Well, Salt Winds is coming together (I really need to update the section in my writing) and is approaching 25,000 words. I have one chapter left to write which is, usefully, the hardest…
I started the story with the idea of someone who, let’s face it, is a twat. And then life deals him a few hard punches (although most are of his own making) and he gets depressed, tries to commit suicide, fails and gets sent off to the seaside for his health. The rest of the story flows from there.
And the chapter I haven’t written yet is the first one, in which all of the above happens.
How do you write depression? How do I convey the absolute, overwhelming sense of hopelessness? How does it even work? I don’t want to end up with a chapter where all the reader is thinking is “oh, quit being whiny! Quit being useless!”. I mean, I already want to whack him round the head for being an arrogant, obnoxious idiot, so I don’t need to make it worse.
Depression isn’t easy to convey. Logically, when you lay it out, it’s simple. You’re feeling down; ok, so cheer up. Do something to make yourself feel better. No matter what life’s dealt you, it isn’t that bad; it could be worse. Just get up and do it.
But it really isn’t that simple. It’s all in your head, and that’s really hard to out across. I can lay out the reasons, I can lay out the feelings, but unless the reader can connect the two, and also understand – and empathise! – with Obak, it’s not going to work.
I need to get across the endless future, the endless tedium, the lack of anything that could make it better. I need to get across that the good things sometimes aren’t when you start looking at them from the inside. I need to get across the internal part of depression, not just the external view that everyone else sees.
And one of the things that I really want to get across, which I think is the core of depression; people don’t try to commit suicide because they want to die. They commit suicide because they don’t want to carry on. Because they want to remove themselves from everyone else’s worlds – for everyone else’s sake. Depression is inherently selfish, but it’s also cruel. It turns you around, makes you think that you’re a burden on the people who care and a nuisance to those who don’t. It makes you think that it wouldn’t matter if you were there or not. It makes you wonder why you are carrying on. It makes you realise that you really don’t matter. It makes you realise how small you really are. How weak. How insignificant.
And if I get all of that right, if I manage to convey depression, then I need to show him getting better. That’s important. Depression strips away everything, coats it in a grey fog that doesn’t let anything in. I need to show that fog releasing its hold. I need to show small things breaking through, the shock when you realise that you can feel again, that things do matter; the horror and sadness when you remember how you felt, what you thought, and realise what it would have done. That there are always little joys, little moments that are important. That despite what the world tells you and despite what you thought, you do matter, no matter how small you are. I need to show that it can – and does – get better. That it can be beaten.
I need to show both depression, as it really is, and being able to recover. And I need to do it so that the reader understands.