Monthly Archives: April 2017

The title-less project: A rundown

I don’t like giving out spoilers – especially to projects I am particularly excited about. But I feel like this project deserves some sort of discussion. It’s going to touch on some very personal themes and draw on a lot of my own experiences. I have had reservations before about leaving too much of myself in my characters – partly because I don’t always like what I create and partly because I don’t want people judging me as a person because they know that the character is part of me.

But for this project, I am deliberately using a part of myself that I don’t like. I don’t like a lot of parts of me (I think that’s true for a lot of people) and most of those parts are going to go into creating a character who, for the time being, is named Ashleigh Silk. I have already found that it is easier to write a thousand words of her story than it is to write the couple of hundred words it takes to introduce the other two central characters. I know that each of them represents a part of me, but Ashleigh (or Ashy for short) IS me.

It makes me feel pretty bad about myself, writing the story and ‘watching’ Ashy do things. I know they are things I would do but it externalises the whole thing and the process really sucks me in. I’m learning a lot that I didn’t really want to learn about myself. Or maybe I already knew the things that make me feel like crap but I just didn’t look at them from the outside. I have a horrible feeling that readers, you, are going to feel very sorry for Ashy. They might feel pity; they might think she’s an idiot (because she is, to an extent), and most of all I think you will look at her and think that maybe you don’t make such bad decisions after all.

 

So, that will be Ashleigh ‘Ashy’ Silk.

Five-by-Five

“Five by Five”

If you’ve watched Buffy, you’ll probably have heard that phrase. If you’ve watched Buffy, you’ll also know that while everyone understands it, no one actually seems to know what it means. If anyone would, then it would be Faith, but she’s not telling and no one has the guts to ask. Or maybe it’s because no one cares enough.

I was thinking about this today. Someone asked me how I was and of course, I gave the socially accepted response.

I’m good. How are you?

I suppose in the grand scheme of things I was good; I have food, shelter, money (a little anyway) and a family who loves me. A loving partner. Two loving cats. Friends… But “good” is still a lie. I was tired. I had a headache. I didn’t want to be at work today for so many reasons. There are so many things going on in my life that make me wish I could pause time for a bit or win the lottery or get lucky in some other fashion. But all of that gets boiled down to “good”.

I know other people do that too. I have seen them. I have seen family members do it, friends do it. I have seen people do it when a doctor asks them how they are sin consult. Of all the people who should get an honest answer, doctors should be at the top of the list.

But I was at work and I said “I’m good. How are you?”

Is it okay to give any other answer? Is it acceptable to hear “How are you today?” and answer with “Well, you know, I’m a bit shit but I have been worse, so maybe today isn’t the day I pack it in.”? I don’t think it is, but that’s not because I have anything against such a response. I think that its not what people expect and they don’t know how to deal with it. It’s not their fault they don’t know how to deal with it. As a social species we rely on people communicating, but we are never taught how to deal with the negative emotions of strangers. Even the emotions of those close to us are hard to fathom and process. And sometimes we are relieved when we ask someone how they are and they say they’re fine.

I want to hear people tell me what they’re really feeling; I do. If I have the information I can do something about it.

But I don’t tell people how I’m really feeling. I don’t know if they want to hear it and I don’t like burdening those who aren’t willing to be burdened. I’m a glutton for punishment but what if they ain’t?

So the social convention dictates that people don’t tell strangers what’s on their minds; people don’t let anyone see their pain.

 

But what if the world didn’t have to be that way? Imagine if we could tell people we’d had a shit night or were feeling a bit down and instead of that being a show of weakness, it was a plea for species solidarity.

What if I could tell that woman or man across the desk that I’d been up until 2am the night before? What if I could tell them that I’d had nightmares or that I’d been helping a friend through a near miss with suicide?

Can you imagine that kind of world?

 

Can you imagine a world where people actually get the interactions they need? I’m not talking big gestures; what if when we were down, we could get an acknowledgement from everyone? What if they could validate (and I hate that word but for lack of a better one I’ll run with it) our experience?

I wonder if that would be a better world.

 

How am I?

I’m five-by-five.

Finding a title

Titles are very important. More than the cover. More than the author photo on the back. Maybe even the blurb. I have written at least one post about the power of names. Titles are just names.

I have a special project going at the moment. It’s close to my heart and it’s proving to be difficult to write. Because of this difficulty I have begun to look for titles to help me find the ESSENCE of the story. I find titles usually come easily to me but this one seems to be fighting.

At first I thought that DONOR might be a good fit. I don’t want to give away too much but I think it only fits one of the characters. There are four central characters and each of them needs to be represented. Think of it as a contest, but three out of four characters don’t know it yet. One of them is going to win but because they don’t know they are competing, that victory doesn’t mean much.

Thinking about it like that, you could say that it is like the whole “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” thing. So I need a title that encapsulates the unknowingly guided journey of three protagonists and the guide they don’t know they have. See why I’m having trouble? I have a feeling that the english language might be working against me. It has limitations. I reached out to the community on Ninja Writers (Facebook), which has helped me a lot in the past. They suggested some of the following words:

  • Serendipitous (suggested by Amy Watson)
  • Absent-minded fortuity (suggested by Mark Brothwell)
  • Unexpected windfall (suggested by Lucinda Benson)
  • Accidental accomplishment (suggested by Kevin Andersen)
  • Deceptive prize (suggested by Carolyn Pullman)

All of these are great options. I feel like English, as a language, just is too ‘composite’ in nature to contain a word that fully surmises what I want to say. German has a lot of wonderful words; beautiful words with intricate meanings and so much depth that it makes me feel sad that english could be so limited. Maybe I’m just not as broad minded when it comes to the language but having studied Indonesian I have an appreciation for nuance.

There are multiple words, in Indonesian, that mean ‘please’. There are different words for different situations; ‘please’ in the context of asking for help. ‘Please’ in the context of requesting the person you are speaking to help themselves. These nuances are lost on our poor coarse composite language.

Not that I don’t love english as a language. Don’t get me wrong, it can create the most beautiful poetry. Like spiralling dancing sparkling light on the page. But that respect and love I have doesn’t make it any easier to find a title. I want this so badly. I feel like when I get this title, the rest of the story might just settle into place. I’m not used to having this much trouble settling the story. I mean writing it down, sure. The first page or two always take a lot of false starts. But this story is refusing to sit still and let me study it. It’s wriggling like the wyrm it is, writhing and hissing and spitting and refusing to let me know it fully.