Confronting the elephant in the room

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THE WRITER’S LIFE

I’m being held back a little at the moment, while I consider a particular story which I’m writing. My overall output has decreased very little and I’m busy on the background stuff, like the three books I’m writing and everything else which is ongoing with no visible, published output. I’m still churning out the latter, some of it pulp fiction and some for publication in print. The story I’m currently working on was originally a pulp fiction shocker and may well appear as such in a webzine but with further refining, it will have the required merit to be published in print. It’s the content which is proving difficult.

The story’s working title is The Elephant in the Playroom, which is both misleading and a warning in itself: I meant to do that. Now I have a literal elephant in the room. I have a scene to write which is integral to the story; it’s the whole point; it’s necessary. But I’m finding it hard to write. It’s not that I’m unable to write the scene but it is like none which I’ve written before. I’m sure the story will be pulled apart after publication and I’ll be analysed as the writer, in a deconstructive way. Deconstruction of writing and the people who write it is something I enjoy doing with my test readers and peers, especially when the focus is on me. But I’m apprehensive about this story and the pivotal scene in particular.

There is no attempt to hype here because in fact, I would rather suppress this thing. I can’t though because it’s so effective in what it does. What it does is disturb and repulse, yet compel at the same time. It’s a car crash: that classic horror writer’s tool. No matter how many literary RTCs I’ve created though, this is the one which will remain indelible. I do actually wonder if I should subject readers to it. I wonder if I might actually rather be a fatality in the scene which others witness. In a way, the story places readers in both positions.

But isn’t the point of what I do, to do it in an affecting way, in order to be effective? Aren’t I supposed to affect readers? I have limited but effective means. When compared to other media, writing is constrained by its methods of output, so the reduced tools of transmission need to be effective and make up for those which are absent. I cannot film a scene and portray it on a screen for my audience; I wouldn’t want to film the scene which I am about to write. I am unable to record the sounds of the scene for future broadcast: I would not want to be in the place where this takes place to do so. It’s an absolute shocker but not for shock’s sake. There is no gratuity of violence and very little description of what is actually going on in the scene. It’s mainly left to the readers’ imaginations: another great trick, also used by film makers.

Just because I thought it though, does that mean anyone else should be burdened by it? If I write it, am I going to be looked at by authorities other than the censors? Is this work of fiction going to be memorable for the wrong reasons? It is certainly indelible. So, should I write it? It is effective but does it go too far? I really don’t wish to glamorise it but I’m potentially writing a real nasty. Given some of the issues I’ve had with other writing, this one will almost certainly be subject to scrutiny by censors before it’s let anywhere near mainstream publishing.

I’ve matured as a writer. COGS remains a piece of which I am proud, however controversial it may be. “COGS is wrong on so many levels. It is morally wrong and utterly disturbing but beautifully written.” Although that was from my youngest daughter-type-thing, it was a sentiment shared by other people and demographics. Now that it’s my full-time job and I’m self-employed, I’m not tied or beholden by guidelines or one publisher: I’m freelance and I can explore my freedom of expression, through material and method, possibly to a commercial detriment but I’m not in it for the money. Who would be? There is very little of it. Some of what I’ve written has taken a while to pass the censors. COGS was one of the stories which got held up prior to its publication in its original form, purely because of its subject matter. In writing the story, I had only shown the reader something, leaving much to their own interpretation. That’s pretty much the best the writer can do. A lot is down to the reader but the real skill of the writer is in directing how that reader thinks.

One of my many writing hallmarks is the open-to-interpretation, multiple-meaning of my words. The scene of the story which I’m currently writing could carry this trait but it will require a lot of my skill to pull it off. It is a shocker and I worry a little about my readers’ perceptions of me, almost as much as I do my own sanity. It’s a necessary scene in a worthwhile piece, if I can write it well enough. The reactions of beta readers and censors will dictate whether the larger audience gets to see it published, in its original form. This is one story which will not work in any kind of edited form.

The completion of the work has been further held up by a succession of teenage girls needing somewhere to hang out and / or crash. I have been host to four of them over the last three days and three spent the night. Their company is always a pleasure and a teenage girl or two around the place will always add an aesthetic pleasure. They’re all good enough to understand that I have things to do nowadays, so they’re happy to sit in the savage cinema while I work in the cradle of filth, eventually crashing out with me in the latter. It’s nice to share a bed with a friend and I’m always quietly pleased that they still come to me for company and safety but for the first time in almost four days, it is a relief to be able to work without distraction. The pad is a sadder place without those girls but it will be nice to increase the average age of occupants of the bed tonight and reduce the numbers sleeping in it.

I give my bed up to attractive young ladies but I’d rather be writing.

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