Saturday, 27 January 2018

The gaps in the story

For most of 1832, nothing much happened in the story of Martha's life --but in December of that year Martha started to keep a record of events that was to end up as "Rebecca and the Angels".  In December she was minded to describe the death of her beloved Owain Laugharne (in 1825) and then the death of her dear friend and mentor Joseph Harries, in February 1826.

In some ways the gaps in the story are crucial, in allowing events to "accumulate" for future description and analysis.  And the big things in Martha's life were so dramatic (and often traumatic) that she could not possibly have coped with them if they had come upon her in an unremitting stream. So in her life she did have -- thank goodness -- quite long periods during which life quietly plodded on, with the routines of the household and the farm undisturbed by anything unduly dramatic.  The reader, too, needs periods of calm between the great tempests which afflict Martha..............

And for me, as an author, the gaps are also important as devices.  Fred Nicholls, who taught me English language and literature in Haverfordwest Grammar School and later became a good friend and fellow author, said to me once:  "Never kill off a good hero or heroine; but if you have to, be sure to leave some good gaps in the story."  That advice has come in very handy, since having killed off Martha (twice!) I was able to respond to requests for further stories by writing "Sacrifice" and "Conspiracy of Angels" and slotting them into a long gap in the middle of "Dark Angel" -- during which time Owain was missing presumed lost.  That was a ten-year gap, most of which remains to be filled.  There are other gaps between 1797 and 1805, between 1822 and 1832,  between 1833 and 1837, in 1838, and at various other times too.

When I next feel the urge to write about Mistress Martha, there is sure to be a convenient gap waiting to be filled.......

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