Like a satisfying story, the journey to selfhood often entails working through conflict. Sometimes, it’s only through opposition that we begin to discover our own values and beliefs. This can be frustrating to witness in others, especially those for whom we’re responsible: think of the tantrumming toddler or the belligerent adolescent. But, while others can guide, prompt and set boundaries to prevent us harming ourselves or others, we must all forge our own paths to the someone we become.
But now they’re together in a book, can they collectively illustrate the process of becoming someone? Sara-Jayne Slack, my publisher and editor at Inspired Quill, hit on the bright idea of arranging the stories in order of the central character’s increasing confidence with who they are. So, after a fair amount of back and forth, the collection begins with a struggling teenage mother and ends with a widow marking her husband’s passing in style. Despite the mix of metaphors with roadblocks, diverted paths and spinning signposts in the middle, there’s a progression from characters stranded in the dark to emerging into the light. I hope this works for readers.
My character Diana goes through a similar process my debut novel, Sugar and Snails. Although she seemed to grasp her desired identity in adolescence, it takes her another thirty years to feel comfortable in her skin. If you haven’t yet read her story, you’re in luck, as it’s on Kindle promotion throughout this month. (As her outrageous blue fascinator declares!)
Immersed in pre-publication fever, it’s both a relief and a challenge to switch to fiction. I can’t stretch much further than 99-word stories at the moment, and even for them it takes a long walk for inspiration to take root. Yesterday’s low cloud kept me from the moors (so no bolving) but I managed to find a couple of stories.
With the last of the Rodeo contests a couple more days to run, I struggled. Courting danger has never been part of my identity, and there’s little to connect me to the mindset of anyone who would. But I found a seed in an earlier challenge and I’ll submit my puny plant to the judges later today before it withers away.
As soon as November struck, Charli launched a new season of challenges. With fireworks bursting on the horizon as I drafted this post, the cue was too colourful – and noisy – to ignore. But what to do with the theme of bonfire night? My thoughts eventually settled on an identity I haven’t attempted to capture in my anthology, although a couple of characters come quite close.
Rainbow sequins burst onto a velveteen sky. With every screech and bang of the lightshow’s soundtrack, she feels him flinch. People scowl: his barks and yelps foul their outdoor entertainment. She grips his collar, strokes his head.
In the before, they baked potatoes in the embers, her brother’s boxer snug in his basket beneath the stairs.
Only one more night before the park’s returned to her and him and others like them. Pitch and peace from sunset to sunrise. Until Christmas. Hopefully, they’ll be bedded down in a shelter then. When another batch of fireworks explodes in the sky.