…I wasn’t aware of it.
And it felt like madness.
My first novel started with a dream. (A nightmare, actually.) When I dream, I dream vivid.
A young boy in a hospital, terrorised by a fanged creature. He’s been put there by his parents, who believe the wounds on his arms and legs are self-harm. (In someone so young?) He tells them that it’s the creature doing it. No one believes him. Only the old vagrant, who sees the creature come to the boy every night, even whilst in hospital, knows. They won’t believe him either.
I woke up sharp. My own voice repeating – the boy is me, the boy is me.
How could that be? I’d seen no creature. My arms and legs were without harm. But, I knew it was true. Something haunted me. Had done for a while. No one else knew.
He spoke to me, a voice in my head that wasn’t mine. He was older than I’d dreamt. I kept a notebook, wrote down everything he said, thought about him constantly, carried him with me always. The things he told me took me away from my dream and into his world. I gave him a name, Eliot.
I began writing. I’d come home from work, pour wine while dinner got started and write. Eat. Then write, drink, write more. Every night that I was home. Conversations heard on the bus gave me dialogue, everything I read fed into my (his) story. I’d put on make-up and see Eliot’s friend, Angeline, in the mirror, kohled eyes (hers, not mine – I don’t do my eyes that way). Once I woke to feel Eliot lying on my bed, his shoes still on, hood up. Then I saw him, sat outside the tube station, still in that parka, hood up, watching the ground.
By now, I’d been accepted on to the Certificate in Novel Writing at City University. I shared work, read aloud to the room, and received feedback. All the time, feeling like the odd one out. Had anyone else been visited by their protagonist? (No.) Isn’t it annoying/amusing, that if you write in first person, people assume that it’s about you, in some way? (Yes.) (But I am writing about me…aren’t I? But how can I be?)
There, I learnt where my writing was strongest, and where it was less successful. (I have a tendency for vagueness and find lengthy descriptions frustrating.) It was also the place I could bring my confusion. Answer the question of what I was really writing about. I strayed far from the synopsis I been encouraged to write. Eliot was now a teenage boy, with an over-zealous mother, who can not communicate with him, unless through God’s words. The creature, now more serpent-like than vampiric, was a symbol and a warning of Eliot’s true nature. Perhaps real, perhaps not. (Are those that see visions blessed or mentally ill?)
I found my truth in his story. He wrote it, really. Not me. He seemed more real than I did. I tried to convince myself that I was ready to allow Eliot into my world, the way he had for me.
I wrote the ending, when I had it. Eliot as an adult, still living with his past. Days later, I saw him. I walked past him at a bus stop. He put a hand out to touch me and said, ‘Hey lady!’ There are times when it’s perfectly valid to question your own sanity. If I hadn’t before, I did then.
Yes, it felt like madness, alright.