A Year of Writing: Days 91-100

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Day 91 of #ayearofwriting and I wonder how the church in the story collects alms. Then there it is, a piece of social history, the knocker upper. For those you unaware what one is, it was someone hired to wake you up so you were not late for work in the days before alarm clocks and digital phones. Your life rested on them waking you up. Now, we have penny knockers, those coming for alms, those waking you up to take what little you have. I do like seeing how the patterns of the past, the jobs of the past, become twisted in the future to become something far beyond what it was.

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Day 92 of #ayearofwriting and there is Saul, our narrator, that is his name. There is a real legacy in this name, is this a road to Damascus moment, or does Saul no longer need to become Paul. There is too much sin in the world, too many dead for any conversion, especially when the church has been subverted by the water-men to be nothing more than a way to tax the poor which is the real reason that Henry VIII destroyed the church, all that money. History repeats. Power attracts the corrupt. There is no space for Saul to become Paul. He is fodder, not a saint. God is dead. Nature is God. Climate change is the Devil. These are terms they can understand.

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Day 93 of #ayearofwriting and something has arrived in our narrator’s past. We hear his name for the first time and see what drives them to the coast. This is what Saul remembers in his dreams:

Martha sayst we mus leave tha cottage, head east to tha river an tha ships taaking persons out of this forsaken land. God’s arse is abew us, she sayst. I tells her that it ain’t, I knaws whan it comes, I haave seen afore an it dunt feel tha same. I arsts how she knaws theer are ships, she sayst tha gud people of her village spoke of it, an they left an wheer never seen agen. I sayst, maybe tha other boggers ate them. She sayst, they allis hade a do in front of tha church whan they wheer roasting but she is unsure an does that thing whan she dunt want to talk. She turns to sum job, sumthing that needs plucking from tha soil, some cloth that needs folding, some bread kneading, keeping her hands busy an her gob shut. I duz what I allis do, I shrugs an stomps off. Giant steps, my son caals them, great big blundering feet banging on floorboards or rattling tha weeds in tha borders. I stands in tha garden, tha angelica is tall, it dances with the cow parsley across tha fence, it took us a week to build tha fence together. All this talk of ships an leaving is make believe, tha daft idea that theers cities left across tha sea is away with tha fairies. That theer are places without water-men. I stomps back in an sayst my piece to Martha as she folds our clothes from tha wash. Tha boggers in the wagons could be water-men, I sayst, out to catch anyone not doing theer bit. Martha loffs. She sayst, that’s bollocks, Saul, theer ain’t no water-men, they wheer tha first boggers to do a runner whan tha army did itself in an the high powered folk walked on water rather than face tha mobs, we all knaws tha stories. Theer are ships, she sayst, they taak women an children, they taak good men. I tells her that tha wagons will leave an she sayst, show me these wagons an I’ll tells you if they’ll leave.

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Day 94 of #ayearofwriting and often the downside of writing in vignette style is that you’re not always writing chronologically. As a writer you skip over moments, looking for the drama, finding the beats and the structure that fits the story. The old idea that a story has a beginning, middle and end is baloney to some extent. It does have a start and end but the question is always when that start should be, and when that end should be. Ends are not always satisfying, these are not fairy tales (and even those ends are deeply unsatisfying). I ask my characters, ‘How much do you want to reveal?’ Some spill their guts, their dreams, their anger but Saul as a character has always been someone who only shares the important moments. In The Tin Grasshopper he didn’t even tell us his name, it wasn’t important, and those he loved never called him by name. In this final story, he doesn’t even tell us his son’s name, he is just the boy, and I wonder why. I think Saul has forgotten the boy’s name, it has been so long since he held him. There is a real sadness there, that permeates the story. Stories do not come fully formed, sometimes the feeling does. They do not leave a writer in a state of perfection, often we feel that. If we felt they where perfect, we’d never write again. When writers talk with each other they talk about stories that feel like wading through mud to write. I look for moments to write, that means I have skipped over my narrator’s entire life because that would be wading not through mud but like flicking through a lifestyle magazine devoted to survival. Now, at his end, Saul is looking back at one key moment to show how much he loved his son, and how much he carries the memory of him with him and how that act of survival has meant that he has forgot how his wife looked, the name of his boy, leaving only the feeling that moment of loss that frames his world, one that he has survived by putting one foot in front of another, walking the world until he hopes the world will forget him.
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Day 95 of #ayearofwriting and the village lets go of reason and like all society the veneer crumbles and the madness starts.
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Day 96 of #ayearofwriting and you will obey the rules!
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Day 97 of #ayearofwriting and Martha’s betrayal of Saul is complete. She doesn’t even think about it. She drops him like a stone, takes their son and heads out east on a ship, he is left like Job upon the beach watching them leave, his feet sinking in the tide.
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Day 98 of #ayearofwriting and I have a complete draft two of of Where Late the Cicadas Sing. The structure is there, the beats, the moments I need to show but the ending is rushed and some the imagery needs weaving through. I have around 10,000 words and have lost around 6,000. I will lose more before the end is achieved. But the last remaining tree in the village is there, the villagers maypole.

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Day 99 of #ayearofwriting and I am on the third draft of my Cicada story. In a way back to the beginning as I revisit an earlier character’s voice, find the threads that have brought him hear and how the cicadas are a lament to his boy. We see in a moment that he is proud, echoes of Dylan Thomas’s Captain Cat, a blind man in a small village who is part Greek seer and part fool. Except that this is not Llareggub but the final end of all those paranoias, all those ideals of religion, of society, of what it means to be human. I owe much for the ending to mythology, and the cicadas will take him to the next world.
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Day 100 of #ayearofwriting and I just want to leave this here.

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