Last week saw the launch of Sharon Sant’s new young adult novel ‘The Memory Game’. The book tells the tale of 15-year-old David who is still hanging around three weeks after his death, without knowing why. The only person who is aware of him is Bethany, the girl he bullied at school. Sharon is one of the lovely writers I’ve met through Twitter, and she’s here to talk about the difficulties of a protagonist who is already dead.
At the time of writing The Memory Game, it never occurred to me just what I was doing by making my protagonist a dead boy. The story came to me and I wrote it down without question. It wasn’t until I read a wonderful and insightful review of the book by fellow writer, Jack Croxall, that it hit me.
In his review, Jack comments on the fact that the main character’s new found covertness, by way of his death, enables him (and us) to see first-hand people’s reactions to his death with a sincerity that would never occur were they aware of his presence. The way that David, our narrator and main character, views things with fresh eyes is what catalyses his journey of self-realisation and discovery throughout the story. It is what drives change. Sadly, it is too late for almost anyone else to benefit from this change, but maybe that doesn’t matter. That David finally sees himself for what he really is (or was) could be, perhaps, truth enough.
It’s not the first time, of course, that a dead person has been used to tell a story. You only have to look to The Lovely Bones or The Catastrophic History of You and Me and countless others to see that. But there is something in the way that a story is told from a dead person’s perspective that enables a fresh interaction with it and perhaps that is the appeal of writing such a story. The afterlife (if, indeed, such a place exists) is somewhere that nobody has been to and returned from in order to tell the tale, and yet somewhere that everyone will eventually go to. No wonder we have such a fascination with it. Telling a story from the afterlife presents the storyteller and, thus, the reader, with infinite possibilities and imaginings about what it is like, what is possible and impossible, what it could all mean. David from The Memory Game inhabits a grim version that is basically the ability to wander his home village with very little power to affect any event he sees unfold and with no answers to the riddle of why he is still there. There are no spirit guides or chief angels to help and advise; only a local girl who meant nothing to him when he was alive and is, initially, equally as reluctant to enter into any sort of relationship as he is.
In the end, I can’t tell you why I chose to write a dead protagonist, I can only say that David wouldn’t leave me alone until I helped him to tell his story. So I did.