I have, for the purposes of pure escapism and sunshine, recently been watching the popular Australian soap opera Neighbours. For those who don’t know or frankly don’t care, the current storyline involves an explosion at the one and only hotel which has left two of the key characters dead. In an episode a couple of days ago, the funeral service for the youngest victim (a beloved young man in his prime) took place. It was an open casket service, requiring the actor (who I know is not actually dead), to lie in the coffin. For some reason this morning, that scene replayed in my mind and I started thinking, would I actually lie in a coffin even if I was being paid to?
The answer was no. I couldn’t possibly think of any sum of money that would make me do that – the thought of lying in a coffin just freaks me out – however the actor (as many actors before) was required to do just that. This then led me to the question, what would I do for my art?
As a writer, I guess I am fairly safe. I can portray funeral scenes and open casket services without actually having to partake in them. I can create the most awful of scenarios without living through them and I can marry the most unsuitable of partners, without ever actually meeting them. But wait. Can I?
Surely we can only portray our characters with accuracy if we understand their situation? If we have walked in their shoes?
General writing advice suggests that we should ‘write what we know’, yet my mind is far too inquisitive to be that limited. To be the best writer that I can I want to learn everything that I can. I want to explore areas that I would never have dreamt of exploring before I became a writer. This means that I must commit myself wholeheartedly to my art – whatever that may entail – and actually, making that commitment is kind of liberating (if a little scary).
Would I though, lie in a coffin?
To commit to my work, I might just have to say ‘never say never’, but, as the author, there is always a simple solution.
Don’t kill off any characters.
What about you? What would you do (or not do) for your art?