So many things can leave a mark. Dog bites. Oven racks.
Watching a mother in the park teach her child to be fearful, you might say to yourself, “That’s going to leave a mark.” You realize it’s not what she means to do. A mother raised in poverty, my own mother for example, might prioritize financial security above the physical kind. The marks you cause aren’t always intentional.
As a writer, you can be more purposeful. I’m not talking about setting out to leave a mark on literature in the way that Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley did by creating an entire genre.
I have far more modest intentions—initials carved in tree bark. Uncle Dominic, 1954, printed on the back of a photograph.
The primary goal is to create a good story well told. But also, I admit, to leave a trace—to say, I was in this place. I saw this, thought that, felt things that have caused this character to shock even me with her behavior.
The four female characters in my first novel The Balance of Fear have all been marked in one way or another by early trauma. I intended for them to be marked, and both the reader and I can imagine them behaving as they do because of it.
I hope to leave a mark on the reader as well, as I am marked when I read good stories well told. Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Akin by Emma Donoghue. Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You. The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. And always, always Sheila Kohler’s The Perfect Place.
I hope you’ll take a look at The Balance of Fear and tell me how you think I’ve done.