Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Rewriting Life

One of my favourite authors, Sarah Dessen, has said (or at least tweeted) more than once that one of the reasons she loves writing YA books is that she can write similar stories to what she's experienced, but give it a happier ending. I thought it sounded cool, but I didn't totally understand it. Now I do. In my first two novels I wrote in bits and pieces of things I'd experienced, just because it fit well or made sense. There are certain things I've gotten close to but not really delved into.

With my current work in progress, I really wanted to get into the subject of bullying. I always knew I'd be writing a lot of my own experience with that. It was my intention to really write from my own life in high school. Then other things started popping up, like the fact that my MC self-harms to deal with the constant bullying. Also, because I've watched so many of my friends over the years get into relationships with people who treat them terribly I wanted to say something about that. It's frustrating and painful to watch it happen and know that you can give all the advice in the world, but it won't change a thing. Someone close to me just lost a friend because she really couldn't bear to watch this kind of situation go on any longer. The first time I saw it happen was in high school, when my best friend got her first boyfriend and he turned out to be a horrible guy. It went on for a couple of years and I hated it. So that went into the story too.

All of these things were well planned out from the start. I was happy enough with that plan and kind of knew that other things would come up along the way. Still, what came up was unexpected. When I was seventeen, there was a big falling out within my family. Most importantly, my mum fell out with her sister, who were very close to. It was heartbreaking. We used to spend a lot of time together, but everything became very bitter. Although my aunt and I did our best to stay in contact, things couldn't be the same. After a year or so, she stopped talking to me and I still have no idea why, although I have some suspicions.

In this novel, I've written a lot of that in. The confusion my MC feels about it all, not really understanding what happened, just that things are different. I always knew I was going to have a happy ending for that subplot and when I wrote that part, it was bittersweet. Actually it fucking hurt which I hadn't expected. In real life, my aunt passed away before she and my mum made up. It was awful when my mum realised she'd lost that chance. When I was writing it, I couldn't help but wish that things had turned out better in real life.

This isn't a cheesy, Chicken Soup style, life lesson thing. Sometimes in real life endings are painful and there's no way around it. So it's one of the reasons we write, to tell the story with a better ending.

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