Monday, 2 February 2009

When The Bone Breaks

As I looked out of the window this morning at the canopy of snow that covered my garden, elmiminating almost every distinctive feature, it occurred to me that the most important part of my novel might also be in danger of disappearing beneath the thickly accumulating narrative.

As I’ve mentioned before, when my youngest daughter was being born I had a broken ankle and was forced to hover around the delivery room on crutches. This situation came about because the brakes on my car needed fixing and I was too poor to take it to the garage. So I was trying to fix it myself.

I had jacked it up and taken off one of the front wheels. But as I worked, the car became unstable. Realising that it was about to topple towards me, I put my foot against the bodywork, in a futile attempt to steady it. Of course it was much too heavy to be held in place like this and simply continued to topple forwards, bending my foot backwards until, with a sickening crunch, I felt the bone crack.

In every novel there is always a moment when the bone breaks, when a character’s eyes are opened, the truth becomes inescapably clear and events are changed irrevocably. Everything that happens afterwards is a direct result of that moment and though the bone may be mended, the memory of the fracture is imprinted on the character’s history.

It is with this moment that a novel generally begins in my head. The rest of the plot develops around it. This is true even if the story is light hearted and comical, even if it is a story about the birth of a child to two proud and happy parents. At some point the hero of the story must limp painfully into the kitchen, look white-faced and sheepishly at his wife, then order a taxi to take him to the hospital.

2 comments:

Paul Lamb said...

I've been thinking about this kind of thing a lot lately. I imagine there must be some point in the race when the runner knows he's not going to win. He may have had the chance, and he ran the race despite the odds, but the epiphany when it comes, must eat out the heart. And then what? He finishes the race and finds what satisfaction he can from having tried. But there's still that lingering instant of knowledge.

Foxi Rosie said...

Brian you have painted this moment with the brushstrokes of a master.