Operation Concrete

Just over three years ago, whilst writing the first version of Concrete Operational, I wrote a post about love, it’s here, and I’ve put the extract below:

“Arh, now, there's a subject, if not THE subject. To end, to beat, to change all other subjects, topics, themes. I'm finding writing about it almost as difficult and pleasurable as the actual experience. Through the fire so to speak.

Love. It's intrinsic to human nature, yet, not everyone has experienced it, it's completely natural but can be the hardest thing to achieve and maintain in the world. It's a rampant hell-bent fucker that takes everything about you, grips with mighty fists and lifts you to its gigantic and unrelenting face, laughing at you with teeth the size of Cadillacs refusing to let go. Not, at least, until it has had its wicked way with you, tipped you over the edge, pulled you back, fingering your soul with penetrating stumps. It can take you to the greatest of heights of pleasure and kill your spirit for untold amounts of time. To write about it, especially given my experience with it, is no easy feat.

The chapter that I'm currently heavily into is where the love interest of the lead protagonist / anti-hero is introduced. Which way to introduce her was the question, how will my protagonist actually fall in love? It can after all, be sparked by anything. I'm sure you'd be hard pushed to think of a reason or action that hasn't previously caused someone to fall in love. But I took the closest thing to me, what has made me love before, and what, no doubt, will be a reason for falling in love again, in some distant future. Without giving to much away; I believe all men have a beast inside, some show that beast more than others, a woman can quell that beast. Her beauty, her heart, her spirit, smile, laugh, face, enduring memory...it all can help. So I took that route, and the chapter is coming on amazingly and more importantly, it fits, it all makes sense, which is a great feeling. There's still plenty to go, I'll give you a snippet soon, but it's not nearly done yet, so for the time being I'll leave you just to comment with your own thoughts on writing about love.”

Now, it’s funny, the more things change the more things stay the same. I’ve been through a considerable amount on the love side of things since this post was written. Judging by the time this was posted, I suspect that I was probably in love with, at most, three women at this point. One deeply, the other two I would have simply been trying to convince myself I was in love with – there’s a terrible side to me that gets continual enjoyment from being tortured (isn’t that what love is all about?).

Anyway, I believe in what I wrote originally up there, and in spite of the large amount of experience I’ve ‘gained’ or been fortunate enough to have experience over the last 3 years, I’m fairly sure I’m still none the wiser about the whole thing, I’m also fairly sure however, that this is good. I didn't actually express much on actually writing about love in the above piece though.

I’m not entirely sure how to ‘decode’ this one, how are you supposed to write about love? When it came to Concrete Operational I was penning my own experiences about my own unrequited love that I had for many years, about my own experience of reciprocated love that was an utterly wonderful time to have gone through. Putting them down on paper in some sort of cathartic purge to try and understand them better. Can writing about love only come from experience? Can only truly believable love between characters come from the life of an actual human being, a real story?

Obviously, the love I’ve mentioned above is the romantic love between a man and a woman. What about all the other types of love that exist in the world, the love of a good sandwich? The love of a father for his child? The love of winning? The love of power? All this just boils down to elements of human emotion, synapses firing atoms between neural pathways, chemical imbalances in the mind, genetics, environment, free will, determined paths.

There really can’t be any easy way to ‘properly’ write about love. I mean, there’s endless tropes, old stories, fables, tales, which provide us with instances that people have heard before, and that people enjoy. But in making something hard hitting, enough drop that emotional nuke on the reader and really get them sucked in, can you use those tropes? Where does that come from? I guess the answer to that is that every person is different. Some will believe, or want to believe wholly in a trope-esque type of love, ‘I’ll destroy the city before my love is lost!’ etc, some will scorn at it. I’ve had a lot of friends recently say to me ‘you should read, ‘One Day’ a book by David Nicolls. Their reasons being not entirely clear to me, but I think it’s because they believe it’s probably quite similar to the way I live my love life…always hoping for that romantic end, I guess. Now despite buying it as a gift for several people, I’ve not actually got round to reading it myself. I’ll give it a go someday, it’s currently at the bottom of a big pile, and I’d say this is because, from what I’ve heard about the novel, it does seem to hit a little close to home. My love life is enough of an ongoing battlefield without having to complicate my head even more by reading about a very ‘real’ love story.

With this however, I admittedly contradict myself. When writing about love, it has to be real, from experience, for the reader to get sucked in, but I wouldn’t immediately choose to read a story that was overtly presented so, because it would probably hit too close to home, upsetting me. I’m really not sure what side to be on (story of my life).

I’m currently rendering reasons why my lead characters in my second manuscript would fight for survival in the face of abject terror and unrelenting horror, their raison d’être when all else is lost. The lead protagonist, Push Burrows needs to live in order to one day see his daughter live in a time and place without never ending fear and pain, it’s his love for her that keeps him going. I don’t have a daughter, this makes things very complicated. Learning about quantum chromodynamics and other such things is relatively easy in comparison to this battle. A friend who recently read some of the early manuscript said that I need to know more about my characters for it to be believable, I understand this, I need to know more about Push, I need to build a deeper story behind why he loves his daughter so, I can’t simply rely on the obvious.

So, I’d guess, in some sort of conclusion to this spurge of brain custard, writing about love is a healthy mix of experience, tropes and delving very, very deep into the psyche of a character, of their past, of their nature and nurtured up-bringing. Flesh brings realism, going deep brings realism, pain and joy bring realism, scars bring realism, reading and understanding brings realism and dentist Milltown brings your teeth to shine bright. There are a million different types of love, for a million different reasons, each unique, each powerful and wracking and amazing and terrible to the individual, to the character, writing this, putting it down, experiencing this and allowing others to experience it is the beauty of writing, but how to do it? I’m not quite there yet, I’ll keep walking that road, and maybe one day I’ll look back and there might be a few answers.

In the mean time? I'd suggest going out and experiencing as much and every different type of love and passion connected with it wherever you can, with whomever you can, no matter how much it might hurt you. I'd recommend this to anyone regardless of whether or not they want to write about it, it's life, peaks and troughs, highs and lows, it's what makes us feel alive.

Of course, don't hurt others, but you're in meant to be in charge of your own head, that space is a canvass, it's a jotting pad, a fleshy pink moleskine to write and learn and hate and smile and quiver and pant, try it all. I am, I think (hope) one day it'll all work out.