Will you walk now with me Writers, along the hall of mirrors of your fiction? Consider your catalogue of work. Here’s one mirror that elongates your features: disproportionate and stretched – a you-that-is-not-you – yet still recognisable. Look to your characters’ extremes of behaviour or emotion. The fire-setter, the lover, the vengeful ghost, the martyr. Is this reflection an exaggerated version of something residing within? Disallowed parts may seek a new home. Are there any elements to pull from the mirror and own?
Next, here’s a mirror with an inbuilt filter: a version you long to become or regret having passed. Perhaps a character who achieves resolution or hope in the story’s climax. Could this trajectory map out your own desired path? Can your stories give you a lesson when times are hard? You may feel unworthy of this ending, permitting it only in fiction. Walk into the mirror.
Do you see no resemblance in the next? Remember, a mirror is not a likeness but an opposite. In this back-to-front world, your stories may play with the dark twin of your own qualities and experiences to tell you what you are not (which may be the same as what you long for).
Stay still now and stare. Your face contorts. Just as a mirror image is unreliable, the character you write may not represent like for like. A fictional cold mother – unlike your own – could be a projection of some part of you. We have metaphorical minds. Without our conscious awareness, we pour the sand of ourselves into different shaped glass. It’s not the form that matters, but the content.
You are drawn to return to one mirror. Does it diminish, stretch, beautify? Does it offer hope or explore lost chances? Does it reverse to reveal? Perhaps you may wish to wonder why. And once in a while, you could decant your ink into a different mirror, place your hand into its shimmering surface, and shape a new you.
Stephanie Hutton is a writer, trainer and NHS consultant clinical psychologist in Staffordshire, UK. Her debut novella Three Sisters of Stone was published May 2018 and won Best Novella in the Saboteur Awards 2019. Stephanie is represented by Sheila Crowley at Curtis Brown and is currently editing her first novel SHATTERED.