Fellow Writers Blog: Second Tuesday
Well now, I was a trifle flummoxed at this subject. Did I have a favourite and how did I create a character? Um. Difficult. Talking it out with my friend the conclusion was that Ellen, my first heroine of The Sefuty Chronicles, although everything that’s perfect was not my favourite. Too good. No, my heart belonged to her bad-tempered, ungrateful, quick-tempered, suspicious companion Ria!
I have a soft spot for this deeply flawed character. She’s an impossible girl, especially on her first outing. Why would any group of people want her around is a good question and where on earth did she come from? I suspect she came from decades of my interest in (a) children and (b) the brain.
I wandered into childcare when I left school in the 60’s by accident and with no clear idea of what it would entail. I stayed for decades because, although I am singularly lacking in any maternal instincts, children intrigued me. I loved watching their minds evolve, their personalities develop. I loved watching how they made connections and sense of their different worlds; marvelled at their ability to absorb entire grammars and languages. They are tiny and amazing.
Before I trained in childcare back in my teens I had begun to read books on mind development and brainwashing/persuasion techniques. During the 50’s and 60’s, brainwashing/mind control began to create a deal of interest and debate which has simmered on over the ensuing years. In school history lessons I had wondered at the seemingly odd behaviours of people and populations; tried to work out superstitions. Did my dyspraxia feed this interest I have to wonder now? Impairment in socialisation skills being part of my problem, I must have spent many years trying to figure out how to fit in, many years people-watching trying to work out the skills needed. Who knows?
When I began travelling, of course, I was to come across many variations on childcare, creating much food for thought. I developed an abiding interest in social anthropology, as an equal partner to my interest in the development of the brain, and which years later was to form part of my science degree. I was, and remain, interested in how children could be influenced by their culture and the society around them as well as their fit within families; a never-ending stream of thoughts and ideas bubbling within my brain over years.
In Ria the circumstances of her childhood forms the flawed character she has become and in truth will probably always be. The claim of the Jesuits that if they had a child for its first seven years the child was theirs for ever, is not so far away from truth. Those first few years are crucial. I would worry often that I might inadvertently damage a child in my care by some unconsidered action or remark.
In The Sefuty Chronicles civilization, as we know it now, has broken down and the survivors have had to create new societies and new cultures. After only fifty years, there has been no time for relaxation of survival rules to creep in. Ria is a victim also of this rigid new way of life. A child born in the wrong time, to the wrong family, to the wrong social life. With no chance to invent a pleasant niche for herself, as children do, she becomes the outcast. The natural instinct of all animal life – we are but animals at heart! – is to drive away the outsider. Ria is the outsider.
So here, five decades on from when I first read about Bowlbys Attachment Theories, I have produced Ria Baha, flawed but dear to me. She has been created from a mix of Bowlby, seasoned by brainwashing techniques, Jesuits, world travels and a career in childcare.