Sunday, 2 August 2015

Writing, Rituximab & a Japanese film about death

Three pieces on writing I have recently enjoyed:

An interview with Janice Galloway, who has a new collection of short stories out. Speaking about the blurring of memoir and fiction, she says: 'It’s all stories, as far as I’m concerned and your job is to tell the story interestingly and not be dull.'

I agree with her wholeheartedly.

Here, writer Fiona Melrose on how a Caravaggio painting she loves makes her think about story and construct: 'Someone central in your story has to want something that drives some sort of journey, even if the thing they want the most is to stop everything from changing.'

I think that's an interesting point. Writers learn early on their main character has to want something - I remember reading years ago that your character has to really want something, even if it's just a glass of water - but wanting things not to change is often a driving force in real life, so of course applies to fictional characters.

And a very interesting essay on ethnicity and writing - should ethnicity limit what a writer can write? - from  Susan Barker, who describes herself as 'British — mixed-race English and Chinese, but linguistically and culturally British'. I too am British, a Scottish mother and Pakistani father, and I certainly feel culturally and linguistically Scottish. 

I've been thinking recently that Helen Fleet my main character in 'The State of Me' is white, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't be. My novel is about illness, not race. Writing Caucasian characters is natural to me, whereas writing Asian characters is harder as I did not have much Asian influence in my childhood. I am less confident with Asian characters, but that does not mean I should not write them. After all,  fiction-writing is pretending to be someone else. And I am in the slow process. 

I tried to say more about this in the comment thread of an excellent blog post about diversity and fiction  back in June by Nikesh Shukla.

Going back to Susan Barker's essay, she says: 'In a best case scenario, what should determine the legitimacy of fiction is the writing itself, and though this is not always the case, fiction writers should not be deterred from writing from other cultural perspectives.'

Indeed, it's the writing, always the writing.

Also, good news on Rituximab last month, phase 2 of the Norwegian drug trial was published. I feel cautiously optimistic. Just so gratifying to see actual science in progress, after decades of buffoonery.

And I highly recommend this Japanese film from 2009, 'Departures', a gorgeous film about death.

No comments: