Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Can you define yourself?

I was trying to explain to myself how my son would explain me to his son. No one explained anyone to me, but is that a good idea? As a writer I think not. As a human I'm rather glad I stayed in the dark about so many things. I was and am naive, but you can't explain that to a grandson, after all, and who knows that apart from me? I could prove it, but maybe I was just careless or stupid from an outsider perspective.

So what about my nearest (and sometimes dearest)? Would explaining rather than just describing them help? How many people cope with relatives (in particular) and force themselves to live with them because they avoid explaining them to themselves? What are the motives of a mother bullying her child into doing this or that (you see it every day at the supermarket). Mothers push and shove their children all the time. I don't know what percentage of fathers (should they even be available) abuse and misuse their offspring, but it happens in the "best of families" and is often enough condoned by onlookers/insiders.

So how would I explain my own father? Gentle, kind, generous and terminally ill for 14 years, there being no cure for his TB. And my mother? Bitter, sad, permanently grieving and often resentful are words that occur to me. My brother had me as a sister and that was unfortunate for him. I was, on reflection, quite a nasty little girl, yearning for praise and attention, ambitious to go on the stage my mother defined as "sinful" and not suitable for young ladies. Well over half a century later I am bound to judge myself as egoistic in those days, since no one bothered much about the real me as long as I functioned - but how else can you cope with life if you are not egoistic? Later I dropped that habit and it was to my disadvantage...and that is an understatement.

I used to define people as takers or givers, being married for much too long to a taker who built his life on that concept. I always thought I was a giver, but lately I've been on the taking side and that is maybe the clue to my own life, which I do not propose to explain further here as this is not a confessional, but an attempt to explore the inner character and motives of anyone you care to name and in my case those who appear in my novels.

Writing stories for my grandson, I notice that I have to leave out the inner construct of characters in order to retain childishness. I am not a children's author. I ask too many questions. Does that explain why fairy tales are gripping for children? Is that why they can believe in Santa Claus? Ha! Children believe in Santa firstly because their elders pretend to, secondly because believing goes with getting presents, and thirdly to please parents long after a child has realized that there can't be a Santa, after all. The same thing applies to me for religion. It's nice if you can get it (believe in it and you will go to heaven!)!!!! But there is no god behind the clouds, the wind or even a relic in a temple or church built to house the myth. There is no hell except the one we make for ourself or one that is forced upon us while we are alive. Painters and writers have tried to make the elements of hell and heaven, god and gods, come alive. Inexplicable, the naivity that must go along with believing in fairy tales of any genre...

So why all this junk about explaining? Because writing a new novel and revising those that have gone before, I find I am increasingly faced with the question of "why?" (motive). My characters are many and various. In one of my books, my private sleuth heroine states that you cannot spot a criminal by just looking at him or her. It's what going on in the brain that counts. Do we know anything about anyone, then? Do I know that none of my neighbours is a killer, sadist, terrorist, thief etc... What will happen when robots start to think? Will they wipe out humanity because they are evil (programmed by potentially evil persons who may be using them as instruments of evil?) or because humanity itself is evil and at the end of its life-span?

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