“The Waves, the Waves” (by Abra Hunt)

ParisLiterary

The competition that inspired the story.

Let me begin by introducing you to our novella, The Waves, the Waves, and give you the low down on its beginnings and what it’s all about. Incidentally it started life as simply The Waves but a chance scan of our book shelf introduced me to Virginia Woolf’s novel of the same name. It struck me as potentially suicidal for an unpublished author with the hopes of having a debut novella on her hands, to name her story with the very same title as one of Great Britain’s foremost female writers. So some hurried re-thinking happened. Yielded nothing. You know how you can get really stuck on something………. When Merle first suggested simply doubling the number of times The Waves appeared in the title I thought it was a joke, now I think it’s brilliant. While allowing for the possibility of change I feel that our new title is pretty apt and the reasons are manifold:

1. The Waves, the Waves now references the novels of not one but two great British female writers; The Waves by Virginia Woolf and Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea. As a modern feminist, proud of the contribution women have made to literature, it feels good to allude to two of the most celebrated, giving our novella a tangible, social historical context.

2. The repetition of one phrase (the waves) encourages the reader to use the same tone that, in our house at any rate, is used when asking for a cup of tea which goes something like this:   

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

“Yes please.”

“What would you like?” (a very pertinent question as we have an entire cupboard of tea).

“Eerrmm, tea please.”

“Do you mean Tea, tea?”(the double tea clarifying that the desired brew is proper tea as opposed to one of the myriad herbal infusions in our considerable assortment).

This then applied to our book suggests that ours isn’t just The Waves but The WAVES, the Waves, or, The proper Waves.  

3. The key with any good title is always to sum up everything at once while simultaneously telling the reader nothing at all, teasing you into wanting to know more. The first and last words in the novella, at the moment (and barring any really dramatic rewrites), are “the waves” thereby summing up the beginning, the end and everything in between in the title alone and it is only by reading it that you learn what stands in the middle, a trick which I think is pretty nifty.

As with all stories, real and imagined, ours will no doubt morph into something quite different by the time it is finished and looking back at this post will be as if viewing a plot yet to be written but I feel an attempt must be made to flesh out what you know of this project which, at this precise second, apart from the title, is precious little.

To begin with, the original conception of this story came when I saw a poster for an unpublished writers competition tacked to the wall above the kitchen table of Merle’s student flat in Plymouth, who had, characteristically, put it there because it had a very nice drawing on it, and, unable to think of what to write about, had opened a page in word and proceeded to write a paragraph about the first thing that stumbled across my consciousness. From that one paragraph a plotline and characters emerged which I cobbled together in a (for me) very comprehensive manner in my notebook with my leaky rotring pen.

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Said notebook with leaky pen and cat.

Well the competition was a disaster but after a cry on the sofa and a hug and some cake from my mum (all common themes in times of crisis) I was left with the first draft of a novella, a working title and a plot summary, set out below:

Vivienne Hanesworth, dressmaker, with her hat set at the correct angle currently in vogue and never to be seen without a pair of well polished heels, dreams every night of drowning and a man she has never met.

 Beaumont Morely, illicit tea smuggler, with eyes blue enough to swim in, hates himself for being in love with a willowy creature his skulduggery colleagues pulled from the wreck of a ship.

 Set against a 1940’s fishing village and 18th century tea smuggling, these two distant points in history collide in love as time concertinas, slipping sideways upon the blue-black waves. 

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