,  inspiring the novel I am working on (currently on the 2nd draft of my novel, through the same writing school). The pieces were a response to a prompt to write a scene where the  character was facing the following predicaments: pressure, worst nightmare, challenge. I will from time to time post scenes and insights I’d like to share on the writing process, but to launch the new menu item on my blog,  here are those three scenes, seeds of a story that is currently in the germination stage. Incidentally, the dates indicate I didn’t have much happening on valentine’s day 2011. Continue reading