The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, May 08, 2006

Discovering



by Tricia Dower

Writers are urged to write what we know. If I followed that, all my protagonists would be serial wives with unresolved mother issues. I write fiction for the same reason I read it: to experience more than I can on my own.

I enjoy the research as much as the writing. It takes me into new geographic and emotional worlds that stretch my ability to understand people who live and think differently from me. Worlds that enable me to discover truths I can share with readers. It doesn’t matter if others already have discovered those truths; I need my own discoveries to propel my writing.

My latest project is a collection of stories inspired by Shakespeare’s women. It’s taken me to the world of cattle ranching in Alberta and the disastrous effects of mad cow disease. It’s taken me to the republic of Kyrgystan where young women are at risk of being kidnapped off streets or mountain pastures to marry men they may not know. It’s taken me back to New Jersey in the ‘60s to imagine an interracial marriage bookended by the anger of the black rights movement and the madness of the Vietnam war. And it’s taking me now from Thailand to New Orleans with those who profit and those who suffer from sex trafficking. Over the next year it promises to take me into the realms of spousal abuse, corporate arrogance, gender issues and mental illness.

When I started writing this series I thought I’d have trouble finding modern counterparts for Shakespeare’s female characters. Sadly, I did not. In Titus Andronicus, Lavinia is raped, has her tongue cut out and her hands cut off as revenge for her father’s deeds; in a Pakistani village a few years ago, a tribal council ordered a woman to be gang-raped by men whose family her brother offended. Women in some cultures today cannot marry until their older sisters do as Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew could not. Social isolation still puts women’s lives at risk as it did for Othello’s Desdemona.

Women in many parts of the world today are no better off than they were in Shakespeare's time and it's other women, often, who indoctrinate their daughters into oppression. Realizing this lends a sense of urgency to the act of writing for me. As you read my stories, I want you to discover what I did and feel outraged that women are still treated as property. If you’re a woman, I want you to demand more for yourself and your sisters. At the very least, I want you to identify with my characters, male and female, and see how they arrived at their place in my stories.

It’s a lot to expect of you and of myself, I know, but it keeps me going.

Photo: Bride kidnapping in progress in Kyrgystan from a documentary by Petr Lom

4 Comments:

Blogger Anne C. said...

What a great premise for a collection.

Mon May 08, 02:21:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

I've been enjoying these Shakespeare-inspired stories as they appear. I imagine they'll take on even more when reread as a collection.

Mon May 08, 07:19:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Susan Cook said...

It's sad but true. I agree that people need to write beyond what they know. It inspires imagination. Besides, chances are if you wrote about what you've experienced, then probably most of America and some of the rest of the world has already had the same experience. If you write about fantasy, like dragons and things, it's a new experience every time!

Tue May 09, 09:18:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks Anne, Andrew and Susan. Are you writing about dragons and things, Susan?

Tue May 09, 02:38:00 pm GMT-4  

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