An article I was reading (A Very Particular Risk: Aimee Bender on Jane Campion and Kazuo Ishiguro) helped me to reflect on how I create and construct my characters, and to think about what how these individuals are represented to my readers. It was a specific phrase in the article, “to make contact with mystery,” that prompted this reflection.
The world space I inhabit in my writing is the suburban, the contemporary, the plebian and mundane, and in that world space, I look for the mystery of the life of the person I am writing about.
When I am writing I want to know who they are and what formed them. I then ask how this knowledge informs the moment I am exploring in a current work in progress. It allows me to consider who they are, the language they choose to connect with other characters, what they hide or reveal. I question how the rest of their life may play out based on this knowledge, to consider for the work in progress what will change, if anything. Can they change themselves or are they destined to become part of a repeating pattern where the returns do not diminish but exponentially affect the future generations?
This is the mystery I come into contact with, and it is my hope that the reader will also come into contact with the same mystery. The unnamed characters in “Mount Pleasant” were created from that sense of mystery, to find a point of contact for the reader to identify with the character whether it was in the sense of identity found in a school uniform, or making sense of who you are as the main financial source for the family, or the ripple of domestic abuse.
A reader sent me a message to tell me of their favourite story, “Time Away,” and how it resonated with him. It was the relatability of the moment for him, seeing perhaps himself in the story. He made contact with the mystery.
Characters in stories are representations of real life. Dramatic constructions used as a puppet to examine the mysteries of life, to somehow make sense of ourselves and the world around us.
And in all of this, what dignity do I give my characters? I believe there is a dignity in their humanity, regardless of what they have done, or who they have become. We all have our pasts. As do my characters. What they were, who they were, becomes for me a question of who are they now, and what do they become?
It has given me pause to think over the current short story I am working on, and what I want my reader to take away from the story.
We read to make contact with the mystery of the lives of imaginary characters but in whom we see parts of ourselves and it helps us unlock a little more of the mystery of who we are.
Other titles from The JAR Writers Collective