Contributing to the Thunderstorm


Posted by in April's Magazine

The other day I received a text message, from my husband’s phone, which had been dictated by my small son. It read: Dear Mummy, I wrote a story, love from Anthony.

I am not sure anything could have filled me with more joy, and the backs of my eyes stung with proud and delighted tears.

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You see, dear Leithers. I have defected. I have joined the other side. What’s that? I hear you cry. Gluten free? Episcopalian? Netflix? No no, nothing like that. I have switched to fiction: my first novel. And on discovering the joy of writing my story, I was thrilled to think that my wee boy, having just learned to put pen to paper, was discovering it too.

I get to buy a new lipstick every ten thousand words. I hear this was a technique deployed by Dostoyevsky when he wrote The Brothers Karamazov; he had a makeup bag bigger than Dolly Parton’s by the time he finished that. And I am enjoying it. I love hearing conversations through the pages, voices speaking, making themselves heard. It’s a bit like taking minutes, you watch it all happen and just have to try and write it down as fast as you can.

And the writing grounds me, ties me to this place, this community. With fingerless gloves and a warm jacket I take my laptop to a bench by The Shore and write a scene set on that very bench by the shore. I climb Calton Hill, look out over the city I love, and create conversations against the backdrop of that very view.

And I am enjoying working on a kind of request basis too. Friends drop in characters and incidents they would like to see included: this is very much a communal project. I floated a request on Facebook the other day for the surname of my villain. I asked for something posh, ideally Scottish. I got MacBastard. Not quite subtle enough, I thought. We writers are supposed to ‘show rather than tell’ after all.

I do have a rationale. You see, some things can only come out in stories. The good and the important and the true can’t always find an outlet in straight prose. Real life, and the bits that really matter to us, happens in the bits we are not supposed to talk about. It happens in looks, in touch. It’s in the pauses between the words as much as the words themselves, the tone of voice, in eye contact, in secret smiles and wounded stares.
Our relationship to our own stories is fascinating. If you get me just the right amount of pissed there is a stage in the evening where I will always start telling you about the obscure Bhutanese film that changed my life. It’s a film that changed my life that I haven’t actually even seen. But I heard a lady speak about it at a conference once. She had gone to Bhutan to make a film. There was a local legend about a mountain that it was impossible to climb, and in her film a man was going to climb it. “That is so typical.” The local people said to her. “Where you come from, a film or a story always has to be about a central character achieving something, overcoming an obstacle. That’s how narrative works for you. For us here, things are more interlinked. Every action and event is part of the whole. And in Bhutan, crucially, you don’t have a dream, the dream dreams you.”
The filmmaker had been inspired by this to change the way she made the film. Less grand narrative, more butterfly effect. And on hearing her speak about it, maybe ten or twelve years ago now, I resolved to step back a little bit, to let the dream dream me for a while.

But sometimes I wonder if I stepped a bit too far. Maybe a lot of us did. Yes, ours is a culture of grand narratives, and those who have told stories have placed their own powerful voices at the centre of them. But what of the rest of us, where do we cast ourselves? Do we cameo as victims, as oppressed, as entirely passive? Are we always ‘done to’? Do we not have wings to flap too, can we not contribute to the thunderstorm?

I think so. I, for one, am bored of cameo-ing. So I have stepped into my own story. I’m going to own it, baby. It took a bit of finding, but now I am going to hold on to it, give it the voice it deserves, let its playful spirit do as it will. Rediscover that magic my son felt, so that one day soon I can send a message saying ‘Dear Anthony, I wrote a story, love from Mummy’.

2 responses to “Contributing to the Thunderstorm”

  1. Vicente Borba says:

    There are some points in your story where you should give more attention and improve them. Overall the whole plot of the story and story itself are good. As a experienced writer of rushassay I appreciate your hardwork and the post as well

  2. KevinManheaven says:

    This website is nice. If you don't know you yet, you could actually earn money with hard work through school. Studysoup pays students just by taking notes in class for up to700 dollars per course.If you are interested, here is their website: https://studysoup.com/
    I have earned 500 dollars last semester and could have been more if I worked hard:)

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