Elaine Forrestal

The jigsaw puzzle of writing

Charles Ulm wearing the flying helmet that his son John later wore when he sat in his father’s seat in the Southern Cross while Smithy flew the plane from richmond to Mascot where it was put on display.

The jigsaw puzzle of stories, anecdotes, memories, facts and figures that make up the manuscript of On Wings of Steel at present, are slowly coming together. It’s a long, but fascinating, process.

Firstly there are two voices that I am grappling with, those of John and Charles (CTP) Ulm. There are times when these two voices need to meld together into one. The action is often passed between them like a ball. Sometimes the ball comes at you so fast that there is only a paragraph or two for you to catch your breath before the next throw. There are other times, however, when the two characters, father and son, must be separate. One goes to school. The other flies all over the world. But they merge and become one again, sharing the same emotions at the same time, when John and Jo, (Charles’s second wife)  follow their beloved CTP’s progress via the radio in their lounge room. Since John and his father are so alike, and share a detailed knowledge of planes and a passion for flying, it does not take a huge leap of imagination for them to also speak with one voice. By the time John is telling his father’s story he has become immersed in it. He has heard it told so many times – by family members and friends, in the newspapers, by Charles himself in his log books, that there are times during this re-telling when he imagines himself at the heart of the action and, in a sense, becomes his father’s voice.

Is this possible? I am beginning to think it is. I just have to get the transitions right and make sure the reader is still coming along for this white-knuckle ride.