Gone But Not Forgotten | Ian Harrison

 


Gone But Not Forgotten

Ian Harrison

The Mythological and the Mundane Award


 

 

For every object, person, or movement that comes into existence, and blinks out again, there comes a date from which it has been gone, longer than it was around for.

 

*          *          *

 

Seven different classic plots. Broadly, three tenses. Limited perspectives describe the action. What to mention, or omit. Coincidence may strand your protagonist in trouble, but never releases them.

Will readers seek meaning between the lines? Find parallels not intentionally included? Are the herrings red enough? Too obvious? Too preachy? Twee? Is the dialogue authentic? How do the masters achieve it?

Stories often don’t start at the beginning, and the mythology surrounding a particular Wall well and truly pre-dates its construction. And while the wall we term ‘Great’ was designed to keep invaders out, this one encircled a city.

Our Iron Curtain opens in Prussia. Germany.

I’ve always dabbled in writing – it was a strong subject of mine in primary school. Once I’d finished high school with markedly worse results in English, one rainy afternoon, I sat and wrote. My tale, embarrassingly reminiscent of authors I read then.

Many unremarkable stories followed, like I was marking time in a montage sequence. Ideas escaped. Incremental improvements. My wastepaper basket overdosed on over-wrought sentences.

One of my later ‘early’ stories featured a subplot featuring the last man to be shot dead, trying to climb the Berlin Wall. His name is Chris Gueffroy, and he was only twenty years old – born just months after my sister, who turned fifty this year.

The Wall was erected in its earliest form on the 13th of August, 1961.

In August 2004, I first visited Berlin. Fourteen years after German re-unification, it showed no signs of shrugging off parallel development of these twin demi-cities. Two of everything; the mythical ‘rich man’ / ‘poor man’ story, with all the inherent resentment and gloating accompanying it.

Nursing one of my newly-discovered witbiers, surrounded by a busload of fellow Aussie tourists, drinking Happy-hour cocktails. Me, mentally slapping mortar over literary building-blocks and digging fresh foundations.

‘I’m finishing my book,’ I declared.

No-one believed it but me. Alcohol exaggerates everything.

 

*          *          *

 

The Berlin Wall effectively fell on the 9th of November, 1989.

Berlin’s Wall ceased to be a feature of the landscape longer than it was around, as at the 5th of February, 2018.

This year.

The coincidence – that was the 29th anniversary of the tragic murder of Chris Gueffroy.

Fables encompass relatable incidents and characters, and are often told po-faced, from a great distance. I believed the myth it comprised an unbreakable rule for optimal storytelling. Which it is.

Unless it isn’t.

There’s that parable; obeying the rule of three. Three men, all entrusted with loans. One hustled it for profit; the second invested, and the third man buried his, effectively forgetting he’d ever had it in the first place. No Man’s Land, my idea, my novel, is currently under reconstruction, brick by misshapen brick, with the draft smothered in West-Berlin derogatory graffiti notes indicating the amateurish nature of the original. Still, I’m glad to approach it as a learning exercise.

The legend of Chris Gueffroy remains. I’ve simply not done him justice, by relating his tragedy clumsily.

Thomas Edison developed his lightbulb, carefully annotating what combinations didn’t work. He could’ve struck it lucky with his first attempt. That wouldn’t make him any less of a genius, but may have led him to under-estimate the difficulty at getting it right.

One lesson I learned in writing my novel was I’d kept my distance, hoping a panorama would improve the perspective. Now I see that it is like a fractal portion from the Mandelbrot set – zooming in tighter provides just as much granular, gritty detail.

It’s just one element I got wrong, and the moral of this story for me to learn is this: to try, try again.

 

*          *          *

 

For every object, person, or movement that comes into existence, and blinks out again, there comes a date from which it has been gone, longer than it was around for.

I’ve no wish to outlive my dreams.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *