So. In the HG Wells short story The Pearl of Love an Indian prince falls in love with a young woman who dies shortly after their wedding. He dedicates his life to building a monument to her. In old age, with the building nearly complete, he studies one of the vistas within the monument and finds it spoiled by her sarcophagus. ‘Take that thing away,’ he commands.
I was reminded of that story this morning in the shower, when I suddenly saw the resolution to the tangled and unworking plot of a story I am writing. I realised that the very beginning scene, which I had tweaked and tidied for ages, and was very much in love with, had to go. ‘Take that thing away,’ I commanded.
Of course, the position isn’t quite the same, as the beginning scene isn’t the core of the book: even though it had been there since the start. We have to learn though, that once we have started, the things that we began with may not make it to the end.
Perhaps it would be better if we treated them in the same way as builders treat the wooden formwork for concrete: it holds the drying concrete in place, but once that has set the formwork is struck and never seen again. Or again, maybe as the metalworker’s wax image which is vaporised as the molten bronze or silver is poured into the mould. In each case, what we start with is not the finished piece, but we need it in order to create it.
Let us all begin to use the harsh but powerful phrase: ‘take that thing away.’