Monday, 13 January 2014

Deleted scenes and characters

I was recycling a massive stack of draft chapters of A Song for Issy Bradley when I came across some early storyboards/outlines. It was really weird to read notes about long-forgotten characters who didn't make it into the book - it was a bit like finding a surprise menu of DVD extras.

I had completely forgotten that the Bradley family (Bradbury at one time - the surname needed to be similar to Brady for a joke about the Brady Bunch that never actually made it into the novel) originally had two extra sons, Samuel and Nephi (both Book of Mormon names, like Alma and Jacob). Samuel and Nephi were obsessed with mathematics and Glee respectively. I had written draft chapters in their voices but Samuel's sections read like a pastiche of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and Nephi's obsession with Glee in such a heteronormative, patriarchal family/religion deserved more than a fleeting treatment. There were also difficulties with the viewpoint kaleidoscoping between seven family members - it was too much, Samuel and Nephi had to go.

I discovered that Zippy Bradley's love interest, Adam, was originally called James (which was news to me) and another teenager - Toby - had a storyline that didn't even make it into the first draft of the novel. Even the names of the main characters had changed: the mother of the Bradley family was initially called Ruth, then Sarah, but I subsequently decided against a biblical name, plumping instead for the name that was most popular among my thirty-something Facebook friends: Claire. And Issy Bradley was originally called Sariah, another Book of Mormon name.

At one stage it seems that, having heard about a group of British Mormons who were living polygamously in the 1990s, I considered writing about Mormon fundamentalism and polygamy* (I have no recollection of this idea, but the notes exist and I can see why I found the topic interesting and also why I ultimately decided not to go there). I also found notes (and suddenly recalled buying several books) on OCD and scrupulosity, a psychological disorder characterised by pathological guilt about moral/religious issues.

I was so glad to find these notes/storyboards at a time when it feels as if A Song for Issy Bradley has always held its current shape and dealt with its present themes. That fact that it has changed and evolved is encouraging as I muddle my way through new ideas and outlines. I can suddenly see the missteps and dead ends and there are even some 'left overs' that I may decide to blend into the recipe of novel 2.

* ...'a group of [Mormon] Church members living in Bristol, England, about 200 miles west of London, had interest in both plural marriage and fundamentalist beliefs. Priesthood Council members Joseph Thompson, William Baird, and David Watson, accompanied by Marianne Watson, were dispatched to proselytize the English investigators. Over the space of several years, more than eighty joined the AUB [Apostolic United Brethren] with some of them instructed to migrate prior to the end of 1997 when some catastrophic event was going to occur.' (More here)


  1. I can't believe it has changed so much either. I remember you talking about some of those names and potential plots but had completely forgotten them. The story as it is though, is really moving. A grown man finding himself crying in public while reading a book is just slightly embarrassing!

  2. Thanks Neil! Still can't quite believe I made you cry in public :)