I am a huge fan of Stephen King. Not so much the films that are made from his books, (although Shawshank Redemption, Cat’s Eye and the Dark Half all rock) but of his writing. I am probably not as well read “fictionally” as I should be for someone who is now writing and publishing fiction stories, but Stephen King has had an immense impact on my writing, and I have great respect for his command of the English language, and his ability to capture the subtlest of human interactions. One of the hallmarks of his writing is his emphasis on dealing with how ordinary people cope in extraordinary circumstances. He pits people – who are essentially your neighbours – against some of the most terrifying and original specters and organised evils that the literary world has ever seen. But he also displays an incredible awareness of human tenderness. Of both our basest predilections and our most primeval empathetic tendencies.
And so through my love for his writing I came across On Writing, his ode to how he came to the craft of writing, and his tips and techniques for – and assertions on – the art of writing itself. In that book, which I recommend to any writer, he set out an exercise for the reader to write a short story based on a few parameters that he laid out. He asked that we take the sad old situation of domestic abuse perpetrated by a dominant male over a female, and switch the roles. And he also laid out a few elements that had to be included in the tale: prison, a boiling kettle and Vitalis hair Tonic. And their names were Dick and Jane.
I took it on as an experiment and it soon turned into more than just a short story for me. It became a novella-length exploration of some incredibly pervasive tragedies that carry far more weight in our society than most give them credit for. The effects of childhood trauma; the difficulty of recovering from domestic violence; and the strange and devastating melting pot of emotions that exist when you love and care for someone that terrifies you. And also when you know the reason that person does such horrible things is because they themselves are the victim.
Stephen King said in On Writing that, once you’d finished your story, you should send it to him. That was nearly thirty years ago, but I contacted his manager anyway. Apparently Stephen hadn’t considered the hundreds of thousands of replies he would get, and they have actually since removed that part from the book! But that is part of why I love him. He speaks from the heart, and cared more about literature than the consequences af asking his millions of fans to send him their shorts.
But I asked his manager if he’d mind if I sought to publish my tale. He said that would be fine. I have tried to get this published in various journals but to no avail. Such is the life of the aspiring author. But it is also why I decided to create this blog. I wanted to publish my writing. I want people to read it. And I hope, one day, Stephen himself might finall get a chance to read it too.
So without further ado, I present to you my take on Dick and Jane.
Dick is in prison and Jane is trying to rebuild a life ruined by Dick’s extreme paranoia and violence. Now living in the Caboolture area, Jane, with the assistance of Nanna Karla, struggles to cope with single-parenthood of their young daughter Nell in the aftermath of the violent relationship meltdown that ended in Dick’s imprisonment in the Brisbane Women’s Correctional Facility. Jane knows Dick’s history and wishes he still had it in him to try, but Dick is a damaged woman.
A brutalised little girl in an adult’s body, Dick is hell bent on payback for what she sees as the kidnapping of her only child by Jane, her unfortunately named ex-partner. Assisted by a poem to which she attributes divine influence, Dick follows the path to vengeance through her stars, which burn hot enough to kill.