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February 11th 2023 - Gary and Tessa

I met up with my writer friend Gary for one of our regular writing workshop-type sessions yesterday. It was good to get into more detailed discussions of the kind of things we've talked about in class about characters, desire, action and conflict.

With regards to what I'm working on - I have my series of vignettes which give a snapshot of this character's life but we talked a lot about whether it's a story or not. For me, one of the things I'm interested in is how we can accurately reflect life on the page. But the difference between my story and one of the inspirations, Kick the Latch, is that Kick the Latch follows an entire life and so has a narrative arc already in place. My story covers just 30 or so years of this character's life and so doesn't have a natural bookend of birth and death - I need something else to bookend the story which would give the individual vignettes (which hold no overarching narrative) their place in the story. So I'm going to try and build that in.

The other bit of advice I had in my head was an out-of-context line from Tessa Hadley from the London Library event I attended. I looked up her interview in Reverse Engineering II and found this quote which I think is a good fit for this story:

"In fiction there's so much space for misinterpretation. Which sounds a negative thing - it is a negative thing, in life. It's frightening, perhaps, that we misread each other so much, even as we manage to rub along together. But that potential for misinterpretation allows something lovely inside a story - an openness, avoiding final judgement. You can hold in your story these two contradictory versions of what happened: unreconciled, not sorted out, there they sit side beside each other on the page, aesthetically bonded together. It's something generous that fiction does that individual subjectivities can't easily do: sustaining, side by side, two different contradictory versions of what happened."

I think this will also help bring the story away from the autobiographical beginnings it had. Another point Gary made was to have a "point of divergence" at which the story takes a path away from my life. I think having this character make a decision that was different to m life, and for that decision to be a misunderstanding that another character could have an alternate view of, would be a good mechanism for this story.


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