Sunday, 10 May 2015

Writing - Aftermaths

An interesting subject and not a question from one child to another, ie. what have you got aftermaths! No this is about legacies.

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This last week has been dictated by aftermaths. There has been the obvious one, the fall out from the General Election and that is likely to go on for weeks.

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Then there are the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

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Victory in Europe Day must have been a colossal relief to many thousands of people at home who had loved ones in foreign lands at the end of WWII. 

There have been variety shows, parades and speeches but the most touching was probably the reading of a letter by actress Jane Horrocks.

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Horrocks, Absolutely Fabulous actress, read a letter written by Lieutenant George F Morrison of the 7th Battalion of the Royal Highlanders to be sent to his mother in the event of his death. It was written in October 1942 and was the last letter his mother Norah would ever receive from him. Before the month was out, Morrison was dead. He was one of five officers killed on the second day of battle. 
You have always been the best of mothers to me,” wrote Morrison.
Since reaching mature years I’ve tried to make up to you for all the trouble you must have had when I was smaller.
“My family is the best ever — and I know you’ll all go on and keep the colours flying, even though I’m not there to bother you any more by phone calls from obscure spots, or mad crazes after motorbikes, or any of these things which afflict the normal youth.
He added: “This is a queer letter to write — because I’ll be dead then and if you get it, I feel excessively cheery and optimistic right now and this death business doesn’t worry me in the least.
“So, if I do get one — don’t be too sad — it’s too late to be sad and I wouldn’t like it.”

Once again the power of the written word stretching across the years and written as a goodbye, does not need to be from some literary genius but from a real person, in a real state of danger expressing real emotion. Well done to Jane Horrocks I would have been in pieces trying to read the above.

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How hard would it be to write such a letter. Many baulk at the idea of producing a will possibly because of a feeling that it brings forth the dread moment. It doesn't do that of course, what it does do is bring forward the idea that dying will happen. Perhaps the demise of religion is leaving many people with an emptiness as to what happens after they've gone. There is some comfort in having faith.
We see lots of money and time spent on trying to make us all have healthier and longer lives but in fact does that come from a fear of death?
Many stories are written based upon a letter, tape or dvd left for the grieving relatives by someone expecting to be killed in some way. One such that comes to mind immediately is the Pelican Brief.

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In this superb story from the pen of the excellent John Grisham has a lawyer who finds something he shouldn't and expects to suffer as a result. He prepares a video for his wife and leaves it in a safety deposit box. When viewed it begins with the heart rending line,
'If you're watching this then I'm already dead!'
It is an emotive beginning and grabs you immediately and I think it is because the reader has a preset emotional state that is triggered by thinking there is a message from the other side of the grave, which generates a set of responses.
The fact is that legacies left by emotionally charged situations occupy a lot of human emotional time and as writers we can tap into that fact to generate interest in our work. In the Steele novels my lead character has a relationship which is a back story to some degree but which has persisted through several books. That part of Patrick Steele's life is important for him as a rounded human being and to the readers, as emotional involvement with the character. Emotional writing is not easy without empathising with the players in stories, so try and slot yourself into those shoes.

God Bless