Narrative cure and the writing of A Girl Called Frank
Writers of women’s literary fiction often draw from life experience in their creative process. Self-referential narrative captures memories, events and relationships in order to create meaning rather than recount facts (Smith & Watson, 2010). Truth becomes a flexible concept, as the writer merges fact and fiction to recreate lived experiences (Gilmore, 1994).
On a quest to make sense of my past, I sought to explore experiences and events, key characters and relationships in a work of fiction. I wanted to engage in a transformational process of increased self-knowledge and emancipation from the obsolete values and traumatic events of my past, and make sense of the challenges in my present.
Many authors of contemporary women’s fiction explore this concept in their writing. The problems of the past are examined, and resolution is discovered deep within the self. Winterson (2011) identifies with writing as a therapeutic process. Instead of a therapist, she proposes, the book becomes a ‘container’ for the feelings, the information. Van der Kolk, et al. (1995) acknowledge the benefit of telling the story, in enabling trauma survivors to relegate the events to the past and regain control of life. Well known American-Indian feminist writer Paula Gunn Allen (1992) notes how her mother’s stories helped establish her identity as a woman. “In all of those stories, (my mother) told me who I was, who I was supposed to be, whom I came from and who would follow me” (p. 12). This reciprocity in life writing is acknowledged by many: We get to know ourselves through getting to know others (Bolick, 2015). I have personally gained immense value and growth from reading about other women’s lives whether via memoir or fiction. The process of writing my creative thesis, “A Girl Called Frank” and the accompanying exegesis, has been an exercise in hope. Turning my past into fictional narrative has to some extent enabled me to make sense of it. Piecing it together, viewing it as a story whose ending I can still change has brought me some healing. Relief. Clarity. A “Narrative Cure” (Robson, 2001).