The Breakthrough

It’s about time I told you what the breakthrough that got me out of writer hell was. In fact, I’ve had another since then but we’ll get to that later.

So, without further ado…

Diana had an abortion and it affected her much more than she thought it would, because of her upbringing, so she ran to the closest thing to a mother she had: Cathy.

That’s why she suddenly decides to stop travelling after three years. That’s why she drops in on Cathy and Duncan out of the blue. And that’s why she stays. Well, partly. At first she also enjoys teasing Cathy and Duncan but as that begins to get uncomfortable, she considers moving out but has no idea where to go next. She doesn’t want to continue travelling – she feels that it’s time to settle down but doesn’t know how to go about it. And later, she sees that something is wrong with Cathy and stays because she’s worried about her but ends up doing more harm than good.

It’s important because it had me stumped for so long – not knowing what she was doing there. Now I understand her so much more. She was the one character I felt I had the least grip on. And I just couldn’t work on it without knowing. That was why I was in writer hell. I bet she did it deliberately.

Finally able to work on it again, I set out trying to figure out how to craft the plot and I made another discovery:

The novel works in threes.

You should know by now that I’m a massive fan of Black Swan. The way Aronofsky portrays Nina’s madness and the effect that that has is something I want to recreate in Mother Stands for Comfort. So I was thinking about Black Swan and it occurred to me that it’s a film of doubles: Nina vs Lily, Nina vs her mum, Nina vs Thomas, Nina vs Beth, etc. It’s about black and white (or pale pink), young and old, innocent and sexual, creation and destruction, the two sides of a person’s character, and not only does Aronofsky make use of mirrors to a great extent, a lot of his scenes are reflections of others, too. In fact, I was struggling to think of scenes that didn’t have a twin.

Then I started thinking about my novel – wondering if I could make use of this technique. I already knew that a problem with the plot was the repetitiveness of it but if I could use that to my advantage and control it – like Aronofksy does in Black Swan – it could be effective. That’s when I made the discovery. You see, there are three rape scenes in my novel. When I finished the first draft and realised this, I thought: that’s a bit overkill, isn’t it? Three rape scenes? But then I considered the way the relationships work in my novel and they’re all love triangles: Cathy, Duncan and Diana; Cathy, Tom and Diana; Cathy, Duncan and Tom. Even the non-romantic relationships: Cathy, Diana and their dad; Cathy, her dad and her mum.

And then there’s the woman in the dream. I’d been thinking it was too complicated to keep the woman as an extra hallucination – in Black Swan Nina only ever sees people as herself but Cathy sees different things: herself as the woman, Diana as the woman, Diana as herself. Three things again. Because it’s another triangle: Cathy, Diana and the woman, who I guess (and I just thought of this) could represent their mother because Cathy replaced their mum and now she sees Diana as replacing her. So it’s not just the man who’s threatened by female sexuality but the older woman, too, and the way they both respond is with violence. They both become a threat because they, themselves, feel threatened.

…I think it just happened again.

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