Month: February 2010

My thoughts on The Dessert


There are spoilers to The Dessert in here so only read it once you have read the story itself or else it will definitely ruin it for you. It has been a difficult story to craft, and I suppose a ”vignette” would be a better word to describe it. I did want a significant departure from my other stories, which all carried a twist in the plot right at the very end (or near the end). This was my first attempt at something a little different, an ending that I have seen most often in cinemas, short movies and such, a fleeting glimpse into a character’s life and then the camera pans away, often before the decisive moment occurs.

Such stories do not have universal appeal, moreover, I do not know if I have accomplished it with the graphic medium… perhaps it was always too ambitious for me right now and the storyline may have been too subtle. The stark lighting in the artwork may have also pushed readers towards expecting a similarly stark and well-outlined denouement to the story, thus my ambiguous ending may have been disappointingly anti-climactic. I did attempt the use of symbolism – the most obvious is that of the bird which signifies Virginia”s desire for freedom from her trapped state. In a sense, she feels like a caged bird, but she doesn”t really have anything to hold her – initially we feel she is bored in the marriage, that she and her husband had high expectations, but then the angst builds up and her husband is a secret homosexual. Her relationship with the bohemian free spirit, Molly, is also ambiguous; are there Sapphic undertones to their friendship, what does Molly mean when she wants to lure Virginia away from her marriage? She implies they will be ”together” but the context is unclear. Virginia vacillates about leaving, she tells Molly she wants to leave and that the suitcases are packed with the bare essentials, but at the end of her internal monologue, she is still torn about leaving, it is always “easier” to think about leaving than actually doing it. She is trapped by her own intertia, and a certain middle-class mindset. One already gets the feeling that Virginia doesn’t share Molly’s bohemian sensibilities altogether, and would really prefer a happily-ever-after marriage. However, this was not to be – and at the end of a typical day (for Virginia), the husband Paul returns home and they have dinner, where his indifferent behaviour continues throughout the dessert (it is unclear that they are having dessert though, just that they have finished dining…). Then Charles turns up, whom Virginia suspects of leading her husband astray. But Virginia”s internal monologue ends here, as she sits upstairs alone, feeling angrier by the minute… and she goes downstairs to spy on her husband and Charles. At this point, she discovers they are having a homosexual liason, and is horrified by her discovery. But perhaps it explains Paul”s indifference? Anyway, she stands in the dark, contemplative, smoking, and then suddenly hurls herself down the stairs with an almost beatific expression on her face – this has led several people to enquire whether the stairs incident was metaphorical or ”real”. I had not intended a metaphor here, but it was interesting that some people felt it might have been. Paul hears the crash from upstairs but is curiously detached as to its cause, and continues reading his book. In a way, it exemplifies his obliviousness to Virginia’s feelings throughout their marriage. Virginia, for her part, still loves Paul, and still wants him to come and ”rescue” her from the bottom of the steps as if in a fairytale ending, but instead, only the dog arrives eventually. It is at this moment that she realises that all is lost, that Paul really does not love her. The implication is that she might have forgiven Paul his infidelity if he had only arrived at that moment to offer her comfort.

As she ascends the staircase, she sees the bird again, flapping at the window – a reminder of her desire for freedom, but then the bird seems content to shelter in the window ledge for the night? However, her nerves seem to have become becalmed after all the melodrama, and she enters the room Paul is in. Paul, indifferent to all that has happened, just enquires if she is ready to travel the next evening, and she simply replies wistfully, “The bags… are packed” while a trail of cigarette smoke drifts off in the opposite direction, into the darkness, implying an uncertain future. It is at this point the story ends, but the reader is left none the wiser about what Virginia eventually decides. Was her resolve to leave the marriage eventually hardened by Paul’s indifference towards her? Or was she still trapped in the unhappy marriage, because it still offered her shelter against uncertainty (like the bird on the ledge)?

My thoughts (and plotting) ran along these lines as I was making up the story, nothing was set in stone until I actually sketched out the panels in pencil, and then inked it all in. Although I had planned the story (more or less), I was still free to make small alterations to the plot, script and dialogue along the way, which may or may not have adversely affected the final work. I am quite happy with the stark and dramatic artwork, but as for the story, it remains to be seen how successful I was in conveying all the emotions – I’d be very interested to know other readers’ personal interpretations of the story though. So please do not hesitate to write to me or leave a comment.

Finished The Dessert at last

Well I seem to have plowed through the starter, main course and dessert at last! After Lent began, I promised myself to sketch, ink and scan one full page every day apart from weekends, and apart from one missed day which couldn’t really be helped, it provided me with the final impetus needed to complete this short story. It’s far more experimental than my previous ones, more of a “slice of life” story that is steeped in a sense of melancholy and uncertain longing; it is also far more ambiguous than any of my other works, and I want to leave the readers still asking questions after finishing the story. I’m not completely how it will be received yet. One of the biggest problems of being a writer of such a story is that after mulling the plot for too long, it all becomes so obvious to one, but the pieces may not quite fit together the same way for the reader.

Anyway I’m off to take a break and do something completely different for a while. Maybe wait until I find more inspiration before I begin my 5th (and final, for the Painting Stories novella) short story.