The Dilemma

Alaa El Fadel is finishing her MFA in Creative Writing, working on a fantasy novel and a screen adaptation. Her blog is Mountain Quill.

The passage through the mountainous regions of craft has left me with a permanent love of literature and the arts. Wonder, spirit, boundless imaginings – those are the things that are worth writing about.


Every young writer goes through this dilemma – should I or should I not write about this story? Once in a while, an event, a moment a sliver of dialogue catches our attention and we are irresistibly moved to write about it. But is it our right to do so? How can we write a story respectfully? Will someone sue us? Why am I writing it? Once decided, the question of how to make it entertaining comes to mind. Can I add a little spice or Frankenstein the events?  Would it be better to lock the story away for a few years or publish it before that other writer who seems to think the same way I do gets to it first?

So what does a writer do when they come across a story like Joyce Vincent’s, when her tale was wrapped up in a documentary film like the Christmas presents surrounding her skeleton? Three years, that’s how long she waited before anyone knew she was dead in her council flat above a mall. No one reported anything, not the foul smell or the noise of the TV that was left on all that time. She was 38, had a bubbly personality, was extremely beautiful and never drank or did drugs. But there were rumours of domestic abuse and she did move a lot. Other from that, no one knew what happened to her.

In an interview with Carol Moley, the director of the documentary Dreams of a Life, Moley answered all those invisible questions. And after watching the film, I can see how respectful she was in presenting the facts. That is where it stopped but that is not where it can end. This is where writers come in. During my studies I learned two very important things when it came to narratives – write properly and tell a story. Great writers are entertainers, leaders in affection and inspire the strangest of thoughts. Dramatizing a story like Joyce’s requires skill to entertain within the facts and still remain respectful of those involved. Just as Black Beauty impelled the world to stop treating horses cruelly, Joyce’s fate can influence the way we think of people around us and those who are left in a vulnerable state.

There once lived a beautiful girl who dwelled with her sisters. They tended her when their mother died and their father abandoned his duties. Her heart broke as her beauty grew. She became the light of the world, with her silken voice, her soft skin and her handsome smile, she delighted all she knew. But such loveliness is never left without notice and a storm chased her. She ran away from all to protect them but the storm followed her wherever she went. It hounded her for years until she could run no more and it swallowed her in darkness.

Writing is a powerful tool and a scary one to wield. The pen really is mightier than the sword.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Mountain Quill » Blog Archive » The Dilemma
  2. Trackback: On being a writer and artist and overcoming dyslexia

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