So perhaps I first need to answer the question: Why am I even asking the question? Three years into the project, is it a bit late? No, I don’t think so. One of the reasons for writing the novel (which for the uninitiated is a novel about a woman with early onset dementia searching for her daughter before it is too late) was because I wanted to draw attention to the situation of early onset dementia. (I could have written problem, but as one of my characters says: “There are no problems, only solutions!”) This is as true of dementia as it is of any other thing that happens in life. I was talking to a scientist the other day about public engagement and he pointed out that all scientific discoveries start with a question, and if scientists more often included that question in their communication with the public, the public would engage more easily.
My PhD critical component starts with the question (as yet unfinalised) “Can the use of the Facebook as a narrative form add authenticity to the portrayal of someone with early onset dementia in a realist novel?”
The dramatic question that my novel asks is “Can the woman with early onset dementia find her daughter before it is too late?” The possible answers to that are: Yes, No, Maybe. I still haven’t decided.
You’ll be glad to hear that I am not going to answer the critical component question (30,000 words) in this post.
Back to why I am writing the novel. I can tell stories. I can write stories. My relative said when she was diagnosed: “I really hope you can get some writing out of this, Ali.”
At the conference in Glasgow, Larry Butler asked each of us on our panel “Who looks after the carers?” My answer surprised me. “I wasn’t allowed to care for my relative,* so this is about making sure she is cared for.” Now whether or not I write this novel has no practical bearing upon how my relative is cared for. Published or not it will not make one whit of difference to her. But it is something I CAN do in a situation which is otherwise heartbreaking. I am not a natural carer, too impatient, too easily bored with repetivitve tasks and quiet lifestyles, all essential aspects of caring.
The other thing I realised is that I have yet to tackle two essential parts of the story: Looking for the daughter and Facebook as form. Oh I have done the research and made copious notes and drafts, but now I have to concentrate on the dramatic question of the story so that I can answer both that and the critical component question.
*That is a whole different story