It seemed like such a good idea in the middle of the night. But now I come to reflect on it and actually write the blog post, it’s pretty heavy. I’m thinking about friends and colleagues who used to live but no longer do. Here are five observations, feelings and thoughts on death and writing about it.
1. As you get older, your friends leave the party
The older you get, the more people you know depart from the ‘currently alive’ club. I’m thinking of school friends: and the medical issues; car accident; and ill-health that took them. And family members: an armed robbery; a train accident; old age. College friends: several from cancer. Work colleagues: heart attack; cancer again. So sad.
2. You remember the names
The names become important to you: Adam the drummer; David the publishing MD; Anne-Marie, an ex-girlfriend’s younger sister; fellow journalists Guy and Ed - cancer chased them both down. School friends Tony, Graham, Beth. Tragic.
3. They live in your mind and heart
Sometimes you don’t talk to good friends for ages. When you catch up with them, it’s like you were never apart. They carry on existing in the interim. Most of the time you didn’t think of them. With departed friends and family, it’s like they’re still alive. They live in your memories, mind and heart.
4. Life is for living
You realise that you have a finite number of opportunities to see loved ones - and that there’s probably a figure on the number of times you will spend time with a relative or friend. It becomes even more important to make time for people, live in peace, with joy in your heart. Every moment is precious.
5. Writers should approach death sensitively
It’s an important subject for a writer to grapple with. And you’ll need to if you’re writing stories that span any decent length of time. In 5fingers, I reported on the ends of several characters’ lives. It felt important to do it, and do it right.
As 5fingers: initiation begins, you learn that Rachel lost her mother when she was young. It’s sensitive for Rachel: painful. I was very aware of readers, friends and close relatives who have gone through a similar experience. I think you have to respect your readers, and try not to patronise them.
I don’t want to give anything away, but there are more deaths in 5fingers: vortex, trinity, rescue and freedom. But in each case, my aim is to make the coverage appropriate and respectful where required. Ultimately, I believe that there’s a bigger picture and that this life is only part of it. And like a good story, every life has a significant start, a compelling middle and a memorable end.
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Joshua Raven, novelist. Read about my writing and my life here. And have you discovered 5fingers yet?