[MA Creative Writing] The Motion of Love – Essay

MODULE: Creative Writing Research Skills 1

A portfolio of 5,000 words in total:

PART A: A creative portfolio of 3,000-4,000 words. This can comprise a short story, a chapter of a novel or a number of shorter pieces. [90%]

PART B: A self-reflexive essay of 1,000 words commenting on your creative work. [10%]


 

Part B: The Motion of Love – Critical Essay

Window Observation Exercise:

  • Choose a window in your house
  • Wake at 7am
  • Sit at the window
  • Write what you see

 

1.

The first time I looked out of the window there was nothing. A vast white space. A blank page. The only thing that I could see was my own reflection in the glass, holding open my copy of D.H. Lawrence’s Phoenix at an essay entitled Love: ‘Love is a coming together. But there can be no coming together without an equivalent going asunder […] The motion of love, like a tide, is fulfilled in this instance; there must be an ebb.’[1]

            For days, I sat looking out of the window waiting for something to happen. I felt like a young Amos Oz, a shopkeeper sitting and waiting for customers[2]. I knew that I wanted to write a coming of age story that explored this Lawrencian concept of love, and I knew that I wanted to write from the perspective of a young girl. So why hadn’t anything happened on the other side of the window? I realise now that I had started the writing process amateurly. As Flannery O’Connor states in Writing Short Stories, I was trying ‘to write about problems, not people; or abstract issues, not concrete situations’.[3] I wanted my character to raise bold philosophical questions about modern love, but I had not character at all.

 

2.

The second time I looked out of the window, I still hadn’t realised my fault. After a lecture on the ‘Modes of Narration’, I knew that I wanted to write in free indirect discourse. Barry’s distant third person narration intrigued me in To the Hills, when it occasionally entered Marie and Theresa’s patterns of speech.[4] Feeling productive, I took T.S. Eliot’s advice and began to write ‘under the influence’ of my favourite writers.[5] I fetched my copy of Sons and Lovers, studied Lawrence’s use of free indirect discourse, and began to mimic it.[6] Outside, the faint outline of a young girl began to form. She ‘descended a staircase’, a young man walked towards her, ‘her gaze had summoned his soul’.[7] I was pleased with my observations. I thought that I had reached for a Lawrencian metaphor, and had achieved it. I submitted my work for editing.

 

3.

I came out of my editing session disheartened. My feedback suggested that people preferred Amanda in the sections when she was ‘tearing down the behaviour of the people around her’, rather than in the romanticized sections that I had constructed the piece around.[8] I didn’t look out of the window for some time.

 

4.

A few weeks later I heard a banging at the window. It was Amanda. She was trying to say something to me, but her speech was muffled and unclear. Then, whilst reading James Wood’s How Fiction Works, I realised what was wrong. ‘Free indirect style’, Wood writes, ‘accentuates a problem inherent in all fictional narration: do the words these characters’ use seem the words they might use, or do they sound like the author’s?’[9] Amanda had my voice and D.H. Lawrence’s voice, but she did not have her own. I thought that I had created a ‘round’ character in Amanda, by having her play out a Lawrencian concept, but no matter how complex or philosophical the concept itself was, in constructing her around ‘a single idea or quality’, I had inevitably made her ‘flat’.[10] Amanda sat on the curb, and waited for me to make her talk.

 

5.

I paced in front of the window for hours. ‘You can still philosophise and achieve rapture in an expressive mode that is closer to your character’ Luke said, and I agreed.[11] But, as the piece was so focussed around a spiritual connection, I found it difficult to write it in simpler expression. It was not only character that I was having problems with, it was also the plot. Paul Morel in Sons and Lovers is engaging and relatable because we see him struggling against Lawrencian concepts, not because he is an incredibly self-aware individual who preaches these concepts throughout.[12] I gave Amanda a partner, and started to write about her ebbing away from and coming back to him. I tried to write romantically in an expressive mode that was not over-sentimentalized, as Luke Brown achieves through Liam in My Biggest Lie.[13] I tried to show, not tell. Outside, Amanda got up and started to move around.

 

6.

The landscape outside of the window now only lacked detail. The editing sessions helped me to recognise good elements in other people’s work, and then employ them in my own. I rewrote my opening sentence in accordance to Amrit’s ‘good storytelling’,[14] and tried to layer imagery as David had done in They Will be his Salvation.[15] I looked closely at the characterisation of Kate Meaney in What was Lost, to see how it is possible to create an observant character without always internalizing thoughts[16].  I even tried to write scenes entirely in dialogue, as Hemingway does in Hills Like White Elephants, but found that I preferred a free indirect style that explicitly acknowledges the stream of consciousness.[17]  When I did use dialogue, I tried to adhere by Henry Green’s advice of not ‘hedging [it] with explanation.’[18] I came to realise that a simpler form of expression does not mean a simpler way of writing, quite the opposite.

 

7.

‘Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.’[19]

Amanda is vivid now. I watch her as she gets on the train, meets her friends, and goes to Broad Street. Sometimes, at certain angles, or when light shines down upon my observations, I can see the subtle reflection of myself in the window, clutching a book by D.H. Lawrence.


Footnotes

[1]

[2] Shusha Guppy, “Amos Oz, The Art of Fiction No. 148”, The Paris Review, 1996 <https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1366/amos-oz-the-art-of-fiction-no-148-amos-oz&gt; [accessed 5 January 2017].

[3] Flannery O’Connor, Sally Fitzgerald and Robert Fitzgerald, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. Ed. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969), pp. 87-106.

[4] Kevin Barry, There Are Little Kingdoms, 1st edn (Minneapolis: Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2013), pp. 13-20.

[5] Donald Hall, “T. S. Eliot, The Art of Poetry No. 1”, The Paris Review, 1959 <https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4738/t-s-eliot-the-art-of-poetry-no-1-t-s-eliot&gt; [accessed 5 January 2017].

[6] D. H. Lawrence and David Trotter, Sons and Lovers, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). The specific passage that I ‘mimicked’ can be found on p.

[7] Rebecca Moore, CWRS 1 – W7 Editing (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Seven, University of Birmingham, 2016) p.5

[8]Luke Brown, Editorial Comments in Rebecca Moore. CWRS 1 – W7 Editing (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Seven, University of Birmingham, 2016) p.7

[9] James Wood, How Fiction Works, 1st edn (London: Vintage, 2009), p.22

[10] Forster, E.M. ‘Flat and Round Characters’ in Michael J Hoffman and Patrick D Murphy, Essentials of The Theory of Fiction, 1st edn (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 35-41.

[11] Luke Brown, Editorial Comments in Rebecca Moore. CWRS 1 – W7 Editing (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Seven, University of Birmingham, 2016) p.7

[12] D. H. Lawrence and David Trotter, Sons and Lovers, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

[13] Luke Brown, My Biggest Lie, 1st edn (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2014). Particularly regarding p.150 which I admired for its focus on detail as Luke stares at Sarah through the door.

[14] Amrit Singh. Edward Harris and the Old Telephone Box (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Eleven, University of Birmingham, 2016). Regarding the opening line ‘The last time […]’ on p.1

[15] David Yeats. They Will Be His Salvation (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Eleven, University of Birmingham, 2016). Particularly regarding the penultimate chapter ‘Moonlight across the forest on the far side […]’ on p.6

[16] Catherine O’Flynn, What Was Lost, 1st edn (Birmingham: Tindal Street, 2011).

[17] Ernest Hemingway. ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, in The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction, 6th ed. by Charters, Ann (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003), pp.475-478

[18] Wood, pp.161-167

[19] Flannery O’Connor, pp. 87-106


 

Bibliography

Barry, Kevin, There Are Little Kingdoms, 1st edn (Minneapolis: Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2013), pp. 13-20

Brown, Luke, My Biggest Lie, 1st edn (Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 2014)

Fernihough, Anne, The Cambridge Companion to D.H. Lawrence, 1st edn (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2001)

Guppy, Shusha, “Amos Oz, The Art of Fiction No. 148”, The Paris Review, 1996 <https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1366/amos-oz-the-art-of-fiction-no-148-amos-oz&gt; [accessed 5 January 2017]

Hall, Donald, “T. S. Eliot, The Art of Poetry No. 1”, The Paris Review, 1959 <https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4738/t-s-eliot-the-art-of-poetry-no-1-t-s-eliot&gt; [accessed 5 January 2017]

Hall, Donald, “T. S. Eliot, The Art of Poetry No. 1”, The Paris Review, 1959 <https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4738/t-s-eliot-the-art-of-poetry-no-1-t-s-eliot&gt; [accessed 5 January 2017]

Ernest Hemingway. ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, in The Story and its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction, 6th ed. by Charters, Ann (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2003), pp.475-478

Forster, E.M. ‘Flat and Round Characters’ in Hoffman, Michael J and Murphy, Patrick D. Essentials of The Theory of Fiction, 1st edn (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 35-41.

Lawrence, D. H and David Trotter, Sons and Lovers, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Moore, Rebecca, CWRS 1 – W7 Editing (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Seven, University of Birmingham, 2016) p.5

O’Connor, Flannery, Sally Fitzgerald, and Robert Fitzgerald, Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. 1st edn (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969), pp. 87-106

O’Flynn, Catherine, What Was Lost, 1st edn (Birmingham: Tindal Street, 2011)

Singh, Amrit. Edward Harris and the Old Telephone Box (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Eleven, University of Birmingham, 2016).

Wood, James, How Fiction Works, 1st edn (London: Vintage, 2009)

Yeats, David. They Will Be His Salvation (unpublished first draft of CWRS assignment for editing in Week Eleven, University of Birmingham, 2016).

 


 

Word Count: 997

Mark: 75

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s