It seems that when writing fiction about childhood and rites of passage one can't escape a certain sorrow that comes with the process of maturation -- in most stories that is where the tension of the narrative lies. There are two quotations -- one recently found and one from a much older book that I have been keeping in the front of my brain as I think about broadening and deepening Zizola's character on her journey from Tuscany to Calabria. I keep these quotations pinned to the bulletin board -- to remind me that they are part of the skeleton of the narrative (and indeed Zizola's skeletons in her own story).
The first quotation comes from Carlos Ruiz Zafón's gorgeous gothic novel, The Shadow of the Wind (more on this novel as I plan a much longer review in the near future.) "One of the pitfalls of childhood is that one doesn't have to understand something to feel it. By the time the mind is able to comprehend what has happened, the wounds of the heart are already too deep." Imagine the intensity of such felt knowledge as a child, and later, the moment of revelation about that wound that comes with adulthood. Really thinking about that moment of revelation has the potential for some richly evocative scenes, I believe -- and hopefully the power to make Zizola something other than a stock-comic sort of character.
The second quotation comes from Early Spring, the biography of Danish author Tove Ditlevsen. Ditlevsen grew up in a brutal and brutish working class family -- one that had little respect for her as girl and even less for her hopes of becoming a writer. It was a stifling, heart-breaking world and it is a marvel that she survived it and thrived eventually as an author. She muses about her experience of childhood in a dark chapter that opens with, "Childhood is long and narrow like a coffin and you can't get out of it on your own." I think this is important because it suggests that whatever self-awareness one has about the wounds of the heart that childhood may produce, we instinctively search out those who can give us a hand out of that coffin-like despair. Friends, older siblings, fairy godmothers -- even long dead authors whose works give us a view much larger and more abundant in scope than our own. Or as in Zizola's case, a trickster and a growing crowd of difficult women.
So, what about those of you who writing something now? What quotations have you pinned up on the wall to inspire you? What fragements or poems dig into the bones of your story?