I’d never been a fan of diagnosing fictional characters with mental illnesses until I started on Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Septimus seems to have some combination of what we would now call schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and autism. As this was 1925, before treatments became available, his doctor merely recommends rest as remedy.
I mentioned this to a friend who also writes, and she told me that OCD runs in her family. Having thought about the stories I’ve written, I’ve realised I’ve created characters who probably have this particular condition.
For instance, one of my published pieces, Amending Diabolical Acronym Misuse, focuses on a man who is obsessed with acronyms. Every day, he scours the newspapers looking for acronyms. When he discovers one that he considers incorrect, he writes to the person or company concerned. Another features a woman who carries out set tasks at set times every week, and can’t cope with any change to it. Even the example piece I knocked up on 1 September to demonstrate editing techniques concerns a man who needs to repeat an action over and over again.
Tonight, I’m heading to an event in town where Life Sciences students from Dundee University will be performing factual and fictional pieces based on their studies. Their work has been edited and guided by students on the MLitt course.
My student is Greek, although she has an excellent grasp of English. Once we’d worked out the story structure, I only needed to change some of the grammar, particularly the tenses. I’ve realised that tenses in English are not always straightforward. For instance, If I was is sometimes correct, while If I were is sometimes required.
If I were able to, I’d tell you in this entry how it went, but I’ll come back to it next week.