Thursday, December 29, 2011

Free Indirect Death

So I promised some actual writing today.

Well it turns out this book I'm (still only sort of) writing, is definitely about death. The first one was in a lot of ways, but it was mostly about fucked up love. Like, 90% fucked up and twisted love and 10% death. I have a feeling this one is more like 90% death and 10% fucked up and twisted love.

I don't usually consider myself particularly morbid, but that's only because I actually am quite. I'm fascinated, intrigued, curious and to be honest, not the least bit scared of death. But it does upset me, and so I write about it (see my earlier post).

Also, I am attempting to use elements of free indirect style in this book, opening and closing the psychic distance of different characters perceptions. This is something I've never tried before but it seems to be working quite naturally so far. I've always had trouble with third person, but then first person is quite limiting. By using free indirect style and playing with psychic distance I can get the best of both. And it makes it far less complicated to switch character perspectives whenever I need to.

Anyway, here's a nice little chunk of deathy stuff...

So, when, after nearly eight years of breathing tubes and oxygen tanks and catheters and staring at the same four walls and never putting her feet on the floor, let alone standing up or going anywhere, Wendy’s grandmother finally died on that vulgarly sweet spring afternoon, Wendy was justifiably nervous about following her mother up the stairs to her grandmother’s bedroom cum sick room to ‘say good bye’. Wendy’s grandfather, as liberal leaning as he was for a man his age, still thought it was inappropriate to bring a young girl in to see a dead body, but Rose, the hippyest of his three hippyish daughters, insisted it would bring closure and that it would be much more scarring if suddenly Wendy’s grandmother was just gone. Wendy was just worried that there’d be maggots undulating in her grandmother’s open mouth and flies alighting on her open eyes. The thought scared, but also intrigued her. And even though she loved her grandmother more than anything and had always known that to her, Wendy’s presence had never once been a burden, (which was not true of any of the other adults Wendy knew), and she didn’t necessarily want to see her grandmother in that kind of state, she knew that whatever she was about to see was no more her grandmother than that mass of insect and rot had still been a baby bunny. And as with the bunny, she’d be hard pressed to pass up the opportunity to get a glimpse.
When she did finally enter her Grandmother’s perfumed bedroom a few steps behind her mother, she was both relieved and disappointed to see her grandmother, there on the bed, just as she’d always been, if maybe a shade or two paler, skin slightly translucent.
Wendy didn’t cry often and when she did, it was usually big gulping wails over skinned knees. But she cried then. Silently. Standing beside her grandmother’s deathbed. Stinging tears marching steadily down her cheeks and under her chin, before dutifully plunging to the threadbare carpet.

After the funeral Wendy’s grandfather left his three daughters to squabble over their mother’s jewelry, furniture and keepsakes, and moved down south to a cottage on the Chesapeake Bay. He instructed them to sell whatever they didn’t want and split the profits. What he took with him only just filled a Volkswagen Rabbit. One box of books about astrology, ornithology and sailing knots, a suitcase of socks and underwear, a portable record player and about a dozen records of depression era songs about hobos, trains and dead dogs. And a simple brass urn holding her ashes. He was going to buy a sail boat, take her way out into the bay and leave her there among the crabs. He imagined the ash of her flesh mixing with the sandy silt and sifting through an oyster, irritating its mucusy muscle and becoming a grey-black pearl.
He never did though. He just got older and more used to being alone. Until sailing became unfeasible. And she just sat on the mantelpiece gathering dust. An urn full of dust, covered in dust. Becoming less and less a person and more and more furniture. And Wendy and Rose only ever saw him at Christmas. 

I haven't written much new in the last week but I have written an outline. Something I used to swear up and down against. The last time I tried to outline a novel I did it in such great detail that by the time the outline was complete I was so bored of the story I couldn't bear actually writing it. But that was before the first novel.
This time, I had this very broad, general idea, with only a handful of scenes. By writing each scene up in simple one phrase lines in some kind of passable order, I was able to conjure up all kinds of ideas for other scenes and characters and narrative development as well as get a better view of the piece as a whole. I've purposefully left it very simplified and easily altered so I don't feel it's written in stone or too detailed.

It's definitely calming to feel like I've got a better idea of where I'm going with it. Will be trying to get some new words on the page tonight and tomorrow. Am thinking of giving this a go. Will let you all know how it works.

And two, if you're interested in blogs by writers struggling to get words on the page through the daily mayhem of tedious jobs and online chess, please check out the two blogs I've linked to on the right of this post...two, my blog title is not very Google friendly (as there are about a kazillion articles/blogs etc dealing with SNS out there) so any and all ideas welcome for a new blog title that still incorporates the base struggle of living with Second Novel Syndrome.

If I choose your idea, you'll get a prize (which may or may not just be a name check in this blog...and by that I mean it will be). 



  1. What about "head, meet desk" as a tittle?

    Also thanks for the write or die link, SO helpful for dissertation deadlines.

  2. Glad you liked. You should follow the blog. I'm assuming I know you btw. Who is this?

  3. Cheers for the name-check Moorhead! Loved the latest extract. Minor quibble time: there was one cliche, "stinging tears", not sure if that's the sort of criticism you want at this early draft stage.

    How about an anagram of Second Novel Syndrome? I suggest: Sloven condemned Rosy.

  4. Yeah, it's all still in really early stage so haven't done much editing for cliches and adjectives yet, but I'm always grateful for the head's up on things like that. Sometimes I miss them. Glad you like it. I will add your title suggestion to Jen's and know I love an anagram.


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