‘Why can’t you write nice things?’ J’s dad says to me. Often.
‘No-one wants to read about nice,’ I reply.
If narrative must be filled with conflict and tension, how can it be nice?
Friends can’t always understand why my writing is filled with ghosts of the past – people who inflicted pain upon me.
‘You’re not afraid to mine the toxic seam,’ one friend recently observed. But aren’t writers supposed to write what they know?
But as life reflects art and art reflects life once more, I’m more drawn to ask myself whether I believe writing about flawed people encourages one to remain flawed – vengeful, vindictive or victimised.
Whereas genre writers can allow megalomaniacs, acts of god and evil twins to thwart their heroes, literary fiction must rely on the internal struggle, the flawed heroine. In At the Hour of the Morning Drink I was infinitely intrigued by the woman who made her own problems, stood in her own way.
If you didn’t have ghosts you’d be in a lucky minority. Writing the dirt of the past is an essential part of a writer’s practice, and as I became increasingly empty I built a strong enough foundation in my writing that I could begin working with new techniques – diving with confidence into pure fiction. But there’s still not much room for ‘nice things’ without their opposite.
What conflicts drive your writing? And how does it affect your daily relationships?