Tag Archives: Kurt Cobain

Writing ‘Please Don’t Leave Me Here’

PDLMH COVERI wrote most of Please Don’t Leave Me Here between the hours of 5 a.m and 7 a.m. My children were small, I was studying and running a small business from home, so the early mornings were pretty much the only times I had for writing.

It’s hard to pinpoint where the story idea came from. I had this vivid, cinematic image in my head of a serpent tattoo breathing on somebody’s back — I think that was the first thing I wrote, even though I didn’t know who it belonged to at the time. Around the same time, for some reason, I was flicking through my old journals. I came across an entry from the day Kurt Cobain was found dead. I was surprised by how different my memory of that time was compared to what I had written on the actual day in my journal. It made me think about the memories we hold and how they become skewed over time.

The memory of Kurt became an important part of the story. I was also inspired by music, art, books, objects, smells, dreams, snippets of conversations overheard on the tram …

Please Don’t Leave Me Here started as a short story that explored whether or not people ever really change — with age, circumstances, relationships. What remains constant and what shifts? It became a very long two-part short story (part one set in the present and part two set in the past). Still it kept growing, like rice pudding — it always wanted to be a novel.

Ernest Hemingway said: ‘Writing is rewriting’. It’s true — once I had a cohesive draft I rewrote it and rewrote it and rewrote it. And then rewrote it again. And again …

I had a lot of help while writing Please Don’t Leave Me Here. I was lucky enough to have some very clever people around me (a couple of published authors, my writers group, RMIT Professional Writing and Editing lecturers and classmates) who generously gave honest feedback and advice, which was sometimes tough to hear. A lot of tears went into writing this book! Many times I threw up my hands and said I was giving up. But I never could.

Although some parts of the story felt like being in somebody’s nightmare, other parts felt like ‘going home’ to a childhood place. I drew the scenes set in Brigitte’s grandparents’ house from memories of my own grandparents. I loved all my characters (even dreadful Eric Tucker). I also loved the editing process, and felt sad the day the proofs were finished because it meant finally letting go of the story.

What the writer pictures isn’t always what the reader sees

Stephen King says: Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

I agree that it’s good to leave something to the reader’s imagination. In The Broken Shore, when Peter Temple writes: She left, tried to slam the door but it wasn’t that kind of door, I don’t think we need ten flowery lines of detail to know what kind of door it was. However, specific details are needed if it’s important to the story for the reader to get it right.

I recieved feedback recently that a scene of my writing was confusing because there were two guys in flannel shirts at the ‘dead celebrities party’. What? I must have made a mistake (copied instead of cut before pasting). I reread what I’d written and, no, only the guy dressed as Jeff Buckley was wearing a flannel shirt (described, as it is important for the reader to get the right picture of this character). ‘Kurt Cobain’ was also at the party, but I gave no description of him. I left it to the reader – obviously, I thought, he’d be wearing that stripy Teen Spirit sweater – because it didn’t matter as he is a minor character in this scene. The confusion came from my reader picturing ‘Kurt’ also in a flannel shirt. Two guys in flannel shirts = confusing.

I did a quick survey of ten people to see what they imagined somebody would wear as a Kurt Cobain costume to a dead celebrities party. I’m still not sure if I should rewrite the scene to include a wardrobe description of a minor character, but the survey answers were interesting (only one said a flannel shirt):

  • Blue-and-white flannel or green miller shirt over an iconic t-shirt (maybe Kiss or Wal-mart) or blue-and-white striped long-sleeved t-shirt .
  • A cardy.
  • Ripped jeans with a patch or two, black low-cut sneakers with a white toe, like Converse.
  • Messy, grungy, blond hair, and green stripy t-shirt and jeans.
  • Dyed blond, bestubbled goatee; black (navy?)-and-white horizontal, striped long sleeve t-shirt and blue jeans; white, thick-rimmed ovoid sunnies.
  • A striped jumper.
  • A woman’s dress, which he wore in the clip for In Bloom. Obviously the hair is important.
  • Black, tight t-shirt and stonewash jeans.
  • Leather jacket, jeans, bare feet, no shirt.
  • A beanie.

If the reader does not conjure exactly what the writer intended, does it matter (unless it’s important for the scene/story)? Does it matter what the guy dressed as Kurt Cobain wore to the dead celebrities party (as long as it wasn’t a flannel shirt)? Even if the reader has him sans shirt and donning a beanie!

Kurt Cobain Teen Spirit sweaterKurt Cobain black jacketKurt Cobain headbangers ball gown