In today’s ORIGINS, Ethel Rohan discusses the origins of her story “More Than Gone,” published in Halfway Down the Stairs.
The theme of separation, particularly involuntary separation, recurs again and again in my work. The tropes around loss, phantoms, and what haunts especially capture my imagination and are front and center in “More than Gone.”
I rarely use writing exercises, but “More than Gone” was sparked by a prompt from the wonderful folks at Zoetrope’s The Flash Factory. Unfortunately, I cannot find that original prompt to share.
Usually, I show up every day to write and just see what comes out … I am addicted to the high that comes from filling the blank page, from reaching a place in the work that both surprises and yet feels “right.” I love nothing more than to write, not knowing where it will take me, and to mysteriously arrive at the inevitable in the work—a place that both humbles and rewards me, a feeling of grace.
I’m not sure why I am so drawn to writing about—and from the perspective of—older characters. Both my grandfathers died before I was born, and I have only vague memories of my grandmothers. Perhaps I write to “fill-in” what I don’t know about such connections. Perhaps I am reincarnated and have lived past lives to a ripe old age. Perhaps I just love to stretch my imagination. I think, though, it is mostly because the aged are marginalized and rendered invisible and I want to make them seen.
“More than Gone” centers on what can’t be seen, but needs to be looked at; on what is gone, but still remains. It is about phantoms. Now, as I revise initial drafts, I ask the work “Why would I write you?” This probe helps me hone the piece, get to its heart. Invariably the answer is “To bring forth the unseen, the rendered asunder.”