Today I finished a new short story I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks: ‘The Electric Fence’. This will be my submission to this year’s Elizabeth Jolley prize. It’s the first short story I’ve done since ‘The Signal Box’, a year ago.
This story, I think, continues a style I found in The Signal Box. I’ve had a feeling I’m starting to find my ‘voice’, whatever that is. A style or kind of story that feels like mine; like I’m no-longer just doing my version of what someone else does. That’s probably been a big part of the journey over the past three years, so its good to feel like I’m arriving at that point.
Like The Signal Box, The Electric Fence can probably be read as a sort of allegory. Neither story is concerned with the time or place in which its events are set. There are also, I think, clear themes of occupation, entrapment and escape. Developing on from The Signal Box though, I think this one is more minimal. Also, it’s way less dark than The Signal Box, which for me is a refreshing development.
My next plan is to get back into ‘The Worm’, and write chapter 8. I also have an idea for continuing two earlier experimental stories: ‘Get Away’ and ‘Forever’ by tying them together in another sort of experiment. This would be a departure from the style I’ve been exploring and discussing above, but it’s an experiment that interests me. The working title for this latter work is: ‘Europa’.
… with a word count of 30,657. The structural constraint of 5,000 words per chapter, to which I’ve been trying to adhere, seems to have been working. Chapter 6 does not contain any scenes featuring Viktor and Eva. It is the first chapter from which they are completely absent. Following the catastrophic event that concluded chapter 5, I wanted to build, in the mind of the reader, a sense of curiosity about what happened to them; where they went; what they’ve been doing. At the same time there was a need to shape the events other characters are involved in, in preparation for upcoming planned plot points. In Chapter 7 Viktor and Eva will reenter the story, and much of the chapter will be about the development of their relationship. An important new character will also be introduced, who (finally) forms the bridge to some of Eva’s past.
I’ve been reading John Trulby’s book: The Anatomy of Story – a great read for anyone trying to write fiction. In New Zealand I read, with great interest, the section on symbols. And reading this, I realised that I’ve instinctively stumbled on some symbolism in my story. I’m thinking here of Eva’s mother’s juggling balls, and what happens to them, how they fall into the hands of some of the men in the story that are competing for her attention. Its interesting to me that even when simply following blind instinct, you can sometimes produce story elements that have legitimate, or theoretical value.
Last night, while walking my dogs, I was listening through my headphones to an old lecture by Pema Chodron , in which she described a Tibetan Buddhist approach to ego, or the “The well-fortified ego”, by which she means an ego that is meant to provide protection from the world at large, but instead makes a prisoner of the soul who possesses it. The kind of ego that could benefit from some opening up; some “ventilation”; some curiosity about other systems; other world concepts; other views of the universe, and my ears pricked up, because of the direct fit between this concept and the basic premise of my planned story: “The Electric Fence”. Its amazing sometimes, just how providential life can be.
I finished Greener Pastures last night, and sent it off today. It’s my entry for the Noosa Arts Theatre National One Act Playwriting Competition. I also entered in 2014 and 2015. Neither of those entries were shortlisted. When I started writing my first entry: “Final Performance” in 2014, I had the idea that I would do a play each year for 3 consecutive years. I think really the point of this activity has been for me to try and learn something about writing plays. Have I learned anything? Well, I think Greener Pastures is probably the best of the three. I was never sure which of the previous two was better, but I’m pretty happy with this latest one. It has, I think, two pretty engaging, pretty interesting, believable and relatable lead characters in Satya and Verity. I had a similar mutual-outsider vibe happening with Io and Hermes in my 2015 Story: “A God From The Machine”. I think Greener Pastures also has some rich themes weaving through it, and I think its a decent little yarn. So, we’ll see. The judging process is pretty long. I think for last year’s competition, I didn’t find out I’d missed the shortlist ‘till some time in January.
Next things… well, I’ll be getting back into The Worm. Chapter 6 awaits, in which poor Viktor and Eva spiral ever deeper into the existential abyss. I also have the beginnings of an idea for a short story, which I think is pretty interesting. It’s another sort of allegory, along similar stylistic lines to The Signal Box. I’m not sure if I might have already mentioned it on this blog, but anyway… It’s called “The Electric Fence”. Also, I have some interest in doing a non-fiction piece to be titled: “The Speaking Clock”. This would be about Pat Simmons, the voice of the United Kingdom’s telephone system, Speaking Clock from 1963 to 1985. There are some pretty interesting facets to this story and I think it might be worth writing, but there’s quite a bit of research required, including writing to some people who might not want to be bothered.
Probably my most pressing creative commitment now, however, is to complete the soundtrack for Phoebe’s animated film, which I have another 2 or 3 weeks to do. Then, at the start of November I’m heading to New Zealand with Brian for a week, to hike Milford Sound. So, busy as usual, and plenty to look forward to!