Sunday, June 10, 2007

Something is Illuminated (but I may be mistaken)

Somebody has to do it I suppose, the night watch, but I am hoping this is going to be a temporary run. Knives in the head is not a good feeling to wake up to, well nothing much is at three in the morning. Then, when I’m properly awake, it’s the usual routine: tea, toast, cigarette, trip over cat, read, brood, have illuminating thoughts which I should really write down and turn into a book. I suspect, though, that the Illuminating Thoughts of a Temporary Insomniac might turn out to be the kind of thing that you think is quite brilliant when you are in the process of writing and high on something – and when you take a sober look at it the next morning you find that all you have done is write your name or I love Marmite over and over.

But still, I feel moved to share: I have decided to ditch the Doppelganger woman I have been carrying around as main character in the Thing that I have been sporadically working on. I haven’t killed her off, just replaced her with someone I would rather work with who isn’t quite so much like me in the details. We had no contract so I can do what I want. Characters have no rights – well, this one hadn’t really been around long enough to assert them. I think it was the Australian writer Kate Grenville who said that you didn’t have to like your characters but you had to love them, allow for human complexity, give them respect. I don’t think that this was going to happen with Doppelganger. I say she was like me, but she was a less interesting version, to my mind; and obviously it's my mind that matters as I was writing her, not the other way round (just saying, though I will have to eat my words if I discover that she is the real author and I'm just a figment of her imagination). I liked her enough, but I was never going to love her.

This new one is a different kettle of fish. She likes, for example, shopping, and would never wear something without a name – and not just any name. Even knickers have to come in a perfumed bag from La Senza. Bigger things are Fiorucci, Chloe, Diesel, shoes by Prada. She feels it says something about her, the names she wears (don’t be expecting complexity just now – trust me, it will unfold). Some people will know where I stand with shopping. I am Pricerite and Heart Foundation and do not know anyone who cares as little about brand name as I do and means it*. My pale blue Adidas shell suit which came to me new, was one of the few branded items I have possessed, a gift in the eighties when they were briefly fashionable. I wore it for over ten years (it improved with age, took on a strange, crushed elegance) until the shiny fabric began to crumble. I become attached to my old clothes and wear them until they fall from me of their own accord. It is the reverse with her: once a garment has become part of her, loses the pristine, just-bought, never-been-touched smell of the shop she begins to itch for something else. She has deep cupboards filled with names, all neatly folded, reeking faintly of Shalimar and Donna Karan’s “Mist”. If we went for coffee together we would laugh about all this and secretly feel sorry for each other.

Anyway. These are notes for myself really, the shopping isn’t going to come into it, I’m just saying that she is different – though I am lending her a number of things from my life. The thing is I know her, we have met before. She is a character from something I was writing a few years ago and when she knocked and asked for the part I gave it to her at once because we work together well and she has not really been properly put to the test as we all must be at one time or another, if we can bear it. She seems to be asking for this and I have more confidence in her than in Doppelganger - though of course one can never be sure. The idea has been hovering for the past day or so.

When I spoke about illuminating thoughts, I didn’t necessarily mean for you, dear reader who has read this far and may be expecting something more in the way of epiphany and revelation. I’m just doing the night watch, mulling, thanks for listening. Hope your night was unbroken.

*with the possible exception of Ms Pants - who is currently profiled on Normblog.


cusp said...

Well thank you. I did have an unbroken night's sleep: still feel shattered but that's par for the course.

Oh I like the sound of 'her inside (as in 'inside yer head' as opposed to 'inside yer house'). Not that I'd have anything in common with her as I hate labels, hate branding and wouldn't wear anything with a monogram or insignia if you promised me a months supply of one of those poncy 'plated-up-bring-to-your-door organic diet wotsits'. ( I expect your new 'friend' would like that though.

Still I do think this new woman has a certain 'je ne sais quoi' and more mileage. Would she peruse The Lanes ? a unique boutique ?

Oh all right. I won't prod and pry. I know you want her simmering in your creative pot until she spills over onto the literary hob.

Glad someone else values Pricerite and the Heart Foundation. I've been shopping in Primark since it was a skanky bargain basement eschewed by fashion editors and I always love a Cancer Charity bargain --- used to like Oxfam, but the one here now smells of cats and old socks and is staffed by semi-comatose over 80s with a penchant for local gossip over serving, so I give but don't buy now.

NMJ said...

hey signs, i have a pale blue 'miniature' puma sports handbag that would match your adidas outfit - i got it in italy for about 5 euros a few years ago.

your new character sounds interesting . . . one thing i like to think about my characters is: what are they most afraid of? i read this somewhere & have never forgotten it.

i have never owned designer clothing, though i do love clothes . . .& i stopped buying second-hand clothes when i got flea bites from a dress, though i still love to browse, & i give a lot of stuff to the many charity stores nearby.

i once saw a woman in front of me at the bank wearing a green benetton coat identical to the one i had donated a few weeks before, it was six years old so i didn't think it could be her coat, too much of a coincidence that we would own the same coat, i was convinced she was wearing my coat, so i asked her if she'd got it in oxfam & she laughed because it was her own coat that she too had had for six years . . .

hope the shingles are easing & the knives in head don't hang around


Reading the Signs said...

Hi cusp, I've probably made her sound shallow and me kind of holier-than-thou because of the shopping - but there is more to "us" than that. There better be (and we both like the Lanes), though I don't buy anything.

Come to think of it, I don't even do Oxfam any more. I'm a shopping phobe.

Hi nmj, I donated a coat to a local jumble sale and knew the woman who bought it and wore it for several years after. I never told her it had been mine - village life can be a bit precarious.

Yes, what are they most afraid of, or where are they vulnerable? Particularly in characters that appear on the surface to be quite obnoxious. Not that this one is - but she is, as yet, kind of "virgin", not literally, but hasn't had her heart stretched yet.

Anonymous said...

Signs, I'd love to read "the Illuminating Thoughts of a Temporary Insomniac" and giggled that it "might turn out to be the kind of thing that you think is quite brilliant when you are in the process of writing and high on something – and when you take a sober look at it the next morning you find that all you have done is write your name or I love Marmite over and over." That was quite funny.

I like the idea of pushing yourself. Obviously, any character you write has a bit of you in her/him since her/his train of thought, ultimately, is yours. But I love the pushing of yourself to write someone whom you don't necessarily like. Whom deep down you love, but who is very much different than you.

Any post from you, good Signs, is illuminating.

Reading the Signs said...

Lovely goodthomas (I was going to say good, but you already have that in your name), thanks again for the warm response.

One does hear these true stories of people who take some substance or other and then go to sit an exam, think they are writing a complete masterpiece and later discover they have simply written their name over and over. Of course you could say that a perceptive reader would know how to read between the lines.

Anna MR said...

Dear Signs, you seem to be back on the fags again. I don't know whether to congratulate or commiserate. They are bloody lovely, aren't they - the way they cure, or at least ease, everything.

Here's hoping The New Woman is a success, and that you get a decent night's sleep soon. I, for one, am popping out onto the balcony for a quick ciggie.


PS You do have the hardest word ver's in Blogdom. Eight letters, and the first one never works. This may or may not be a sign, or possibly, something to do with That Dr...

Reading the Signs said...

arghh! I thought I'd slipped that in without anyone noticing. I look at it this way: I seem to be smoking the odd (well ok a bit more)cig again. But I am not a smoker (a mantra I repeat). It is a blip. Bloody lovely, but -

I might ditch the damn word ver - I don't want to have the worst one in Blogdom, dammit.

Ms Melancholy said...

I love that idea of the night watch. It is my favourite time of the day, but I guess that is only so because I don't suffer from insomnia and therefore stay up into the wee hours because I choose to. But you are right about the profound thoughts, I think. Daylight somehow makes them so much more mundane. That is one of the reasons I love to read into the night, I guess. I love hearing about your writing process, by the way. A lovely insight.

Reading the Signs said...

Hi, Ms M - nice to see you and to read this in the small hours when I am again, most unwillingly it has to be said, keeping watch. Yes, I think it may be something I will need to work with for a while until the effects of shingles ease off.

Liezl said...

I'd like to meet her Signs! I wonder how old she is... I had a very strange night of half-sleep. I'm listening to the end of The Subtle Knife audio unabridged and I'm deeply aprehensive about the scene at Alamo Gulch. I don't think I have it in me to listen to it, so instead I found myself sleepless worrying about it! Ah well. no more rambling