Living one story, creating another

Last week I went to see Vivaldi’s Gloria performed at the Perth Concert Hall. I was entranced, not only by the music, but by the showmanship of some of the performers. The flamboyant conductor, who oozed joy in every flick of the arm. The oboist who wriggled his body in complete union with the music during his solo. The concertmaster and first violinist, who was so animated I thought he’d fall off his chair. The purity of these musicians’ connection with the music brought tears to my eyes. Is that strange?

IMG_2350It occurred to me at one point that I was surrounded by story. Not only those of the composers and the musicians who were bringing classics to life. But the people around me. The man, watching alone, in a row behind us. Tattooed and bearded, he did not look like others around him. The group directly behind me, who whispered the whole way through, trying to guess (we had limited view for some of the stage) which instrument was playing. And then there was the woman I saw in the ladies room.

She looked to be in the throes of a hot flush. Sweating and red-faced, she waited in line for the loo, looking decidedly different to the rest of the women in line, both in the way she presented and the way she spoke. Not who you’d expect to see at a classical concert. Her voice was rough as she told someone in line it was her first time at the “opera” (it was a classical baroque concert, but not an opera) and she’d dragged her 14-year-old son and fiance along. They weren’t too happy about it, apparently.

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I found myself looking for her and spotted her, with her son and partner, in the choir stalls. The son, with his hoodie pulled low over his forehead and baggy shorts, looked bored. So did the fiance. I wondered if she’d enjoy the night – I didn’t know her, but suddenly I hoped she would. I wondered why she’d chosen that concert, what it was about the music that she liked, where she’d heard this sort of music before … I wondered what her story was. And when intermission came, and her son sat in another section of the stalls, I watched her watching him, her bag taking up the place where he’d sat. Her arms were crossed and her fiance kept flicking his eyes at her. A story was in progress. Not mine. But someone else’s.

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I’m writing a difficult section of my novel at the moment. It requires a lot of thinking about what the characters will do when more of their story, the part they’ve kept hidden from other characters and the reader, is revealed. I drive to work and I think about them. I imagine their conversations. I’m surrounded by my story – the one I’m living and the one I’m creating.

How’s your writing going?