This is a critical review of a story I did for uni, which can be found here. I might add that the assessor hated it – the story that is. 🌞
Throughout the course, I have learned new and positive ways to convey narrative sense in a story, especially with reference to writing place, in the sense of understanding where one is physically and spiritually in a story.
Edward Said’s paper on exile was influential too, and I used this to foreground the story with Megan. Said spoke about exile being an alternative to the mainstream choices made in life (Said 2000, p.117). Megan is that kind of exile, although some of her separation from society is a circumstance of her birth.
This young lady, a teenage orphan raised in the stricture of a Catholic girls’ home, is an exile in both mind and place. She has a love for a younger boy, perhaps pre-pubescent, which in today’s western mores, is considered immoral, and most definitely illegal.
For sure, Megan narrates her story from the jail where she has been incarcerated for her crimes, yet she is unrepentant and eager to pursue her relationship with Patrick. Her character and her circumstance show a lot of promise from a storytelling point of view and I may expand it out to a novella or novel.
With the telling of the story, I followed the simple and straightforward method used by Burmese refugee Ma Lo, as she recounted her life story and her flight from civil-war stricken Burma (Lo 2007). Such a recounting relies heavily on fact and the straightforward, and literary tricks and embellishment detract from the impact and the message the author is trying to convey.
With Megan I employed a similar strategy, and kept the literary flourishes to a minimum, although the feedback I received did encounter a few examples of awkwardness and wordiness in the prose I have removed. The recommendations also suggested I alter the viewpoint to second person which I have attempted to do.
Megan lacks the sense of identity with place that Garbutt speaks about in his paper, where his place is Lismore and the nostalgia it brought when he returned there after a prolonged absence (Garbutt 2011). Megan does have this concept of place as her early memories are of nuns and orphanages.
I have not given the orphanage nor the jail Megan currently resides a location to deliberate convey the sense of anomie she feels for everything and everyone about her. Her world is an anonymous and unfeeling one and there is only Patrick; a kindred spirit, bereft of family and removed from the “normal” confines of family and a child’s life.
So, to revert back to Said’s paper, not only is Megan an exile, but she is an internal one, expelled from the world by her inward and circumscribed existence (Said 2000). Even in prison, this “closed-in” sensation has not eased in any way. Her personal exile is still there, only the four walls about her have changed.
In summary, I believe I have benefited from this subject as it has delivered new ways of viewing traditional narrative structures, which I can put into practical use in my fiction.
Garbutt, R 2011 ‘The Locals: Identity, Place, and Belonging in Australia and Beyond’, Within and beyond the clearing, pp. 13-30, Peter Lang: Oxford
Lo, M 2007, ‘The brass rings’, in Thanakha Team (eds), Burma – women’s voices for hope, Altsean-Burma, Bangkok.
Said, E 2000, Reflections on exile, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA