Recently I have been intermittently picking up my long-neglected novel, Roses for Margaret. And still, I am on the chapter that flummoxed me months and months ago – the dreaded hospital chapter. Not only does it bring back memories of my own hospital experience at the age of fourteen – which it is based on, I admit – my memory is hazy at that time, and I find it hard to visualise and put words to my old experience. Whilst some of Margaret’s life follows my own, lots and lots of elements deviate from my experiences, and in this chapter, it isn’t the case, sadly. It was painful and confusing, and still is today.
I thought that writing from my own experience would give the book a little more verisimilitude, or make it ring true to readers that have been through similar illnesses and tests. But instead, it makes things even more difficult! Not because I’m getting emotional about it, but because the more I think about it, the more I get detached from it and forget somehow…
Margaret is a complex kind of character to write, at least for me. Her experiences are similar to my own (bar one, I think), but her personality is completely different, which makes things a challenge. How would she react to situation A, or situation B? How can I make her believable? How on earth do I write her?! What shall her ending be (yes, I’m still stuck on the ending of the novel, would you believe!) ? These are the kinds of thoughts running through my head.
I can only hope – and in half-hope, half-writer-related-agony as my Jane Austen quote above says 😉 – that she will start to materialise in my mind.