Tell me the truth about love…

Writing is a process. That’s kind of obvious: but the interesting thing about writing, (or any creative process), is the inevitable interaction between us, the creatives, and the work, as we move through that process.

This blog is based on one I wrote earlier (in 2013). I was moving towards the completion of a first draft, but hadn’t been able to pin down the final pages. How exactly to say au revoir to my characters, and leave my readers with that sense of both satisfaction and longing for more…

Paragraph two began: Yesterday, I completed my second editing of the draft of Baby, Baby’s follow-up: a sequel which takes Max and Jenny into the stormy waters of modern marriage, parenthood, and professional careers. I had one last scene to write, and I knew I’d been putting it off. Well, yesterday was the day after I’d completed the first draft of my latest WIP – the next book in the series… and in taking a break before plunging into first edits, I was doing some desktop tidying-up, and found this – some musings on a word we use and use and abuse daily.

Location location: Oxford, where Max and Jenny move in the second book… the science area from the University Parks

Working through the draft, there’ll be alterations to make, to bring the whole together leading to the revelations which were the goal from the beginning… With The Labyrinth Year, it’s a peaceful resolution, another labyrinth, this time on the beach.  And what got me there as now was a strong desire to have done with shuffling details and a big push towards the pre-planned finale.

But love remains central to the series’s plots, though in another way.

Writing a series, characters move on and grow. The idea was born in Cornwall, where this one ends – and moving from idea to text, early on a character called Max began as a research scientist, a charmer, slightly sinister, very ambitious, and  amoral. He soon morphed, and split. The name attached itself to a very different male protagonist. The character became John Guthrie, mostly-absent father to Jenny, the female lead. Love is at the centre of the plot: but do John and Max love Jenny? Does she love either of them? And why?

I love my family, my garden, my cats, and I love chocolate. Or rather, I love the taste and the feel when I eat chocolate. A piece of chocolate completes a meal: does love complete something?

 Is it that these guys needed/wanted Jenny, to complete themselves?

Max ‘fell’ in love with Jenny: Jenny thinks she loves Max. She was impressed, flattered, and saved from homesickness and the ignominy of doing the heel trick right before her college interview. She could disappear, in ancient, romantic, historic, drily-academic, super-scientific, audacious Cambridge, from damp, dreary, West Cornwall where nothing happens and everything remains traditional, in 1984. She truly loved him.

Sennen Beach, West Cornwall, a sunny day

Max is constrained by his religious background and culture. Taught that love is receptive, open to others, incarnated in service. Jenny begins by perceiving Max (along with Cambridge) as her saviour: she needed him! So do her hormones, her ambitions, her expectations.

But initially, he let her down…

Jenny’s stepsister Daisy meanwhile feels the world owes her: after all, when she was a small child, her mum disappeared at Glastonbury Festival, taking her love along with her. Adopted by Jenny’s middle-class, conventional, GP, mother, expected to appreciate how this women gives ‘love’, Daisy thinks her early deprivation justifies her angry feelings, and kicks against convention.

While Jenny’s dad, John Guthrie, plays with his daughter’s emotions, by giving her academic chances. Is he trying to make up for removing himself from her childhood when he divorced her mother? His clients want a baby, so much they will pay what they can’t afford, and suffer any pain and indignity of treatment. In return, when they get the baby, they love the doctor who made it happen. He receives affirmation.

 Each set of parents claim to ‘love’ their adult children, ‘want the best’ for them… and think they know what’s best. What exactly compels Max and Jenny to continue their relationship, despite parental disapproval? Raging twenty-something hormones? Rebelliousness? Is this love?

Daisy’s rebelliousness, and a gap year job at Guthrie’s research lab lead her into a situation which brings Jenny and Max back together. Though in return for being in relationship, they must both give up something they hold dear, part of themselves, part of their childhood, their upbringing.

So, all of these scenarios, involving wanting, desiring, craving, and getting, are described as driven by love.

For book two, the stage was set, the continuing the story of love. In book three (hopefully moving towards its adulthood in publication) there’s love in friendship, as their daughter Alice recalls her teenage year of first public exams and personal formation… Writing is a process, and as the song says, Tell me the truth about love…

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