Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Narrative Switch

A long time ago I used to write plays. I worked with a director who frankly drove me nuts. So much so that I swore never to have anything to do with drama again. But she did teach me one or two things. One of them was the importance of transformation.

She liked to create moments when an unremarkable prop metamorphosized into something utterly different. I wrote a play set in a shop that sold wedding dresses run by a woman who was losing her mind. I remember how the wedding dresses that were draped around the stage became bizarre spectral objects when the lighting was suddenly changed.

I like to see the same thing happen in prose. A switch is flicked in the narrative and everything becomes possible. Like stepping into a wardrobe in an empty room and emerging in a snow-covered landscape.

When I was a child I had a recurring nightmare in which I awoke in the night feeling hungry or thirsty and got out of bed to go downstairs. Half way down, I leaned over the bannister and peered along the hall into the living room where my mother was intent on ironing and my father was sitting in an armchair reading the newspaper. Then suddenly my father put down the paper and my mother looked up from her ironing and they weren’t my parents at all. They were monsters who snarled hideously and rushed to devour me. I ran as fast as I could but the stairs seemed to go on forever.

That’s what I’m looking for in the story I’m currently working on – a moment of transformation after which nothing is ever the same. And in doing so I have come to realise that I have been negotiating such moments all my life.


Sue Hyams said...

Good grief! What a terrifying dream! I much prefer the lovely Narnia moment of transformation. Good post and has given me a lot to think about.

Brian Keaney said...

Well that was my childhood for you. Good to hear from you, Sue.