Confused identity

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An emergence from tragedy

This is the first of my reviews of self-published or very small press fiction. In fact, it is not to be published for another few weeks, but I think you will want to put this on your wishlist.

I read Tracey Scott-Townsend’s first book, The Last Time I saw Marion, and was impressed by the quality of writing and unique storyline. When I received Another Rebecca I wondered if the quality would remain, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The title suggests that we are in for a retake at Manderley, but no. This is not a Du Maurier sequel. The other Rebecca is a reformation of her mother, who has the same name. She now calls herself Bex to differentiate from the girl she once was, and sadly, is no more.

The novel opens on a dreamy sequence that is a time slip. Rebecca flits from hospital into a fantastic and erotic adventure, but it doesn’t last long. When we return to the present time, it is clear why Rebecca needs (and deserves) to escape reality.

She lives in a miserable and increasingly crisis-laden home, abandoned by father, caring for an alcoholic mother.

There are three voices: the girl, Rebecca, her mother, Bex and Jack, her seemingly errant father. The language is similar for the two parents, whereas Rebecca has gained more education and maturity despite being a young person.

The alcoholic mother whinges her way to disaster, yet in the chapters in her voice we find the remains of what could have been a nice person. The disgusting state she has got herself into isn’t minimized but the background story, built up slowly, shows her jagged path to destruction.

This author is skilled at setting a conflict from which the story can flow. We soon learn that Jack is caught up in a no-win situation that was caused by his kindness, not his neglect. It is easy to sympathise with his position, torn between competing emotional forces.

Our identification is with the Rebecca whose future is before her. The mystery surrounds and is a part of her, interacting with the art that inspires and possesses her.

As the narrative progresses, it becomes more complex and the fantasy Rebecca began with permeates the theme in a new way. The significance of the title comes into its own. Finally, the tangled threads of these three characters’ story reach their conclusion, making for a thoroughly satisfying read.

This is a thoughtful, well-structured novel with good characterisation. The life-style and thought-processes of the alcoholic are credible, as is the good-heartedness, yet ineffectiveness of the husband. Scott-Townsend has not made the mistake of painting her characters black and white. The positives and weaknesses are carefully revealed.

There are some lyrical descriptions of scenes that add to the pleasure of reading this interesting story. It should please readers of fantasy as well as those who enjoy tales of family conflict.

 

THE SECOND THIRD. Writing a psychological drama.

ONE THIRD THROUGH in the process of writing this novel, I thought I’d share something of the process.

There seem to be two approaches to writing a novel: the planned and the unfolding. I so admire, no, emulate, the well-organised planned way, but I’ve consistently failed in my attempts. You can’t write against your nature.  I’m disorganised, I don’t often make notes in my specially bought Moleskin, I’ve never kept a diary. The calendar is not up to date – if indeed I have one this year. It isn’t something I’d buy. If I get given one, even if it’s covered with garage repair adverts and no pictures, I’ll use it. A bit.

Therefore, it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m an unfolder.  I start, and the plot unfolds gradually according to the characters’ nature. I comfort myself that this messy method is in tune with character-led writing. Since my characters have dominated me from an early stage in my Me-Time blog (http://fictionalcharacterswriting.blogspot.com)   I do trust on or other of any newly created ones to direct the turn of events in my novels.

I’ll discuss the novel I’m writing now –  ‘Speechless’.                                                                       Notes about this cover in another post.

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I call it a psychological drama rather than thriller because no-one is murdered. There is some mystery over whether there is in fact a baddie lurking beneath one of the well-behaved personas inhabiting the drama.

My beginning was the idea of an unexpected behaviour in a normal child. The environment is that of a comfortable, stable, supportive family. The child’s behaviour causes concern, then confusion, then external investigation, and lastly, internal investigation. I don’t enjoy fantasy – I have to believe. Therefore, the aim of my novels is always for the reader to feel it could happen to anyone.

The next step was to start and develop each of the characters. There is a father, mother, older brother, grandparents. The way each of these decided to unfold in relation to the shadowy main character determined the first few chapters.

The central problem has to cause a series of new events.  These involve secondary characters. I’m not sure how far I will let these intrude, or whether they will allow me much of a say in this.

Planning ahead? I always know what the next chapter will be when I finish one. I do know the ending. It mustn’t be predictable, but it must be believable, so I have thought this out. I probably did this by the end of Chapter Three.

Now I’ve reached the point of writing in tertiary characters. The parents need to discuss their problem with friends. They are going to do this at a dinner. It’s a tradition that this group meet up monthly. I know that the help is not going to be helpful. Other than that I don’t know yet how the conversation will go.  I do enjoy writing dialogue (perhaps that’s why I like the retort style of Twitter rather than report style of LinkedIn). The dialogue will happen (unfold) of its own accord because of the nature of each friend.

For that reason, I have written a brief biography for these people. I need to know how and when they met the parents, what their work is and sufficient about their individual experience to colour their reaction, comment and advice to the troubled parents.

Perhaps I will write an update to the process of writing this novel at a later stage. For now, I must off and prepare the dinner the eleven characters are about to sit down to. Their reserved table at the Soft Swan is already laid.