And no, not just because I was obsessed with those STUNNING punky sexy trio that save Peter Pan in the film Hook by snogging him back to life. I wanted to write Mermaids for a completely different reason entirely.
I have always been fascinated with the idea of ‘weirdo’s’; the odd ones out. I am obsessed with the bizarre and the strange. Quite often these isolated characters and protagonists in art have been portrayed as ‘losers’, villains or the underdog. It was important to me to create a character that was different and unique but these qualities, rather than being cons, makes the character magical.
I have visited a lot of schools. Lots of students want to write, make, create but feel like they are short of ideas as ‘all ideas are taken’ (can’t argue with that, The Little Mermaid, Splash) but feeding your brain inspiration is not cheating. I always encourage students to write what they know, to write from the heart. But their general argument is that their life is apparently ‘boring.’
NO IT IS NOT.
Everybody is unique. And that is what makes you interesting.
But of course that’s hard to put into words. People, least likely the littler members of our species, find it difficult to write honestly about themselves. Why are we different? What makes us uncomfortable? Special? Feel like the odd one out? And how to do that without writing a piece that reads like a cringing diary entry or getting yourself or somebody else into trouble or embarrassment is a tremendously terrifying feat.
But we can try can’t we? Through character.
Using somebody else’s voice, a new voice, belonging to a brand new character that we have created; a zebra, an alien, a princess, a little boy, an angel, a pencil case, an aubergine. We can use these characters as devices, mouthpieces to tell a whole new brand story of our own, telling our story, punctuated with our truth and messages from our heart.
Easier said than done. Errrr…. Duh.
It seemed obvious that I had a job to do. And so I created Lorali. A character that was unique, one that was celebrated for her individualism, praised for her oddities and quirks, rewarded for her change and courage. Lorali is not overly glamorous or sexual. She is not hilarious or hugely smart. She is just a seemingly ordinary girl who happens to have something extraordinary about her; she is a mermaid.
Ok, so I’ve never been a mermaid. I’ve never breathed for longer than a minute underwater, combed my hair with a fork and the only thing my singing voice could lure handsome sailors to is a large bottle of rum and a sharp knife to hack their ears off with. I should also point out, I don’t have a tail.
But, what I do know is how it feels to be different. The small voice in the big room; laughed at, stared at, left out, confused, heartbroken, lost. I know how it feels to be ostracized in extreme environments, home sick, ashamed, numb, conflicted, jaded, overwhelmed, exposed. I know how it feels to sit on a secret. I know the want to escape.
And all of these things, these feelings, and more, are not feelings to be embarrassed about. These are themes that as humans we have to encounter everyday. The weird tangly feelings that are tricky to put into words, that makes us feel anxious and sick. Themes that challenge us and humanity, question ourselves and behaviors. And those emotions are not ugly, we shouldn’t have to hide them because these are the types of stuff we exactly should be exploring in art because it IS what we know and readers can relate to it, particularly young people.
BECAUSE WE ARE ALL DIFFERENT AND THAT’S AMAZING.
And so why the mermaid? Thought of as beautiful and dainty and innocent. Not thought of as a freak or a monster. But why not? A hybrid of human flesh and fish scales. Unnatural yet natural all the same…why is a mermaid perceived differently? Because she is beautiful? Exotic? Female? Provocative? Naked? Traditionally a mute? Is it because as far as a monster goes she is harmless? Inoffensive? Silenced?
I wanted to find out.
And then I wanted to make up loads of new stuff to show other people, young people, that really we have all felt like the weirdo freak in the room because we are all weirdo freaks. Even if we look like mermaids. And that is just the reason I want to write forever.
Thank you Laura, for an awesome post. Keep your eyes peeled for more about Laura and Lorali later today.
Lorali by Laura Dockrill - published by Hot Key Books on July 2nd 2015
Looking after a naked girl he found washed up under Hastings pier isn't exactly how Rory had imagined spending his sixteenth birthday. But more surprising than finding her in the first place is discovering where she has come from.
Lorali is running not just from the sea, not just from her position as princess, but her entire destiny. Lorali has rejected life as a mermaid, and become human.
But along with Lorali's arrival, and the freak weather suddenly battering the coast, more strange visitors begin appearing in Rory's bemused Sussex town. With beautifully coiffed hair, sharp-collared shirts and a pirate ship shaped like a Tudor house, the Abelgare boys are a mystery all of their own. What are they really up to? Can Rory protect Lorali? And who from? And where does she really belong, anyway?
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