Lost in Metaphor
I keep getting lost in the metaphors of my memoir's first chapter.
In it (the current version, anyway) I return to my Mom's house after having purchased a house of my own. I show up to visit my nephews and find them on the couch with the blinds drawn, watching The Bad Seed.
"Aunt Kelly," one of them says. "Daddy says you're a bad seed."
I've been making slow progress, but I still haven't captured an immersive scene. I've had so many ideas about themes: I could use subtle word choices to frame myself up as a household pest that comes in to scavenge! It would reinforce the "bad seed" notion! Then I tried to characterize Mom through her house, but that raised too many questions. Was I describing her as a mother or as a grandmother? How Mom treated my nephews was much different than the way she raised me, and I don't want people to equate the two.
I've become smitten with the idea of framing ordinary objects as sinister ever since I read an article about The Shining and Kubrick's study of Freud's essay about the uncanny. I love how Laura Maw writes:
That led me down a "donut autopsy" rabbit hole. (Don't ask. I thought I was being clever. Always a bad sign.) But the writing didn't ring true. Mom's house didn't feel sinister to me at the time. It still held comfort, even though it was a self-defeating kind of comfort. The comfort of regression.
Maybe I'm layering too much on top. I come to Mom's house, in Chapter One, to regress. I need to show that it's a source of comfort, that I come back and adopt the same role as my six-year-old nephews. It shows how I'm stuck. It's the ordinary world, if I were to map it against the Hero's Journey. And any detail that does not support that narrative should be excised. If the scene communicates more than that, if it raises unnecessary questions or inferences, then it should be slimmed down.
Set the scene, provide the necessary information, get to the point, then move on. Keep the story lean and strong.