Getting Away with Murder - or Not? (Cecilia Peartree)
Most of my novels, even the ones with murders in them, end up being rather lightweight and frothy, no matter how much I try to introduce serious topics. Incidentally, the same kind of thing has always tended to happen on the occasions when I have presented a paper at a work-related conference. In one case, the colleague with whom I co-wrote the paper but who was unable to attend the conference himself, gave me strict instructions not to make people laugh. Needless to say a colleague from another organisation came up to me at the end of the presentation and said, ‘I did enjoy your paper – it was so funny.’
However, I’ve recently realised that during these dark days of late autumn and winter, my writing has taken a darker turn. It isn’t so much that the murders have become more gruesome or the peril faced by the main characters is more terrifying, but that I’ve given the characters moral dilemmas to try and resolve.
This year in particular there seems to be a theme to the moral dilemmas. In November I published a Christmas mystery novel in the series that is particularly lightweight, and gave myself the challenge of wrestling with the fact that a character from a previous story in the series, already in prison for murder, came under suspicion for a new crime. The question in my mind, and therefore in the minds of at least some of the characters, was whether this person was capable of killing again or whether the years in prison, plus a bit of growing up in the mean-time, had actually reformed them. The dilemma, I think, was whether any of the other characters would be willing to help this person despite the events of the past which had affected some of them more than others. Although the resulting novel turned out just about as frivolous as all the others in the series, I did take the question seriously myself, and devoted quite a bit more thought to it than is probably evident in the text.
During December I’ve been working on a completely different thing, and I feel that the darkness of the days, as well as the fact that I’ve taken the characters to Yorkshire more or less without meaning to, when they were supposed to be in Bath, has brought out my inner Brontë. I apologise for taking that name in vain. There is no resemblance between this novel and anything written by any of the Brontë family and particularly not ‘Wuthering Heights’.
This time I have a character who has been on some kind of a quest for vengeance throughout the whole novel to date, and because I can’t make up my mind whether to redeem her or not, my writing progress has very nearly stalled altogether towards the end. I’ve written a few hundred words a day for the past couple of weeks, but I still haven’t decided what to do with this character so the story is only inching forward. I suppose one option would be to kill the character off while she’s doing something heroic, but somehow that seems too easy! The fact that she shares a name with one of our cats is also relevant here.
Perhaps at this time of year I should forget about writing and do something else, except that this is also the season when dark thoughts from the real world begin to intrude if I don’t have a writing project to occupy my mind. I think I got round this at this time last year by writing non-fiction – an account of my family history, which very fortunately did not include very many dark episodes or moral dilemmas.
The days are beginning to get lighter now – in theory at least, although it was raining so hard here as I wrote this that the sun might as well not have bothered rising, and one of our cats didn’t even get out of bed until after eleven – so at least there is the promise of less dark times to come. I hope this will be the case in other ways too. Best wishes to all for a better New Year.