A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tinkering With Fiction

This cold has loosened its grip and I felt better today.  Quite a relief.  I did fiction writing today, some of which I would like to share with you.  Just a page.  I tinkered with it, but mostly it's in its first draft stage.   The main character, Alana, is based on my mother.



It was nights such as these that she wondered why she had ever married Aidan.  They would go to parties and he would drink like a fish.  At the end of the night she would have to drag all six feet of him to the car and then drive them home.  Quite a feat for a petite 5' 2" woman.  She had only just learned how to drive. Aidan had been her teacher, a lousy one at that and again the thought of divorce had crept into her mind.  But it was the 1950s and divorce was no easy matter.  So she decided to stick it out.  He didn't drink like a fish because he was an alcoholic, like his father, but because he had the habit of blindly drinking what was put in front of him.  Maybe it was that he was nervous in social situations.

Alana knew how to drink slowly, hard liquor with soda or ice.  She had seen her parents get "piss drunk" when she was a teenager and, quite frankly, it disgusted her.  She blamed her mother's sister Mae, who had been a flapper as a teen-ager in the 1920s, as being a bad influence on her parents,  tempting them to drink.  Alana didn't always have the most sympathetic nature.  She couldn't see and didn't care that they were trying to have fun to counterbalance their hard, working class lives.  The upwardly mobile Alana and her precocious little brother, Billy, had agreed in childhood to stand together against their intelligent, but rather coarse parents.  They particularly stood united against their father, an Irish American salesman.  Of the two children, he favored Alana and mocked Billy, who was his wife's favorite.  But just because he favored Alana didn't mean he was easy on her, far from it.  She was a very good student, but if she got an A grade in one class, he said she should have gotten an A+.  Nothing she did was ever good enough.  She found too quickly, that she didn't like her father.  Not only was he outspokenly racist and bigoted, he was clever at it and seemed to enjoy cutting her and her brother down to size, too.

She had chosen Aidan to be her husband because he was nothing like her father.  Yes, Aidan drank too much at parties, but the rest of the time he was smart, smarter than her father, and cultured and upwardly mobile like herself.  She had been introduced to him by a mutual friend around the time that Aidan was graduating from Columbia Law School.  He was handsome and this meant a lot to Alana, who was hyper critical of her own looks.  Physically, to her great dismay, she took after her father who had a large head, short neck, a beaked nose and a short waist.  Then again, Alana had thick auburn hair, attractive grey/green eyes, shapely hands, arms and legs and she was slim.  She learned to dress to her best advantage.  Like her father, she had an eye for fine clothes and shoes and was willing to part with a chunk of what income she earned in order to get them.  As a child during The Great Depression, her mother had made nearly all of Alana's and Billy's clothes.  So naturally, Alana wanted fine store bought clothes, the kind she saw and envied on other little girls in school.  By the time she was a teenager, she knew she wanted all those material things she had been denied growing up.  Aidan was the first man who had showed the promise of being able to provide for her on a big scale.  She didn't think she could go wrong marrying a lawyer fresh out of law school, especially Columbia Law School, which was one of the finest law schools in the country.


That's as far as I got today.  I'm finding that fictionalizing the members of my family is liberating, even though I'm still doing a lot of telling and not showing.  It doesn't matter at this stage.  The most important thing is to get the words down on the page.  But I do want to learn how to write a small, self-contained story and this example is not of that.  This example is the very early stages of an autobiographical novel.  Lately I've been reading a few short stories by women, two by Grace Paley, one by Amy Hempel and one by Sallie Bingham.  All of them were weird and disturbing and they worked.  The writing I've done here is much plainer and linear going from A to B to C, and that is because I am a novice.  And as a novice I have a lot of reading to do and luckily I have tons of short stories to read by both sexes.  So I am hopeful that by reading a lot and practicing myself that I will begin to get the hang of writing a story, beginning, middle and end.  As I go along I will write about what I've been reading, especially about what writers have to say about the writing process.  Maybe you can comment on the conclusions I come to or share some of your own insights.  

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