Narcissism For Beginners

By Martine McDonagh

Formerly 'Things We Can't Undo' - Sonny was five when he last saw his mother. At 21, he sets off on a journey to find her.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A Book of Many Titles # 1

The first draft of this story, written about 4 years ago, went by the title, The Grace of Guru Bim, and was very different in every way, but particularly in terms of structure and narrative voice, to the novel as it stands now, one full rewrite and two and a half complete redrafts later.

My first draft focused on Guru Bim, a character who has since evolved into Sonny's father in Things We Can't Undo. As his name suggests, Guru Bim was, and still is in his later incarnation (yes, that's a pun, although possibly a bit abstract when you've not read the novel), a full-blown narcissist, complete with guru complex.

Needless to say, there was a lot of research to be done into the psychology of gurus and their followers, and I came across some absolute gems, including William Shaw's Spying In Guru Land, Deborah Layton's first hand account of Jim Jones's Jonestown in Seductive Poison, Dr Anthony Storr's Feet of Clay, Russell Miller's study of L Ron Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, and Kumare, a brilliant documentary about what makes a guru:

Fascinating though narcissists are, it became clear, seventy-five thousand words in, that Guru Bim couldn't carry a novel. What I find most interesting about narcissism is the impact it has on the people closest to them, particularly their children, and so I decided to give unto Guru Bim a son, a spurned lover and a cast of followers, all with their own stories to tell. After which I shelved them all because I knew I was going to need to clear a serious amount of space in my schedule and start all over again. 

At the beginning of 2013, I dusted them all down, packed a case and set off for Redondo Beach, California, where, in Things We Can't Undo, Sonny's journey begins. But there was a bit more work to do, a few more places to visit and a few more titles to try out before then...more on that later.

In the meantime, thank you for supporting Things We Can't Undo. Please share the link to my pledge page with anyone you think might like the novel, and I'll see you back on here soon - or on Twitter @martinemcdonagh - sooner!


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