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Writing Multiple-Perspective ‘Seniors Fiction’, by Janet Marsh

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” — James Thurber

This is really good advice coming from a seasoned author because one of the problems facing new or emerging writers is the idea that what we write has to be perfect the first time around. How ridiculous is that? So instead of ploughing on and attempting to get the first draft out we fuss around and try and make each chapter “just right”. Instead we ought to “just write”.

How vividly I remember my university days when, after completing an essay, I realised that  then, and only then, did I have enough knowledge of the subject to write a really decent assignment. Sadly, the deadline was always only hours away so that was never a realistic possibility. Nowadays, with my first novel seriously under way, that is my goal. Hence the urgency to get the first draft done so that I can then begin to polish it up to publishing standard.

Before signing up with The Australian Literature Review‘s I had circles of stories doing the rounds in my head. Sound familiar? It was all very “one day I’m going to write a book”… It’s taken the “deadline focus” of The Australian Literature Review to really get me working – and working hard too.

My niche market is going to be Seniors. People in the seventy-eighty-ninety age bracket. It’s a huge and growing market and I intend to offer stories that will evoke memories, stimulate emotions and provoke reactions. I hope as well that they’ll entertain, challenge and hopefully open doors of conversation that Seniors will have with other generations – like yours or mine.

I already have a collection of published and unpublished short stories written for this age-group but let’s face it shorter fiction isn’t the best entry point for fresh authors. So six weeks ago I began my first novel and have almost completed the first section of around 19,000 words.

This story revolves around the funeral of an old lady. As her family and friends respond to her death and plan the event they begin to realise that she’s not who they thought she was. The onion layers are peeling away and inevitably there are a lot of tears. My tag line is: will your secrets die with you?

I’ve always been an admirer of authors who can write stories from a myriad of viewpoints. Barbara Kingsolver’s “Poisonwood Bible” was one of the first I read and is a stunning example of the craft. The same goes for Iain Pears and his intriguing book, “An Instance of the Fingerpost”. Writers like these are acknowledging the “warp and weft” of the fiction that makes up our lives.

We all have differing viewpoints of the same event. Try reading accounts of the second world war from Japanese, Jewish, German, Russian, British and American perspectives.  Is it the same event? At times one would wonder because the stories are so very different.

My aim is to write novels that acknowledge this interweaving of viewpoints. The greatest challenge I now face is how to make each voice authentic. If, for example, someone was reading aloud from my novel, without revealing the characters’ names, could the listener guess the which character is which by the style of the conversation or the inner dialogue? I would hope so. That’s my aim anyway.

So, back to the writing and forgetting – for the time being – the “righting”.


Janet Marsh bio page

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