Updated: Mar 9
WRITING MY FIFTH NOVEL
At this point, my novel consists of a long list of mostly unanswered questions. And you won’t be surprised to hear that, since writing my last blog post about the questioning process, I have added more questions to that list!
Each one revolves around themes related to identity which are:
birthplace home mother tongue nationality roots origins
name family upbringing race ethnicity religion beliefs
This is my list. Were you to write a story about identity, you might add items to it and/or remove some. As always with fiction writing, the approach is entirely subjective.
Let’s take the first item, birthplace, and play with the idea. To what extent does our birthplace influence or determine our identity? To what extent do we let it? Suppose a character is born somewhere, but is told later in life that they were born in a different place. Have the lie, and subsequent truth, had an impact on their sense of identity? Is birthplace one of the factors people think of in relation to their identity? Do I feel that my being born in Paris plays a significant role in my being Caroline? What about you? How do you view your birthplace in relation to your own identity?
As you can see, the questioning continues! And the exploration, as well. By going through my list of topics, I'm digging in and, in the process, discarding ideas I'm less interested in and focusing my attention on the ones I feel strongly about which, I believe, will provide me with a strong foundation for a story.
The selection process here has nothing to do with my own experience, and everything to do with the type of exploration I choose. In other words, I am not writing about the experience, at least not directly. The fact that I am a French citizen living in the UK for the past sixteen years will inevitably give me ideas on how to approach the subject of identity. And it is likely that I will include characters who, like me, have chosen to live in a different country, but they will not be me. My own experience has led to write about identity, because I believe it is crucial to our experience and influences on the way we relate to one another. That said, I am not writing my own story (perish the thought!). That is not the point of fiction, at least not as far as I'm concerned.
I want to understand better why identity ends up dividing, more than uniting, us. While I don't pretend for a second to be a sociologist or an anthropologist, I believe that writing provides me with a unique opportunity to explore key ideas about identity in relation to the world I live in and that is why I chose to write this new novel in the first place.
I am being playful and flexible in my approach, which will ultimately give me enough scope to start a story. Tomorrow I might change my mind, scrap my initial ideas and move on to something else which makes more sense. And, perhaps, to reach the right angle, the right starting point to my story, I need first to explore a couple of ideas, shape them, mold them, only to discard them later. And perhaps these will ultimately lead me to where I want to start my novel.
The point, here, is that nothing is set in stone during my writing process. If everything was set and predicable, I wouldn't write. If exploring wasn't a key component of the writing process, I wouldn't write either. And if playing wasn't
at the core of fiction writing, I wouldn't have written four novels.