Writing as therapy

I have been mulling over ideas for a story and a couple of characters for a while now. My plan was to write some short pieces, put them away for a bit, and revisit them to see if I like them enough to stitch them into a novel.

Until recently, I hadn’t fleshed my story or characters out much. One location and two time-settings were fixed, or the original premise wouldn’t work. Similarly, for the story to make sense, my main character had to be female. I think she’s called Lena. Everything else was sketchy.

As mentioned in my last post the writer’s group I’ve just joined is running a competition requiring submission of the first 3000 words and the synopsis of a novel by the end of this month. I didn’t see this as a sign, nor would Lena (I know that much about her) but I do see it as an opportunity I’d be mad to let pass by. So this past week every (rare) quiet moment has found me trying to work out what I want to say and explore and if Lena would share my interest, and why.

I don’t want my character to be my replica, or even close, but I do want her to live in the very real world I live in and to have a world view that sometimes overlaps mine. I want her to encounter the same ups and downs, self doubts (or over confidence), dilemmas and awakenings that my friends & family, acquaintances and I encounter.

Over this weekend I’ve heard two pieces of sad – and in one case shocking – news about friends. We also have a family member who has been seriously ill over the past few months. I’ve slipped so quickly into the habit of seeing the world through Lena’s eyes that wondering what she would think and feel about these things has happened naturally. I’ve imagined her conversations with people around her about the issues involved. This has helped me see what other characters might be in her story, but it has also let me think about things myself from a different perspective.

None of the recent sad circumstances will reappear in Lena’s story, but how I feel about them, and about their possible (and preferable) consequences will inform what I write.

I feel as though Lena is making me think about things more intently and with a more open mind. I am discovering and rediscovering things about myself too, particularly about how I perceive (and often misperceive) other people’s actions.

This has had an impact on the shape and nature of the story I want to write, particularly how I want to explore the relationship between Lena and one of the other main characters (who Lena will never meet and indeed, might not even exist).

Actually, I don’t have the slightest clue where, or when, the story is going to finish, but I’m learning a lot from piecing it together…

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