At the moment I am working on three short stories; one about homelessness, another racism of the insidious subtle kind, and the last one introduces and captures a deep thinker trapped in his falling apart (but maybe he can put it back together) country life.
But these themes whilst they appear deep and meaningful are carried by compelling characters who don’t speak like philosophers but like everyday people with particular lingo/slang/dialogue that is real and natural.
As I create each story I am thinking extensively about the voice of the narrator and which narrative point of view will work the best. One story has me writing from several characters’ perspectives, something like in Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.
I find that shifting the point of view in my stories is deeply challenging as I have to jump inside the head of a racist for art, and that character is letting me know she has many redeeming features, and the possibility for growth and change as much as any other in a tale of broken friendship. Yet the empathy is discomforting and I still want the character to change and grow but I am not sure if she can. I don’t want to judge this character, and yet I could be biased in the fate I give to her and not let her be organic and make sense if emotion gets the better of me.
One piece about homelessness is very poetic and seems to like being a piece of flash fiction, or it could become a performance poetry piece. I’ve opted for a third person narrator seeing a scene, but I may well experiment with it more, as that might lead to some new discoveries about that scene. As I write it I keep thinking of Elizabethan songs with crows in them, only my story has a different species of bird.
Often I use photographs to inspire my writing, and in the same way I like to abstract an image as the one above in this blog, I think about how to abstract characters – make something straightforward more ambiguous, questioning and creative, create characters that ripple and flow into and around the river of existence.
I have no idea yet, what age each story will suit, and whether they will lengthen or shorten. All I know is that the characters want to leap off the page and speak to a wider audience. I don’t want to put them on my blog, but into competitions or publications, maybe some might even join together and create a novel, yet I do want my blog readers to know a bit about the journey of these characters as they come into being.
I worried that when I moved to the city, my inspirational muse of nature might cause me to close up in my longing to write and photograph. Instead my memory of the country becomes more vivid and has something to contrast against. The country becomes a place to move into as a storehouse of experiences and characters to consider representing. The city is vivid too, as it is all around me. It is strange and unsettling to hear sirens everyday instead of twice a year.
I still keep up the life writing. The city sparks memories of times I was a student in the city and those stories become clearer as I travel again on trains. Yet, there is a freedom in creating fiction that calls ever more strongly.
(c) June Perkins