Why is it that we do such crazy things when we’re in love with someone? It rules your life, it changes your personality, your everyday existence can become predicated on the opinion of one, single person.
It seems crazy when you consider it that way – so why do we do it? Why do we let our decisions be governed by the thoughts and opinions of someone else?
This is the key question I sought to answer with my second novel ‘One’. The story was my way of exploring the extremes of love and relationships, and the impact it can have on your life. But that’s obviously a very broad topic to breach – how can you examine this in a compelling narrative that still functions as a story of its own?
That challenge lead to lots of thinking, and re-thinking, of the story and how it worked (or didn’t). I had always had in my mind a vision of a broken relationship, a main character who’s struggled to deal with it, and a sequence of events that makes him confront who he’s become because of it. But my early attempts didn’t quite breach the depths as I wanted.
In its first iteration, the main character was dying, though he didn’t know it, and a woman was hired, without his knowledge, to take care of him in his final days. But the narrative was loose, with logic gaps that were hard to bridge. Is it possible that a person who’s dying would not be told this by his doctor (the justification was that he suffered from depression and the family doctor knew he’d just retire from life if he knew)? That was a gap, but there was also a lot of past and present crossing over that I came to dislike. I decided that I wanted the story to be linear and simple, with the underlying depths being revealed piece-by-piece.
But simple, as any writer knows, is often anything but. I needed to find a way to tell the story I wanted in a non-complex way, whilst actually making it far more complex than the reader even realized even as they moved through.
The eventual inspiration for the structure came from watching and reading science fiction type movies and books – things like Enemy, The Coma, Remainder and Midnight Special. The concept behind each of these stories is hyper-real, it’s beyond the realms of physical, real-world possibility, yet that’s not the focus, that’s not the driving force behind the narrative. The idea is to use these elements to tell a more human story, to use them as a mirror, of sorts, to reflect the actual truth you want to show.
That then lead me to exploring another element that fascinates me – how we would look to ourselves if we were viewing from an outside perspective.
One of the biggest hurdles we face in society, I believe, is the lack of ability to see things from other people’s perspective. Yes, you’ve got problems, issues, things you have to do. But so has everyone else.
There’s actually a term related to this – ‘sonder’, which is ‘the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own’. That’s the core driving force behind virtually every writer’s work, trying to understand something more complex than your own perspective, trying to see something, to share something, from a different point of view.
That approach then settled into a sequence that enables me to tell the story I wanted. A simple, yet complex, narrative, which unfolds into a broader understanding.
These are the elements which drive the narrative of One – an exploration of what meaning is, what defines your decisions, and what you become as a result.
And why that matters so much.
It’s crazy to look at the things we do, the people we become, when you consider why, exactly, we do it. But there is a reason. I’ve tried to examine this, to at least some degree, via the narrative, tried to drop you in the depth and give you a rope to pull you back to the surface.
This was the idea of One. Hopefully it helps inspire some level of consideration of the grey areas in between.