Continuing the Tale

At the horizon the sea and sky merge with the morning light to form an unbroken gray wall. Closer to shore the water identifies itself through eddies and whitecaps while the sky is distinguished by somber clouds and circling gulls. The morning light however is ubiquitous and colours everything equally with its pale brush. The reporter stands on the dock resting his elbows on the worm eaten balustrade, his hands clasped before him against the cold.

Not the worst beginning to a story I’ve ever written. I like the melancholy atmosphere it creates. The story needs to be about something to be worth reading, though. (Or writing, for that matter). Here are some thoughts:

Theme: euthanasia

Theme statement: is it right to use your own values and opinions in respect to euthanasia to judge others?

Major characters: a man, a reporter, an old man, a young woman, a woman, a boatwright.

Notes on characters:

“a man” – the protagonist, husband of “a woman” – source of conflict as his opposition to people travelling towards their deaths puts him against all the other characters

“a reporter” – the antagonist? Sort of. He’s in the story to give the protagonist someone to bounce thoughts off of. He’s a reporter for Modern Misanthropist Monthly Magazine – the quadruple-M.

“an old man” – first of three characters heading towards the shore and ostensibly towards the island, conflict with protagonist; Old man wants to die because of his age and diminished capabilities

“a young woman” – second of three characters; wants to die because of chronic pain and terminal illness

“a woman” – wife of protagonist, acts as something of a reveal when we find out they’re married – she’s the third of the characters heading for the boats; wants to die because of an inability to love or find joy in life

“a boatwright” – builds the small boats people use to get to the island

“setting” – didn’t I already say the setting was a character? I guess I should try to remember that; the village and shoreline and melancholy, grey, quiet; the bay is cold and choppy; the island is terrifying.

Story ideas:

– there’s a street lined with churches and temples; most are deserted but the Shinto temple is fairly busy still – comments on relevance of Shinto faith

– reporter is a bit of a slimeball; wagers with the man that he can’t convince anyone to come back from the shore

– island is terrifying: something monstrous lives there, island is shrouded in shadow and only the disturbing sights of monstrous appendages thrashing against the sky can be seen: idea – that’s what the man sees when he looks, but the people going to the boats don’t see the same thing

– each of the three characters going to the boats represents a different reason someone could seek euthanasia; each encounter involves the man supplying one of the key arguments against euthanasia and having it defeated (obviously I want to make this subtle and not beat the reader over the head with it)

– arguments: slippery slope, sanctity of life, value of suffering

(1) old man – slippery slope, are we opening the door to old people being killed off as an unwanted burden – involuntary euthanasia?

(2) young woman – value of suffering: does the man seek out suffering? maybe yes, is it of value?

(3) a woman – the man’s wife, reveal late in story that they know each other, that the man came here to stop her, that they’re married – sanctity of life: needs fleshing out here… she feels her life isn’t worth living even though there’s nothing physically wrong with her, crosses the line from euthanasia to suicide

 

 

 

 

Setting as Character

I’m starting to think that setting and character are the same thing. Or maybe just that they should be. It seems to me that in any story either the setting is important or it isn’t – that is, the setting becomes a part of the tale or it’s just a background without much significance. Neither is right or wrong, it’s just that different stories have different needs when it comes to setting. Consider “Mine”, the story that won the CBC short story contest this year: the entire story takes place in and around a house somewhere. Presumably it’s a house; I don’t think it actually says, and then the plot takes us out into the yard where the story ends. That isn’t much of a setting, but that story didn’t need much of a setting. Then consider Lord of the Rings – the whole damn thing is about setting. In that case I’d suggest the setting is as much a character as any of the proper “characters” are.

I’m working on a story for which I have a setting, partly have a theme and characters, and definitely don’t have a plot. Here’s some scribblings:

At the horizon the sea and sky merge with the morning light to form an unbroken gray wall. Closer to shore the water identifies itself through eddies and whitecaps while the sky is distinguished by somber clouds and circling gulls. The morning light however is ubiquitous and colours everything equally with its pale brush. The reporter stands on the dock resting his elbows on the worm eaten balustrade, his hands clasped before him against the cold.