Since completing a short story collection, The South Westerlies, for my PhD I have felt compelled to work outside my comfort zone. For years my focus has been on sense of place and the characters and plots that have grown out of my own backyard of Gower.
So I have been attempting to write a TV script dipping my toes into territories new. The result (or work in progress) is a hybrid of fact and fiction with a focus on recurrent miscarriage. It has been interesting to drive narrative solely through dialogue and directions and the experience has made me work hard to hint at back story. I have completed a first draft. I will sit on it. I will probably keep on sitting on it; but it has given me a great feeling of satisfaction to attempt writing something unfamiliar to me.
However, it is the short story genre which keeps pulling me back, as do the themes that seem to arise naturally from where I live and work. Literally, the things I see through the window often provide the catalyst for my writing. I often question whether this is a narrow perspective; but I try to do what the wonderful writer, Tessa Hadley says:
Any life, if written right, if you can find the words to express it, however utterly familiar it seems to you, can be made strange and fascinating in a story. It’s that discovery: that the very place you’re standing in is the place you have to write.
Tessa Hadley (from an interview with Jane Gayduk for LARB 06 02 2017)
That’s what I have attempted to do in a new very short, short story (I don’t care about word count: my stories are as long as they need to be to say what I feel I need to say). Brought about by the sight of a pair of woodpigeons swaying on the telegraph wire outside my conservatory, I have sliced in at a moment in time, into the life of an ageing woman whose husband has left her. The story, Love on the Wire, I hope, takes the familiar to the unfamiliar. It is most definitely strange in that it explores the unusual lengths a person might go to in order to piece together what was once whole.
This is the opening paragraph at the end of which, the tone is set for the unfolding narrative.
The woman watches from the window. A pair of woodpigeons is perched on the telegraph wire just in front of the house. Despite the force of the south-westerly wind, they maintain their balance as they cosy-up to each other, pecking at each other’s crowns. She admires them as they perform the perfect tightrope double-act, their wide feet strong and their claws nimble. The woman wonders if she had wider feet, then perhaps she’d be more able to keep her balance.