Friday 26 January 2024

Extracts From The Writing Of Madeleine McDonald

Experimenting With Different Angles

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Author Madeleine McDonald is a novelist but is better known for her short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction. The example below shows her taking an idea and expressing it using two different forms, a 50-word story and a tanka.

Madeleine says, “Very short stories simply have to meet a word count, whereas a tanka must be shoehorned into a non-rhyming formal pattern of five lines with 5,7,5,7,7 syllables respectively. Sometimes I just cannot make a particular word fit into the required number of syllables and still 'sound' right, and I have to find an alternative.” She notes in passing that, “The Japanese have other, arcane rules which Western authors ignore.”

The 50-word story
‘Come with me,’ he says, ‘to the islands of the west, golden in splendour.’ A number 9 bus looms out of the London murk. As we board, hand in hand, an aura of dejection and wet coats envelops us. Who cares, when mythical lands of adventure stand on the horizon?

The tanka
Come with me, he said
To the islands of the west
Golden in splendour
A number 9 bus arrived
All adventures start somewhere...

Madeleine also writes poetry although she notes that “Poetry is not my forte. I prefer short fiction.” She says of her prizewinning poem Hidden in Plain Sight, “Although I have written articles on modern slavery, I hoped the message would have more of an impact as a poem. I wrote it because the comfortable Western world ignores the realities of modern slavery. Out of sight is out of mind, just as sugar plantation slavery was 200 years ago.”

Hidden in Plain Sight
We do not want to see, hear or know.
To preserve our ignorance, we allow shifting
sands to settle over brutal truths.
Day by day, hour by hour, we unlearn
inconvenient facts; we lock them into a vault in
our minds.
50 million people are held in slavery or
servitude in our interconnected modern world.
The facts are there, recorded in stark newsprint
or on fleeting digital screens.
We turn away. It is not our children who choke
on dust, or whose fingers bleed. It is not our
children who sleep under workbenches and
see no daylight.
We turn away, unwilling to acknowledge the
human price of our modern comforts. It is
easier to focus our outrage on the slaveries of
A hundred years hence, once our denial has
acquired the patina of history, our
grandchildren’s grandchildren, appalled, will
ask, ‘Why did you not act?’
Hand on heart, we will say, "But we did not know."

Links to Madeleine’s novels and several of her many published shorter works can be found in this profile

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