Thieves, Betrayers and Liars. No, not politicians; I am of course talking about writers.
We take whatever’s useful from the world around us. A line of dialogue heard at the bus stop, the core of a tragedy from the news, a scene that plays out before us in everyday life – we observe, we listen and we remember. Then we steal it away without anyone suspecting who we are and what we are.
Theft from strangers is one thing but we go a step further. We are betrayers of those we love, those we hate and even ourselves. We prise open the vault of the past and whisper its confidences to anyone willing to listen. Secrets and skeletons are our traded goods; anything for a line of text that ensnares the reader. Friends and partners tread warily around us once they know that our true loyalty is to the page.
Betrayal and stealing carry dire consequences – if we get caught. So we resort to lying, swearing that up is down, on the printed page; or that he was a she. We offer silver-tongued assurances that it is all just a coincidence, a similar event with no connection to something we were told in trust. Purposefully, we smelt the truth down and fashion it into new forms of our own design, revelling in our creations and the attention they bring.
Except… except, sometimes, in creating these works of fiction, we lose touch with the reality that was.
Recently, a kindly blog reader contacted me about my little American flashback (http://alongthewritelines.blogspot.com/2010/03/one-august-night.html) and the novel I’m still picking at, which draws on personal experience to create drama and (I hope) comedy.
‘How do you think,’ my wily reader said, ‘the other people would write the story – how would they see you and everything that you depict.’ In other words, how was it for them? I have to confess that the notes I’ve put together don’t dwell too much on other people’s perspectives. But maybe, taking another person’s viewpoint and working with that as the starting point, opens up a much broader canvas.